Hitting your back like a boss is a worthy, if sometimes complicated pursuit. It’s hard enough that you can’t see the muscles at work while you train them. Making matters worse is the fact that your biceps tend to get in on the action to induce flexion of the elbow on pulls. So what’s a lifter to do when he wants to get in a good, old fashioned back-and-bi’s day?

One strategy would be to simply bite the bullet and train the two groups on separate days. Or, in a much cooler twist, you can go like Keanu in Speed and “shoot the hostage” – hostage, in this case, referring to your biceps that are keeping you from the clean shot of the perp (your back). By taking a shot at your biceps first, you prevent them from taking over during back moves. They’ll be too fatigued to dominate any of your pulls, meaning that a) you still get to train both groups on the same day and that b) your back muscles can actually get a better overall workout because your lats, rhomboids and erectors will be the main movers on each dedicated exercise.

Three different curls target the biceps from three angles. The barbell curl provides good overall mass-building while the exercises that follow slightly alter the emphasis. Cross-body curls blast your underlying brachialis and your forearm-tie-in while incline curls address your biceps’ peak, or outermost head.

Then it’s back time. Reverse-grip barbell rows, which are normally dominated by your biceps, can now target the area that they were most intended to hit: the lower lats and middle back. Wide-grip lat pulldowns hit your upper, outer lats (your wingspread) and chin-ups – another usually biceps-heavy move – dig into your lower lats. You’ll finish off with back extensions to target the postural muscles (erector spinae) for good stability on pretty much everything else you do.

Make sure you select weight loads that bring about failure at the rep ranges listed to make this a real mass-builder. If you get less than 10 reps on the exercises don’t worry, because the next time you complete this workout you will know what to expect and be mentally and physically stronger.

The Workout

Exercise                                                Sets/Reps


Barbell Curl                                              3/10-121
Incline Dumbbell Curl                            3/8-10
Cross-Body Hammer Curls                   3/10


Reverse-Grip Barbell Row                    3/10-12
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown                         3/10-12
Chin-Up                                                     3/6-82
Back Extension                                        3/12

1 Does not include 1-2 warm-up sets, not done to failure.
2 Perform the negatives slowly on each rep, taking 3-5 seconds to lower yourself to full extension. Use an assisted pull-up machine, if necessary, to get through all reps.