Table of Contents
In the last lesson I discussed the relevant structure-function relationships and exercises pertaining to the chest, shoulders, and triceps. I will do the same here for the back and biceps. The basic movement patterns that these exercises address include:
- shoulder extension (bringing the arm downward in front of you until it’s behind your body)
- shoulder adduction (bringing the arm downward next to you until it is by your side (coronal plane adduction))
- arm internal rotation (if you’re standing with your arm down by your side this entails rotating your arm so your elbow points away from you to the side)
- shoulder blade elevation (moving the shoulder blades upward)
- shoulder blade depression (moving the shoulder blades downward)
- arm flexion (bending the arm at the elbow)
- shoulder blade retraction (bringing the shoulder blades backwards and towards each other)
- arm supination (if you’re holding your arm in front of you this entails rotating your forearm so your palm faces upward)
- arm pronation (the opposite of arm supination, imagine pouring out a glass of liquid)
- spinal extension (extending the spine, this can be done separately in the thoracic and lumbar regions)
Basic structure-function relationships of the key muscles
The biceps is a fairly straightforward muscle, but the back is comprised of many different muscles. For a brief overview of most of the various back muscles click here. I will highlight the most relevant back muscles below.
Note: Part of the back, specifically the spinal erectors, typically work together with the glutes and hamstrings; collectively these can extend the hips and straighten the back at the same time. One compound exercise that uses all of these muscles groups is the deadlift. Deadlifts and their variations primarily hit the glutes, hamstrings, and back, so they do not fit neatly into this lesson or the glutes and thighs lesson coming next. Nonetheless, I will include them in the next lesson, but I’ll discuss the relevant back muscles here.
Additionally, some people consider the trapezius to be with the shoulder and upper limb rather than the back. However, as their function overlaps some of the other back muscles more than the deltoids, I am including them here.
Back – Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids (major and minor), teres major, levator scapulae, erector spinae
- The lats (latissimus dorsi) covers all of the back muscles except the trapezius. It attaches to the humerus and spreads out to attach to several other areas (the vertebrae, the lower ribs, the scapula, and possibly the iliac crest). There is some variability between people regarding its attachment points. The lats aid in arm adduction, internal rotation, and extension.
- The traps (trapezius) attaches to several points, including the skull, the cervical and thoracic vertebrae, and the shoulder girdle. Because this attaches both above and below the shoulders it can perform several different functions. These include extension of the neck, lateral flexion of the neck, rotation of the head, and moving the shoulder blades together (in an upwards direction, downwards direction, or horizontally).
- The rhomboids consist of the rhomboid major and the rhomboid minor. They attach to the spine in between the shoulder blades and to the shoulder blades themselves. They thus assist in moving the shoulder blades in different ways via retraction, elevation, and downward rotation.
- The teres major attaches to the humerus and the lower portion of the scapula. It aids in internal rotation of the arm and shoulder extension.
- The levator scapulae attach to the cervical vertebrae and the upper inner portions of the scapulae. They assist in shoulder blade elevation and lateral flexion of the neck.
- The erector spinae attach from the pelvis to the skull along the spine. They aid in extending the spine and flexing the spine laterally.
More in depth articles if curious:
YouTube videos if curious:
Biceps – biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis
- The biceps brachii is composed of 2 heads (there can be more at times). These attach to different aspects of the scapula as well as the radius and possibly to fascia in the forearm. The shoulder attachments seem to aid more in stability of the shoulder as opposed to shoulder flexion; some individuals still think the biceps actively contribute to shoulder flexion. Due to the location of the attachment on the forearm the biceps brachii aids in both arm flexion and supination.
- The brachialis attaches to the middle of the humerus as well as to the ulna. As it does not attach to the radius it does not aid in supination. Thus, it only functions in arm flexion.
- The brachioradialis attaches to the distal portion of the humerus and the the distal portion of the radius. It aids in elbow flexion and is strongest when the arm is neutral between supination and pronation (picture doing a curl with a “hammer grip” where your palm is perpendicular to the floor). If the arm is supinated it aids in pronation, and if the arm is pronated it aids in supination.
- The above three muscles all aid elbow flexion but the emphasis may shift to the biceps brachii when the arm is supinated. When the arm is neutral this may favor the brachioradialis more. When the arm is pronated the biceps brachii is in a mechanically weaker position and this will favor the brachialis and brachioradialis.
