Bicep calisthenics

Let’s get you the best calisthenics bicep workout

Building bicep is usually associated with using weights but you can as easily create a calisthenics bicep workout without using a single weight.

So if you ever watched action movies and wished you had a set of pythons or guns bulging out from under your t-shirt? Ladies, have you ever desired tone, fit arms that look great in tank tops? 😱

If you have, you’ve certainly come to the right place. A good calisthenics bicep workout will help strengthen your biceps without the use of weights.

Many “EXPERTS” may tell you that biceps can only grow with weights. This statement is far from the truth!

Calisthenics has bicep exercises that can build muscle, stronger arms, and insane strength!💪

In the article below, we’ve listed the best bodyweight exercises that can and should be used to build stronger, bigger, and more defined biceps muscles in a calisthenics bicep workout. The sections are divided by experience level so anyone, regardless of skill, can get started today.

We hope you enjoy it. Let’s begin!👊

Before you get started with calisthenics bicep workout:

Taking care of biceps

💥First step: Proper warm-ups

You may or may not have seen some pretty gruesome YouTube videos like the one below of horrific bicep tear injuries doing “safe” exercises like bicep curls.

Overloading a specific muscle group, especially something smaller like the biceps, could be potentially dangerous if loading is not suitable to the skill level or if proper warm-ups aren’t done prior to the calisthenics bicep workout.

And when we say proper, we mean moves that will prepare you for the upcoming motion. Although cardiovascular exercise can help you raise your heart rate for better performance, it will not be sufficient as a warm-up for our purpose.

There are plenty of ways to stay safe when training. Warming up is just one of them. Here’s How to Avoid Injury When Training with Calisthenics, so you can stay safe during your workouts.

For an in-depth discussion and sample warm-up routines, check out this article: The Ultimate Calisthenics Warm-up Guide

Below are specific movements that help your biceps, other structures, and other muscles needed for the best bodyweight bicep exercises below.

✅1. Pull-apart

 

✅2. Normal push-ups (the progression appropriate for you)

✅3. Band shoulder dislocates

Avoiding overtraining

Amazingly, the biceps muscle is a small muscle group even compared to the triceps. That’s why triceps have more potential to grow and more people are strong with their pushing than their pulling motions.

In this regard, the biceps can only be stimulated to a certain degree before experiencing overtraining. With the given functions of the biceps, training other upper body exercises could also engage the biceps so be careful.

When focusing on bicep development, aim to train two times per week, 3 if you’re advanced enough.

General form rules🎯

Before we get started with the exercises. Let’s keep in mind these general rules we need to follow for every exercise here. These rules will keep our joints and muscles safe while allowing us to maximize our attention towards bicep development.

🔥Body in a straight line in hollow position

This position helps you brace your core for better stability when performing movements as well as minimizes your reliance on your back muscles so you can target more of your biceps.

 

🔥Hands near shoulder-width apart for bilateral movement

In a 2013 research on how Lat pull-down grip width affects muscle activity, it’s clear how it can translate to similar movements such as pull-ups and chin-ups.

Too wide (more than shoulder width) then you’re pulling motion will shift more on your lats. A narrow (close hands) grip could work your forearms more which can be a limiting factor during your workout. For some exercises, a narrow grip might add the risk of elbows moving outside of the scapular plane which could result to shoulder impingement and other shoulder injuries.

The ideal grip width for good bicep activation is around shoulder-width apart while adjusting a bit either wider or narrower depending on individual anthropometry. 

🔥Shoulders depressed and scapula retracted

Shoulder stability is crucial for optimal force production as well as overall shoulder health. In the retracted and depressed position, you get to maximize the use of your biceps and lets for the movement and protect your shoulders from unnecessary stress.

To do depression, move your shoulders down and away from your ears. For scapular retraction, pinch your shoulder blades together.

 

🔥Full range of motion

Performing a full range of motion is crucial for achieving the desired muscle stimulation in calisthenics exercises. If you are limiting your range of motion, then the exercise will not be as effective and may lead to injury or poor alignment over time.

Achieving full range of motion is easy by focusing on a few key points:

  • Starting position with an efficient setup (Noted for each exercise in the coaching pointers)
  • Reaching endpoint using targeted muscle-group
  • Regressing to suitable variation for your skill level

Performing these three things can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of any task requiring more than just training biceps such as pushing, pulling, lunging, pressing overhead, etc.

🔥Mind muscle connection

Mind-muscle connection refers to the way a person’s mental focus on the target muscle(s) can contribute to developing their physical strength or muscle.

As such, it is often thought of as one aspect in many disciplines of performance enhancement including weight training and bodybuilding, athletic training, dance, or any other activity where muscular control is important.

