Back and Biceps Workout for Strength and Muscle

This back and biceps workout focuses on building strength and lean muscle tissue in the lats, lower back, rhomboids, both heads of the biceps, shoulders, and the forearms. The workout is geared for those who have some experience using gym equipment and practicing good form.

The workout includes supersets, which means you'll do two exercises for the same muscle group back-to-back, then rest and repeat one or more times, using enough weight that you can only complete 10 to 12 repetitions per set. Supersets are great for those who are short on time but want to do several different exercises.

Safety and Precautions

Check with your healthcare provider if you have any current injuries, illnesses, or other conditions. You should also seek medical guidance if you are returning to exercise after pregnancy or injury or if you are prone to back pain.

Overview

Total Time: 30–45 minutes

Level: Intermediate to advanced

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells; a barbell with weight plates; a chair, weight bench, or ball; and a resistance band

What to Expect: You'll be performing four supersets total. Two supersets focus on the back muscles but also help to strengthen the arms and shoulders. Then you'll do two supersets that focus on the biceps.

For each exercise, choose a weight that allows you to finish each set with good form. The last rep should be very difficult, but not impossible. Perform the exercises in each set, rest for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat.

For a lighter workout, complete each superset one time. For a more challenging workout, repeat each superset for a total of three times. You can vary the length of the workout by changing the number of sets that you complete.

Warm Up

Begin with a 5-minute warm-up of light cardio. If you have access to a treadmill, walk or jog at an easy to moderate intensity. You can also use a stationary bike or simply walk in place.

After completing your short cardio segment, complete a series of back extensions to further prepare the muscles in your back.

Back Extension Exercise
Ben Goldstein

Back Extensions

A back extension can be performed on a machine at your local health club. To perform the back extension at home without equipment, follow these steps.

  1. Lie face down with hands alongside your body with palms facing up.
  2. Lift upper body off the ground a few inches, keeping head and neck in alignment.
  3. Hold for two counts.
  4. Lower and repeat 10–15 times

Superset #1

Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell Row. photo (c) Dominic DiSaia / Getty Images

For your first superset, you'll perform two variations of a row exercise to work the large muscles in the back. Your shoulders and arms will also benefit from these movements.

One-Armed Row

You'll need heavy dumbbells for this exercise.

  1. Place your left foot a few feet in front of you with your knee bent, and hold a heavy weight in your right hand. The palm should be facing the midline of the body.
  2. Keeping the back strong and the core tight, engage the muscles in your back to pull the elbow up in a rowing motion until it is level with your torso.
  3. Lower and repeat for 10–12 reps, then switch sides.

Barbell High Row

Begin this exercise standing tall (feet hip-width apart) with a barbell on the floor in front of you. If you are adding weight to the bar, be sure that the plates are secured with a collar. If you don't have a barbell, simply hold one dumbbell in each hand. When you are ready to begin, pick up the barbell with an overhand grip, palms facing your thighs.

  1. Bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hips, bringing the torso forward until your back is almost parallel to the floor. Let the barbell hang in front of you.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and engage the middle and upper back as you pull the weight toward your chest.
  3. Lower the barbell and repeat for 10–12 reps.

After completing the barbell high row, repeat superset #1.

Superset #2

Upright Row

Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

For your second superset, you'll perform two more row variations to continue to work the back and the shoulders.

Upright Row

This exercise is usually performed with a barbell, but you can use dumbbells (one in each hand) if a barbell is not available. Start by standing tall, holding the barbell with an overhand grip so that your palms face your body. Hands should be shoulder-width apart.

  1. Keeping the abdominals engaged, lift the barbell straight up toward your chin, leading with the elbows and keeping the bar close to the body.
  2. Pause when the bar reaches shoulder height.
  3. Return the barbell back to the starting position and repeat 10–12 times.

Alternating T-Pulls and Y-Pulls

You'll use a resistance band for this exercise. If you are working out in a gym or at home and have access to TRX straps, you can do this exercise standing and using the straps instead.

If you are using bands, start seated with your legs extended in front of you. Loop the band around both feet, holding one end of the band in each hand. Make sure there is very little slack in the band.

  1. Keeping a strong, tall back, engage your middle and upper back and open your arms out to a T-shape.
  2. Return to the starting position and repeat, but this time, bring your arms up and out into a Y-shape.
  3. Return to the starting position and continue alternating T-pulls and Y-pulls for 10–12 repetitions.

After completing the alternating T-pulls and Y-pulls, repeat superset #2.

Superset #3

Reverse Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Your supersets will now begin to focus on the front of the body, specifically the biceps. You'll begin with these two standing exercises that are variations of the basic biceps curl.

Barbell Curl

Start with your feet hip-width apart and abdominals engaged. Hold the barbell in front of you with an underhand grip, palms facing forward. If you don't have a barbell, simply grab two dumbbells and hold one in each hand.

  1. Keeping your upper arms stable and shoulders relaxed, bend at the elbow and lift the barbell so that it approaches your shoulders. The elbows should stay tucked in close to the ribs.
  2. Lower the barbell to the starting position and repeat 10–12 times.

Reverse Curl

To perform a reverse dumbbell curl, you'll hold one dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip. Your palms should be facing your thighs when you begin.

  1. Bending at the elbow, lift the weights up toward your shoulders but pause when your elbows reach a 90-degree bend (or slightly higher).
  2. Slowly lower the weights with control to the starting position.
  3. Repeat the exercise for 10–12 repetitions.

After completing your reverse curls, repeat superset #3.

Superset #4

hammer curls

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This last superset provides two more exercises to work the biceps. You'll need dumbbells to perform each exercise.

Hammer Curls

Start standing with feet about hip-width apart, holding one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your thighs.

  1. Keeping your upper arms in a fixed position, bend at the elbow and lift your lower arms up and toward your shoulders.
  2. At the top of the movement, your thumbs will be close to your shoulders, palms facing in toward the midline of the body.
  3. Lower the weights to the starting position and repeat 10–12 times.

Concentration Curl

This exercise allows you to focus on one arm at a time. You'll start seated on a chair or weight bench. Place a dumbbell in your right hand with your elbow extended straight down but propped against the inside of your right thigh.

  1. Engage the bicep and curl the weight towards your shoulder. Keep the elbow pressed against the right leg so it remains stable.
  2. Lower the weight to the starting position and repeat 10–12 times. Repeat with the left arm.

After completing your concentration curls, repeat superset #4.

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