Back and Bicep Workout (Complete Guide)

We all want to get a bigger upper body.

We all want an awesome back, an awesome set of arms, chest and shoulder.

The trick is knowing how divide things up for maximum gains and efficiency.

In this guide we’ll break things up to develop gains on our back and biceps.

By following this guide you’ll learn to focus on two sets of muscles that will have you looking more commanding, athletic and dominant. 

In this article you’ll learn:
How to build a bigger back
How to build bigger biceps

Back when I started working out, the muscles i was most obsessed with developing were my chest, back and arms. I think that’ true for the majority of us guys.

That’s just how it goes. We’re focused on getting a bigger upper body.

It’s almost like our Alpha male genes are telling us to get a bigger upper body. The chest, back and biceps are what many would call “beach muscles.”

If you have em, you flaunt them.

If you don’t have them, you try to get them to look good so you can flaunt them.

Well, in this article we’ll do just that. I’ll show you what to do in order to amp up your beach muscles with these back and biceps workouts.

Should You Train Back and Biceps Together?

That’s a question that comes up often. There’s two schools of thought. Some say that these muscle groups should be trained separately. Others say muscle groups should be trained together.

The logic behind those who say these muscles should be trained separately is a belief that biceps should be allowed time to recover.

Many argue that a training session on your back burns out your biceps strength.

By not allowing the biceps to come in fresh, you end up cheating your biceps from working at their potential.

This equals smaller biceps.

That’s the theory…

The reality is your biceps can handle a lot without having to rest too much. Because biceps, much like your leg muscles, are used to getting taxed throughout the day, they’re one of those muscles you don’t need to worry too much about recovery.

However, in some instances you do have to worry about overtraining.

We’ll talk about it later.

For the most part you don’t have to worry about splitting these body parts. Train them together and you’ll get the same results than if you’d split the muscles on different days.

High Volume Bicep and Back Training

When I first started training I copied the usual bodybuilder workouts. You know, the ones you’ll find in magazines. These days I’m not a big fan of them. But I can see why most guys want to copy them.

First of all it’s fun to lift weights in a sequence of exercises. Going from one exercise to the next developing a pump. It feels good.

Remember when I mentioned earlier about overtraining?

That’s one of the issues with high volume training.

You’ll be able to get through these workouts and you’ll get a pump for a couple of weeks.

But all good things come to an end.

You’ll see your gains go away.

In fact, research on elite junior weightlifters published by the Human Kinetics Journal showed that high volume training potentially leads to impending overtraining syndrome.”

The lesson here is, if you plan on going with high volume training, then make sure you do it for few periods at a time. In order for this type of training to work, you’ll have to avoid doing high volume training on consecutive weeks.

For best results do this training 1 or 2 times a month. That’s it.

So here’s a high volume workout you can follow:

  • Lat Pulldowns (3×10)
  • Smith Machine Rows (3×10)
  • Close Grip Pulldowns (3×10)
  • Dumbbell Rows (3×8)
  • Curl Bar Dumbbell Curls (3×8)
  • Rope Curls (3×10)
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls (3×10)

Rest one to two minutes between exercise and set.

Be mindful of overtraining.

Make sure you only use a sequence like this workout once or twice per month. Don’t train with this high volume training on consecutive weeks.

Back and Bicep Mass Building Workout

I have to admit. Like most guys, I always wanted to do workouts that built mass.

Like nearly all hardgainers this was the goal.

Gain mass. Gain as much mass as possible.

The key to developing mass is to include exercises that give you the most bang for your buck.

By including deadlifts, you’ll maximize your growth potential.

Deadlifts are often considered a lower body exercise. The truth is it’s a solid back exercise.

So for a total body and total back workout I’d recommend adding deadlifts.

Don’t shy away from them. There’s a reason why bodybuilders always include deadlifts in their training.

Add another mass building pulling exercise like rowing and you’ll trigger growth in your back.

Here’s a solid back workout for mass.

