As you work to become stronger, it can be tempting to do a couple HIIT workouts throughout the week, or just add some biceps curls to your training plan. But training upper body is more than just doing arm exercises, Heather Marr, CPT, tells Lively. Getting in a back and biceps workout is a great way to build total upper-body strength.
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Is it good to work out back and biceps together?
Training back and biceps together, often known as back and bis, is a classic choice in a training split and can be a time saver, says Marr. Back and biceps exercises are both pulling exercises. When you perform compound lifts targeting your back, your biceps will assist to a certain degree.
"For this reason, you'd most likely choose to lead your workout with the compound lifts while your biceps are still fresh," says Marr. "Once completing those sets your biceps will be somewhat fatigued. You'd then finish your workout with the isolation exercises."
How long should a back and biceps workout be?
Both the duration of your back and biceps workout and how often you work them in during your weekly training sessions depend on your goals. Overall, you should consider your goals, time available to train, training split, volume and lifestyle choices (including nutrition and sleep) that affect recovery.
If you only have two days available every week that you can train, you'll likely focus on compound lifts (exercises that use more than one joint and one muscle group at a time like a pull-up) while you're in the gym and perhaps train full body, explains Marr.
"You would want to make the most of the time you have available and likely won't choose to spend that time performing endless isolation exercises, exercises that use one muscle group and joint like a bicep curl)."
On the other hand, someone that gets to the gym more frequently may choose to train back and biceps one to two times weekly.
Is adding in 2 exercises for biceps to your workouts enough?
The "bi"ceps muscles are two heads that run parallel to each other in your upper arm. The long head is on the outside and the short head is on the inside of the arm, explains Marr. You may choose to perform two biceps exercises in your workout that each target a different head. For the average person that's more than enough.
Try this back and biceps workout created by Marr.
An Exclusive Back And Biceps Workout
- Start with 10 minutes of light cardio, such as a jog, brisk walk, or running stairs.
- Then, perform 2 sets of a seated neutral-grip cable row. (Select a weight you can easily perform 15 to 18 reps to get muscles ready).
Perform 3 sets of 10 reps of each exercise, resting between sets. Complete all 3 sets of each move before moving on to the next. (If you don’t have access to a gym, you can modify moves as noted.)
Seated Neutral-Grip Cable Row
Sit upright on a bench with feet planted on the floor, knees bent. Extend arms and hold the handles in a neutral grip (palms facing in). Keeping shoulders back and down and core braced, bend elbow to pull cable to chest. Pause, with elbows bent at about 90 degrees. Then, slowly extend arms to return to starting position. Repeat.
If you don't have access to a gym, you can sit on the floor with legs extended and loop a resistance band with handles around your feet.
Bent-Over Wide-Grip Barbell Row
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width and knees slightly bent. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Hinge at hips and bend over to a 45-degree angle, keeping back straight. Engage your core and lift barbell straight up toward stomach, bringing arms no higher than parallel to the shoulders, keeping back flat. Slowly lower down and repeat.
If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can substitute dumbbells.
Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
Hold the lat bar with underhand (reverse) grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Keeping chest up and shoulders back, pull bar down to chest, with elbows close to torso as you pull shoulder blades together. Slowly return to starting position.
If you don't have access to a gym, you can anchor a resistance band to a door, and perform the move in a half-kneeling position.
Stand with feet hips-width apart and one dumbbell in each hand. Keeping elbows close to sides, curl weights up to shoulder level.
Stand with feet hips-width apart, and one dumbbell in each hand, holding with neutral grip. Keeping elbows close, curl both arms up, with thumbs pointed out, toward the shoulder. Lower down with control. Repeat.
Is it bad to work out your arms every day?
Many people new to fitness confuse arms with upper-body workouts. Your upper-body training will include chest, back, biceps, triceps and shoulders. "You can certainly design your training split to be able to work your upper-body several days in a row," says Marr.
"For instance, you may choose to train chest one day and back the next. You wouldn't however design your split to train the same body part multiple days in a row."
For example, you definitely shouldn't work your biceps and triceps (or really any part of your body) two days in a row. The muscles worked need time to recover between training sessions — proper recovery is just as important as training for building muscle.