If you’re looking to bulk up your arms, then look no further than calisthenics. This type of training utilizes your own body weight as resistance, which is a great way to build muscle mass. You will learn that with the best calisthenics bicep workout, you can easily grow your biceps bigger and stronger even in the comforts of your own home!
In this article, we will discuss:
- The bicep functions & why you should train them
- The 3 BEST bicep exercises
- The BEST calisthenics bicep workout for bulking
- & Frequently Asked Questions regarding the topic
So if you’re ready to build your guns, keep reading!
What is the bicep?
Biceps are definitely one of the most favorite muscles to train. Not only do they give the arms that nice round shape, but they are also very functional in daily life. The biceps is a two-headed muscle that is located on the front of the upper arm.
People tend to focus so much on building bigger biceps when they want bigger arms. Keep in mind that the arm is made up of two muscle groups, the biceps & the triceps (which make up a larger portion of the arm). If you want bigger arms, be sure to also train your triceps.
Its primary function is to flex the elbow joint, which means it’s responsible for bringing your hand closer to your shoulder. However, the bicep is also involved in supinating the forearm, which is when you turn your palm from facing down to up. This is why you often see people doing curls with their palms facing up – it targets the bicep more effectively. The biceps also assist in shoulder flexion similar to when you’re performing a back lever.
These are the movement functions we’re going to hit for optimal bicep activation.
Why you should train your biceps
Biceps aren’t only for aesthetic purposes so you can flex like a madman. The bicep muscles are important for everyday functions such as carrying and lifting things. Aside from that, the biceps play an important role in general elbow healthy. The stronger your biceps are, the better your elbows’ capacity for work, and the less the risk of injuries.
Can I build biceps without weights?
Yes, weighted exercises are effective for building bigger biceps, but that’s not the only approach!
Bodyweight exercises, with the help of some calisthenics equipment, can offer the same, IF NOT MORE, results compared to performing traditional weightlifting exercises.
Many people fail to see the potential of calisthenics’ capability to build muscle in general. However, it’s never too late to change their minds. There are a lot of myths surrounding calisthenics and we’re here to bust them all.
Read here: 5 Common Calisthenics Myths DEBUNKED!
But for this article, let’s focus on building bigger biceps with bodyweight exercises.
Remember that calisthenics is a form of resistance training that’s intended to build strength and muscle. If you can train with the right exercises and proper training protocols purposed for muscle growth, then yes, you can build your biceps without weights. There’s no doubt about that!
What equipment do you need for bigger biceps?
The beauty of calisthenics is that you can train with minimal equipment. While you can also train with 0 equipment at all, it’s ideal to get some key pieces to optimize your workout.
For this calisthenics bicep workout routine, you’ll need just two items that are very affordable and accessible.
There are many forms of pull-up bars available in the market. Here are some examples:
- Non-screw doorframe mount
- Easy-to-attach screw-type pull-up bars
- Power racks with pull-up bars and dip-station
There’s no need to get fancy. As long as it gets the job done and you’re motivated with your pull-up bar, it can work.
There are also other alternatives you can find in your environment, but we still highly recommend getting yourself your own pull-up bar.
Learn more about calisthenics equipment here: The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics Equipment & Cheap Ways to Replace Them
Rings are our favorite calisthenics equipment! It offers many advantages and turns the fundamental calisthenics exercises to an intermediate-advanced level! There are so many exercises you can do on the rings.
Here are the advantages you can get with rings:
- Elbows, shoulders, & arms are free to move
- Instability adds exercise intensity
- Portable dip station & pull-up bar
In addition, it’s portable and you can hang them basically anywhere sturdy. You can also easily attach them to your pull-up bar.
3 Best Calisthenics Bicep Exercises
Chin-ups are one of the most popular exercises for building bigger, stronger biceps, and for a good reason. IT’S HIGHLY EFFECTIVE. Compared to pull-ups with an overhand grip or a neutral grip, the underhand grip shifts the emphasis to the biceps to assist in facilitating the movement as confirmed by a 2013 study on the effects of hand grip width and orientation on pull-ups and pull-downs.
This is because, in chin-ups, the two functions of the biceps are performed. The biceps turns out the forearm for the supinated grip and the bicep engages as you perform an elbow flexion to pull your body upwards.
Take note that even with the emphasized bicep activation, this doesn’t mean it’s isolated. Your lats and other back muscles are still activated when doing chin-ups.
Chin-ups aren’t an easy exercise for many beginners. This is why we don’t recommend this workout for now. Beginners should stick to developing GENERAL STRENGTH with fundamental training. They will still grow their biceps with that type of exercise.
In terms of grip width, it will depend on an individual’s body proportions. Play around a shoulder-width stance. Go in slightly wider or narrow. Choose which is most comfortable for your elbows and shoulders.
