Fitness model and NLA For Her-sponsored athlete Lais DeLeon is going to help you build the arms you want, but not just by doing a few sets of curls and calling it quits. As DeLeon puts it, the goal of this workout is to build some guns, and to do that, you'll need to include heavier movements like pull-up and pull-down variations and rows, too! These compound moves will do as much for your arms as any curl, while also helping you build strong, shapely back muscles.

But don't worry, you'll still get to do some curls, too. DeLeon's workout combines straight sets of strength work in the form of band-assisted pull-ups, followed by 3 supersets to precisely target every part of your back and biceps. This workout should take you about 45 minutes, and your upper body will be burning (in a good way) by the end.

Ready? Let's do this!

Lais DeLeon's Back Workout
Band-assisted pull-up
Perform each set to failure or 10-12 reps.
3 sets, to failure (rest 1 min.)
Perform the exercises in order with no rest between exercises and 1 min. of rest between sets.
Seated Band Incline Biceps Curl
4 sets, 12 reps (no rest)
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
4 sets, 12 reps (left side, no rest)
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
4 sets, 12 reps (right side, rest 1 min.)
Perform the exercises in order with no rest between exercises and 1 min. of rest between sets.
Close-grip pull-down
Perform using a v-bar attachment.
4 sets, 12 reps
Seated Row
4 sets, 12 reps (rest 1 min.)
Perform the exercises in order with no rest between exercises and 1 min. of rest between sets.
EZ-Bar Curl
Perform 7 partial top, 7 partial bottom, and 7 full reps for 21 total reps per round.
4 sets, 21 reps (no rest)
Hammer Curl
4 sets, 12 reps (rest 1 min.)

Technique Tips

Band-Assisted Pull-Up

DeLeon loves pull-ups—she made that much very clear when she was a guest on the Podcast. But even if you can't nail a strict, clean rep (yet), you can still rock this workout using a band.

"I love using the band," explains DeLeon. "It mimics the exact same motion, and it still allows you to get great muscle activation."

Band-Assisted Pull-Up

DeLeon uses the band for her pull-ups, but feel free to do the bodyweight version if you can. Alternately, a training partner could give you a boost with their hands at the knee or hips.

To do a band-assisted pull-up, place a heavy-duty band around the top of your pull-up bar and hook one or both knees through as you get into position. The band will to help lift your body as you perform the pull-ups, making it easier to perform the movement and complete more reps. Do 3 sets to failure, or 10-12 reps.

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Superset: Dumbbell Incline Curl and Dumbbell Row

Moving on to the first superset of the workout, you'll need a pair of dumbbells for the curls, and a single, heavier dumbbell for the row. As you curl, squeeze at the top for a brief moment before lowering the weights back down.

"I prefer to do these curls seated on the incline," says DeLeon. "It allows me to isolate the biceps and avoid using any momentum."

Superset: Dumbbell Incline Curl/Dumbbell Row

Once you've done 12 curls, go straight into the single dumbbell row by standing up and steadying yourself on the seat of the same incline bench. Many women find that back is difficult to "feel" working with free weights, so experiment with your body positioning and avoid using momentum.

"It's essential to make sure you contract your back muscles on the way up and control the weight as you lower back down," explains DeLeon.

Complete 12 reps per arm to finish this superset and repeat both exercises for a total of 4 rounds.

Superset: V-Bar Lat Pull-down and Cable Row

Next up is the second superset of lat pull-downs and cable rows.

"I love this superset!" says DeLeon. "It's a great combo to target your back from all angles."

Superset: V-Bar Lat Pull-Down/Cable Row

She uses the V-bar attachment for both exercises, keeping the focus on the middle of the back. Keep your chest up on both exercises, remembering to pull your shoulder blades down and back on every rep. Complete 4 sets of 12 reps of each exercise.

Superset: EZ-Bar 21s and Dumbbell Hammer Curl

"I've saved the best for last," says Deleon. "After this superset, you're going to be dying."

If you've never done 21s, they are killer. For the first 7 reps, start at the bottom of the motion and lift only halfway, so you end when your forearms are parallel. For the next 7 reps, start from that halfway position and lift all the way up. For the final 7 reps, do the full range of motion.

Superset: EZ-Bar 21s/Dumbbell Hammer Curl

After those 21s, go straight into hammer curls, holding the dumbbells so your palms face each other the entire time. Do 12 reps of hammer curls, and your superset is complete. Take a rest—you're going to need it to complete these last 3 supersets.

After 4 total sets, this workout is a wrap. You're definitely going to be feeling it. Add this workout to your plan once a week, or whenever you feel like mixing it up.

About the Author

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather’s mission is to use her passion for fitness and her knowledge of training and nutrition to educate and motivate others to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.

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