For our current purpose, maintaining mind-muscle will help you maximize bicep growth using bodyweight exercises. This means focusing on your bicep activation during exercise.

BEST BICEP BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES💯

These exercises will help you build a solid calisthenics bicep workout. They require some fitness equipment for optimal muscle activation, but these pieces of equipment are very accessible and affordable. If you don’t like to purchase them, you can also make use of what you have in your environment.

📍 Read more: Ultimate calisthenics equipment guide with awesome and free alternatives

Below are the general exercises you can work with best bicep activation.

🤜Chin-ups (beginner to advanced)

Chin-ups are universal and can be scaled to fit beginners’ to advanced athlete’s needs using the right progression. The back muscles are heavily trained in this exercise but the underhand grip makes the biceps work during the elbow flexion movement.

The key to performing a CHIN-UP is to start by having your palms facing you, instead of away from you (pull-up). This places more load of the movement on the biceps as opposed to relying fully on the shoulders/back.

Another key tip is to not use momentum to “throw” yourself and your chin over the bar. Correct chin-ups are to be done somewhat slowly (see the video) and under control, making sure to REALLY use only your biceps to lift and lower down.

Sometimes you may see people swinging themselves up over the bar to get that one last rep. DO NOT DO THIS.

The idea is to train the biceps. By using momentum in your calisthenics bicep workout, you’re essentially eliminating the biceps muscle from the equation.

Chin-ups require good upper-body mobility to enable shoulder flexion, shoulder rotation, and supination for long-term training health.

👊How to perform:

  1. Dead hang with an underhand grip from a bar.
  2. From there, explosively, your whole body upward until the chin is over the bar.
  3. Lower down with control.
  4. Repeat for specified repetitions.

Coaching pointers:

  • Scapula depression and retraction one you engage from the dead hang
  • Imagine pulling your elbows towards your waist
  • Keep elbows close to your body
  • Push your shoulder down
  • Lower with control

 

🤜Hindu or Divebomber push-ups (intermediate)

While regular push-ups will certainly train your arms slightly, the biceps are definitely not the main load-bearing muscle in them. However, Hindu push-ups place a much greater load on the entire arm (including the biceps), raising this calisthenics bicep workout to #2 on my list.

This exercise makes use of the downward dog or inverted V position as the starting position which is excellent for overhead mobility. The mobility component is useful for other hanging pulling bicep work with an overhead mobility requirement such as chin-ups. The exercise is useful for chest, upper arm, and shoulder strength and mobility development as well.

To really emphasize the biceps muscles, do the movement as slowly as possible, accentuating each part of the calisthenics bicep workout as much as possible.

Hindu Push up

👊How to perform:

  1. Begin in a standard push-up position.
  2. Shift your weight back onto the balls of your feet while pushing the hips into the air. You are now in a downward dog position.
  3. From here, shift your weight forward onto your arms while slowly diving towards your hands. Your arms slowly bend during the movement.
  4. Complete the movement by pushing your arms back up and raising your head and trunk up as far as you can. At this point your head should be the furthest from the ground, your arms should be locked out, and your hips/butt should be nearly touching the ground with your back arched.
  5. Reverse the motion to get back to the starting downward dog position.
  6. Repeat the motion for reps.

Coaching pointers:

  • Place the weight on your hands when bending forward.
  • Imagine the first bend doing a pike push up
  • First master regular or even diamond push-ups
  • Having good overhead shoulder mobility helps

🤜Bodyweight rows (beginner – advanced)

Also known as an inverted row, this exercise is excellent for building muscle and overloading certain muscle groups.

You’re probably thinking, “I thought rows worked the back?” And you’re mostly right. BUT again, by changing the position of your hands, you alter the muscles used.

By having your palms facing back towards your head, you’re turning the inverted row into a modified version of a chin-up working mainly the biceps, and partially the back.

One big advantage of this exercise is it’s easy to scale especially if you have access to gymnastics rings. For beginners, you can perform it in a more vertical fashion then gradually lower until you’re able to perform the full horizontal rows. 

Watch the video for proper setup and form, ensuring you keeping your butt clenched as tight as possible to protect against lower-back injury.

As you get so much stronger and if you’re in the process of learning the front lever, you can use this exercise to progress to front lever rows but slightly adjusting the pull motion towards the belly button.

 

Bodyweight bicep pulls

👊How to perform:

  1. Begin to hang in a low bar.
  2. Extend the lower body and push your hips forward.
  3. Retract your shoulders.
  4. Pull upward until your chest touches the bar.
  5. Hold the top position for a brief moment.
  6. Lower down with control.
  7. Repeat for reps.

Coaching pointers:

  • Overhand grip but also can use a neutral grip
  • Extend legs for harder variation
  • You can go to a higher angle for an easier variation. The lower angle for a harder variation.
  • Arms shoulder-width apart but you can use a narrow grip as well.
  • You can use a resistance band to add challenge

 

 

 

TOP 3 BEGINNER BODYWEIGHT BICEP EXERCISES

 

If you try these exercises out, and you can’t do them yet…that’s OK! “Beginner” can mean a different level for each person, so give these a try. If you’re not there just yet, slowly work your way up to successfully doing them by regressing each exercise with easier variations.

You’ve got this.

Biceps Exercises Beginners

1. ASSISTED CHIN-UP

Assisted chin-ups are done using the same form as standard chin-ups, but with the help of either a machine that you can find in most gyms or by tying off a resistance band and placing it under your feet to obtain the same effect. You can also place your feet on a sturdy bench while you hang so you offload the difficulty of the exercise.

Assisted chin-ups are great for beginners because they’re an excellent way to build up strength and perfect the form needed to work your way up to normal chin-ups.

Again, make sure to pick an assistance level that allows you to CORRECTLY complete the movement without swinging your body up.

 

👊How to perform:

  1. Begin by hanging from bar with an underhand grip.
  2. One foot on resistance band, legs together.
  3. Pull up, chin over bar, keep arms in next to your body.
  4. Hold position for specified time.

Coaching pointers:

  • Imagine driving your elbows towards your hips when pulling up
  • Arms straight at the bottom position
  • Begin in a dead hang
  • Neutral head position
  • For resistance bands, anchor it on your pull-up bar
  • You can use low bars for leg assisted variation
  • You can use one foot or two feet for leg assistance
  • Arms shoulder-width apart but you can use a narrow grip as well.

2. NEGATIVE CHIN-UPS

If you can’t do regular chin-ups or assisted chin-ups, negative rep (or assisted negative rep) chin-ups are for you.

Our muscles are stronger during the negative phase of an exercise. We can take advantage of this phenomenon by implementing the negative phase of exercises and forgetting about the concentric temporarily.

The idea is to start in the top position of a chin-up (arms bent at the elbows – chin above the bar). But instead of pulling your body up, negative rep chin-ups are only concerned with lowering your body to the bottom position (4-8 second count). Always keep COMPLETE control of your form.

Negative Chinup

👊How to perform:

  1. Hold the bar with under bar grip and hands placed shoulder width apart.
  2. Lift yourself up till the chin is over the bar. The elbows should be bent fully.
  3. The legs are straight and slightly apart. The toes are pointed and off the floor.
  4. From this position lower yourself down slowly till arms are straight. Bend your knees to 90 degrees so that the toes remain off the floor.
  5. Make sure the back is straight and abs are tight.
  6. Feel stretching sensation in the biceps and shoulder muscles while coming down.

Coaching pointers:

  • Move through the negative motion with full control
  • Use assistance even in the negative phase if needed for complete beginners
  • Expect heavy muscle soreness if working for the first time with this type of exercise work
  • Palms facing you

3. DYNAMIC TENSION CURLS

If you’re a complete newbie, and there’s no shame in that – we all have to start somewhere and dynamic tension curls may be your only option for a first calisthenics bicep workout.

Dynamic tension curls are very similar to doing a dumbbell bicep curl, but instead of using a weight, you use your off-hand to resist or push down the working hand. Basically, you’re curling the resistance added by your off-arm. They’re an excellent starting exercise because you determine the amount of resistance added. They can also be done ANYWHERE.

For that reason, they are also a great option for more experienced people if there are no other available options to train your arms.

This exercise is a unilateral move which means it works only the side you are curling on at a time. It’s best for developing weaknesses and imbalances with your non-dominant arm.

👊How to perform:

  1. Begin in a sitting position with good posture.
  2. Position one arm with palm facing towards you and make a fist with the hand.
  3. The other arm is prepared to push down the working arm.
  4. As you curl your arm, push down with the resistance arm.
  5. Curl your working arm until the hand is near the shoulder.
  6. Lower down with control.
  7. Switch arms and repeat for reps.

Coaching pointers:

  • Adjust the amount of resistance with the non-working arm accordingly
  • Elbow tucked
  • Don’t let the elbows flare out
  • You can also use a resistance band instead of your arm
  • The upper arms should be upright

🥇TOP 3 ADVANCED BODYWEIGHT BICEP EXERCISES

These are the best exercises for advanced athletes who want to create a calisthenics bicep workout. If you’ve never trained in calisthenics before, I highly advise you to first check your level by taking The Movement Athlete Academy Assessment. If you choose to still attempt these exercises, please use caution and proceed with care. And don’t force the success of any one of these!

