A Simple Beginner Back Day Workout 

Woman performing a lat pulldown at the gym

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Whether you're a beginner at lifting weights or have just never attempted "back day" before, back workouts might seem intimidating. After all, back injuries are common and improper form in the weight room can lead to higher risks. However, strengthening your back with resistance training is one of the best ways to prevent injuries and reduce back pain.

Focusing on strengthening and building muscle in your back is a great way to offset the effects of sitting all day. Sitting can stretch and weaken your back muscles and lead to muscle imbalances. A beginner back workout can help you start building strength and improve your posture. Here are some of the best exercises to try.

Back Day Basics

A back day workout aims to focus on exercises that strengthen and build muscle in your back. If you choose to do a back day, it's probably because you've separated your workouts into body part splits. This is simply a way of programming your workouts. It just means part of a bodybuilding routine with a lot of volume (sets and reps), requiring you to focus on only one or two specific body parts during each workout—like your back!

It is wise to perform the number of sets and repetitions necessary to stimulate muscle growth and/or strength gains. As a beginner, you should try to start with two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Over time, you can add more volume and increase the weight you are lifting in order to progress and continue to see results. 

Other ways of programming your workouts include full body or upper and lower body part splits, which may actually be better for someone who is a beginner to resistance training.

Beginner Back Day Workout

Below are seven back exercises that will target all areas of your back.

Although you do not have to perform every exercise for your back day workout, choosing three to four is ideal. If you have two back workouts per week, perhaps in combination with another body part (such as shoulders or biceps), you can alternate which exercises you choose.

Banded Pull-Apart

Banded pull-aparts will engage your mid and lower traps. Use a palm-up grip on each end of a resistance band, standing upright with your spine neutral.

  1. Lift the band to chest height.
  2. Pull the band apart, keeping it at chest height.
  3. Bring band to your chest while separating your hands.
  4. Squeeze shoulder blades back and down. Maintain tall posture, keeping your ribs down.
  5. Slowly release by bringing your hands together, controlling the resistance.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown works your lats, which are large muscles on the sides of your back. Sit at a lat pulldown machine with your legs securely underneath the padded brace. Select the weight you wish to use. Grasp the bar, taking a comfortable overhand grip. This exercise can also be performed using resistance bands anchored on a fixed point.

  1. Brace your core with your chest up, back slightly arched. Lean back slightly.
  2. Pull the handle down to the top of your chest, your elbows pulling back.
  3. Slowly return the bar up once the bar is at your chest. Avoid letting the weight stack touch.
  4. Repeat for desired reps.

Be sure to pull with your lat muscles and not yank on the bar or use momentum. A slow and controlled motion will work the intended muscles better than a heavier weight you cannot handle properly.

Dumbbell Deadlift

Deadlifts are an excellent lower back exercise that utilizes many muscles—your entire core, glutes, and hip flexors will also get involved.

Place two dumbbells on the floor and stand facing them with your feet shoulder-width apart.

  1. Hinge your hips, push your bum behind you, then bend your knees. Keep your back straight. Reach for and grip the dumbbells with an overhand grip and your arms fully extended.
  2. Raise to an upright position holding the dumbbells, palms facing towards your body, keeping the dumbbells close to your shins. Extend your hips forward and do not round your back.
  3. Reverse the motion to return the dumbbells to the floor, keeping hold of them.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Deadlifts can be performed with a barbell, which is the standard method. If you want to use a barbell, practice with an empty bar or even a broomstick first. Do not use a heavy weight until you are confident in your form.

Dumbbell Pullover

Pullovers can be chest-focused or back-focused, particularly engaging the lat muscles. A slight tweak of technique will help you hone in on the back for this exercise.

Lie on a bench with your upper back perpendicular to it, your feet on the floor bent, ankles stacked under your knees. Flex your hips so that your body is straight, and do not allow your hips to sag. Hold a dumbbell between your hands with the bell end positioned in your palms, palms facing up.

  1. Raise the dumbbell over your chest with a slight bend in your elbows.
  2. Keep your elbows slightly bent, turning them in toward your body, shoulder blades back and down.
  3. Lower the dumbbell over your head in an arc until your upper arms are by your ears, in line with your body.
  4. Pull the dumbbell up and over your chest, maintaining the same slight elbow bend. Do not bend your elbows further as this changes the exercise and likely means your weight is too heavy.
  5. Repeat for desired repetitions.

Rotating your elbows in toward your body helps engage your lat muscles better. For the chest focus version of a pullover, your elbows will flare slightly out.

Inverted Row

Inverted rows are a perfect beginner-friendly alternative to a barbell row and will work your upper and lower back and traps. Inverted rows can be modified by bending (easier) or extending (harder) your legs. They are harder the lower the bar is positioned.

  1. Set a barbell in a rack to waist height and lie down under the bar on your back.
  2. Reach up and grab the bar with an overhand grip—wider than shoulder-width.
  3. Pull your chest up to the bar with your body straight and your core engaged. Pull your elbows back.
  4. Hold for a count and squeeze your back muscles before slowly lowering yourself to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for desired repetitions.

One Arm Dumbbell Row

The one-arm dumbbell row is a unilateral exercise that will work your upper and lower back and lower traps.

Position your right knee on the end of a bench with a dumbbell on the floor on either side. The bench can be flat or on an incline to support your back. Bend over until your torso is parallel with the bench, placing your right hand on the bench for support.

  1. Reach down to pick up a dumbbell with your left hand in an overhand grip, your palm facing toward you.
  2. Keep your back straight, core engaged.
  3. Leading with your elbow, focus on pulling with your back muscles to lift the dumbbell to the side of your chest, your arm staying close to your body, elbow pulling back behind you. Exhale during this phase of the movement.
  4. Squeeze your back muscles, then return to the starting position with an inhale.
  5. Repeat for desired repetitions, then switch to the other side.

Bodyweight Back Extensions On a Ball

Using an exercise ball for back extensions is an excellent, beginner alternative to performing them on the floor or on a machine.

Begin by lying face down with the ball under your lower abdomen and hips, your legs straight out behind you, braced against a wall or bench.

  1. Place your hands behind your head or rest them on the ball if that's more comfortable.
  2. Round your upper back slightly and your chest over the ball.
  3. Engage your lower back, squeezing and contracting your muscles to lift your chest off the ball, raising your torso.
  4. Lift until your body is as high as possible without hyperextending (arching) your spine.
  5. Repeat for desired repetitions.

A Word From Verywell

Back workouts are a fantastic way to build strength and muscle that will protect you from injury and help you perform daily tasks. If you are unsure about how to perform any of these exercises or need further guidance, seek the help of a personal trainer. Be sure to consult a doctor if you have any back pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do beginners build back muscles?

    Beginners can build back muscles by performing resistance exercises on a consistent basis. Two times per week is a good place to start.

  • Are push ups good for your back?

    Push ups are good for your back and other muscles such as your chest, abs, and shoulders. The primary movers for pushups are your chest muscles, however.

  • How do you strengthen your back without equipment?

    You can strengthen your back without equipment by performing bodyweight movements such as pull-ups, push-ups, Supermans, contralateral limb extensions, and planks.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gordon R, Bloxham S. A systematic review of the effects of exercise and physical activity on non-specific chronic low back pain. Healthcare. 2016;4(2):22. doi:10.3390%2Fhealthcare4020022

  2. Owen PJ, Miller CT, Mundell NL, et al. Which specific modes of exercise training are most effective for treating low back pain? Network meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2020;54(21):1279-1287. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2019-100886

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.