When it comes to building the back and bis, the pull-up and biceps curl are two of the most solid, dependable moves in your arsenal. The two exercises get even better, though, if you do them with these smart tweaks from trainer Paul Sklar, C.S.C.S.
They do that by increasing the amount of time your muscles are under tension, amping the stimulus to repair and grow size. There’s nothing explosive about these movements. Instead, you'll work through the reps slowly, focused on control. As an added bonus, using Sklar’s slow-and-steady rhythm during each exercise means that you take things easy on your joints.
For the first movement, high-hold alternating biceps curls, grab two dumbbells that are lighter than what you usually use for curls and let them hang, holding the weights in a supinated grip (palms facing up).
Curl both weights to your shoulders and, using this as your start position, alternate between slow, controlled alternating reps. Once your form starts to break down (which won’t take long), slowly lower both arms back down.
Now this part is easy to miss: Sklar’s grip. In the video, he’s holding each dumbbell with his hands offset to the outside of the weights so that his thumbs are against the rubber. Why does that matter? Because it makes the inside ends of the dumbbells tip toward the floor, meaning the biceps will have to work that much harder to maintain a palms-up grip.
The second exercise, tempo wide-grip pullups, smashes the back. Grab the bar with a wide grip so that your hands are shoulder-to-elbow distance from your body. With each rep, pull yourself up over the count of two, hold for one, and then lower back down over two.
In the bottom position, resist the urge to dead hang. Instead, keep your shoulders stable by maintaining tension through your lats and scaps.
If you're interested in staying fit over 40, check out the Men's Health Muscle After 40 program. You'll get a whole set of routines designed for guys who have gotten older, but aren't even close to throwing in the towel on their fitness.
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