More in depth articles if curious:
YouTube videos if curious:
Here I will go over exercises that predominantly use the back and the biceps. They may incorporate other muscle groups but the back muscles and the biceps are the primary agonists for these exercises.
Video link demonstrations (from easier to harder):
- Self-assisted chin-up
- Machine-assisted neutral grip chin-up
- Band-assisted pull-up
- Weighted pull-up
- For pull-ups avoid putting your hands too wide as it may put unnecessary strain on the shoulders; 1-2 hand widths beyond shoulder width is sufficient.
- For chin-ups you can place your hands where it feels most comfortable (usually a little inside of shoulder width).
- If adding weight you can hold a dumbbell between your legs, purchase a dip belt that allows you to easily add weight, or even use a dog leash wrapped around your waist. Here is a video demonstrating a dip belt.
- If using bands you can adjust the length to alter the assistance.
- In general, regular chin-ups (“regular” here means the palms are facing you) and neutral (where the palms face each other) grip chin-ups will hit the biceps harder than standard pull-ups will. They are thus usually easier for the same level of resistance.
- For the machine-assisted versions typically the more weight you use the more assistance you receive.
- Pull yourself upward by imagining bringing your elbows down to your hips.
- You can lean back slightly during the movement, particularly if your head would otherwise hit the bar above you.
- There is no firm stopping point for the top of the rep, Additionally, the higher you go the harder it is due to the negative strength curve of this movement. Most people will go at least until their chin reaches the bar.
- You can adjust your grip width and whether your hands face towards you, away from you, or towards each other.
- With the assisted versions you can adjust how much assistance you receive. For the weighted versions you can alter the weight.
- You can adjust how much you lean back during the exercise.
- If you are not able to do a full pull-up or chin-up and want to train to do this, incorporating slow negatives can be helpful. To do this jump up to the top of the movement and then lower yourself slowly.
- Descending slowly is helpful to avoid too much swinging.
- “Kipping pull-ups“, common in CrossFit, are not shown above because they utilize a lot of momentum and thus it will be much harder to standardize how much assistance you are receiving each rep as momentum can vary. It would be better to do an assisted version than kipping pull-ups if you want to train the relevant muscles.
- A narrower bar is easier to hold onto than a thicker bar when doing these exercises.
- When descending, do so in control; do not just drop down. If you drop down you are at much higher risk of straining a muscle.
Video link demonstrations:
- Neutral grip pulldown
- Underhand pulldown
- One-armed pulldown – it is ok to lean a bit towards the side of the arm that is being used
- Click here for a video showing how to do this with resistance bands
- It is important to set the knee anchors (the pads that go right above your legs when you are sitting in the pulldown machine) correctly just above the thighs. This prevents you from sliding backwards and out of the seat when pulling the weight down.
- If you are using more weight than you weigh start by putting your legs under the knee anchors. Then brace your thighs against them as you pull yourself into position.
- It is easy to vary how much you lean back when doing these. If you lean back significantly it turns more into a high rowing exercise. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but try to be consistent with the angle of your trunk throughout the exercise to more accurately track progress.
- In Lesson 14 when I provide example exercise programs I commonly include an underhand leaning lat pulldown, where you would purposely lean back ~30 degrees throughout the movement so that this movement functions both as a pulldown and a high rowing movement.
- Alternatively, you can do a variation where you start with your torso vertical and end while leaning far back to allow further extension of your arms behind your torso at the end of the movement. This further extension would allow a greater range of motion of the lats to be used.
- Pull the handle down by focusing on bringing your elbows to your hips until the handle clears your chin. Then let it raise back up while controlling its ascent.
- You can vary your grip width and whether your palms face towards you, away from you, or towards each other.
- You can vary how much you lean back.
- A pulldown is easier than the pull-up since there are fewer stability requirements. This is a good exercise to build relevant strength for pull-ups but it will not carry over perfectly.
- The one-armed versions will hit the muscles differently as you will be pulling closer to your midline and rotating your body to a degree while doing it. This is not a bad thing and is a good way to add variety.
- There are essentially no safety concerns with this exercise as long as you move the weight in a controlled fashion.
Video link demonstrations:
- Barbell row – there are several ways to perform this movement, click here for a video demonstrating Pendlay rows
- Seated row
- Dumbbell row – for a potentially better and more useful way to perform these, click here
- Chest-supported row – note that the chest is braced against a pad
- Click here for a video showing seated rows with bands
- For general barbell rows and Pendlay rows take approximately a shoulder width stance or slightly narrower. Grip the bar a little outside the width of your stance. You can try different stance and grip widths and see what feels best.
