Back At It: Top 3 Back Exercises For Beginners

underhand row

Here are some of the elite back workouts for beginners to try!

So you are the newbie in the gym, and the back can be quite a complex muscle to understand and train. And just because you can’t see your back in the mirror doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

A good muscular back will give your physique a wide and powerful look, and it will also give you the illusion of having a smaller waist.

So how do you build a strong V shape back? Well I am going to detail my top 3 back exercises that will hit your lats, middle and lower back.

Seated one arm cable row

Middle Back (Rhomboids)

The middle back is attached to the lats around the shoulder blade region and is involved in moving and stabilizing the shoulder blades, as well as helping the lats move the arms.

Exercise 1

Seated one arm cable row:

  • To get into the starting position, first sit down on the machine and place your feet on the front platform provided, making sure that your knees are slightly bent and not locked.
  • Lean over as you keep the natural alignment of your back and grab the single handle attachment with your left arm using a palms-down grip.
  • With your arm extended pull back until your torso is at a 90-degree angle from your legs.
  • Your back should be slightly arched and your chest should be sticking out. 
  • You should be feeling a nice stretch on your lat as you hold the bar in front of you. 
  • The right arm can be kept by the waist, and this can be the starting position of the exercise.
  • Keeping the torso stationary, pull the handles back towards your torso while keeping the arms close to it as you rotate the wrist, so that by the time your hand is by your abdominals it is in a neutral position (palms facing the torso). 
  • Breathe out as you perform that movement. 
  • At that point you should be squeezing your back muscles hard.
  • Hold that contraction for a second and slowly go back to the original position while breathing in.  
  • Repeat for number of sets and reps below

Number of sets: 3

Number of reps per set: 12-15

The reason I’ve selected cables instead of a single arm dumbbell row is to ensure that you control the positive and negative parts of the movement.

Lat pulldown

Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)

The lats are located right under the armpits and stretch down attaching to the waist. Their function is to bring the arms down and backward.

Exercise 2

Close grip lat pulldown:

  • Sit down on a pull-down machine with a wide bar attached to the top pulley. 
  • Make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. 
  • These pads will prevent your body from being raised by the resistance attached to the bar.
  • Grab the bar with the palms facing forward using the prescribed grip. 

Note regarding hand positioning. 

Wide: For a wide grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance wider than your shoulder width. 

Medium: For a medium grip, your hands need to be spaced out at a distance equal to your shoulder width 

Close: For a close grip, your hands need be at a distance smaller than your shoulder width.

  • As you have both arms extended in front of you – while holding the bar at the chosen grip width 
  • Bring your torso back around 30 degrees or so while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out, this is your starting position.
  • As you breathe out, bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back.
  • Repeat for number of sets and reps below

Number of sets: 3

Number of reps per set: 12-15

Again I’ve selected cables and not body weight/ weighted pull ups is to ensure correct form, and to ensure that positive an negative parts of the movement are controlled

Now the next exercise doesn’t involve cables but many people seem to neglect the lower back, one of my favourites is the rack pull.

rack pulls

Lower Back (Erector Spinae)

The erector spinae, is a group of muscles that originate that extend vertically along the length of the back. They lie on each side of the vertebral column and extend alongside the lumbar and spine, and thus helps protect the spine.

Exercise 3

Rack pulls:

  • Set up in a power rack with the bar on the pins. 
  • The pins should be set to the desired point; just below the knees, just above, or in the mid thigh position. 
  • Position yourself against the bar in a proper deadlifting position.
  • Your feet should be under your hips, your grip shoulder width, back arched, and hips back to engage the hamstrings. 
  • Since the weight is typically heavy, you may use a mixed grip, a hook grip, or use straps to aid in holding the weight.
  • With your head looking forward, extend through the hips and knees, pulling the weight up and back until lockout. 
  • Be sure to pull your shoulders back as you complete the movement.
  • Return the weight to the pins and repeat.
  • Repeat for number of sets and reps below

Number of sets: 3

Number of reps per set: 8-10

So there you have it, a very quick look at the back that will definitely help if you are a newbie, but there is definitely a lot more to cover on the back but I will save that for another more extensive time.

So start incorporating these exercises and your back will certainly start getting more attention

Until next time, keep pumping!

Mehmet Edip
Mehmet Edip is a fitness writer, actor, and model who has worked in the industry for over 8 years. He focuses on achieving his physique through an all natural plant-based diet and shares his insight via his workout & nutrition guides.