Your body needs big, strong, resilient back muscles. Your mind wants big, strong, bulging biceps. The good news? You can chase both goals at the same time.
Here’s the thing about training your back: Most major back exercises (think: lat pulldowns, chinups, and rows) also recruit your biceps and forearm muscles. In fact, one of your biceps’ main functions is the process of pulling things closer to you. Yes, big biceps jump out of a T-shirt or sweater, but they also assist in helping you pull everything from dumbbells to the rope in a tug-of-war showdown.
That means that your biceps and forearms, by default, end up getting a mini-workout when you train your back. So why not finish the job and fatigue all your pulling muscles at once?
That’s what you’re going to do in this workout. Doing that in this workout has plenty of advantages. And if you like this workout, remember to check out even more sessions like this in my workout program, New Rules of Muscle.
Make Back Day More Biceps-Intensive
You’re hitting your biceps on back day, but you can juice that even more with two tricks. Keep these in mind on back day, and you’ll get a bigger biceps pump.
Targeted pauses and iso-holds on back exercises can often force greater biceps challenge. If you’re in an iso-hold row or chinup and your back is fatiguing, your biceps has to pick up the slack.
Squeezing the dumbbells, barbells, and handles hard will help you activate your forearm and biceps muscles that much more on all motions. Very often, people lightly grip barbells, dumbbells and bars; take an aggressive grip and your biceps will thank you.
The Pull-Push-Legs Split
Training back and biceps has a lot of benefits. Among them is this: It lets you arrange all your training around the everyday-life uses of your muscles. Think about what you do all day. You “pull” doors open and you “pull” your backpack close to you and then around your shoulders.
You also do plenty of “pushing,” pushing your car trunk closed, pushing past people in crowded areas, and essentially holding “push” positions when you type at your desk and drive your car. Pushing typically involves your chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles.
Those motions, along with basic leg movement motions — you squat, lunge, and hinge at the hips more often than you may think — can easily form the backbone of a good weekly training schedule. On one day, you can train all the muscles that help you push. On another, you can train the muscles that you use to pull. On the next, you can train your leg muscles. It’s a simple split that you can repeat once or twice a week, depending on how often you’re training (if you’re going three-days-a-week, do everything once. If you can train five or six days a week, you can hit pull, push, and legs twice a week).
Most bodybuilders and veteran trainers are aware of the push-pull-legs split. I like making one more adjustment to it, and it’s how I generally train. Whenever possible, it’s better to prioritize pulling muscles since, in general, you need your pulling muscles to be stronger than your pushing muscles. So on your first day, you’d train pulling motions. On the second day, you’d train pushing motions, on your third day, you’d train your legs.
It’s a natural, safe, well-rounded way to train.
The Pull Day Workout
Do this pull day workout once or twice a week. Rest at least two days between each session, ideally training your chest on one of those days, and working your legs the next. Focus on technique during this workout, honing perfect exercise form.
Towel Grip Dumbbell Row
Start your workout off by firing your scapular retractors and focusing on squeezing your back muscles. The use of the towel here will also challenge your grip strength and forearms, upping biceps involvement just slightly. Do 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.
Half-Iso Incline Row Countup
Now, hit your back from a slightly different angle and stimulate your biceps and forearms with iso-hold work in a vicious incline-row series. Squeeze your mid-back hard — and remember to grip the dumbbells hard. Do 3 sets.
Elevated Plank Row Multi-Angle Hellset
Now finish off your back (and fire up your biceps some more) with a vicious dumbbell row hellset that’ll once again pile up good squeezes and iso-holds. Do 2 sets per side. Feeling tough? Do 3.
Spider Curl Hellset
The final piece of this workout: An all-angles assault on your biceps. Do at least 2 sets of this, focusing on squeezing your guns. Then call it a day. Your muscles will have gotten plenty of work.
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