  • Deadlift (4 sets of 5, 3, 3, 1 reps; increase the weight with each set)
  • T Bar Row (4 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
  • Lat Pulldown (3 sets of 8 to 10 reps)
  • EZ Bar Curl (3 sets of 8 to 10 reps)
  • Hammer Curls (3 sets of 8 reps)
Back and Bicep Workout with Dumbbells

I understand that you may not have access to barbells, cable machines, Smith Machines or you simply have a preference for dumbbells.

No problem. There’s still a way to train on your back and biceps using dumbbells.

First we’ll introduce an exercise you might not be doing much on dumbbells.

This is the Dumbbell Power Snatch.

If you’re wondering why I’m throwing this exercise, it’s simple.

Olympic type movements like the Snatch and Power Cleans train your back muscles by focusing on explosiveness.

In fact, the Snatch will train more than just your back. It’ll give you total body workout covering your upper body as well as lower body.

Even though this is a back and bicep workout, it’s best to make your workouts as athletic as possible.

In the following workout you’ll also see I’ve included rear delt raises.

Why would I include Rear Delt Raises?

That’s because rear delt raises work on your back muscles as well as the delts.

So here’s a way to train on back and biceps using just dumbbells.

  • Dumbbell Snatch (4×6)
  • DB Rows (4×10)
  • Rear Delt Raises (3×10)
  • Dumbbell Curls (3×10)
  • Incline DB Curls (3×6-8)
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls (2×10)

Rest 1 to 2 minutes between sets and exercises.

(Here’s an example of Incline DB Curls by Scott Herman)

Note: There are more biceps exercises included in this workout sequence. The reason for this is dumbells aren’t as heavy as barbells. Dumbbells allow for higher sequence of reps per exercise.  

Back and Bicep Superset Workout

I know a lot of guys are into supersets.

There’s nothing wrong with supersets.

In fact, they can provide a good pump for sarcoplasmic growth.

It’s also a good way to switch things up when experiencing a plateau.

With supersets I’d recommend doing them for no longer than one month at a time.

After a month, go back to either a back or bicep specialization approach or a workout that focuses on one exercise at a time with enough rest time between them.

Here’s the superset workout:

  • A1 Pull Ups (3 sets as many as possible)
  • A2 Dumbbell Curls (3 sets of 8-10)
  • B1 Barbell Row (3 sets of 8-10)
  • B2 Curl Bar (3 sets of 8)
  • C1 Chin Ups (3 sets as many as possible)
  • C2 DB Hammer Curl (3 sets of 8 to 10 reps)

Note: You’ll do a back exercise followed by a bicep exercise. Perform each exercise with no rest in between. For example, go from A1 to A2 with no rest. Do not allow for rest between B1 and B2 and between C1 and C2.

In this workout you’ll go back and forth between sets until you complete the A sequence. You’ll then follow this with going back and forth with the B sequence. You’ll then finalize with going back and forth between sets with C sequence.

My Athletic Back and Bicep Workout:

The following workout follows a more athletic type of training. In this workout you’ll not only have back and bicep activation, but core activation as well.

Exercises like deadlifts and renegade rows will keep your core engaged, making your midsection stronger.

We’ll start with a heavy compound lift that will work on your lower body,  back, lats and core and follow it with a bodyweight exercise.

If you think pull ups are too easy and need a challenge, add a weight vest or a weight belt to your pull ups.

Renegade Rows are a highly athletic workout that you don’t see often. This exercise will work your core, back, lats and biceps like few exercise do.

We’ll finish things up with a DB curl. DB curls should be enough after putting a lot of work with the previous exercises.

  • Deadlifts (3 warm ups sets; 3×5)
  • Pull Ups (3x AMAP)
  • Renegade Rows (5×5)
  • Dumbbell Curls (3×10)
Back Specialization Workout

Maybe you’re thinking of focusing more on your back to bring out your lats and get a V taper.

You can do this while not neglecting your biceps.

In such a case we’ll be putting more work on the back.

By adding some Olympic lifts and less bicep curls we can get a killer back.

Here’s the workout:

  • Pull Ups (3 sets as many as possible)
  • Power Clean (5 sets of 5)
  • Bent Over Flyes (3 sets of 10)
  • Dumbbell Curls (3 sets of 8-10)
Biceps Specialization Workout

Maybe you’re happy with your back and just want to work on your lats for maintenance. If you’re focused on gaining size on your biceps and want to lay off on your back then there’s a different approach. Here we’ll focus on more bicep work to thicken up the arms.

