Back and Biceps Workout for Strength and Mass

Back And Biceps Workout

Most bodybuilders love to train their chest and triceps. After all, Monday is National Chest Training Day, right?!

However, your chest and triceps only make up a modest percentage of your upper body muscle mass, and your back and biceps are (or should be!) considerably larger. And yet, despite this, a lot of bodybuilders are guilty of paying much less attention to their back muscles when they actually deserve and need more training volume.

Very few bodybuilders neglect their biceps, but when it comes to back training, a lot of people rely on a few sets of pulldowns and rows, hoping that’ll be enough to balance out all that bench pressing.

Unfortunately, this approach rarely works, which is why so many lifters have well-developed pecs and substandard backs.

So, to that end, for this article, we’ve got an all-new back and biceps workout for you to try. If you are currently stuck in an upper-body training rut, this workout will help you smash out of it.

Back and Biceps Anatomy 101

Before we get into your all-new back and biceps workout, let’s take a quick look at some essential anatomy of these muscle groups.

Back And Biceps Anatomy

“Back” is really an oversimplification of the muscles on the rear of your upper body. There are actually several muscles that make up this body part. The main back muscles are:

Latissimus dorsi – known as the lats for short, this is the muscle on the sides of your upper back. Well-developed lats look like wings and are visible from the front and back and are the muscles that give your back its width. The functions of the lats are extension, adduction, and medial rotation of the shoulder joint.

Trapezius – located across and between your shoulder blades, there are three sets of fibers that make up the traps: Upper, middle, and lower.

The upper traps elevate your shoulder girdle and, well-developed, give you a powerful, yoked appearance. The middle traps are responsible for shoulder girdle retraction and give your upper back some of its thickness. The lower traps depress your shoulder girdle and often work as stabilizers to prevent your shoulders from inadvertently rising upward during things like pull-ups and pulldowns.

Rhomboids – working with the middle traps, the rhomboids pull your shoulders back and together, which is a movement called retraction. While the rhomboids aren’t especially large, they are important functional, postural muscles.

Posterior deltoids – while the deltoids are your shoulder muscles, the posterior or rear deltoid works with your back muscles and is involved in most back exercises. In addition, well-developed posterior deltoids add a lot to the shape of your back.

Teres major – sometimes called the mini-lat, the Teres major is a thick muscle that runs from the lateral edge of your scapula or shoulder blade to your humerus or upper arm bone. It works with your lats and is responsible for adduction, extension, medial rotation, and stabilization of the shoulder joint.

You’ll also be working your biceps brachii during this workout – both indirectly and directly. Better known as the biceps for short, this famous muscle is located on the front of your upper arm. It is responsible for flexion of the elbow, supination of the forearm, and flexion of the shoulder joint.

The biceps have two origins, which means it has two uppermost attachment sites. The short head originates on the scapula or shoulder blade, while the long head originates just above the shoulder joint. These two attachments merge to form a single muscle belly, which inserts onto the radius, which is the larger of your two forearm bones.

Bulking Up – Back and Biceps Workout

This workout is designed to be done as part of a bodybuilding-style split routine, where you train different muscles on different days.

For example:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Back & Biceps Legs Rest Chest & Triceps Rest Shoulders Rest

Alternatively, you could do this workout twice if you want to jump-start back and biceps growth.

For example:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Back & Biceps (1) Legs Chest & Triceps   Back & Biceps (2) Rest Shoulders Rest

Regardless, you should begin each workout with a warm-up to prepare your muscles and joints for what you are about to do.

Start with 5-10 minutes of cardio, preferably using an exercise with an upper-body component, such as rowing or an assault bike.

Then, when your blood is pumping and you’re feeling warm, do some dynamic flexibility and mobility exercises, focusing on your lats, chest, and shoulders. Finally, finish off your warm-up with 50-100 reps of band pull-aparts to increase shoulder stability.

No Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Sweeping deadlift 4 6-8 90 seconds
2 Pull-up/Chin-up   4 AMRAP 90 seconds
3a Reverse cable fly 3 12-15 60 seconds
3b Chest-supported row 10-12
4 Paused dumbbell pullover 3 10-12  
5 Cable preacher curl 3 6-8  
6 Alternating dumbbell curl 3 8-10 per arm  
7 Concentration curl 3 10-12 N/A

Workout notes:

Exercise 2 is a mechanical drop set. Do overhand pull-ups to within a couple of reps of failure and then switch to underhand chin-ups and crank out a few more reps.

Exercises 3a and 3b are to be performed as a superset. In other words, do a set of reverse cable flyes immediately followed by a set of chest-supported rows. Rest one minute and then repeat the pairing. Do three supersets in total.

For exercise 7, concentration curls, do all the sets back to back with no rest. So, train your left arm immediately followed by your right, or vice versa. Then, on completion, go straight back to your left. Continue going back and forth until you’ve done three sets on both arms. Use your free hand to help you squeeze out a few more forced reps and push past failure.

Exercise Instructions

There are two ways to do any exercise – the right way and the wrong way. The right way is safe, effective, and usually produces the best results. The wrong way could cause injury and is often not as productive.

So, get the best from our latest back and biceps workout by doing each exercise correctly.

1. Sweeping deadlift

A lot of people view deadlifts as a leg exercise. And while your legs are involved in deadlifts, it’s also an excellent back builder. This variation is especially lat-centric and will teach you to recruit your lats more effectively, increasing your mind-muscle connection.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a resistance band to the center of your barbell and fix the other end to a dumbbell or squat rack in front of you. The band should be relatively tight.
  2. Stand behind the bar with your feet roughly hip-width apart. The bar should touch your shins.
  3. Bend down and hold the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Use lifting straps if necessary.
  4. Straighten your arms, lift your chest, drop your hips, and brace your core. Your lower back should be slightly arched.
  5. Without rounding your lower back, and keeping the bar close to your legs, drive your feet into the floor and stand up. Keep pressing the bar backward using your lats.
  6. Lower the bar to the floor and repeat.

2. Pull-up/Chin-up 

Doing Pull Ups

Pull-up and chin-ups are both excellent back exercises. Where overhand pull-ups involve a little more lat engagement, underhand chin-ups put your biceps in a stronger position. So, rather than choose between these superb two back builders, you’re going to do both in this workout.

Do pull-ups to within a couple of reps of failure and then swap to an underhand grip and crank out a few more reps. You should find you can do more total reps than usual with this method, plus you get to hit your lats from two slightly different angles.

Learn how to do pull-ups and chin-ups here.

3a. Reverse cable fly

This is an isolation exercise for your upper back and posterior deltoids. Doing it immediately before chest-supported rows will make that exercise much more challenging and effective.

With no biceps involvement, you’re free to focus on working your upper back and rear delts to failure. On completion of your set, immediately transition to chest-supported rows.

How to do it:

  1. Stand in the middle of a cable crossover machine. Attach a D-handle to the high pulleys. Hold the left handle in your right hand and the right handle in your left hand. Raise your arms out in front of you.
  2. With a slight bend in your elbows, open your arms and extend them back to form a T-shape.
  3. Bring your hands back together and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise supine and lying on a flat bench.

3b. Chest-supported row

Also known as seal rows and incline rows, this exercise takes your lower back out of the equation, so you’re free to focus on working your lats. It can be done using a barbell, but you’ll get a bigger range of motion if you use dumbbells.

With no lower back involvement, this is a very back-friendly exercise. That’s good news because your lower back may still be tired after doing sweeping deadlifts.

Find out more about this exercise here.

4. Paused dumbbell pullover

Dumbbell pullovers work your chest and lats fairly equally, which is why you’ll also find this exercise in some pec workouts. However, done with a mid-rep pause, you’ll really feel this movement in your lats. It’s an isolation exercise which means it doesn’t involve your biceps. As such, it’ll give your arms a welcome break before moving on to the final exercises in this program.

To do this exercise, perform pullovers as normal but pause for 2-3 seconds when your arms are extended, and your biceps are next to your ears. Do not relax, which could cause shoulder pain. Instead, keep your muscles tensed but stretched.

Learn how to do dumbbell pullovers here.

5. Cable preacher curl

Larry Scott won the first-ever Mr. Olympia titles way back in 1965 and 1966. Scott was famed for his amazing arms, and one of his favorite biceps exercises was preacher curls. In fact, preacher curls became so commonly associated with him, that they were often called Scott curls.

However, as good an exercise as preacher (or Scott) curls are, there is a downside; as your arms approach vertical, there is very little tension on the biceps. One easy fix for this problem is to do them with a low cable.

This keeps the tension on your biceps from the start to the end of each rep, turning a good exercise into a great one. Use a straight bar or EZ bar as preferred.

Read more about cable preacher curls here.

6. Alternating dumbbell curl

While there is nothing especially wrong with curling two weights at the same time, you’ll probably find you can go heavier and do more reps using an alternating arm action.

Curling one dumbbell at a time means you can put more mental effort into each arm, and you get a brief rest between reps. Finally, you should find it easier to stabilize your upper body when you curl one dumbbell at a time.

Learn more about alternating dumbbell curls here.

7. Concentration curl

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the concentration curl is one of the best biceps exercises you can do (1). With your arm fixed against your inner thigh, it’s hard to cheat while doing concentration curls, and you can really focus on that all-important mind-muscle connection.

Don’t go too heavy. Instead, focus on squeezing your biceps as hard as you can at the top of each rep. This is your last exercise, so use your non-working arm to do a couple of forced reps at the end of each set.

Find out more about concentration curls here.

Bulking Up – Back and Biceps Workout

While there is nothing wrong with building your back workouts around lat pulldowns and seated rows, your progress will eventually stall if that’s all you ever do. It’s like eating the same meal over and over again – eventually, it gets boring, and you won’t enjoy it as much as you did the first time you had it.

Training can be the same, and your body will eventually get bored of doing the same exercises or workout repeatedly. Sometimes, the best way to overcome a training plateau is to do something entirely new.

This workout is designed to break you out of your current back and biceps rut by combining some unusual exercises with intensity-boosting training methods. This strategy is sure to trigger renewed muscle growth.

But, needless to say, this is an advanced workout and not suitable for beginners. So, if you are a newbie in a training rut, you need to revisit your workout and diet, as they are the most likely reasons you aren’t making progress.

References:

1 – American Council on Exercise: ACE Study reveals the Best Biceps Exercises acefitness.org

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