Pro bodybuilders and fitness models use advanced lifting techniques to achieve a ripped physique. The 7-7-7 biceps workout, for example, may help add inches to your arms and improve muscle definition. Also known as "21s," this method was used by Arnold Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilding legends.
7-7-7 Biceps Workout Overview
Big, defined biceps are the epitome of fitness and strength for many lifters. It's also a symbol of masculinity. However, training this muscle is just as important for women as it is for men.
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The biceps brachii, which consists of two heads, plays a key role in elbow and shoulder flexion, forearm rotation and overall physical performance, explains a review featured in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research in August 2017. It is also one of the most important muscles for upper body strength, points out the Cleveland Clinic. If the biceps are weak or get injured, your elbow and forearm strength may suffer too.
Read more: The Ultimate Workout for Sexy, Sculpted Arms
One way to add size to your biceps and make it stronger is to change your typical rep range. That's exactly what the 7-7-7 biceps workout is all about.
According to the Australian Fitness Academy, this training protocol may lead to greater endurance and help you break through plateaus. Plus, it's time-efficient and torches more calories than other workouts by keeping your muscles under tension for longer.
The 7-7-7 method can be used for most muscle groups, not just the biceps. You may use it to build a bigger chest, massive delts, stronger legs and so on. Because of the high rep range, your arms will feel like they're on fire. The key is to perform each rep correctly, not just rush through the movements.
Think of this lifting method as a form of extended set training. Each set consists of 21 reps. The first seven reps occur in the first half of the range of motion (ROM), the next seven reps occur from the bottom part of the lift up to the middle and the last seven reps are performed at full ROM.
How to Do 21s
As mentioned above, a typical set of the 7-7-7 biceps workout has three phases, as described by the Australian Fitness Academy:
- Seven reps performed with a partial ROM at the bottom half of the contraction.
- Seven reps performed with a partial ROM at the top half of the contraction.
- Seven reps performed with a full ROM.
For example, if you do barbell biceps curls, you will lift the barbell only until your arms form a 90-degree angle during the first seven reps. As you perform the next reps, curl the barbell up to your chest and back until your arms form a 90-degree angle. Use a full ROM during the last seven reps, meaning that you have to lift the barbell to your chest, pause for a second at the top of the movement and then lower it all the way down.
Read more: How to Do a Proper Dumbbell Curl
Range of motion is the full movement of a joint. According to Lane Community College, ROM exercises can be used for therapeutic purposes, such as pain relief, improved circulation and prevention of muscular contractures. Traditional biceps exercises don't fall into this category, but they may help improve joint flexibility and mobility when done with various ranges of motion.
Partial ROM exercises, such as 21s, have been shown effective at stimulating hypertrophy, according to a small study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in May 2019. Performing fewer reps with heavier loads may help you get stronger, but muscle growth can be achieved with various loading ranges.
Depending on your preferences and workout plan, you may perform 21s as a finisher or at the beginning of your training session.
If you start with the 7-7-7 biceps workout, you'll have more strength and energy than you'd have when using it as a finisher. This could make it easier to maintain proper form and avoid injuries. But you can just as well use this technique at the end of your workout to achieve temporary muscle fatigue, which ensures you engage a maximum number of muscle fibers.
- Journal of Clinical Medicine Research: "Actions of the Biceps Brachii at the Shoulder: A Review"
- Cleveland Clinic: "3 Tips for Treating Your Bicep Pain at Home"
- Australian Fitness Academy: "How to Add Variety to Your Workout With 21’s"
- Lane Community College: "Stretching Versus ROM"
- NASA: "Nautilus Training Principles"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Partial Range of Motion Exercise Is Effective for Facilitating Muscle Hypertrophy and Function Through Sustained Intramuscular Hypoxia in Young Trained Men"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"