Build Your Back and Biceps With This Periodized Plan

Target your back and biceps with this unique pull workout.

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There are three topics of discussion that are guaranteed to cause a heated debate: religion, politics and the right way to train.

While many hardcore lifters are dedicated to one fitness method, many seasoned trainers and competitors adhere to “periodization,” meaning they switch up their training variables to arouse new muscular growth. While this term is usually used in reference to overall goals — for example, training for six weeks with the purpose of increasing endurance, followed by six weeks of power training — weaving techniques in and out of your program will work equally well for keeping your muscles in peak form.

What you’re holding is a starting point: a workout that is simple in design, but unique in that it targets your back and biceps — the pull muscles of your upper body. (Your abdominals are also another “pull” group of muscles, so an option is to round out this routine with some crunches and planks.)

For the next month, do this pull workout twice per week on non-consecutive days, and pair it up with two push workouts (for your chest, triceps and delts) as well as lower-body work throughout the week. Try this routine on Mondays and Thursdays, an upper-body push workout on Tuesdays and Fridays, and a lower-body routine on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a well-rounded fitness agenda. After four weeks, revert back to straight sets or total-body routines for another period of time, and continue alternating.

Although we show you these moves with barbells, each one can easily be replicated with a set of dumbbells — just make sure you have two light and two heavier weights available.

What You Need To Do

For your first upper-body pull routine of the week, aim for three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps per exercise, resting 30 to 45 seconds between sets. During your second weekly pull workout, increase the weight so that you can only get out eight reps of each exercise, reduce your amount of sets to two or three, and increase your rest to 60 to 120 seconds. Remember to work both sides evenly!

Barbell Hang Clean


Target Muscles: trapezius, anterior deltoids, gluteus maximus

Hold a barbell with an overhand grip and lower into a half-squat position. Explode up onto the balls of your feet as you row the bar up towards your neck, then quickly flip your wrists to point your elbows ahead of you, bringing the bar into a “racked” position as you sink back into a squat. Straighten your legs to stand, then reverse to return to the start.

Tip:the bar should follow a straight path from the start of each rep to the end.

Barbell Preacher Curl at Bench


Target Muscles: brachioradialis, biceps brachii

Place your chest against a preacher curl bench and let your upper arms drape over the front. Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width grip, palms facing up, and curl the weight up until you feel it in the muscle.

Single-Arm Barbell Row


Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids

Place a barbell with one end loaded on the ground. Stagger your legs, grab the bar near the weighted end with one hand and row it up, keeping the other end on the ground.

Incline Bench Barbell Row


Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, rear deltoids

Sit backwards on an incline bench and hold a barbell with a wide grip as shown. Retract your shoulder blades and pull the bar up, allowing your elbows to flare out to the sides.

Seated Bilateral Concentration Curl


Target Muscles: biceps brachii, brachialis

Position yourself on the end of a flat bench and grab a light barbell with a narrow underhand grip. Lean forward and place your elbows on the insides of your knees. Extend your arms towards the floor, then bend your elbows to curl.

Barbell Reverse Curl


Target Muscles: brachioradialis, brachialis

Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Flex your arms to raise the bar towards your chest, then reverse.