Here we’ll only use one back exercise. 

Because the focus will be on our biceps, we’ll only include chin ups since these work on biceps more than doing pull ups.

After this exercise we’ll go with just biceps exercise, mostly curls and finish with some bent over flyes to get the shoulder and back tie ins.

Here’s the workout:

  • Chin Ups (3 sets as many as possible)
  • Barbell Curls (3 sets of 6-8 reps)
  • DB Curls (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Bent Over Flyes (3 sets of 10 reps)

Note: Here we’re doing chin ups instead of pull ups for the following reason. Pull ups place more emphasis on the lats than the biceps. Chin Ups will work on the biceps more while still giving you an excellent back workout. One back exercise will be enough here.

As you can see, there’s different approaches to building your back and biceps.

You can either choose to do specialization training where you focus on one exercise over another.

Or you can focus on working on both back and biceps at the same time.

Many approaches work.

Choose any of those listed above and tell me what you think.

To your fitness,

Sam- Look Like An Athlete

Source:  Fry, A. C., Kraemer, W. J., Stone, M. H., Warren, B. J., Kearney, J. T., Maresh, C. M., … & Fleck, S. J. (1993). Endocrine and performance responses to high volume training and amino acid supplementation in elite junior weightlifters. International journal of sport nutrition3(3), 306-322.

How To Get Bigger Arms

I know many of you are looking for ways to get bigger arms.  It isn’t as hard as you think once you have a method.

Here is an infographic showing a step by step method for developing bigger arms.  It is thorough and breaks things down by sets and reps.

How-to-Get-Bigger-Arms-infographic(This infographic is courtesy of Mens Fitness Tips and Designed by Health Infographics)

8 Bodyweight Arm Exercises: Get Bigger Without Weights

“You can’t get bigger arms unless you go heavy on the barbell or on some dumbbells.”

Yeah, that’s what more than one guy told me at the gym.  Hearing this advice made sense to me.  I had seen the workouts before in magazines and they always threw in 4 exercises for biceps and 4 exercises for triceps.  Add in 10 to 12 reps per set per exercise and I was being promised arms bigger than the Hulk.

It made sense at the time.  Lift some iron and watch the muscle grow.  That’s the common advice and it works, but only if you do it right.

However, lifting weights is not the only way to gain muscle in your arms.  If you want to get awesome results you should include bodyweight exercises.

Anytime someone tells me that you can’t get muscular arms by using only your bodyweight I point to a gymnast.  Simply look at a gymnast and you will quickly see that weights are not the only way to make significant gains in muscle.

You don’t have to lift like a bodybuilder.

Sure you can grab a barbell, put some weight and go at it.

I am all for that.  You can lift heavy weight and see results but having thicker arms is best when you do certain exercises that trigger maximum growth.

That’s where bodyweight movements can come in.

Here are a list of exercises for biceps and triceps without having to use weights.

Bodyweight Exercises For Biceps

Chin Ups:  This exercise is one of the forgotten and unsung bodyweight exercises.  Some see this as either being too easy while others look at it as too difficult to do.  It is often considered a back exercise but in reality it is much more than that.  Chin ups are a compound movement that will give your back and your biceps a killer workout.  This exercise is similar to a barbell curl except that it follows a natural movement and can be tough as you lift your own weight.

Parallel Grip Chin Ups:  Another great option for building your biceps.  The palms face each other on parallel bars allowing for a movement that is easier on the wrists and shoulders than a pull ups.  The positioning of the hands and arms is very much like a Hammer Curl; however this exercise also works on the lats.  If you don’t have access to parallel bars simply grip a bar with both hands with both palms facing each other.

Pull Ups:  Some time ago I dropped all biceps curls for about a year.  The only stimulation my biceps received was through my back workouts.  My primary back exercise at the time was pull ups and my biceps never decreased in size.  Whether you choose to do a shoulder wide grip or wider than shoulder wide grip you will still find this exercise giving your lats and biceps a boost.  Don’t confuse this exercise with chin ups.  Pull ups require a “palms out” grip while a chin up uses a “palms in” grip.

