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P90X Review Day 11, Back and Biceps

Posted Jun 18 2008 9:08am

TheP90X®Back and Bicep workout is a fast-paced routine that pounds on the back and bicep muscles over and over again, providing an incredible workout in a short period of time. Done properly, this workout will effectively stimulate even the most stubborn back and bicep muscles, so if you have trouble growing or developing those areas, you'll love this  routine.

Since the workout tends to move a bit faster than some of the other P90X workouts, it's a good idea to make sure that you are setup in advance with all of your dumbbells or resistance bands, and your pull-up bar if you are using one. Also, since you will be using the big, strong back muscles in conjunction with the smaller bicep muscles, you will need a good range of dumbbells or resistance bands.

Wide Front Pull-up

The action gets started immediately during this workout with Wide Front Pull-ups that work the back, shoulders, and biceps. These were also seen during theChest & Back routine, and by now your strength should be improving to where you are able to do more repetitions, or do this movement without the support of a chair.

If you aren't seeing the results that you want when doing pull-ups and chin-ups, be sure that you are going all the way down on each repetition, and all the way up at the top of the movement.


This movement was also done during the Chest & Back routine, and some noticeable progress in your levels of strength and control should be in place by now. This exercise uses the shoulders, the biceps, and the larger back muscles, all of which have been worked repeatedly during the P90X workouts.

If you don't have enough weight in your dumbbell set to make this exercise challenging enough, you can always tie a resistance band to the dumbbell, and then step on the band at varying positions in order to increase or decrease the difficulty. 


This bicep exercise is 2 sets of "half" movements, and then one set of full bicep curls. You do 7 repetitions in each set, totaling 21 reps by the end. During one set you go all the way up into a bicep curl, but only halfway down. During the next set you go all the way down and only halfway up, and then you finish by doing 7 full range of motion bicep curls.

Picking the right weight is the only way to make this exercise easier or harder, so be sure to write down your results so you can apply that information the next time you do this workout. 

One-arm Cross-body Curl

Another bicep curl, and in this movement you are curling across the front of your body, hence the name.

Continually changing the angle of the bicep exercises is one of the reasons why this entire routine is so effective, even for people with stubborn bicep muscles that don't want to develop.

Switch Grip Pull-ups

When you do Switch Grip Pull-ups, you do 2 repetitions with your palms facing away from you, and then 2 repetitions with your palms facing you. You keep alternating every 2 repetitions until you can't do any more.

Putting your foot on the floor during the switch will make changing your hand position easier, whereas NOT putting your foot on the floor makes it significantly more difficult.

Elbows-out Lawnmower

This is very similar to the Lawnmower movement that was done earlier in the workout, only now your palm is facing behind you rather than in towards your body. By changing the direction of your palm and by bringing your elbow way out and as far back as you can, you'll get a significantly different stimulus from this version.

Most people will need to look at the resistance that they used during the regular Lawnmowers, and drop it by around 20%-30%. 

Standing Bicep Curl

This is just the standard, no frills, yet very effective dumbbell bicep curl. Stand with your palms facing forward the entire time.

By this point in the workout, your biceps are really feeling the strain, so be sure to use enough resistance to stay in your prescribed repetition range (8-10 for size, 12-15 for strength).

One-arm Concentration Curl

If you start with your right arm, then step forward with your left leg and put your left elbow on that knee, bottom part of your forearm facing your body. Make a fist and put the elbow of your right arm just below your fist, resting on your wrist. Hold that position tight and curl the right arm up for your repetitions.

This is a surprisingly stable pose, so hold it properly and muscle up as much or as little weight as you need in order to hit your goal number of repetitions. 

Corn Cob Pull-up

Most people would agree that this is one of the hardest individual movements in the entire P90X program. In essence, you do a regular pull-up, then, while still in the "up" position, move your upper body first to the right, and then to the left. After that (while still up), drop backwards and then pull yourself back in close to the bar.

Don't be surprised if you are only getting 6-8 repetitions on this movement, and also don't be afraid to use a chair to support yourself while you build up your strength. 

Reverse Grip Bent-over Row

This exercise is similar to the Heavy Pants movement that you did back onDay 1, only this time your palms are facing forward, which makes the movement a lot harder.

Just as with the Elbows-out Lawnmower, expect to do at least 20%-30% less weight than you can handle when doing Heavy Pants. 

Open Arm Curl

In this version of the classic Bicep Curl, your arms are at the side of your body, and your palms are facing outwards. Without the leverage of having your upper arms pinned to your sides, this movement is significantly harder than a standard curl, so choose your weights accordingly.

Resist the urge to let the dumbbells come towards the front of your body when you get tired. The entire point is to change the angle of stress that you put on your biceps. 

Static Arm Curl

This is always a hard movement, and after having already done so many back and bicep movements during this routine, expect this exercise to be a real challenge.

Pick a weight that is a bit less than you would normally use for a bicep curl and hold one arm in the "halfway" position while doing 4 reps with the other arm. After 4 reps, hold that arm in the halfway position and do 4 reps on the other side. Repeat until you get to 16 reps total (8 each arm).

