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How to get a body like Jason Momoa: Back and biceps workout

Jason Momoa

When it comes to overall size and muscularity, Aquaman star Jason Momoa has built a body that is the envy of many.

The DC superhero’s towering physique as seen in Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Aquaman are aspirational for so many men. While one can only hazard a guess at how much the 6ft 3in. Hawaiian can bench press, it’s Momoa’s posterior chain that really impresses.

Without a strong back – where muscle seems to hang like slabs of meat on the Game of Thrones star’s physique – it can be difficult to build a great set of pecs and shoulders. This is because well-developed back muscles improve postural alignment, pulling the shoulder blades back and allowing you to really connect with the muscles on the front of your body when you train them.

The key to building a back as impressive as Momoa’s is consistent training and progressive overload, with careful selection of exercises that target the many different muscles of the back. This workout would fit well as part of a wider rotation that targets each muscle group at least two to three times per week.

The Jason Momoa workout

How to perform the exercises

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively.

To start your life-changing body transformation today, visit any one of our gyms around the world or begin your online training program.

Trap bar deadlift

The set-up

  • Place the trap bar on the floor and add the desired amount of weight.
  • Stand inside the trap bar with your feet shoulder-width apart, ensuring that the centre of your feet and your grip on the bar line up with the centre of weight plates.
  • Stand as tall as possible with your shoulder blades pulled back together and arms hanging by your sides. If you feel like you cannot lift the weight without a rounded back, consider placing blocks underneath the weight plates to reduce the range-of-motion.
  • Look at the floor just in front of you.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Although the movement allows for some bend at the knees, aim to push your hips backwards and bend forward at the waist. Once you run out of range at the hips, allow the knees to bend until the weight touches the floor.
  • Ensure that you touch the floor softly, keeping tension on the bar. Pause for a second, ensure you remain braced through the core, and then drive upwards again.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Imagine squeezing lemons in between your armpits to keep the back straight throughout the movement.
  • Be careful not to overextend at the top of the movement by arching your lower back.
  • Your lower back muscles will be engaged, but you should not feel that they are contributing more to the movement than your glutes and hamstrings.

Chest-supported dumbbell row

The set up

  • Select your dumbbells and place them on the floor at the head of the bench.
  • Lie face down on the bench, making sure that your chin clears the top edge.
  • Bend your legs and drive your feet into the floor.
  • Pick up the dumbbells one at a time and let your arms hang fully extended by your sides, with your palms facing inwards.
  • Press your hips into the bench, lift your chest up slightly and look at the floor just in front of you.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Pull your elbows back towards your waist while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Keep your elbows tucked in so that your upper arms brush against your sides throughout the movement.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when your elbows cannot travel any further back without your shoulders rotating inwards and upper back rounding. Your elbows should not move past the front of your shoulders.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your upper back muscles.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Place your feet on the foot of the bench to help make yourself more stable. If the bench design does not allow for this, try using weight plates or heavy dumbbells as foot supports instead.
  • Getting heavy dumbbells into position can be awkward, especially for people with short arms! Ask your training partner to pass you the dumbbells one at a time.
  • Avoid pulling the dumbbells towards your shoulders as this will shift tension off your upper back muscles and onto your arm muscles. Instead, focus on dragging the dumbbells along the floor and pulling your elbows towards your waist.
  • Your arm muscles will be working, but you should not feel that they are doing more work than your upper back muscles.
  • If the pressure on your chest is too uncomfortable then select an alternative exercise.

Weighted chin-ups

The set-up

  • Select a grip that matches your shoulder width and range of motion.
  • Take the bar and lift your legs up. If you cannot reach, you may need a bench to help.
  • Depress the shoulder blades and keep the head in a neutral position.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Keeping the torso braced, depress the shoulder blades downwards and then draw your sternum towards the bar, driving the elbows behind you.
  • Your end of range of motion is determined by how far you can pull yourself up without the shoulders rotating inwards, the upper back rounding or the bar touching the chest. Your range of motion will be the same as in a standard neutral grip pulldown.
  • At the top of the rep, pause and focus on contracting the lats and mid-back.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position. Do not relax at the bottom of the motion.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Use chalk or straps to remove grip as a limiting factor.
  • Do not swing as the momentum will reduce the tension from the target muscles.
  • Keep the shoulders blades depressed at the top of the movement.