Bodyweight Rows/ Inverted RowsWhen was the last time you saw someone at the gym using this exercise?  Yeah, I never do either.  Simply use a Smith Machine and set the bar below your waist.  Proceed to sit down on the floor, grab the bar and with your back flat and facing the floor you then do a rowing movement.  For the easier version of this exercise keep your heels resting on the floor.  If you prefer a challenge lift your feet off the floor and leave your body suspended, then proceed with performing a row.

Note:  Even though these exercises are usually done using a bar you can always use variations with gymnastics rings and using the TRX.

Bodyweight Exercises For Triceps

Dips:  This is a popular exercise and rightfully so.  Anyone who has ever tried this exercise knows the power and the results you get.  You can either use parallel bars, TRX or rings.  This exercise primarily targets the triceps and the chest with the back and lats getting some stimulation as well.  By doing this exercise with a closer grip, elbows close to your side and your chin tucked in you will target the triceps more.

Bodyweight Triceps Extensions:  Place your hands on a strong surface like a bar, bench or rings.  Place your feet back so your body is as close to a horizontal position.  Your head should be placed in between your elbows.  Push your bodyweight up and then lower yourself slowly.  This exercise is close to a skull crusher except you are not lying on your back.

Close Grip Push Ups:  Any type of pushups exercise works great for your triceps.  Most pushups exercises will primarily target your chest with secondary work done on the triceps.  However, close grip pushups or triangle pushups will work primarily on the triceps with less emphasis on the chest.

Bonus Exercise Works The Entire Arms

Muscle Up:  Every time I see this exercise I think of the guys from “300.”  This exercise requires a lot of upper body strength and is a combination of a pull up with dip.  The workout is a combination of a biceps exercise and triceps exercise.  The entire motion of the exercise is meant to work on the biceps, triceps and the back and chest muscles.  Stand underneath a pull up bar and jump up, grab the bar and use the momentum to pull yourself up and push up until the bar is at waist level.  Proceed to come back down in a controlled motion.  As you can see the explosive pull up motion will work the biceps while the pushing movement and lowering of the body is going to target the triceps.

Tips For Your Next Arm Workout

Looking at these exercises it is tempting to stack a workout with 4-5 or more of these exercises.  Avoid the temptation of doing too many exercises all at once.  Doing too much at once will only make you over train.

The best way to achieve ideal results is by choosing 1 or 2 of these exercises for biceps or 1 to 2 exercises when doing triceps workouts.  If you decide to add weight training for your arms simply do 1 exercise using weights and 1 exercise using your bodyweight.

The best thing to do is to include a bodyweight exercise along with an exercise using weights.  Sticking to an all bodyweight workout for your arms works too.

If your goal is to gain muscle stick to rep ranges of 8 to 10 and 3 to 4 sets.  Make sure to be as explosive as possible in each repetition.

Final Thoughts

One thing that is very clear is that you won’t find isolation type exercises in this list.  Bodyweight type workouts are always going to be compound type.  Unlike dumbbell exercises, like dumbbell curls, you won’t find the equivalent version using your bodyweight.  Each one of these exercises works not only the biceps and triceps but also works in conjunction with another muscle group like back muscles or chest.

If you only use weights to add muscle to your arms it is best to add bodyweight exercises as well.  The benefits you will gain will be tremendous.

If you have never done a workout using only your body then feel free to try it.  A good combination of these exercises will allow you to make significant gains in size.

The Key To Bigger Arms Is To Build Bigger Triceps

Although most of the time when we want to get big arms the last thing on our mind is to build bigger triceps and instead give biceps workouts 100 percent of our effort.  Think back to the last time you did an arms workout and chances are you spent more time on your biceps than the rest of your arm.

For most of us working on our triceps is not as exciting as grabbing a pair of dumbbells and curling them for several sets and several repetitions.  It is hard to stay away from placing so much emphasis on biceps when we see guys flexing them on magazines and envying this particular muscle group.  But why should we place more emphasis on triceps?

