Back and biceps are one of the classic muscle groupings in split body training. Split body training “splits” the body into separate muscle groupings so that you can work out for several consecutive days while still affording your muscles ample time to recover.
There are several ways you can split up your body, from simple upper and lower body training, to several smaller two or three muscles per grouping. One common split is between push movements, pull movements, and lower body. These movements tend to use the same muscle groups, so when you’re working your “push” muscles, your “pull” muscles are resting. The back and bicep muscles function as “pull” muscles and are activated when you are pulling objects towards you, forming the basis of this classic split.
If you like to be active every day or are looking to focus and isolate certain muscle groups, split workouts may be for you. Here, we’ll outline different back and bicep workouts that can be used for different goals or settings.
Back and Bicep Workout for Women
When you think of isolated back and bicep workouts, images of rippled bodybuilders with bulging arms that no t-shirt can contain may come to mind – not an aesthetic that most women are interested in building. So, how do you target these muscles without looking like Mr. Olympia? The simple answer is: almost exactly the same as any other man in the gym would.
While the mindset is slowly changing, and more women are hitting the weight room hard, many still subscribe to the idea that lifting heavy weights will make them bulky when all they want is to be “toned”. The truth is, even for men to build heavy bulk they have to work pretty hard, including eating more calories and protein than usual. Men also have the added advantage of having more testosterone than women, a critical hormone in muscle building and strength.
Bottom line: If you want to be “toned”, lift heavy and shed body fat. Try building back and bicep targeted workouts around these key exercises in the gym to sculpt those enviable arms and bikini-ready back of your dreams. For each exercise, try doing 3 sets of 10 reps each. Make sure the weight you’re using is heavy enough to be challenging – the last few reps of each set should be difficult to complete:
- Pull ups: This classic callisthenic focuses on the major muscles in your back as well as your biceps. For more emphasis on your back, grab the handles with your palms facing away from you. If you’re not strong enough yet to lift your body weight, use an assisted pull up machine.
- Pull Downs: Also called Lat Pull Downs, this exercise will focus on the big latissimus dorsi muscles, as well as activate the bicep and rotator cuff muscles. There are several different machines to use for pull downs, so choose your favorite.
- Rows: This is a classic back exercise, and has many variations, including the seated cable row, bent over dumbbell row, barbell row, and endless machines. Choose one or two of these to incorporate into your routine to work the muscles from different angles.
- Rope Cable Curls: Curls will target your biceps, which will already be fatigued after exercising your back. Make sure you’re using only your biceps to complete the movement and not using any momentum.
- Incline Hammer Curl: Set up a bench with the backrest at a 45-degree angle to the floor. With your back resting on the backrest and a dumbbell in each hand, curl your biceps up towards your shoulder and back down. Doing this on an incline bench helps keep you from swinging backward to get the weight up.
- Concentration Curl: Seated on a bench with a dumbbell in hand, brace your elbow on the inner part of your knee. With your palm up, curl your bicep and slowly bring it back down. Being in the seated position with your elbow braced helps you to isolate the bicep and not rely on momentum to bring the weight up.
Back and Bicep Workout for Mass
To pack on mass, it’s important to lift heavy and continue to challenge yourself. To really give yourself a boost when focusing on your back and biceps, pair compound movements (like the pull ups mentioned below) with a testo support supplement like HexoFire Labs Delta Prime, which uses ingredients that help support the body’s natural testosterone production.
- Weighted Pull Ups: If you’re looking to build mass and can already crush a set of 15 bodyweight pullups without breaking a sweat, strap on a weight belt and challenge yourself. You can target your back if you grip the handles with your palms facing away from you or rip up your biceps by turning your grip around.
- Underhand Barbell Row: Like the name implies, you should be gipping the barbell with your palms facing up. Most of the muscle activation should be in your lats, and this grip helps your elbows track in a comfortable angle. Focus on bring your elbows as far back as you can.
- Rack Pull: Think of this movement like starting from the last half of a deadlift. Using a squat rack, start with the bar at around knee level, and pull the bar up from there. This focuses on strengthening the lower back while mostly sparing the hamstrings and glutes. Proper form is crucial for this exercise.
- Lat Pull Downs: Shift the focus of this exercise from your lats to your rear deltoids by leaning further back during the movement.
- Single Arm Dumbbell Rows: Like with the underhand barbell row, focus on bringing your elbow as far back as possible to get maximum range of motion and benefit out of this one.
- Standing Bicep Cable Curl: Do each rep slowly and in control so you get maximum benefit from the constant tension of the cable. Make an effort not to swing backward to get the bar to the top of the movement.
- Preacher Curls with EZ Bar: The bench of a preacher curl helps to really isolate the biceps by reducing the ability to use momentum to swing the weight up. You’ll generally have to use a lighter weight for this one, but make sure it’s still challenging.
As this plan focuses more on the back with the biceps as a secondary assisting muscle, add more curl variations if you still feel like you need to blast your biceps a bit more. Try adding hammer curls, concentration curls, overhead cable curls.
Back and Bicep Workout with Dumbbells
If you find yourself in a crowded or sparsely equipped gym, having some dumbbell exercises in your arsenal can save you from a wasted workout. Try using these exercises in your routine if all you have access to (or prefer) are dumbbells:
- Bent-Over Reverse Fly: Keep a slight bend in your knees and elbows for this, rather than having them totally locked. The straighter you can keep your arms in this the harder the movement.
- Dumbbell Romanian Dead lift: Follow the same principal as if you were using a bar and keep the dumbbells as close to your body as you can as you lean forward. To keep the activation mostly focused on your lower back, don’t bring the dumbbells down farther that just above your knees.
- Dumbbell Upright Row: From a standing position, bring the dumbbells up until they’re level with your collar bone. At the top of the movement your elbows should be sticking straight out to the sides while the dumbbells track up the center of the body. This one will target your upper back and shoulders.
- Dumbbell Plank Rows: Set up in a plank position with a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your core tight and engaged, lift one dumbbell until you’ve pulled your elbow back as far as you can. Bring it back to the start and do the same with the other arm.
- Alternating Dumbbell Row: Just like with all other row variations, work on bringing your elbow as far back as you can for maximum benefit.
Back and Bicep Workout at Home
Even without access to a gym, home gym, or dumbbells, you can effectively work out your back and biceps at home. Use these exercises to torch this muscle group with little to no equipment:
- Dolphin Kicks: This will target your lower back. Lying face down on the floor, brace your upper body by placing your palms face down beside your chest, forearms parallel. Use your lower back and glutes to raise your legs as high as you can off the floor, and then back down. For a more intense burn, don’t let your feet touch back down on the floor until your set is complete.
- Supermans: This will target your middle and upper back. Lying face down on the floor with your arms stretched out in front of you. Raise your arms and chest off the floor as high as you can, and bring them back down to the start.
- Back Extensions: You can do this exercise over the arm of a couch, just make sure you have a weight or a partner to weigh down your legs. Bend over the arm of a chair as far as you can, arms either crossed over your chest or behind your head. Use your lower back to bring your chest back up. If your body weight is too light, use any kind of weight to add more of a challenge.
- Chin-Ups/Pullups: Any kind of sturdy bar can be used for chin-ups, and chinup/pullup bars are easily found and inexpensive. Gripping the bar away from you will target the back, whereas gripping the bar palms towards you will target your biceps.
- Resistance Band Curls: Try to get a variety of different tensions so you can keep challenging yourself as you get stronger. Standing upright with your feet shoulder width apart, stand on the middle part of the band. With one end in each hand, curl your bicep like you would with a dumbbell.