Be careful of golfer’s elbow
The downside of performing a high-volume training regimen with chin-ups is the increased risk of the Golfer’s elbow. This is a condition when the inside of your elbow joints gets inflamed and sensitive. The elbow flexor muscles are responsible for elbow flexion which is performed during chin-ups. The muscles can get overused which causes pain in the area. These are commonly caused by:
- Doing too much too soon
- Incorrect exercise form
- Lack of upper body mobility
- Incorrect muscle activation
- Weaknesses from other muscle groups that cause bad compensation
Read here for more tips to minimize getting painful elbows when implementing chin-ups in your routine: How to Fix & Avoid Golfer’s Elbow
How to perform:
- Hang from the bar using an underhand grip. Your hands should be around shoulder-width apart. This will be your starting position.
- As you exhale, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
- Lower down with control.
- Repeat for reps.
- Depress and retract scapula when pulling up
- Core engaged
- Elbows close to the body
- Drive your elbows toward your hips
- Actively think of your biceps when doing the movement
- Posterior pelvic tilt
- Do not use momentum
- Pull up fast, 2-second pause at the top position, lower down for 3 seconds, 1-second pause at the dead hang
- You can try weighted pull-ups for added intensity
- For advanced athletes, you can opt for archer chin-ups or other one-arm chin-up progressions
Bicep bodyweight curl
Another fantastic bicep exercise is the bicep bodyweight curl. The movement pathway is similar to the regular bodyweight row, but if you look in closely, there are some distinctions why this exercise is superior for bicep development.
First of all, the grip. With bicep curl, the supinated grip already activates the biceps while turning in outwards for elbow flexion movement. The second difference is that you need to curl the rings towards your face. This allows for peak bicep contraction due to elbow flexion. With regular rows, you usually pull your rings towards the chest or hip area.
Bicep curl protocols
Bicep curls are preferably done on the rings for easier execution and adjustment for different skill levels. You can start off with a high ring position and then slowly work your way to a lower ring height. However, if rings are not accessible, lower bars or a piece of low furniture where you can do a supinated grip would suffice for now. We still recommend getting a pair of rings.
This isolation exercise is best done in the latter part of your workout. Although we use the term “isolation”, it’s not a complete isolation exercise since you still need to fully engage your core, shoulders, and posterior chain to perform the movement.
How to perform:
- Set the rings or bar appropriate for your skill level.
- Hold on to the rings with a supinated grip and place your feet on the ground.
- Perform a low hang and extend your legs and torso.
- From a low dead hang, pull the rings towards your face.
- Pause at the top position.
- Lower down with control.
- Repeat for reps.
- Engage your core
- Shoulder depressed and retracted
- Be mindful of bicep activation
- Stretch the biceps by getting your arm completely straight at the bottom position
- For more challenge, lower the rings or do it unilaterally
- You can bend your knees but keep a straight upper torso hinging at the knees
Pelican curl is an advanced calisthenics movement that puts heavy emphasis on your biceps. This exercise is quite interesting because it loads your biceps in the extension while hitting it up through elbow and shoulder flexion. It’s like the Nordic Curls for the arms.
Gymnasts use pelican curls to improve muscle size which can lead to strength gains. In addition, it’s also great for improving elbow tendon resiliency for better elbow health and increasing performance for advanced calisthenics skills such as planche, back levers, and other ring exercises.
However, pelican curl is an intermediate exercise. We do not recommend this for beginners or for individuals who could be lacking the required upper-body mobility, particularly on the shoulders.
How to perform:
- Set the rings suitable for your skill level and shoulder width apart.
- Begin in a low push-up position on the rings with hands set for the false grip.
- Lower your body towards the floor and slowly move your elbows towards your back until your arms are straight.
- Once you get the full stretch, pull your body back up into the starting position.
- Repeat for reps.
- Keep your elbows close to your body
- Rotate your arms externally
- Full shoulder depression and scapula retraction
- Maintain a false grip
- Make the exercise easier with a high ring position. Lower the rings to make the exercise harder.
- Slow and controlled negative
Honorable mention for bicep work
Before we move forward with our workout regimen, let’s first discuss some good exercises that also hit the biceps.
Take note that these exercises hit the biceps really well. However, these exercises are not the most efficient way to build bigger biceps if that is your specific goal right now. Most of the exercises on the list tend to put emphasis more on other muscle groups. This means that you might be too fatigued even before getting enough bicep activation from these exercises.
This exercise is basically a push-up but with your hands facing backward and adding a forward lean. If you try it for yourself, you’ll immediately feel the difference by just holding the top position of the exercise. This is also the reason why the planche with the same hand grip is very difficult. It places more emphasis on the biceps in a stretched position.
The bicep push-up is certainly the most controversial on the list. This exercise gained some notoriety on the internet especially when popular Youtuber Jeff Cavalier of Athlene X claimed that this exercise is dangerous and does not offer any bicep growth in one of his videos.
