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Best Workouts Upper Body Workouts

Optimal Back And Biceps Workouts For Strength And Building Muscle

by The Power Life Team | June 17, 2021

Working out your back and biceps together can make for a great combo day at the gym. With the right routine, you can efficiently target all the major muscles of your back and biceps for optimal gains. This may have a big impact on your total upper body strength. Check out Tony Horton’s full back and biceps workout routine below to maximize your next day at the gym.

Potential Benefits Of Targeting Back And Biceps Together

The back and biceps are your pulling muscles. Anytime you lift or pull something toward your body, you use these muscles together. So, you can streamline your muscle development by exercising these areas together at the gym.1

Why Strong Biceps Are Important

Outside of sheer beach allure, your biceps regulate the flexion of your elbow. Every time you bend your arm during the day you use your biceps. They also facilitate supination, which is when you rotate your forearm.2

Also, your bicep muscles kick into gear anytime you pull an object toward yourself. As such, strengthening these key muscles may help improve other workout routines that require pulling, like rows or lat pull-downs.3

strong back | Power LifeA Strong Back Makes For A Strong Body

Your back contains many important muscles that influence your total body strength. These include superficial muscles, like the latissimus dorsi muscles; and deeper muscles, like the rotator muscles and postural muscles.4

All of these work with the other upper body muscles to help stabilize your shoulders, adjust posture, and create a strong core.5

Great Back And Biceps Workouts

Here are a few of Tony Horton’s favorite exercises for back and biceps day. As long as you get your doctor’s approval first, these workouts can be great for all fitness levels. They target the major muscles of the back and the biceps. You can use them exclusively or integrate them into a larger, more challenging workout.

Pro Tip: Tony Horton recommends beginning with back workouts. This may help you avoid arm fatigue when you get to the bicep workout.


pull-ups | Power LifeKick things off with a classic. This will work all your back muscles and warm up your bicep muscles, too. These pull-ups require a little more technique than you might remember from gym class, so check out the steps below:


  1. Start in the bottom position by pulling up slightly with your shoulder muscles. Don’t simply hang from the bar.
    This puts undesired strain on your biceps.
  2. Begin to pull up. As you come up, continue to engage your shoulders by pulling them down and back. Don’t rely strictly on your arms.
  3. When your chin reaches the top, keep on engaging those shoulder muscles. Hold and keep your core tight.
  4. Slowly lower yourself back to the start position, and repeat as many times as you can.6

Bent-Over Rows

You can replicate the back-strengthening power of a row machine with this workout. Use a barbell and some weights to get those back and bicep muscles fired up.


  1. Hold on to a barbell with an overhand grip. Keep your back straight and your knees bent. Then, lean your whole upper body forward until it’s parallel with the floor.
  2. Pull or row the weight up toward your chest. Hold for a few seconds.
  3. Slowly lower the weight back toward the floor into the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.7

The Reverse Fly

reverse fly | Power LifeThis workout puts you in a similar stance as the bent-over row, but it moves the focus to your shoulders and upper back muscles.


  1. Hold on to a pair of dumbbells. Keep your knees bent and your back braced.
  2. Bend forward until your torso is parallel with the floor. Let the dumbbells hang down below your shoulders with your palms facing in toward each other.
  3. Raise your arms straight out at a 90-degree angle from your torso. Keep your back braced and still and your elbows tight.
  4. Hold your arms briefly in place, and then lower. Repeat for 10 reps.8

Lat Pull-Downs

Back muscles can be tricky to target. Biceps and other arm muscles can often dominate an exercise. Not with the lat pull-down. This wide-grip lat pulldown isolates the tension on your mid-back.


  1. Sit with your knees under the pads, and grab the pull down bar just outside of shoulder width. Your arms should be extended over your head.
  2. Pull down on the bar using your back muscles, and bend your elbows. Bring the bar to your chest, and hold for a few seconds.
  3. Return the bar to the start position with control. Repeat for 10 reps.9

Low Pull

low pull exercise | Power Life

Take another moment at the machine for a few more row variations. This low pull standing exercise will work those important parts of your upper back. You’ll need a machine with a pulley for this one.


  1. Stand facing the machine. Hold the rope at chest height with an overhand grip and your arm extended out.
  2. Keep your other arm braced at your side and your knees bent in a squat position.
  3. Pull the rope toward your chest with rowing motions. Keep your chest up through the motion.
  4. Return to your starting position, and repeat for 10 reps.10

Bicep Curls

Dumbbell curls are a classic biceps exercise. Mastering this basic workout can be a great way to begin your journey toward stronger biceps and back muscles.


  1. bicep workout | Power LifeStand up straight with your knees slightly bent. Tighten your ab muscles to help maintain balance.
  2. Relax your arms at your side. Hold the dumbbells with an underhand grip.
  3. Bend your arms at the elbow toward your chest. Pull the dumbbell up toward your shoulders slowly. Keep those shoulders down and back.
  4. Slowly lower the weights back to your starting position. Complete three sets of 10 reps.11

Hammer Curls

Try this variation of a bicep curl to work a different part of the arm. By turning your hands in to face each other, you work the long head of your biceps brachii and bicep brachialis. It also works your rear deltoids and trapezius muscles.12


  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a medium-weight or light dumbbells in each hand. Squeeze your glutes to keep your abs braced. Roll back your shoulder blades.
  2. Curl your left arm up and keep your right arm down for stability. Stop before your elbow moves forward and squeeze the bicep. Slowly lower your arm back down.
  3. Repeat, alternating sides, for 10 reps.13

Spider Curl

bicep curl | Power LifeThis is a great bicep workout if you have access to an incline bench. The supinated position on the bench may help keep your body from moving around while you curl.


  1. Grab a dumbbell that’s slightly lighter weight than what you normally curl. Sit facing the incline bench with your chest down. Hold the weight with your palm facing inward.
  2. Squeeze your bicep, and move the weight toward your chest. Bend only at the elbow, and don’t let it move forward.
  3. Make sure you engage your back muscles and not your shoulder joints as you lower the weight back down. Repeat for 10 reps.14

Back And Biceps: A Winning Combo

upper body workout | My Power LifeYour back and biceps may not seem to have much in common. But, every time you pull weight toward your body, you use both these muscle groups. That’s why it can make sense to combine your back and bicep workout into one routine.

The exercises above offer a solid blend between the two to ensure you activate all the major muscles in your back and arm. An efficient back and biceps workout like this may help support your total upper body strength and overall muscle development. Just make sure to get approval from your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

Learn More:
Crucial Oblique Exercises For Core Strength
The Ultimate Full Body Workout Routine For Strength, Fitness, And Growth
Top Moves For Strengthening And Sculpting Strong Shoulder Muscles