Contrary to what you’ve been told, it’s not necessary to split up your back and biceps training. In recent years, it’s become conventional to train these two muscle groups on different days. The logic most trainers use here claims that people won’t have enough left in the tank to perform an effective biceps workout after bombing their back with pulling movements.
It’s obviously sound training practice to make sure your muscles are recovered and fresh before you do work that specifically targets them, but there’s a major drawback to keeping your back and biceps training separate: the potential for overtraining. This is precisely what you don’t want, because overtrained muscles don’t grow. Here’s how to put this traditional combination back together.
The Reunification Argument
There’s no denying the fact that your biceps get hammered when you train your back. In fact, it’s highly possible that most of your biceps growth over the years has come from heavy back exercises like rows and chins. No matter how much your 25-pound dumbbell curls make your biceps burn, doing 275-pound bent rows will hit them much harder. If you go full beast mode during your back session, then train your arms a day or two later, your biceps are going full blast without enough rest.
Think about this for a second. Most guys, when they’re not growing as quickly as they’d like to be, assume they’re not training hard enough or often enough. As a result, they end up scheduling more sessions for each muscle group. When you separate your back and biceps, this potentially means you’re training your biceps as often as four times every week. The irony here is that the initial growth slowdown likely happened because you were overtraining in the first place. Adding extra work simply compounds an already bad situation.
The counterintuitive solution to this problem is to find a way to put more time between your workouts so your muscles can recover. Recovery leads to growth, so in this case, the less you train, the more you’ll grow. The idea is to schedule your training frequency for each muscle group in a way that leaves enough recovery time between sessions for you to blast the muscle at full strength the next time out.
Again, it’s recommended that you give a dedicated back-and-biceps day a shot, but if you don’t want to drastically change your current training split, you’ve got two options that’ll give you maximal recovery between sessions.
1. Reunite Them
When you train your back and biceps on the same day, your biceps naturally won’t perform as well as they would on a dedicated biceps day, but strength isn’t the only thing capable of making muscles grow. The idea is to hit your biceps indirectly when you train your back, then do your direct work. This schedule will give both muscle groups plenty of time to recover before your next session — which you’ll be able to perform in another five to eight days.
If you like your current split (and you’ve been keeping your back and biceps training separate), the other option here is to perform two back sessions three to five days apart, followed by one biceps workout on a day where you’re working something else — training your biceps first in that session. This will serve as a sort of chronological governor that cuts down on the frequency with which you’re bombarding your biceps.
Squatting Lat Pull to Chest
Setup: Grasp the lat pulldown bar, then step a few feet behind the seat and squat to a position slightly above parallel. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
Execution:From a full stretch position, pull to your chest, and hold for a full squeeze.
Pull-Up To Chest
Setup:Grasp an overhead bar with a supinated grip and hang from it. If you can’t do pull-ups, try this as an inverted row in a Smith Machine, with your body in a horizontal position and your feet raised.
Execution:Perform quick repetitions, with a hard and fast pull. If you’re approaching failure, finish with partial reps.
Setup:In a standing position, with your knees bent and your torso at a 45-degree angle to the floor, hold two dumbbells in a neutral grip.
Execution: Pull the dumbbells explosively up in a straight line, hold this top position for a second, then slowly return them to the start position. The dumbbells should come to your sides at approximately navel level.
Setup:On a seated row unit, place your feet on the support provided and hold a handle — the type of handle should vary from workout to workout — with both hands at a full stretch.
Execution:Pull the handle to your navel in a controlled manner without hunching forward or rounding your back. Hold for a second, then slowly return to the start position.
Setup: Lie lengthwise on a flat bench. This will keep your hips from dropping below shoulder level. Hold a dumbbell over your chest with your arms almost straight, with a slight bend in your elbows.
Execution:Keeping your elbows bent, arc the dumbbell back and over your head until you feel a stretch in your lats, then return to the start position.
EZ-Bar Preacher Curl
Setup:Hold the inside handles of an EZ-bar, then lean forward over the preacher bench so you’re able to fully extend your arms. Your chest should be over the top of the bench, as opposed to having the pad under your armpits.
Execution: From a fully extended position, curl the bar up, then lower it back to the start position. Make your reps full and controlled, and hold with a squeeze at the top.
Dumbbell Drag Curl
Setup:Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing forward. Keep your back erect and your head up.
Execution: Raise the dumbbells in a straight line by raising your elbows behind you and keeping your palms facing forward. Your arms and forearms should drag across your body, increasing your degree of difficulty here. The higher you raise the dumbbells, the harder your biceps have to work.
Seated Barbell Curl
Setup: Sit on a bench with a barbell across your quads, then grip the bar underhand, outside your thighs.
Execution: Curl the barbell to the top of your range of motion, then lower it to the start position — but instead of resting the bar on your quads, just let it touch, then do another curl. Try not to bounce the bar off your legs.
Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Setup: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each other.
Execution:Curl the dumbbells to the top of your range of motion, remaining in a neutral grip throughout, then slowly lower to the start position. Keep your elbows pinned to your sides throughout.