☑️ 1. One-arm chin-up

Almost exactly the same as chin-ups, this exercise is done using only one arm. These are obviously much, much, much harder than normal chin-ups, and if you can even do one rep, you deserve some MAJOR props. Imagine just using one arm to pull up the entire body.

In fact, if you think you can do these, take a video yourself and post it in the comments section of the article. We want to personally congratulate you for being able to execute one of the most difficult bodyweight moves!

Just remember that if you can do it with your right hand, you should also be able to do it with your left hand as well!

It may sound obvious…with these, you do your reps on one arm, rest, and then switch arms. While doing them, you can place your off or non-working hand around your working wrist.

This exercise has a high demand on your forearm which is why forearm health should also be one of your focuses when training with one-arm chins. This means recovery exercises and not overloading too much on your training.

How to perform:

  1. Perform a dead hang on a pull-up bar.
  2. Pull up until the chin is over the bar.
  3. Slowly lower down to start position.
  4. Repeat for reps.
  5. Switch to arms and repeat.

Coaching pointers:

  • You can use a resistance band given that you have enough pulling strength
  • Train equally each side
  • Train the similar grip all throughout the one-arm pulling journey to get consistent results.

☑️2. Bicep push-ups

A normal push-up position setup can be slightly modified to target the biceps and help them grow bigger.

This exercise hits the front of your shoulders primarily, but you will also notice a strong stimulation of your biceps even just by holding the topmost starting position. A change of hand placement magnifies the bicep involvement in the regular push-up. Adding a forward lean intensifies the bicep engagement.

How to perform:

  1. Begin in all fours.
  2. Place hands shoulder-width apart and turn your hands outwards so that the fingers are facing you.
  3. Straighten your arms and extend your legs backward to go into a push-up position.
  4. Lower down until your chest almost touches the ground.
  5. Push back up to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for reps.

Coaching pointers:

  • Full locked out arms at the top-position
  • Hold the top position for a brief moment after each rep
  • Leaning further forward adds more load on shoulders and also on the biceps
  • You can change the angle of inclination to change the difficulty. The lower, the harder; the higher, the easier.
  • Doing this exercise on gymnastics rings will add difficulty.

☑️3. Ring curls

To do ring curls you will need gymnastics rings or a TRX Trainer system.

Ring curls are excellent because they give you a nice substitution for chin-ups, which can be taxing on the wrists. Ring curls also allow you to closely simulate dumbbell bicep curls by using your bodyweight alone.

This is one of the ultimate bicep exercises as you can also easily adjust it to any fitness level. It makes sense to implement this into your workout routine now!

How to perform:

  1. Start by hanging the rings so that they hang at mid-chest, waist height, or even lower depending on your skill level.
  2. Grab the rings and allow your body to slowly fall back with the rings supporting you until your body makes a 45-degree angle with the ground (you may need to adjust the placement of your feet to obtain this position).
  3. With your arms slightly above your head, curl and pull up using your biceps to where you are nearly in a standing position.
  4. Slowly return to the hanging position.
  5. Repeat the process for reps.

Coaching pointers:

  • You can move your legs away from the anchor point to make the exercise easier.
  • A pull-up bar is a good anchor for the rings.
  • Palms facing you
  • Arms shoulder-width apart
  • You can turn it into a unilateral exercise for improving imbalances (for me it’s the left side!)

 

Here is a summary of the best advanced bicep calisthenics exercises 🙌

best bicep calisthenics exercises

Now you know how you can get a great biceps workout in without touching a single weight. Perfect one arm chin-ups and you’ll have arms that would even make the Hulkster jealous!

Please let us know what you think. Did we miss out on some great arm exercises that you use? Are you making progress with some of the exercises we listed? We’d love to hear about it. Be sure to let us know in the comments section below!

 

Ready to build your bicep? Click HERE to download the colossal bicep calisthenics workout.

 

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“Would you rather have the ability to boast of bench pressing 300 pounds or to do a one-arm pull-up? To me, pulling my entire body up with one arm is much more impressive. – Michael – The Movement Athlete Academy User”

“The Movement Athlete Academy is not the kind of program that demands you to be this physically fit to be able to perform. Instead, it caters to your own strengths and capabilities and keeps track of your progress.”

“Stick with it! It is hard at first, especially if you are stuck on a lower-level, high rep exercise. But persevering is worth it! Finally reaching each goal is so exciting.”

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