Pairing your back and biceps muscle workouts is a common way of splitting up a bodybuilding routine. When you perform back movements such as rows or pull-downs, you're targeting your mid and upper back but also working your biceps, meaning these two muscle groups fit well into the same session. Your exercise selection, order and sets and reps are of critical importance, though, so it's vital you plan your sessions carefully.
The When and Where
When following a bodybuilding-style split, with back and biceps being one workout in your schedule, the other workouts could be a chest and triceps session, a quads and hamstrings session, and a shoulders, calves and abs workout. Train your back and biceps once a week. You can do this any day of the week, the only caveat being that if you include deadlifts in your back and biceps workout, you shouldn't do these the day after squats, according to strength coach Jim Smith. Therefore you'll either need to place your leg and back workouts at opposite ends of the week, or leave a day's rest between the two.
Start every workout with a big compound move for your back. Deadlifts are a good choice for your first exercise because they work many different muscles in various areas of your back. Along with regular deadlifts with a shoulder width stance, David Dellanave, coach and owner of The Movement Minneapolis, advises trying rack pulls, deficit deadlifts and trap bar deadlifts. Make this a strength-based exercise by deadlifting for five to six sets of three to eight repetitions.
While deadlifts do hit the whole of your back, they're mainly lower and mid-back focused, so now it's time to hit your upper back. Your back muscles perform two different movements -- vertical pulls and horizontal pulls, so you need one of each in every session. For the vertical pull, opt for chinups with any grip position or pull-downs using any type of handle. Whatever exercise you choose, touch your chest to the bar and think about pulling your shoulder blades back and down as far as possible, advises strength coach Mike Robertson. For your horizontal pull, any type of rowing movement is a safe bet. Switch between barbell, dumbbell, T-bar, cable or machine rows. Perform four sets of eight to 12 reps on each exercise.
By the time you've deadlifted and performed one vertical and one horizontal pull, your biceps will be well worked, but to really get your tickets to the gun show, add in a biceps isolation exercise. The main role of your biceps is to flex your elbow joint, so any strict elbow flexion movement can be used as a biceps finisher. Strength coaches David Sandler and Jim Stoppani of Muscle and Fitness recommend switching between hammer curls, cable curls, Scott curls performed on a preacher bench, barbell curls and seated dumbbell curls. Complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps, squeezing each one for two seconds and the top and taking three seconds to lower back down.