Towel Pull-up

Rather than having both arms on the bar during the pull-up, you wrap a small towel around the bar on one side, and then hang onto the ends of the towel with one hand, while keeping the other hand in a standard pull-up grip. Do 3 reps on that side, then switch the towel to the other side for 3 reps, and repeat that process until muscle failure.

Be sure to hold onto the towel very tightly. This will ensure that you don't lose your grip and possibly fall, and it will also very effectively work the forearm of the arm holding the towel. 

Congdon Locomotive

This is a fun exercise, but don't mistake its apparent ease in the beginning. Choose a weight that is about halfway between what you do Bicep Curls with and what you did Lawnmowers with, and hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inwards. With one foot forward, bend both knees, and then bend over at the waist, keeping a straight back. One arm at a time, pull back as far as you can, return to the down position, and then repeat on the other side.

This movement is done for a total of 40 repetitions, and even though it may seem easy for the first 20 or so, it gets much more challenging towards the end. 

Crouching Cohen Curl

You saw this exercise during theShoulder & Arm workout, and it is a great movement. Be sure to keep your head up and keep your elbows firmly placed directly below your kneecaps.

Focus on really great form here, as you will be very fatigued by this point in the workout. Choose a weight that allows you to get to your goal number or repetitions while using perfect form and doing full range of motion repetitions.

One-arm Corkscrew Curl

The biceps have been hit from many angles during this workout, and the One-arm Corkscrew Curl takes you through a huge range of movement on the biceps. With a dumbbell in each hand, start with your palms facing backwards, and twist your palms up as you do a bicep curl with both arms at the same time.

If your arms are really fatigued here, you can stop at the top of the bicep curl position, or, if you want to get more out of it, continue the twist until your palms are facing outwards at the top of the movement, and then hold there for a 1-second peak contraction. 


This is just a standard chin up, and here towards the end of this routine, it is plenty challenging enough without doing anything fancy. With your palms facing towards you, just go for as many repetitions as you can possibly do.

Once again, be sure to go all the way down and all the way up during every repetition. You can always hold in that peak contraction at the top of the movement to get the most out of it. 

Seated Bent-over Back Fly

Sitting on the very edge of a chair, start with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Bending over slightly at the waist, keep your head up and pull the dumbbells up by pulling your elbows way out as far as you can.

Remember that the point of this exercise is to pull OUT, not up. If you're elbows are close to your body at the top of the movement, you need to pull wider during the repetition. You may need to drop the weight or the resistance a bit if you are having trouble keeping proper form. 

Curl Up/Hammer Down

Hammer curls are a great way to work the forearms while also working the biceps, and this exercise gives you the best of both worlds. You start out with your palms facing forward just as you would during a standard curl, and you complete a standard curl for the first part of the movement. During the second part, you twist your wrists so that your palms are facing inwards, and then return to the starting position.

The point here is to hit the biceps and forearms from 2 separate angles during the same repetition, so be sure to keep perfect form. 

Hammer Curl

This is like a standard curl, only you keep your palms facing inwards the entire time. As you raise the dumbbells, be sure to keep your upper arms pinned to your sides and don't let your elbows flair out.

If you want to get more out of this movement, hold that peak contraction at the top of the repetition. The dumbbells should be all the way on or near your shoulders at the top of the movement. 

Max Rep Pull-up

Standard, no frills Pull-up, and it's time to give it all that you've got. You are less than 5 minutes from being done with the workout at this point, so don't hold anything back!

Be sure to focus on each repetition. You will be very tired, sweaty, and generally beat up by this point, so pay special attention to what you are doing. 


The Superman movement is a static contraction movement that is meant to work your spine and your shoulders. You start out laying face down on the floor with your arms overhead, thumbs facing skyward, and your feet about shoulder-width apart. You'll be doing 5 sets of a 10-count during which you raise your upper body and your legs up as far as you possibly can during each set.

This exercise looks easy, but it's not, especially after all of the back exercises that you just got done doing. You can modify how far your body gets from the floor during each set in order to change the intensity.

In & Out Hammer Curl

This exercise starts out the same as the Hammer Curls from earlier, only you switch to an outward stance every other repetition. You do one rep with the weights going straight up from your thighs to your shoulders, then you twist your palms to face forward before doing the next repetition with the dumbbells in line with the sides of your body.

This is the final exercise that targets your forearms, so give it everything that you've got and be sure to keep excellent form throughout. 

Strip-set Curl

Tony Horton and the gang finish up in style and by using every last ounce of strength that you can muster out of your biceps. Strip-set Curls are 4 sets of 8 repetitions, and you are doing standard, palms-forward Bicep Curls. Start with the maximum weight that you can do 8 repetitions with, drop the weight slightly, do 8 more, etc.

After a total of 4 sets of 8 repetitions, your biceps should feel like it would be difficult to lift up your towel to wipe your face, let alone picking up any weight. If your arms aren't wiped out after this exercise, then you aren't pushing yourself enough.


For me personally, this is one of my favorite P90X workouts. The fast pace makes it all go by very quickly, the exercises work body parts that you can really push yourself to the max on, and the people in the video keep it fun and highly energetic throughout.

Don't forget to do your Ab Ripper X workout afterwards, though. At least your biceps will be getting a break! 

See other related P90X Review posts:


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