High Intensity – Back and Biceps

In an earlier post I talked about the general principles I try and follow for every workout I do…How to get ripped for the rest of us – The general theory of getting ripped.

In this post I want to go into specifics of how I apply this to a back and bicep workout. As mentioned in the previous post I separate the workout into a strength building exercise at the beginning, and then follow this with some more focused hypertrophy work.

The strength builder:

My favorite strength builder is the weighted pull up. I start the work out a goal of 3 sets of 5 with 40kg weight (adjust this to suit your own current level). I use an underhand grip as this recruits more muscle groups, specifically the biceps and between sets I allow as much time as needed until I feel recovered and ready for the next set.

I ensure that I pull up as quickly as possible with the weight belt preventing me from kipping on the way up. I pull my chest completely to the bar and then lower back to the starting position over around 4 seconds. If I manage 5 reps I don’t just stop, I keep going until I am unable to finish a rep. At the point of failure I continue trying to pull for another 3-4 seconds before lowering slowly from whatever point I managed to get to.

On the final set only, in addition to this 3-4 seconds of effort after failure, I will also reattempt the final rep without rest 2-3 times, knowing full well the rep is impossible but still managing to carry out a partial rep.

weighted pull ups for strength

weighted pull ups for strength


The hypertrophy:

The first exercise I carry out for this part of the workout is a seated single arm cable row. My aim is around 10 reps but I don’t stop at 10 reps, I keep going until absolute failure as I will describe in a moment. The 10 reps is a target to allow me to adjust the weight as necessary in the following workout, ie if I hit 12 reps I will increase the weight next time.

So, my goal is 10 reps for 2 sets on each arm with very little rest between sets, one arm recovers while the other works.

The technique I use is again to pull back as quickly as possible while maintaining good form, and then slowly lower the weight over 3-4 seconds. At the point of failure I allow myself to use my body weight to help pull the cable, essentially cheating with bad form, and then ensuring good form on the 3-4 second lowering phase. Once I can’t lift the weight even with the body weight assistance I continue another 2-3 partial reps, knowing the rep can’t be completed but using as much range of motion as I can manage.

seated cable row

seated cable row

The final exercise is a bicep curl on the cable machine. I prefer to use the cable machine as I find with dumbells you lose resistance at the top of the movement. My aim for the curl is 1 set on each arm of around 12-15 reps, although usually only around 6-8 of these reps will be unassisted. Very little rest between the 2 arms in preferred.

For each set I pull quickly again and then lower slowly over around 3-4 seconds. At the point I can no longer complete a rep, I use my free hand to assist only as much as needed to complete the pull section of the movement, and then lower of 3-4 seconds without assistance. At the point I am unable to lower the weight slowly under control, the exercise is over.

cable bicep curl

cable bicep curl

So this workout should take less than 1 hour and depending on rest times can be completed in 30-40 minutes. There are a total of 9 sets, 3 for the pull ups, 4 sets of rows (2 for each arm) and 2 sets of curls (1 for each arm)