Signature athlete Tanner Hobbs has a simple approach to fitness: Life is too precious not to feel confident in your own skin. As a successful online fitness coach, Hobbs is on a mission to help you build the body you want with simple, fun workouts that don't require tons of time or extra equipment.

For this workout, all you need is a cable-cross stack and a couple of attachments—that's it! This workout takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, so keep those rest periods between 45-60 seconds, and let's get to it!

Cable-Only Back Workout With Tanner Hobbs
Lat pull-down
4 sets, 8-10 reps
+ 6 more exercises


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Technique Tips

Wide-Grip Lat Pull-down

Many a great back workout starts with pull-ups or pull-downs. For this workout, Hobbs selects the wide-grip option to target the lats. Since it can be tricky to feel this exercise in the right muscles, Hobbs has a few tips to help.

"Squeeze your elbows down and in toward your tail bone," she recommends. "And keep your chest up."

Wide-grip lat pulldown

If it's a struggle to complete 8 reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can easily get to 10 reps and even do a few more, the weight is too light. Use your first set to see where you're at, and adjust as needed.

Narrow-Grip Underhand Pull-down

For this second exercise, use exactly the same setup as the first, but flip your grip so your palms face you, and move your hands closer together. A narrow-grip pull-down is great for targeting the middle of the back, including several important postural muscles.

If you've never done a narrow-grip pull-down before, Hobbs suggests keeping your elbows squeezed in toward body. Another helpful tip is to lift your chest up to the bar as you pull it down. This will keep your shoulders down and prevent you from using momentum to pull the bar.

Straight-Arm Pull-down

Also called a straight-arm pull-over or pull-through, this exercise is great for isolating the lats, since you can't use your arms to help. Go lighter on isolation exercises at first, so you can learn the movement and make sure you're targeting the right muscles before going heavier.

Stand in front of the cable and grip the bar with an overhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart. You can also use a rope attachment for this exercise if you prefer. Some people like to hinge forward from the hips for better range of motion and a stretch through the shoulders at the top.

"Either way," Hobbs says, "keep you core tight and really focus on your lats as you pull down."

Face Pull

Upper-back details can be difficult to etch and reveal, which is why focused exercises like the face pull are a must for your back routine. Use the rope attachment for this exercise and stagger your feet so you don't swing as you pull the weight.

Hobbs recommends keeping your elbows high throughout the movement, but try not to shrug your shoulders.

Face Pull

"Keep your shoulders down away from your ears," she explains, as this keeps the work in the upper back rather than the neck. "Think about squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades."

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Single-Arm Cable Row

If you are dominant on one side of your body, single-arm exercises can help balance out your strength. Set the cable at a height even with your bellybutton, using the handle attachment so you can rotate through the wrist as you pull.

To do the single-arm row, keep the shoulder corresponding to your working arm down and back, and rotate your wrist as you pull the handle back.

Tanner Hobbs

"Start the pull with your palm facing down and end with your palm up," explains Hobbs.

This rotation engages the muscles that attach to the shoulder blade, working your mid back.

Since you're standing for this exercise, keep your core engaged and your body still. Once you complete 10-12 reps on one side, perform the same number on the opposite side before you rest.

Kneeling Close-Grip Cable Row

This exercise is performed with both knees on the floor and the cable pulley set to about shoulder height. This position makes it virtually impossible to use momentum or swing to move the weight.

"By kneeling on both knees," explains Hobbs, "you take your lower body completely out of the exercise."

You can use the V-bar attachment, two handles, or even the bar, if that's all you have to work with. Use a mat or a towel to cushion your knees. Keep your chest up and squeeze together your shoulder blades. Pull the weight with your back, not your arms.

Do this workout every week in place of your normal back workout, or just throw it into your split if the gym is busy and the cable machine is all you have.

For more great workout ideas, check out our list of new and popular programs by clicking the Workout Plans link at the top of the page.

About the Author

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather’s mission is to use her passion for fitness and her knowledge of training and nutrition to educate and motivate others to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.

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