Build New Muscle With This Classic Bodybuilding Technique

STACK Expert Nick Tumminello applies 21's, a technique used by bodybuilders for Bicep Curls, to other exercises with impressive muscle-building results.

Lat Pull Down

Photo via Thinkstock

I've never understood why bodybuilders only apply the 21's workout concept when they train their biceps. The way I see it, 21's can be used with many strength exercises, are simple to apply (not to perform) and will blast your muscles.

That's precisely why we regularly use the 21's method at Performance U when our athletes train to build muscle.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bicep 21's, it goes something like this:

  • Perform seven partial Bicep Curls going only halfway down.
  • Perform another seven Curls going only halfway up.
  • Finish with seven full Curls for a total of 21 reps.

Below are some of the 21's workouts we use to get an insane pump and add a new twist to classic back, chest and shoulder exercises.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press 21's Workout

Do this with dumbbells while either seated (as shown in the video above) or standing. The exercise is most challenging when your upper arm (i.e., your humerus) is parallel to the floor, so hold that position.

How To:

  • Mid-Range Partial Press x 7
  • Isometric Bottom-Range Hold x 7 seconds (open and close your arms as if performing an Arnold Press)
  • Full Shoulder Press x 7

Chest Press 21's Workout

You can use dumbbells or a barbell. Again, it's most challenging when your upper arm is parallel to the floor, so this is where you'll perform the isometric rep.

How To:

  • Isometric Mid-Range Hold x 7 seconds
  • Full Bench Press x 7
  • Top-Range Partial Press x 7

Lat Pulldown 21's Workout

People often cheat at the bottom of the movement when performing Lat Pulldowns, so we like to make this the isometric hold. Change your grip from neutral to wide to underhand each workout to challenge your muscles in different planes.

How To:

  • Mid-Range Partial Pulldowns x 7
  • Isometric Bottom-Range Hold x 7 seconds
  • Full Pulldowns x 7

Bent-Over Row 21's Workout

You can use dumbbells, a barbell or a seated row machine. The exercise is most difficult at the top of the row, so make this your isometric hold—again, people often cheat here. If you use free weights, vary your torso position from parallel to 45-degrees to the ground.

How To:

  • Top-Range Partial Rows x 7
  • Isometric Top-Range Holds x 7 seconds
  • Full Rows x 7

What About Squats?

As with all overload methods, certain techniques apply better to some movements than others. We've experimented a great deal with different variations of Barbell Squats 21's protocols, and found many people experience lower-back fatigue from holding their body in the lower position for extended periods of times. Put simply, the potential for a low-back injury is too great, so we stay away from 21's when squatting.

Read More:

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock