Simple and Effective Back and Biceps Workout for Muscle Growth

What's the Best Back and Biceps Workout?

Whether you’re new to bodybuilding or a seasoned pro, you’ve probably heard of split system training, as you're never going to work all of your muscles at once. You likely will focus on a certain group of upper body muscles — such as back and biceps— one day, and rotate through other muscle groups on other days.

Even if you already have a workout plan or are working with a coach to craft one, you may be wondering if it's okay to lift back and biceps on the same day, so we're here to break it down while helping you achieve your muscle-growth goals. Here’s everything you need to know about back and biceps workouts.

Muscles of Upper Back and Biceps

First: a quick refresher on the muscles you'll be working in your back and biceps workout routine. Your back is the structural support for your torso and allows for pulling movements. It’s made up of many muscles, which are divided into three layers: deep, intermediate and superficial [1].

Deep back muscles:

The deep muscles are responsible for movement, including supporting posture, flexion and rotation of the spine.

  • Semispinalis

  • Multifidus

  • Rotatores

Intermediate back muscles:
These muscles assist with breathing.

  • Serratus posterior inferior

  • Serratus posterior superior

Superficial back muscles:
The superficial muscles assist in the movement of the upper limbs.

  • Trapezius

  • Latissimus dorsi

  • Levator

  • Scapulae

  • Rhomboids

The biceps brachii is a large, thick muscle on the forward portion of the upper arm [2]. The biceps muscle is made up of a short and long head, which it's properly referred to as the plural words "biceps" and not "bicep." These biceps muscles are responsible for flexion of the elbow joint and outward rotation of the forearm.

Now that our anatomy lesson is out of the way, let’s get into the bulk of it.  

"Can I Train Back and Biceps Together?"

When you’re working on bodybuilding, you want to do split workouts in order to focus on building certain muscle groups. This means training parts of your upper body one day and training lower body next so you can lift heavier, give your body time to rest, and make the most out of your gym time.

Training back and biceps together can also be a way for you to save time and work two different, but complementary, muscle groups in one session. That’s why training these two muscle groups in the same workout is prudent — you’re focusing on major muscle groups in the back and one smaller muscle group (biceps).

Depending on how you split your workouts, you could also add in another, smaller muscle group like the triceps, abs, or shoulders (deltoids).

Should You Work the Back Muscles Before Biceps?

It depends on your goals, but typically during your back and bicep workout, you should train your back before moving on to biceps exercises. Your back is a larger muscle group, and many pulling exercises you’ll do to build your back involve other muscles as well. Be sure to take into consideration your training volume when structuring your workout routine.

It’s important to note you won’t want to complete bicep exercises before you move into back exercises, as biceps are an assisting muscle in many back exercises you will be doing and if your biceps are fatigued it will affect your overall power.  And, no matter what, you’ll want to do a solid warmup before getting into the hard work.

"Should I Superset Back and Biceps Exercises?"

If you’re incorporating supersets in your workout, this means you’re doing two workouts back-to-back without a break. Completing back and biceps workouts is an efficient way to work your upper body. When doing a superset back and biceps workout, for maximum benefit you should incorporate moves that focus on the same muscle groups, but use a different range of motion.

Incorporate These Moves into Your Next Back and Biceps Workout

For each back and biceps exercise below, choose a weight that is challenging but allows you to complete the target number of reps and sets with proper form (in order to avoid injury). Since back exercises recruit multiple muscle groups, it's best to start your back and biceps workouts with heavy compound movements like bent-over barbell rows, lat pulldowns, and pull-ups before moving on to biceps isolation exercises (e.g. dumbbell curls and preacher curls).

Upper-Body Back Exercises

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

When completing bent-over dumbbell rows, you’ll work the latissimus dorsi (the large flat muscle in your back), the middle and lower trapezius, the rhomboids, trapezius, and biceps.

How to do it: Start standing with a dumbbell in your right hand, feet shoulder-width apart and arms straight. You can also start in a split stance with your right foot behind you. Hinge at your hips to lean forward, brace your core and bend your elbow to draw the dumbbell toward your waist. Pause at the top, then slowly lower down to starting position. Repeat using the same weight on the left arm.

Bent-Over Barbell Row

With the bent-over barbell row, you’ll work the latissimus dorsi (the large flat muscle in your back), the middle and lower trapezius, the rhomboids, and the posterior deltoids. Like dumbbell rows, the biceps are also involved in this exercise.

How to do it: Start standing behind a straight bar with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend at the hips while keeping your back straight, as if sitting back slightly, until you reach about a 45-degree angle. Once you’re set, grasp the bar a little wider than shoulder width, with straight arms and palms facing toward the shins. Pull your elbows behind you to pull the barbell toward you, keeping glutes and core braced. With a straight back, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold at the top, then slowly lower to starting position. Repeat.

Barbell Row

The barbell row works your mid- and upper-back muscles, including your lats, rhomboids, traps, and rear delts; it also engages your rotator cuffs and biceps.

How to do it: Start with feet hip-width apart, then hinge at the hips to bend over to the bar (similar to a barbell deadlift). Using an underhanded grip (to engage your biceps), brace your core and glutes and raise your torso slightly to lift the barbell from the ground. Then, bend at your elbows to pull the bar to your chest. Pause at the top then slowly lower down to starting position, keeping the core braced. Repeat.

Biceps Exercises

Barbell Curl

The barbell curl targets your biceps and the brachialis (the muscle responsible for elbow flexion). Adding a barbell curl to your arsenal of biceps exercises routine can help improve grip strength as well. Note: you can also perform curls with dumbbells, but a barbell curl allows you to lift heavier weights.

How to do it: Start standing behind a barbell with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and shoulders relaxed. With an underhand grip, a little wider than hip-width and lift the barbell off the ground and hold it near your hips with a slight bend in your elbows. Bend your elbows to bring the barbell toward your shoulder, keeping your back straight and core braced. Pause at the top, then slowly lower the barbell back down toward your hips. Repeat.

Dumbbell Hammer Curls

The dumbbell hammer curl is a great move to add to your bicep workouts, as it targets the short head of your bicep muscle as well as the brachioradialis and brachialis (all muscles responsible for elbow flexion). Because of the neutral grip and position of the dumbbells, this biceps exercise allows you to lift heavier than a traditional dumbbell curl and get a good pump in your upper arms. Hammer curls can also be used as a replacement for dumbbell curls if the latter causes pain in the shoulders or elbows.

How to do it: Start by holding two dumbbells at your sides, palms facing inward (neutral grip). If standing, have feet shoulder-width apart. (This move can also be performed seated.) With a straight back, bend your elbows to bring the weights toward your shoulders. Pause at the top, then slowly lower your arms to return to the starting position. Repeat.

Takeaways: Back and Biceps Workout

When it comes to your back and biceps workout, variations of the row, including bent-over rows, bent-over barbell rows, pull-ups, seated cable rows, and barbell rows, will hit both muscle groups for maximum strength building. When performed correctly, these exercises activate all of your back muscles and various upper arms muscles including your biceps.

If you’re new to bodybuilding, the bent-over row is generally the best place to start, as you can increase the weight used when you’re comfortable and add variations to the move over time. From there, you’ll want to diversify your workout with a collection of accessory lifts that also activate the back and biceps muscle groups to help build muscle mass.

And don't forget to follow up your training with proper nutrition and supplementation. Try Transparent Labs POST post-workout recovery supplement for an evidence-based formula that promotes strength and maximizes muscle recovery after your back and biceps workout.

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