Work On Your Triceps and You Are Two Thirds Closer To Bigger Arms

Although this may sound hard to believe the triceps compose two thirds (2/3rd) of the thickness of the arms.  The other one third (1/3rd) is composed of your biceps muscles.  Think about that for a second.  Even though the muscle that stands out visually when we flex our arms is the biceps this does not mean it is what creates a thicker arm.

Triceps are thicker, slightly more complex and are made to carry heavier loads.  When you do pushing exercises like shoulder presses, pushups, and bench presses the triceps is a secondary muscle group that is involved.  The majority of the time pushing movements requires us to push heavier weight thus requiring more triceps strength.

Biceps muscles are secondary muscle groups involved not only in biceps curls but also in pulling exercises like pull downs, rowing and pull ups and chin ups exercises.  The demand that is placed on pulling exercises is much less than pushing movements.

Biceps Are Mostly Show Muscles

Yes, that may sound like an unpopular thing to say but biceps are mostly to show off and are commonly referred to as “beach muscles.”  Getting biceps development does not require as much effort as you may think.  Because of their role in pulling movements this muscle group gets a good workout from exercises like rowing or pull-ups/ chin-ups.  In fact, you can build big biceps with a short workout is often enough to get some growth in this muscle group.

If You Want To Get A Stronger Upper Body You Need To Build Bigger Triceps

As mentioned earlier, the role triceps play in pushing exercises is very important.  Because this muscle group is involved in shoulders and chest exercises and absence of bigger triceps will keep you from lifting heavier weight.

Think of the times you wanted to bench press heavier weight but you just could not.  Maybe you did the right things and avoided a plateau effect yet your gains were small.  I have found that a lack of adequate triceps training keeps someone from making gains in exercises like bench presses and shoulder or military presses.

(Check Out More From Reuben Bajada’s Permanent Muscle Program)

So Is It Best To Work Triceps On The Same Day As Pushing Exercises

Although a lot of people like to pair triceps with chest and/ or shoulders I am of the opinion that in order to trigger growth in this muscle it is best to work it on separate days as pressing movements.  This approach is best if you are trying to add mass to this muscle group and want to build triceps muscles.  However, there should be a break of at least 2-3 days between chest and triceps workouts.

The demand that is placed on the triceps is great if you perform exercises like bench press and other variations like incline or decline pushups or bench presses.  If you add shoulder presses the stress placed is now even greater on the triceps and you will tax the muscle so much that you will not give the triceps muscles your best effort.

Which Exercises Are Best To Build Bigger Triceps?

For triceps development my personal favorites include

  • Dips: performed with bodyweight
  • Bench Dips: performed with bodyweight
  • Close Grip Push Ups: performed with bodyweight
  • Overhead Triceps Extension: can be performed with barbells, dumbbells or a plate
  • Triceps Pull Downs: can be performed with a bar or rope on a cable pulley
  • Skull crushers: performed with barbells or dumbbells

There are other exercises but these are some of my personal favorites for getting bigger triceps .

Note: Do not perform all of these exercises in one workout.  Simply choose 2 or 3 of these triceps exercises for 3 or 4 sets each.  Doing more than necessary is counterproductive and will likely set your progress behind.

Every two weeks you can choose a different pair of exercises in order to change it up.

How many repetitions get the best results to build triceps?

Stick with 8 to 10 repetitions in order to get some growth if you are aiming to add mass to this muscle group.

As you can see in order to gain muscle it does not take much effort and a lot of exercises.  Because this is a smaller muscle group, compared to chest and shoulders, you simply have to do only a couple of exercises if you want to build bigger triceps.

Try them and you will see results sooner than you think.

Build Big Biceps With This Short Killer Workout

Many guys and women are always looking for the best way to build big biceps with little effort and little time. Well I have some bad news.  To build big biceps it takes effort.  The good news is you don’t have to spend a long period of time working on those guns or pythons, or whatever menacing nickname you call your arms…

Photobucket

Although in order to get excellent muscular development I have always been a believer that a muscle group should be stimulated from every angle it is also important to switch it up once in a while.

There are many ways to develop the biceps with exercises using resistance band training, barbells and dumbbells.  Using equipment like the ones mentioned above it is best to train the inner and outer part of the biceps for development of this muscle.

