If too much sitting has you hunched over like a gargoyle, you might be thinking that your back muscles — and your posture — need a bit of attention. But what if going to the gym and hitting the circuit just isn’t in the cards at the moment?
Not to worry! There’s plenty you can do in the comfort of your home that will rock that posterior chain, improve your posture, and even help ease an achy back.
We asked a bunch of fitness professionals about the best at-home back workouts that require little to no equipment, and here’s what they shared.
Start in a tabletop position (aka “all fours”) with your spine neutral and fingers spread wide. Inhale as you drop your belly toward the floor, arching spine while lifting tailbone, chest, and chin. Exhale as you round your spine, draw navel in, and tuck tailbone and chin.
Benefits: Warms and preps the muscles of your back and core.
Pro tip: Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears and focus on creating an even curve throughout the length of your spine.
Hip circles, aka Lateral Wheel
Start in a classic tabletop position, and then walk your hands slightly forward. Leading with your hips, begin rolling your trunk in a circular motion. Let it feel fluid and easy as you move and breathe. After a few circles, reverse the direction.
Reps: 3 circles in each direction
Benefits: Continues to warm and prep your back for the more challenging movements just around the corner.
Pro tip: Make your circles as big as you can and let the flowy feeling undulate through your whole spine.
Start in a classic tabletop position. Inhale and move hips forward and down (toward wrists) as you arch chest and chin toward the ceiling.
(This part of the movement looks a lot like yoga’s Upward Dog — but isn’t exactly. Your knees are on the floor in this version and, according to Ryan Daniel Beck of NYC-based bodyART Training Studios, it’s more of a myofascial release for the whole back body.)
After the inhalation/arching movement, exhale and flow back to Child’s Pose with a rounded spine.
Benefits: Releases tension from your glutes, low back, neck, and shoulders.
Pro tip: Don’t strain your neck by craning it too far upward. Instead, let the curve in your neck feel like a natural extension of the curve in your upper back.
Start in tabletop position. Engage abs and extend left leg straight back, parallel to the floor, while also extending right arm forward. Try to keep leg aligned with hip and arm aligned with shoulder.
Return to tabletop and repeat with the opposite leg and arm. Move slowly and deliberately, feeling the muscles all along your back body contract with each rep.
Reps: 8 per side
Benefits: Gently strengthens your buttocks, lower back, and upper back.
Pro tips: Keep your neck aligned with your upper back by looking at the floor about 1 foot ahead of you. And remember to keep those abs engaged!
Start in a low lunge position with right foot forward and left knee on the floor. Extend both arms straight in front of you.
Keeping left arm extended forward, touch right hand to your heart center, then extend it back behind you (toward left foot) while twisting your trunk in the same direction.
Return to center, with both arms stretched out in front of you. Repeat 4 more times before switching sides.
Reps: 5 per side
Benefits: Your obliques (side abs) also benefit from this rotation. Bonus!
Pro tips: Use your back muscles and abs together to help you twist as thoroughly as possible, but don’t force the movement. Inhale when you’re facing forward and exhale as you twist.
Plank with lateral arm raise
Here’s an integrated whole-body movement that will simultaneously test your strength and balance.
Start in a high plank. Engage core and keep your body relatively still as you raise right arm laterally (sideways) until it’s parallel with your shoulder. Hold for a moment, then release and repeat on the other side.
Reps: 10 per side
Benefits: Super-strengthener for your shoulders, upper back, and core.
Pro tips: Planks can be hard on your wrists, so keep alternating sides. For an added challenge, try doing this exercise while holding light dumbbells.
Lie facedown on the floor or a yoga mat with legs extended straight behind you and arms extended forward by your ears.
On an inhalation, lift head, shoulders, arms, and legs off the floor and hold for a moment at your peak. Exhale and return to the resting position.
Benefits: If you’re looking for at-home back workouts without weights, this exercise is just about the best in class. It strengthens your entire back body — including hamstrings, glutes, and all the muscles that support your spine.
Pro tips: Make sure your legs don’t drift too far apart as you lift off the floor — aim for a consistent hip width as you lift and lower. For a less intense version, extend your arms out into a T position or keep them by your sides.
Hip hinges (aka Good mornings)
Stand with feet hip-width apart, spine straight, and hands on your hips. Keeping a flat back, bend your torso forward to 90 degrees, hold for a moment, and then raise yourself back upright.
Reps: 2 sets of 10
Benefits: Strengthens the muscles along the length of your back, especially your erector spinae, and encourages good posture.
Pro tip: Bend your knees slightly — it’ll help you keep a straighter back.
Isometric hip hinges
This is the same basic movement as the last exercise — but this time, we hold! Take 3 full breaths at the 90-degree point before rising back up.
Benefits: Strengthens from buttocks to neck (and everything in between!).
Pro tip: For an extra challenge, hold your arms outstretched in a T position or forward alongside your ears.
Bent-over double delt raises
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a light dumbbell (3–10 pounds) in each hand. Bend knees slightly, engage abs and glutes, and lower your torso until it’s about parallel with the floor.
With palms facing each other, bend your elbows and lift the weights outward and apart to shoulder height. Lower them back to the starting position and repeat.
Benefits: Strengthens your deltoids.
Pro tip: Caleb Backe, personal trainer and advisor to Maple Holistics, says to “focus on control rather than speed to ensure that your back is engaged rather than your arm muscles.”
Bent-over row with resistance band
Place a resistance band on the floor. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart at the center of the band. Hold one handle of the band in each hand, with arms hanging straight down toward the floor and with the band relatively taut.
Bend knees, lower your torso to about 90 degrees, and press hips slightly back. With bent elbows, pull the band toward your hips and draw your shoulder blades together. Return to the straight-arm position and repeat.
Benefits: Strengthens your middle back (latissimus dorsi), plus a biceps-strengthening bonus.
Pro tips: Using a resistance band helps “create a range of motion and engage additional muscles,” according to Backe. If the movement is too hard, give yourself more slack (or use a stretchier band). Keep your back straight and strong the whole way through the movement.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees bent. Fold torso forward toward knees, but not all the way to 90 degrees.
Place left hand on left knee for stability. With right hand, touch the floor on the outside of your left foot. Then sweep right hand and arm toward the ceiling as you rotate your torso into an upward-facing rotation (a twist, essentially).
Repeat 4 more times, then switch sides.
Reps: 5 per side
Benefits: “This is an amazing exercise for thoracic mobility in the transverse plane, training rotational strength and stability,” says Beck.
Pro tips: Keep your back long (instead of crunched up or rounded) so you’ll have more room to twist. Inhale as you lift your hand upward and exhale as you bring it back down to the floor.
Carly James of UK-based Fitness Authority recommends this simple seated movement to strengthen the muscles of your upper and middle back and improve your seated posture.
Sit tall in a chair. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5 seconds. Release and repeat.
Benefits: Strengthens both the rhomboids and trapezius muscles of your upper and middle back.
Pro tip: Imagine drawing the bottom tips of your shoulder blades together. This will help you avoid unnecessary tension in your neck and shoulders.
Isometric neck extension
Most of us hold our heads too far forward, which taxes and weakens the muscles of the neck and upper back. This exercise can help undo all that hunching damage.
While sitting upright in a chair, relax shoulders back and down. Clasp hands and place the cradle of your palms on the back of your head while exerting slight forward pressure with hands.
Resist that by pressing head back into palms. Feel the muscles from the back of your neck to your upper back engage to hold this position. Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
Benefits: Strengthens the muscles at the back of your neck and your trapezius and improves posture.
Pro tips: Don’t make this a big movement or lean your whole body back. Be relatively gentle here — it *is* your neck we’re talking about! Try to maintain the same head position (ears aligned with shoulders) throughout your day.
(Video) 10 Minute Pilates Back Workout - Upper and Lower Back Workout!
90/90 spiral with rotation
Sit with your legs in a “pinwheel position” (see above) and your feet near your right hip. Inhale as you reach up toward the ceiling with right hand while turning your torso in the same direction. Exhale as you sweep right elbow to the floor alongside left knee and hip.
Reps: 5 per side
Benefits: Soothes tension in your low back while supporting strength and stability in rotation.
Pro tip: Beck says to “always maintain supported connection with the opposing hand on the floor.”
Lie on your back on the floor or a yoga mat. Pull right knee up toward chest, clasp hands around right shin, and squeeze thigh into (or close to) belly. Hold for a few slow breaths, then switch sides.
Reps: Just 1 on each side — make sure to hold for a few deep belly breaths.
Benefits: Lengthens and soothes your low back muscles and sacral area.
Pro tips: Make sure your straight leg (the one on the floor) is fully straight, with your foot flexed. Spread and flatten your low back into the floor.
Lie on your back on the floor or a yoga mat. Pull right knee up toward chest (as in the last movement), then guide knee across your body with left hand. Right hip will come up off the floor and stack vertically over left hip.
Reps: Just 1 on each side — hold and breathe.
Benefits: Stretches and relieves tension in your low back and hips (particularly your quadratus lumborum and hip external rotators).
Pro tips: Try to keep both shoulders well grounded on the mat while your spine and lower body twist. If you’d like, turn your head away from the direction of twist to help distribute the movement through your entire spine.
If you have 10 minutes…
Prep your back with the warmups, and then choose the floor-based or the standing set of exercises. Either one will take you through a full range of movement while strengthening the muscles all along your back body.
Finish with one or two of the cooldown moves so you can get on with the rest of your day and have a happy back.
If you have 20 minutes…
Warm up first, then tackle those floor exercises followed by the standing moves. Last, do all three cooldown poses and take a little well-earned Savasana (yogic relaxation, or Corpse Pose) at the end.
If you have zero minutes…
You don’t even have to get up from your chair to work your upper back and improve your posture. Practice the two chair-based exercises at least twice a day.
And pay attention to how you’re sitting: Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, your spine is tall and straight, your shoulders are rolled slightly back, your ears are in line with your shoulders, and your chin is level.
“Work on good posture at all times,” James encourages. “Otherwise, you’ll just undo the effort you put into your back exercises.”