- If doing a Pendlay row the bar starts on the ground. Your back will be approximately parallel to the ground at the starting position.
- For general barbell rows you can attempt different torso angles and see which feels best.
- For seated rows start with your torso upright (~90 degrees relative to the floor). You can try leaning forward or back a bit.
- With dumbbell rows you will typically place one hand and one knee on a bench. Alternatively you can do this standing with a staggered stance and your hand on a support; please watch the additional video linked above for the dumbbell row for an explanation of this.
- With chest-supported rows ideally your head will be above the pad. Start by standing, leaning forward to grab the handles, and then sitting down while sliding your torso down the pad and leaning back to get into the starting position.
- Regardless of the version you choose try to ensure your lower back is extended prior to performing the first rep.
- To be clear, the hips can be flexed to 90 degrees while your lower back itself is extended. For example, when doing a seated row if your hips are flexed to 90 degrees your torso will be upright. If your lower back is then extended your torso will be straight up and down while if your lower back is flexed then your spine will be curved.
- If you allow your shoulder blades to protract and retract this will work the lower trapezius and rhomboids more.
- You can briefly pause the rep at the end of the concentric phase (this is typically not done with Pendlay rows as this is considered an explosive movement). Since rows have a negative strength curve the end of the concentric phase is the weakest portion of the rep and you will use less weight if you pause.
- Barbell rows:
- Try to avoid altering the angle of your torso significantly during the lift. If you do, your spinal erectors may overpower the other back muscles that are typically utilized in these exercises. Some hip extension is ok but this should be minimal. There should not be any with Pendlay rows.
- With more traditional barbell rows where the barbell does not touch the floor each rep you can lower the weight in control on the eccentric portion.
- With Pendlay rows where the barbell does touch the floor between each rep you should pull the barbell up explosively and let it drop in a controlled manner quickly to the floor. This exercise does not incorporate a controlled eccentric movement. You should only do this if the gym you are training at will allow you to do this as a controlled drop can potentially damage the floor (and make considerable noise).
- Generally the bar should touch your stomach somewhere between your umbilicus and sternum.
- Regardless of the version you are doing your focus should be on pulling the bar with your elbows coming next to and behind your body.
- For the dumbbell rows you can have the dumbbell move closer to or even cross midline on the eccentric portion and aim to pull up and outwards a bit on the concentric portion. This will hit the back muscles differently than the other versions that have a more fixed bar path.
- With chest-supported rows try to avoid having your chest come off the pad as you perform the concentric portion of the rep. If you do this it means the erector spinae are taking over the movement.
- You can do these with an overhand, underhand, or neutral grip.
- The angle of your torso in the starting position can vary.
- You can choose to allow your torso angle to change to some degree during the exercise.
- The barbell versions can fatigue the spinal erectors as they are used to maintain the back in the bent over position. If this impedes other exercises or recovery overall then choose to do the chest-supported version or the dumbbell rows.
- Depending on your limb lengths and ratios you may find the barbell versions to not be very effective at hitting the targeted muscles. If this is the case then attempt to adjust the version you are doing so that you can feel it better in the appropriate muscles.
- Pendlay rows are not typically considered a hypertrophy-producing movement as they are done very explosively and do not have a significant eccentric phase. If hypertrophy is your goal then doing the other variations may be preferable. If strength/power/athleticism is your goal then Pendlay rows and standing dumbbell rows are great choices. That said, if you have never done Pendlay rows you will still get some hypertrophy-producing benefit as it will provide a novel training stimulus.
- If you go too heavy on these then you will have a greater tendency to adjust your torso angle during the lift to help move the weight. This can be ok to a point but when you start to do these initially it is likely better to go lighter with higher rep ranges (≥8) and focus on maintaining good form throughout the set.
- If you feel your forearms/biceps fatiguing, try to picture pulling your elbows upward and behind you instead of thinking of pulling with your hands. You may be inadvertently attempting to curl the weight with your arms; if you picture your arms and hands as hooks that attach you to the bar then you will be less likely to excessively use your arms during these movements.
- You can strain your lower back with these if you let your back round excessively and jerk the weight at the start of the concentric phase.
Video link demonstrations (from easier to harder):
- The set-up is shown in the videos above.
- Start with your hands a little more than shoulder width apart and then adjust based on feel.
- You can adjust how far forward to put your feet and see which feels best when performing the exercise.
- For the non-sitting variations, contract your glutes to extend your hips.
- Pull your body up until it touches the bar or gets very close to it.
- Initially aim to pull yourself such that the bar goes to your upper abdomen or lower chest. Then try to aim for points higher and lower than this and see what feels best.
- You can adjust the angle of your body and the point on your body that aims to make contact with the bar.
- You can adjust your grip width.
- If these become too easy even with the hardest version then you can add weight by putting a plate in your lap or by wearing a weighted vest or backpack with weight.
- Unlike the barbell row variations above, this version is not going to put stress on your lower back. Instead, you need to actively contract your glutes throughout the movement to keep your hips extended.
- There are no significant safety concerns with this exercise as long as you do not accidentally let go of the bar and fall.
Several of the following are not true isolation exercises as they can work multiple muscle groups. However, they may predominantly work the listed muscle and thus can be considered good exercises to specifically target the relevant muscles. I will state when the exercises target multiple distinct muscle groups.
Video link demonstrations:
- Straight arm pulldown – you can lean forward when starting this movement to obtain a greater stretch of the lats
- Machine pullover
- Barbell pullover
- Kneeling pullover – this allows a greater stretch at the top of the movement than the standing version
- Click here for a demonstration regarding how to do this with bands
- If doing the pullover on a bench you can actually adjust your starting position to better target the lats or the pecs. Internally rotating your shoulder by letting your elbows flare outward may better target the pecs while externally rotating your shoulder and keeping your elbows close to your body may better target the lats. Click here for a video with further information regarding this if curious.
- With the straight arm pulldown it is preferential to use rope attachments so your waist does not limit your range of motion at the bottom. You can lean forward a bit to get a better stretch of the lats at the top of the movement.
- With the kneeling pullover find a comfortable torso angle at the starting position that you can maintain throughout the lift.
- If you have access to a machine pullover, strap your body in with the lap belt and adjust the height so the pads rest comfortable on your triceps. You do not need to grab the bar with your hands but you can if this feels natural.
- For most of these versions picture driving your elbows downwards in a forward arc until they reach your hips and continue driving them behind your hips. The exception is the barbell pullover; with this you should stop the movement once the weight is directly above you.
- With the standing and kneeling versions if you bend forward during the rep your abdominal muscles will actively contribute to the movement. However, if you lean forward at the start (to get a better stretch of the lats at the top) and then extend your torso during the rep more resistance is placed on your lats at the bottom.
- You can alter your hand width, hand rotation, elbow positioning, and degree of elbow flexion during the movement.
- You can alter your torso angle.
- If you do not feel the exercise working your lats (or chest if you are doing the chest-specific version), then play around with different hand/elbow/arm/torso positions. If you still cannot feel it in the right place then you can still do the exercise if desired but it is certainly not necessary.
- Start with light weight and higher reps; as you fatigue with higher reps it will become more evident which muscles you are predominantly using. When you feel the movement in the right place then you can progressively increase the weight while maintaining the same form.
- Be careful not to overstretch at the top, particularly with the version where you are laying on the bench.
- If you have shoulder discomfort when doing these then adjust your positioning or stop doing these exercises.
Video link demonstrations:
- EZ bar curls – the EZ bar alters the wrist angle and can be more comfortable when doing bicep and tricep isolation exercises
- Dumbbell incline curls – the arm starts extended behind the body, placing the biceps at a greater stretch at the beginning of the reps
- Low pulley curls – you can lean forward when doing these to place the biceps under a greater stretch
- Dumbbell preacher curls – this helps to prevent the body from swinging and assisting in moving the weight, it also places more emphasis on the beginning portion of the curl
- Spider curls – compared to the other versions more weight is placed on the biceps at the end of the rep due to the angle of the pull of gravity relative to the forearm
- Suspension curls – this is a body weight version of curls
- Dumbbell hammer curls – notice the palm is perpendicular to the floor, this may activate the brachioradialis more
- Reverse curls – notice the palms are facing the floor, this puts the biceps brachii in a weaker position and will favor the brachialis and brachioradialis, if you keep the wrists straight this will also work the wrist extensor muscles isometrically
- Drag curls – in this video the wrists are kept extended throughout the set – this is not necessary but can help take any pressure off the forearm (if you have forearm pain with curls) and keep more tension on the biceps at the end of the concentric phase, similar to the spider curls this places more resistance on the bicep at the end of the range of motion of the curl
- Zottman curls – this takes advantage of the fact that people are stronger with the palms up than down; using palms up for the concentric and palms down for the eccentric allows more weight for the eccentric than you would be able to do with reverse curls
- Click here for a video showing how to do curls with bands – you can also wrap the band around one foot and curl with one arm at a time
- These are fairly self-explanatory.
