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A Bodybuilder's Back and Arms Workout

by
author image Bobby R. Goldsmith
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.
A Bodybuilder's Back and Arms Workout
Bodybuilder doing a curl Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

While the key to successful, competitive bodybuilding is to perform a total-body approach to developing your physique, as you progress through your training, you’ll find certain areas need to be targeted in specific workouts. Advanced bodybuilding often utilizes a split-training routine that lets you add more exercises for each of the major muscle groups in the body. For example, two training days a week may be devoted to back and arm exercises.

Bodybuilding Splits

To group your arm and back exercises on the same training days, you must carefully organize the rest of your weekly workouts so that you sufficiently target each remaining muscle groups as well as avoid overtraining any one particular group. This becomes especially tricky with arm workouts, since the arms come into play for many upper-body exercises beyond those that target the back. Your other upper-body training days should pair chest and shoulders together, with a full lower-body workout scheduled for the remaining two lift days in the week.

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Target Assessment

Unlike powerlifting and other forms of strength training, bodybuilding isn’t strictly functional; it’s about developing muscles for maximum aesthetic results. In a way, it’s more important how you lift than how much you lift. The exercises you select need to provide a full range-of-motion for target muscles so that primary and secondary muscles get a complete workout. Precise form for each exercise is crucial to success. Don’t use partial repetitions and avoid executing too quickly. Motions should be smooth and methodical.

Arm and Hammer

Every variation of an arm exercise involves either an extension or a curl. The three major muscle groups you need to work out include the forearm muscles, triceps and biceps. The motion of extending the arm works the triceps, while curling the arm works the biceps. Many exercises that target the biceps or triceps also incorporate the forearms. Effective exercises include the hammer dumbbell curl, the lying overhead extension, barbell curls using a Preacher bench, bent-over rows and cable pushdowns.

Watch the Back

Unlike your arms, the muscle targets of the back aren’t as straightforward. The major muscle groups to focus on in the back include the latissimus dorsi and the erector spinea. While the trapezius muscles also contribute to the development of a shapely back for bodybuilding, the muscles themselves are considered part of the shoulder, since they facilitate movement of the shoulder blades. Exercises that activate the lats include pullups, cable pulldowns and seated rows. Exercises for the erector spinea include deadlifts, back squats and power cleans.

Weights and Measures

The structure of the workout should focus on steady, methodical sets and repetitions. You don't need to lift heavy and max out to failure; cap your weight for each exercise to about 85 to 90 percent of your max. Use standard sets and reps for each exercise, lifting between eight and 12 reps, through four to five sets for each. To create a focused workout, use a split-body routine, where you work on chest, shoulders and triceps two days a week, biceps and back two days a week and legs two days a week. Get at one complete rest day each week.

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