Neutral-grip cable row

The set-up

  • Sit on the machine facing the weight stack with your feet on the foot supports, and knees slightly bent.
  • Reach forward and grip the cable attachment with a shoulder-width neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  • Sit up as tall as possible with your arms fully extended reaching out in front of you.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Keeping your torso still, pull your elbows back towards your waist while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when your elbows cannot travel any further back without your shoulders rotating inwards and upper back rounding.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your upper back muscles and squeezing the elbows in tight to your sides.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Avoid pulling the cable attachment too high towards your chest as this will shift tension off your upper back muscles and onto your arm muscles. Instead, focus on pulling your elbows down towards your waist.
  • Your arm muscles will be working, but you should not feel that they are doing more work than your upper back muscles.
  • Watch how high the weight-stack travels on each rep as a reference point for your range-of-motion. If this shortens significantly between your first and last rep, then the weight is too heavy.
  • Use straps to ensure that grip does not limit how much load you can lift.

Seated 60-degree incline dumbbell curls

The set-up

  • Set up a bench at a 60-degree incline angle and grab two dumbbells that you can curl for 10-12 reps.
  • Sit on the bench and keep your hips and shoulders back against the pad.

The movement

  • Begin by holding the dumbbells at your side with fully-extended arms – your palms should be facing forwards.
  • Now begin the rep by simultaneously curling both dumbbells.
  • As you curl the weight up, keep your palms facing forward and keep your elbows behind your torso and shoulders back.
  • Lift the dumbbells up in 2 seconds, hold at the top and squeeze your biceps for 1 second and bring the dumbbells down in 2 seconds.

Trainer tips

  • Keep your elbows locked in position the entire rep and squeeze your triceps at the bottom of each rep to get a full stretch of the biceps.

Dumbbell preacher curl

The set-up

  • Sit down on the bench and rest your upper arms on the pad shoulder-width apart. The crease of your elbows should be facing up.
  • Adjust the pad or seat height so that your armpits line up with the top of the pad when seated. There should be no gap between your upper arms and the pad.
  • Hold the dumbbells with an underhand grip and with your elbows just short of full extension.
  • Keep your back straight and avoid hunching over the pad.
  • This is the start and finish position for each rep.

The movement

  • Press your upper arms down into the pad and curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders.
  • Keep your wrists straight and palms facing up throughout the movement.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot move any further without lifting your elbows off the pad.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your biceps.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Do not fully straighten your arms in the bottom position as this will place unwanted pressure on your elbows.
  • Focus on curling your little finger up towards the ceiling to help create a more intense contraction.
  • Single-joint exercises like preacher curl require less fully body effort than multi-joint exercises, and it can be tempting to cut short your rest period. Make sure you stick to the recommended rest interval to give your muscles time to recover and maintain performance levels.
  • Press your upper arms down into the pad throughout the entire movement.

Why this workout works

The muscles of the back generally respond well to slightly higher training volumes (around 8-12 sets per week), partially down to its size and the many different muscles that make up the posterior chain. When targeting the back, we typically pay most attention to the trapezius, rhomboids, lats, spinal erectors, and the rear deltoids.

While heavier repetitions are used at the start of the workout to stimulate ‘mechano growth factor’ that stimulates hypertrophy using mechanical load, it’s also incredibly important (and notoriously difficult) to establish a deep mind-muscle connection with the back, in large part because we can’t see it! This is why more isolated exercises performed in the 8-12 rep range are also a must if your goal is to sculpt an enviable set of wings.

No back workout would be complete without some biceps to add some pump. And while the majority of exercises performed for the back will indirectly challenge your arms, you don’t build a set of arms like Jason Momoa’s without some direct biceps work. With the biceps partially fatigued at this point in the session, a higher rep range (12-15 reps) helps to leverage metabolic stress to maximise growth.

However, it’s almost impossible to isolate the individual muscles of the back completely; therefore, pairing these exercises is likely to reduce the total training volume (or the total amount of work) you can perform. Additionally, many back exercises present a large challenge to the muscles of the forearms, and you don’t want those muscles to fail before those you are trying to target. As a result, this workout is best performed in straight sets.

 

TO START YOUR LIFE-CHANGING BODY TRANSFORMATION TODAY, VISIT ANY ONE OF OUR GYMS AROUND THE WORLD OR BEGIN YOUR ONLINE TRAINING PROGRAM.

DISCLAIMER | Results may vary | Results are based on individual circumstances | Timeframes for results are not guaranteed | Willpower is always required!

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