T Nation

Bicep & Back


#1

Hi,

First off: thanks to everyone who makes this site and forum such a great resource.

OK, my goals are pretty modest when you compare them to most of the info on this site, but I figure if you want expert advice .... ask the experts.

I've doing a little fitness routine for a while now, basically:

3 sets of 15 nice and tight push-ups with my elbows pretty close to my side. Some moderately difficult planks. I'm also starting to play around with a few hand-stand/arm-balance type things (they're fun) and am progressing towards a floor based L-sit.

Apart from maybe trying a few different types of push-ups, I'm pretty happy with the level of exercise this gives me.

Problem is, I recently realised that I'm seriously neglecting my back and biceps ... so I scrounged up a single dumbbell and 20kgs (40pounds?) worth of weight plates.... (I've got nowhere to do pull-ups and I'm not going to flail around molesting a tree branch in a public park while failing to do a single pull-up)

Also, I'm 32, 6 foot five, and naturally fairly well built.

With all that in mind ... could someone help with the following questions:

1)Is it ok to do bicep curls, hammer curls etc one arm at a time?

2)Is a 20kg dumbbell enough weight to work my back/biceps in an equivalent manner to the 3 sets of push-ups?

3)Could someone suggest some single dumbbell back exercises (or exercises that can be done safely one arm at a time)?

4)What kind of sets/reps should I be looking at doing for biceps and back?

Any help would be muchly appreciated.

All the best,
Dev.


#2

[quote]devsa wrote:
1)Is it ok to do bicep curls, hammer curls etc one arm at a time?[/quote]
Yes, that’s fine. Look up “alternating dumbell curls” for one way to do it. But you can always do one arm, then the next arm.

Not really. You’ll probably get some out of doing one-arm rows for awhile, but it’s really not enough.

Take a look at inverted rows. You can use a broomstick over a countertop or chairs, or do them underneath a table with your hands on the edge.

There are also removable indoor pullup bars that go over doorways; that’s probably your best bet as far as working up to doing pullups without going to a gym.

Really, this can be all over the place.

When you’re talking about “back”, it’s really a couple different areas that ought to be addressed.

  • You have your spinal erectors, which basically do the opposite of your abs, and help you “unroll” your back after touching your toes. They also keep your spine properly lined up. Deadlift variations are a good way to hit these; you can look into one leg romanian deadlifts, although you don’t really have enough weight.

  • You have your lats, which run down both sides of your spine and give people that V shape. (There are also a couple other muscles that contribute to this too). They help pull the arms down, and along with the spinal erectors, keep your spine in line. From the back, the spine and shoulders make a T; the spinal erectors run along the vertical part, and the lats connect the top corners to the bottom point (and fill in all the rest of that space). Pullups and pulldowns are good for hitting the lats.

  • You have your “upper back”, which consists of a few different muscles, but this is the area almost exactly opposite of your chest, and mostly is responsible for keeping your shoulder blades in place. This is probably the most important part to keep balanced with your pushups. Inverted and regular rows area good way to hit this.

In addition to those, you have your glutes and hamstrings, which aren’t your back, but are still part of your “posterior chain”, i.e., the back side of your body. There are many benefits to strengthening those too, but I’m not sure how to do that with the equipment you have.

I don’t know if that made things easier or more confusing, but for now I think you should work on inverted rows, and then get to the point of being able to do pullups.


#3

Killer info from Rez. Good stuff there.

[quote]devsa wrote:
OK, my goals are pretty modest when you compare them to most of the info on this site[/quote]
Not sure if I missed it, but, what are your current goals?

And legs, it sounds like. If you run or bike and think that’s “enough work for them”, it isn’t. You’re a super-tall dude, but the best idea is still pretty much to train everything.

A doorway pull-up would definitely be a good call. You could start doing negatives (hop up and lower yourself down slowly. In addition to rows (either with the elbow right by your side or parallel to your shoulder like half a T), you could also try pullovers on the floor, either with one arm or holding the dumbbell with both hands.

This usually depends on your specific goals, but since you’re dealing with such super-limited equipment, I’d just keep in mind that anytime you get to an easy 12-ish reps on any exercise, it’s time to step it up and make it more challenging (slow the tempo down a bit, emphasize the squeeze/contraction, etc.)

One suggestion for the curls, or almost any one-arm exercise, try touching the working muscle with the fingertips of the non-working arm. So if you’re curling with your left arm, lightly touch your left biceps with your right hand. It should help to increase the “mind-muscle connection” and might help the muscle “work” more, making it more effective.


#4

Hi Lorez & Chris,

Thanks for taking the time to give such indepth and insightful replies. Really much appreciated.

That’s made things a lot easier as far as understanding ‘the back’ goes … clearly explained, thanks.

By modest goals I mean looking for some info on how to balance out 3 sets of 15 good pushups. But if I thought about it a bit more I’d say:

  • Stop putting on weight as each year goes by.
  • I fairly often do some manual work (hobbies, not livelihood), but not often enough for it to keep me in shape. So it would be good if I didn’t find it such damn hard work when I did it.
  • Looking more athletic is always good.

So, I reckon I’ll use the dumbbell for some rows etc. for as long as I can get something out of it, and then I’ll switch to working on some pull-ups. I have thought about one of those doorway bars, but my doors have nothing to latch onto.

Thank you both again for all the great info and tips!

All the best to you and your own.

Dev.


#5

single leg deadlifts… they can be challenging even without weights… granted you do them properly.

go for high rep rows with 20kg’s. 3 - 5 sets of 15 - 30.

learn how to clean and jerk, snatch, and if possible swing. You can do all of those with a single DB.

If you can’t get a pull up bar, for some reason, get a set of heavy resistance bands and you can perform various rows and such.


#6

Thanks for weighing in Jarvan.

The clean and jerk / snatch look great. And thanks for the advice on reps.

I’ll also check out those bands.

Cheers,
Dev.


#7

[quote]Jarvan wrote:
If you can’t get a pull up bar, for some reason,
[/quote]

I’ve lived in many different places in my life and always found somewhere to do pull-ups. They weren’t always ideal, but it’s always been possible.


#8

[quote]dagill2 wrote:

[quote]Jarvan wrote:
If you can’t get a pull up bar, for some reason,
[/quote]

I’ve lived in many different places in my life and always found somewhere to do pull-ups. They weren’t always ideal, but it’s always been possible.[/quote]

Indeed.