- The standing versions can be done in “strict” fashion by keeping the back and butt against a wall to prevent torso movement from assisting the lift.
- With dumbbell incline curls place the bench at a 45 degree angle and then adjust it to see if a different angle feels better.
- With spider curls you can put you feet on the floor and your chin on the top of the bench to help prevent your body from sliding while doing the movement.
- The technique is mostly self-explanatory from the videos.
- With the dumbbell/cable versions purposely supinating the forearm (turning the palm more upward) aids in peak contraction of the biceps.
- For spider curls the more parallel the forearms are to the ground at the end of the concentric portion the greater the resistance that the biceps will experience.
- With low cable curls if you lean forward more there may be more resistance on the biceps at the point of peak contraction.
- Similar to the drag curl video above, with any curl variation you can keep the wrists extended and you may feel this targets your biceps better particularly towards the end of the concentric phase. This can displace the weight of the implement further from the biceps leading to more stress on the biceps.
- You can alter the degree of supination throughout the rep as well as the degree of wrist flexion & extension.
- You can alter your torso angle with some of the variations to change the resistance profile on the biceps throughout the full range of motion.
- If you have forearm pain with a palms up grip then try EZ bar curls, and if that is bothersome as well try the hammer grip options.
- Be careful not to swing your upper body too much as this will put more emphasis on the spinal erectors as opposed to the biceps.
- If you are not attempting to go too heavy and you do the reps in a controlled fashion there are essentially no safety concerns with the various curling exercises.
- Hyperextensions – note the back remains straight and the hips sink down, this will target the glutes and hamstrings to a greater degree due to the hip extension
- Back extensions – note the back curves and the hips do not sink down, this will emphasize the spinal erectors in the lumbar and thoracic areas more than the glutes and hamstrings
- Stability ball extensions
- Back extension machine
- Click here for a video of back extensions with resistance bands – focus on curling the back downward and then extending it without moving the hips (a version where the hips are flexed & extended is shown in the next lesson in the section on “Good morning movements”)
- If your goal is to predominantly target the spinal erectors than doing these similar to the back extensions video above is preferable.
- If your goal is to also target the glutes and hamstrings then doing these like the hyperextensions video above is preferable.
- Generally you will want the pad a little below the waist or hips so you have full range of motion when you bend at the waist or hips.
- If doing these with added weight (without using a machine) put a weight plate on the floor in front of you, get in position, and pick up the weight while holding it at your chest. You can alternatively hold dumbbells instead of a weight plate.
- For primarily focusing on the spinal erectors focus on flexing the spine during the eccentric portion and extending the spine during the concentric portion.
- For focusing more on the glutes & hamstrings focus on flexing the hips during the eccentric portion and extending the hips during the concentric portion.
- At the top of the movement you can stop when your body is straight or you can slightly hyperextend your back beyond this point; you can choose whichever feels better.
- The amount you curve your back (thoracic and waist flexion) or bend at the hips (hip flexion) are the primary variables.
- If you purposely round and straighten your back I would stick to lighter weight and higher rep ranges (≥10).
- If you purposefully want to focus on the glutes and hamstrings in addition to the spinal erectors then you should focus on driving your hips into the pad.
- You can actually turn this into a mostly glutes and hamstrings exercise by keeping the back a bit curved throughout the movement and only focusing on hip extension.
- Any time you purposefully round and straighten the back there is a risk of injury if you do not control the weight or if you go too heavy. Start with light weights and do higher rep sets before going up in weight slowly to help mitigate this risk.
- For portions of these reps your head will be angled downwards. Individuals with blood pressure issues, either low or high, may not be able to tolerate this well. If this is a problem then stop performing these exercises.