FitnessFAQs, Daniel Vadnal, and the team of CaliMove, Sven & El eggs, are quiet to respond with their own videos countering the claim of Jeff.
The “Bicep-push-up” | Good or Bad? – CaliMove
Bicep Push (Good or Bad) – FitnessFAQs
Is biceps push-up effective?
In our opinion, the bicep push-up definitely hits the biceps. It does so by stabilizing your arm with the supinated grip and the forward lean adds shoulder flexion. However, it is not optimal for bicep growth since you will also have to target your chest, anterior deltoids, triceps, and core too much. If you have the accessibility of other exercises that do require a bit of equipment, you’re better of opting for them. Still, it’s a great exercise to perform if you don’t have access to a pull-up bar or rings.
Apart from doing general strengthening and hypertrophy exercises such as chin-ups, gymnasts have HUGE BICEPS due to their total work volume of straight-arm exercises. Many straight-arm skills target the biceps such as:
- Planche – Ultimate Guide to Planche
- Back lever
- Front lever – Ultimate Guide to Front Lever
- Ring support hold Ring Turn Out (RTO)
- Handstands & more
The biceps are working as stabilizers in a stretched position similar to the bottom position of the pelican curl. Gymnasts have years of training with advanced straight-arm work plus general fundamental calisthenics exercises that contribute to their huge, bouldering biceps.
Weighted bicep curls
If you have access to weights, don’t be ashamed of using them! Dumbbell or barbell bicep curl is a really effective exercise for developing bigger biceps. It’s a complete isolation exercise that hits the bicep well as long as you don’t overdo your bicep curls. Use light to moderate weights with high rep ranges and more sets.
Remember that it’s not black and white. Calisthenics and weightlifting have their own advantages and you can always implement them together in your routine. Weights are not totally bad for you!
Read more here: Calisthenics vs Bodybuilder
Bicep Calisthenics Workout
Who can do this workout?
Beginners will find most of these exercises too challenging. While it’s possible to regress each move to an intensity suitable for a beginner level, the training structure is not optimal for a beginner’s progress.
Beginners should stick to a fundamental calisthenics training workout that focuses on the basics to build general starting strength before attempting this workout routine. This is a high-volume exercise for building bigger muscles.
Bicep calisthenics workout routine
- Make sure you have at least chin-ups with good form
- Adjust each exercise according to your skill level
- Do 2 – 3 times per week with at least 1 rest day in between sessions
- DON’T FORGET to train your pushing exercises and legs in the week
- Follow the progressive overload principle
- Don’t perform too intense exercises. Opt for moderate intensity for isolation work with high volume.
- Practice mind-muscle connection – Study shows that this practice is effective for enhancing hypertrophy gains. To do so, simply imagine your biceps activating when performing these exercises rather than mindlessly going through the movement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can calisthenics build bigger biceps?
The answer is YES! Calisthenics can build bigger biceps, but it requires a lot of time, dedication, and the right exercises. The results can equate to building bigger biceps with weightlifting! If you want to optimize your bicep growth, then you need to follow these three simple things:
- Follow a progressive workout with exercises targeting your biceps (please see exercises above!)
- Get in proper nutrition through whole foods & high protein sources
- Prioritize high-quality sleep and stress management
Sounds familiar? Yes, it’s the main pillar for building muscle! Just train your biceps like how you would like to train the rest of your body. Your biceps doesn’t really require a high amount of attention or special training UNLESS you have a sport-specific movement pattern that you need to prepare for.
Learn more about building muscle here: How to Build Muscle with Bodyweight Only
Do push-ups build biceps?
If you’re pertaining to regular floor push-ups, yes, it does work the bicep a little as stabilizers, but it’s not efficient in building bigger biceps. Your shoulders, chest, and triceps will first get exhausted before you can get a good level of bicep activation.
If you like to hit your biceps with push-ups, then consider opting for the bicep push-up as mentioned earlier in the article. It’s the same movement pattern but with a greater forward lean and hands facing backward.
Another option for greater bicep activation is push-ups on rings with rings turn out. This is an intermediate exercise so don’t rush to this skill. However, there’s also a greater activation of the chest and shoulders. If you’re committed to getting bigger biceps, resolve to the best bodyweight bicep exercises mentioned in the article.
The best calisthenics bicep workout for bulking up your arms is a high-volume routine that focuses on moderate-intensity isolation exercises. To get the most out of this workout, make sure to focus on mind-muscle connection and practice progressive overload.
Remember to also train your pushing exercises and legs in the week, and make sure to get in proper nutrition and adequate sleep.
You can definitely build bigger biceps with body weight alone. Muscle growth isn’t limited in bodyweight training.
Which exercise is your favorite for building bigger biceps?
Comment down below and let us know your thoughts about bicep development through calisthenics training.
If you’re interested in building the rest of your body, compliment your bicep workout with these articles below: