Don't Sleep on 21s! You're Missing out on Powerful Pump! -
Brought to you by PVL Supplements and written by Tim Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT

The specialty training principle of 21s is a fairly old-school approach which is still popular today because it simply works. Most fitness folks who use it today recognize that it’s a cool-looking move to produce a great pump; however, they don’t really know why it works, nor how to apply it to other moves besides biceps curls. This particular exercise is definitely where 21s are most commonly applied, and for good measure, since it’s effective and convenient. However, there’s much more to this neat principle than that. So, let’s take a look!

Using the example of biceps curls, you will stand upright and hold either a barbell with both hands or a dumbbell in each hand; in either case, you’ll use a supinated (underhand) grip in order to be able to curl the weight. For 21s, instead of performing the conventional full range of motion (ROM) curls, you will perform:

  • 7 split-reps from the bottom to halfway
  • 7 split-reps from halfway to the top
  • 7 full-range reps
This specific order is very important and cannot be altered (e.g. don’t do the top-half splits first). The reason you begin with the bottom-half splits is because this is where you are typically the weakest and feel the effects of the resistance the most. When performing conventional curls, it is within this bottom-half range where you encounter most of your sticking points. You can overcome this with the overriding weightlifting principle of performing the most difficult part earliest, while your muscles are strongest and freshest.

Once you’ve completed the first 7 half-reps at the bottom, then you move on to the next 7 half-reps from the midway point to the top. This is the easier half-range of motion which has been strategically slated here to allow for the fatigue building in your working muscles. Once you’ve performed the 7 half-reps in the top half of the ROM, then you’ll lower the weight all the way to the bottom and perform 7 final full reps using the entire range. This is strictly for burnout, and to finish off your muscles with incredible, skin-bursting pumps.

It’s important to note that during the last 7 reps using the full ROM, you don’t sway back and forth and inadvertently use the rest of your body for momentum. You want to keep the isolation exclusively on your biceps here, so make sure to bend you knees for stability and keep your head as level and motionless as possible. Using a mirror is an excellent way to monitor your form. After you’ve done 21s for many sessions, you’ll develop feel in both the long and lateral heads of your biceps and will be able to more easily avoid the temptation to drop you head and watch your arms in action.

Bodybuilders, athletes and fitness models alike swear by the incredible gains made from 21s. Former pro athlete and current fitness coach and model Sandra Sorgini says, “Your training sessions need to be time, energy and objective efficient. To build the biceps brachii and elicit a hypertrophic response efficiently, I recommend you incorporate biceps 21s to maximize time under tension, plus hit all ranges of motion at the elbow joint for the biceps brachii muscle. Performing 21s at the end of your training sessions delivers an amazing pump. By including this exercise in your pull day session, you can be certain your biceps will be strengthened and will make great growth gains as well.”

Can 21s be applied to other exercises? Absolutely. Despite their reputation for being a natural, convenient biceps isolation technique, they can also be done with compound moves like the three powerlifts of squat, bench press and deadlift. They’re also convenient and easy to apply to moves where you use machines and cables. All you need to do before you begin is establish the halfway point of the respective ROM and work based on it. Doing 21s on an apparatus like the pec deck machine will absolutely nuke your upper chest shoulder girdle and give it an awesome pump.

To help you achieve the biggest pump ever using 21s, make sure you use a top-of-the-line creatine supplement each and every training session. We strongly recommend you make 100% PURE CREATINE from PVL a staple of your training to draw water into your cells, maximize volumization and optimize contractile strength. This superior brand is nano-micronized for unbeatable absorption and has no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.
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