- Barbell shrug
- Trap bar shrug – the name “trap bar” comes from its utility with this exercise; depending on the shape some call this a “hex bar”
- Cable shrug – when the angle of the pull is changed it will target the trapezius and other shoulder girdle/neck/upper back muscles differently
- Dumbbell shrug
- Overhead shrug – this actually keeps the scapulae in a fixed position but I am including this here as it fits in better with other shrugging movements
- Standing cable Y raise – to make this focus more on the upper back muscles and less on the shoulders set the cable handle(s) to the height of your shoulders
- Seated cable Y raise
- Scapular pulls – this can be incorporated into pull-ups/pulldown exercises but can also be done as an isolation exercise
- Face pulls – doing them as shown in this video will train all of the muscles listed above, click here for a separate good video showing how to do these with bands
- The set-up for these is mostly self-explanatory.
- For overhead shrugs you can experiment with different grip widths but try around shoulder width initially.
- For all of the shrugs you can lean forward throughout the full movement to shift the emphasis to the upper middle back rather than the neck portion of the involved muscles.
- Start the reps with your shoulder blades depressed (lowered) and if leaning forward a bit also protracted (rounded forward) to increase the range of motion.
- Shrug the weight upward while raising your shoulder blades.
- If you are doing overhead shrugs your shoulder blades will be raised throughout the movement; hence you will really isolate the shrugging aspect and minimize involvement of the levator scapulae.
- If leaning forward then also retract your shoulder blades while doing the concentric phase of the movement.
- With the cable Y raises try to keep your arm angle the same throughout the movement. If you bend your arms during the movement it becomes easier. You can hold the endpoint of the concentric phase for a brief pause.
- With face pulls the final position should have your hands in the same plane as your ears or just behind this. If you do not reach your ears it is either due to a mobility issue or you are using too much weight.
- The angle of your arms relative to your torso, and the angle of your torso relative to gravity or the line of resistance, changes the emphasis of the contraction significantly. Shrugging straight up and down will mainly work the upper traps. Leaning forward will involve the lower traps and rhomboids. Holding your arm more laterally as in the cable shrug above will target different fibers of the traps.
- If leaning forward is taxing on your lower back, consider leaning forward with your chest on a high incline bench or your head on some base of support; this will take pressure off of your lower back.
- Focus on lowering your shoulder blades and protracting them to yield a more full range of motion when leaning forward with standing shrugs or when doing the movements where the resistance is in front of you as opposed to under you.
- With heavier weight you will not be able to move your shoulder blades as high; do not use too much resistance if it significantly limits your range of motion.
- When doing face pulls if you attach two ropes instead of just one you can get a more full range of motion. This video shows what the dual rope set-up will look like (the video shows it for a different exercise).
- As long as you do not sacrifice form for heavier weight there are no significant safety concerns with these exercises.
Example: A sample routine focusing on the back and biceps may include:
- Weighted chin-ups: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
- You can instead do pulldowns with an underhand grip if you are not strong enough to do chin-ups in this rep range.
- Seated rows: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell rows: 2 sets of 8-12 reps
- Low pulley curls: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
- Dumbbell shrugs: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
- Cable Y raises: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
This equals roughly 7-9 sets each for the back and biceps and could be done twice weekly. You can do the isolation exercises in a circuit. The rep ranges can be varied as described in prior lessons, though frequently people use higher rep ranges for isolation exercises.
I did not include any specific exercises for the erector spinae as this muscle group is frequently used in conjunction with the glutes and hamstrings. It generally makes more sense to train this muscle group with those body parts. If you really wanted to train the erector spinae here you could include 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps of the back extension versions above that minimize recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings. If you do this you need to be careful that the erector spinae are not too fatigued for other training days that may include the deadlift and squat variations (discussed in the next lesson).
You should now have a good understanding of the basic aspects of the back and biceps. I have briefly gone over the anatomy that is relevant for many exercises and I have discussed several different compound and isolation exercises to target these parts of the body. While the compound exercises alone can be sufficient, there are additional potential benefits from including the isolation exercises at times:
- Pullovers – these can work the lats through a more full range of motion from arms fully flexed to fully extended.
- Curls – some of these variations (ie, dumbbell incline curls) place the biceps at a greater stretch to start the movement and some (ie, spider curls) place more tension on the biceps at the completion of the movement.
- Back extensions and variations – these can work the spinal erectors through their full range of motion.
- The shrug variations and scapular exercises work the the trapezius, levator scapulae, and rhomboids through a range of motion that is not achieved with compound exercises.