However, I am also a strong believer that to trigger muscle growth it is good to use high intensity to avoid and overcome a plateau effect.  One way of applying this principle is by doing a short high intensity workout with just one simple exercise.

Here is a brief but highly effective workout to build big biceps:

The ideal piece of equipment to use is an EZ Bar curl, but you can use a straight bar, barbell, dumbbells or resistance bands. Perform the exercise while standing.

Choose a weight that you can curl a maximum of 8 repetitions.

Progressively decrease the weight by 5 to 10 pounds with each set without taking any rest between sets.

Perform 6 to 8 reps per set as the weight decreases.

The last set should be performed with just the EZ Bar or with as little weight as possible if you are using any other piece of equipment.

Sample Standing EZ Bar Curl workout:

Set 1: 35 pounds on each side for 8 repetitions

Set 2: 30 pounds on each side for 6 to 8 repetitions

Set 3: 25 pounds on each side for 6 to 8 repetitions

Set 4: 20 pounds on each side for 6 to 8 repetitions

Set 5: 15 pounds on each side for 6 to 8 repetitions

Set 6: 10 pounds on each side for 6 to 8 repetitions

Set 7: 5 pounds on each side for 6 to 8 repetitions

Set 8: curl just the bar until failure

(No rest is performed between sets)

This sample workout should give you an idea of how it works.  It is important to start with a weight that you can lift for a maximum of 8 times.  If the weight is too light you won’t get the most out of this workout.

The workout will take about 10 minutes to complete and that will be the end of your biceps workout for the day.  Your arms should feel like you cannot perform another set.

Despite decreasing the weight on the bar with each set it will feel more and more difficult to complete even the six repetitions in a set.  In the last set failure may be less than six repetitions or more than eight, regardless of what the number is go until you cannot perform more repetitions.

By the time you are done with this workout you will be out of breath and sweating but you will love the feeling!

Although you will be tempted to perform this same workout on consecutive weeks you should not.  This is to be performed at most once a month or just once in a long while to break the monotony or eliminate a plateau.

Try this workout to build big biceps next time you work on those guns, pythons, or whatever you nicknamed your arms.

Best Way To Build Arm Muscles

Are you looking for the best ways to build arm muscles so you can show off your results?  Well there are ways to do this and it is easier than you think.  As long as you are consistent and are willing to put the effort you will see the results.
The Floating Bridge
Photograph Courtesy of www.benheine.com

Everyone who goes to the gym wants to see results in the “show” muscles or beach muscles as some call them like the arms and chest.  Unfortunately when working out the arms most people focus on the biceps when in reality the triceps makes up two thirds of the arms.

The best approach is to do exercises that target each angle of the arm.  Do exercises the hit all the heads of the triceps and the biceps.

  • Bench dips:  start by placing your hands on a bench right behind you and slowly lower your body until your arms form an L shape with the upper arms are parallel to the floor.  Keep your legs extended out.  Come back up in a controlled motion.  Do the exercise slow paced.
  • Skull crushers:  lie down on a bench and with dumbbells hold them over your face with your arms extended.  Bring the weights down to a couple of inches from your forehead and extend up again.  Repeat at a slow pace.
  • Arm kickbacks:  hold the dumbbells in your hand and rest the upper body on a bench placed at a 45-degree angle.  Form an L shape with your arms next to your body and proceed to extend the arms back until they are straight and against your upper body with the weight placed at the hip/waist area.  Do this in a controlled motion.
  • Barbell curls: hold a barbell either standing up or seated and curl the weight.  Pause when you reach the top and come down slowly.  Use a pace of one second up and two or three seconds when you come down.
  • Decline dumbbell curls:  place a bench at a 45-degree angle and hold a pair of dumbbells.  Let the weight hang down with your arms extended.  Keep your arms pressed against the bench and curl the weight up.  Pause when you reach the top and come down slowly.  Use a pace of one second up and two or three seconds down.
  • Hammer Curls:  perform these as if you were doing standing arm dumbbell curls.  Instead of performing them with palms up perform them with palms facing inward facing your body.

Perform all exercises for 3 or 4 sets and 8 to 10 repetitions per set.