Total body 21’s


Introduction and Mechanics

21’s are generally understood as a term for a bicep exercise that involves splitting the motion of an the exercise into different ranges of motion, in succession, into one giant set. Sound complicated? It is not at all, and SwoleScience is about to break it down so that you can maximize your athletic performance with the implementation of this exercise.


This exercise has been traditionally applied to the bicep curl and this has been the basis of its popularization. The main purpose behind 21’s have been as staple exercise for expanding the volume of the target muscle and bringing it to failure. The exercise has been a dominate presence in bodybuilding routines across all levels of competition since it’s popularization and exposure with the bodybuilding explosion of the 1970’s.

The ‘splitting up’ concept of 21’s has been generally limited to its original inception, yet this exercise has a broader application throughout the body and should not be limited to only bodybuilders. The progression of athletic performance evolves not only through the use of new techniques, but the reinvention of older techniques for continued improvement.


The range of motion of an exercise is the actual full movement of the exercise from start to finish of one repetition. If you have an exercise that has a set range of motion, for example a bench press, the range of motion is the bar coming from your chest to a fully extended above your body. Divide this motion in half, in this example of the bench press, the ‘first half’ would be the first 6-7 inches from your chest to the middle of the range of motion. The Second half is from the middle (6-7 inches above your chest) to the fully extended. In layman’s terms the ‘top half’ and ‘bottom half’ of a movement. Combine these two halves and you have a full motion. Therefore in 21’s, a user performs 7 repetitions on the bottom half of the range of motion, then 7 repetitions in the top half of the range of motion, and finally 7 in the normal full range of motion. These 7 miniature sets are done in succession, without rest, and that is the key aspect to successful implementation. In keeping with our bench press example a user would perform as such-

7 repetitions from their chest to half way up

7 repetitions from the half way up to fully extended (all the way up)

7 repetitions of normal, full range bench press.

The specific special set of 21’s should be done at the conclusion of an exercise as the last set of the exercise or as a stand alone set towards the conclusion of a workout. As a general rule of thumb and a loose guideline, the weight used should be half of the weight used for the first set of 8 repetitions. So thus forth, if a user performs 150 pounds for 8 repetitions, then a user should do 21’s with 75 pounds. Make sure that your form is extremely strict, slow and evenly paced to insure against injury.

Many compound and isolation exercises such as: bench press, squat, bicep curls, dead lift, standing military press, and so forth benefit greatly not only from an ending failure set but from a specific split up of the range of motion. 21’s offer this unique hybridization that is not easily replicated or substituted, and is therefore an invaluable component in any athlete’s arsenal. In addition, female lifters, fighters and endurance athletes can benefit from the use of 21’s since it is weight specific and allows a user to tone and tailor their body as they see fit.

-Papa Swole

(This is an original post copyright to, credited to the aforementioned author. Its reproduction is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved to the original authors of any quoted or embedded material)

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3 Responses

  1. fm says:

    ahhh yeah, 21’s yeah… definitely a must before t-shirt time!

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