Top 10 Biceps Calisthenics Exercises: For Big And Strong Arms

Not only does big biceps look good, having strong bicep muscles is arguably one if not the most important things when it comes to training calisthenics skills. Read on to learn how to train the biceps effectively!

Anatomy And Function of the Anterior part of the Upper Arm

Before picking exercises for the biceps, it it good to have a basic understanding of the function and anatomy of the bicep muscle. That way you will know how which exercises to chose and why they work!

The anterior compartment of the upper arm consist of the biceps brachii, coracobrachialis and brachialis.

The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle located in the upper arm. The two heads of the biceps are:

  1. The long head which starts from the shoulder blade (scapula). Travels down the upper arm and merges with the short head to form the biceps brachii.
  2. The short head starts from a part of the shoulder blade called the coracoid process and joins with the long head to form the biceps brachii.

Both parts of the biceps travel down the upper arm and come together to form a single muscle belly, which then attaches to the radius bone in the forearm.

The Coracobrachialis The coracobrachialis is a muscle located in the upper arm, deep to the biceps brachii and is a relative small and weak muscle. It arises from the coracoid process, a bony projection on the scapula, and inserts into the midshaft of the humerus, which is the bone of the upper arm.

The brachialis is a relatively small muscle in terms of size compared to the biceps brachii, which it lies underneath. Despite its size, the brachialis is a important muscle for elbow flexion, making it a powerful contributor to lifting and pulling movements. It originates from the front of the humerus (upper arm bone) and inserts into the ulna (forearm bone).

Functions of the anterior upper arm muscles:

These muscles work together to flex the elbow joint, which is a fundamental movement in activities like lifting, pulling, and carrying objects.

  • The biceps brachii plays a role in both elbow flexion and supination.
  • The coracobrachialis and brachialis are mostly responsible for just elbow flexion.

Top 10 Calisthenics Exercises for bigger biceps

Now you have a basic understanding of the anatomy and function of the bicep, it is time for the exercises. The following are the best exercises for developing strong and big biceps, enjoy!

1. Chin ups

Chin-ups are a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the back, but they also engage the biceps to a significant degree. If you want to develop strong and big biceps, without spending too much extra time on isolation exercises, doing chin ups is the way to go!

How to perform chin ups for big biceps:

  1. Grab the pull-up bar with an supinated grip. Your hands should be slightly closer than shoulder-width apart (for greater elbow flexion). Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended.
  2. Initiate the movement by squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling your chest toward the bar.
  3. Continue pulling until your chin clears the bar. Your chest should be close to the bar at the top of the movement.
  4. Lower your body in a controlled manner, fully extending your arms before starting the next repetition.

Top tips:

  • Use full range of motion to emphasize the stretch and contraction, which both are important for muscle growth.
  • If you fell pain in your wrist switch to rings instead, they provide better movement of the wrists.

2. Pelican curl

The pelican curl is more or less a isolation exercise for the biceps, which is great if you biceps needs extra work. It also works the biceps in a stretched position, which is ideal for hypertrophy (1).

How to curl like a pelican:

  1. Start in the bottom of a push up position on the rings, or under the bar.
  2. Slower lower your body by extending your arms behind your body.
  3. Once your arms are fully extended, pull back up to the starting postion.

While this exercise is quite effective it is by no means ways to perform, so take your time with it to avoid bicep tears and other injuries.

3. One arm pull up progressions

The one-arm chin-up is an advanced calisthenics exercise that requires significant upper body strength, especially in the back and biceps. By working towards this skill you will gain significant strength and size in the biceps.

How to train for the the one arm chin up:

There are serval progression you can do before the full one arm chin up.

  1. Mixed-Grip Chin-Ups: Perform mixed grips chin ups, Gradually increase the load on one arm by taking fingers of the bar/rings of the other arm, you use for assistance.
  2. Assisted One-Arm Negatives: Use a resistance band to assist you while you perform one arm chin ups with the other arm.
  3. One-Arm Eccentrics: Jump or use assistance to get into the top position, then slowly lower yourself down with control.

Progressing to a one-arm chin-up takes time, dedication, and patience. Listen to your body, and if you experience pain or discomfort in the elbow, stop immediately.

4. Supinated bodyweight rows

Supinated bodyweight rows, are an effective exercise for targeting the muscles in your upper back, biceps, and shoulders. The supinated grip (palms facing you) places more emphasis on the biceps, just like with the chin up.

How to perform pull ups like a aussie:

  1. Stand facing the bar and grasp it with an supinated grip. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pull your chest up toward the bar by bending your elbows. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and engaging your back muscles.
  3. Lift your chest to the bar or bring your chest as close to the bar as possible while maintaining good form.
  4. Lower your body back down in a controlled manner, fully extending your arms.

Increase the difficulty by adjusting the angle of your body. The closer you are to parallel with the ground, the more challenging the exercise becomes.

5. Curl row

The curl row is a variation of the of the normal bodyweight row, that places greater emphasis on the biceps. This exercises is somewhat in between the bodyweight bicep curl and bodyweight row, in that it both works the biceps and back pretty good.

How to do the curl row:

  1. Start underneath the bar, with your heels on the ground and arms extended to grip the bar.
  2. Pull your chest toward the bar by bending your elbows. Imagine squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  3. Rotate the rings as you pull, as you bring your chest as close to the bar as possible.
  4. At the top of the movement hug the ring in close to your upper chest to get a extra contraction in the biceps.
  5. Slowly lower back down to the starting position following a similar movement pattern.

6. Side ways bodyweight bicep curl

The side ways bodyweight bicep curl is a great exercise for isolating the bicep with bodyweight, and is a good variation from the regular bodyweight bicep curl (since variation is beneficial for hypertrophy, doing this exercises makes a lot of sense).

How to perform the bodyweight curl side ways like a acrobat:

  1. Grip one ring with one of your arms, and lean away from the ring by extending your arm fully.
  2. From this position curl your arm up towards your head, and contract the biceps.
  3. Slowly lower down to the starting position, by uncurling your arm, and focus on the stretch of the biceps on the descend.

7. Straight arm exercises: back lever, planche etc.

Advanced straight arm exercises like the back lever, planche & iron cross are crucial part of why gymnasts have such big biceps. In these exercises the biceps is placed under enormous load, and have no choice to adapt to the demands placed on them. You can start with easier variations and work you way up (read more about how to train for calisthenics skills in this post)

how to train for advanced calisthenics skills and get massive biceps in the process:

  1. Build a Solid Foundation: Before attempting advanced skills, ensure you have a strong foundation in basic calisthenics movements such as push-ups, pull-ups and dips. Focus on building overall strength and hypertrophy
  2. Skill-Specific Training: Identify the specific skills you want to master and incorporate skill-specific drills and progressions into your routine. Break down each skill into manageable progressions, starting with easier variations and gradually advancing.
  3. Consistent Training Schedule: Establish a regular training schedule that includes skill work. Consistency is key, learning advance calisthenics skills takes a long time and a lot of dedication.

8. Bodyweight bicep curl

Body weight bicep curls eliminates the need for dumbbells or barbells, making it a convenient option for isolating the biceps without the need for traditional weightlifting equipment. So if you fell like you biceps need some extra work this is a good option to try.

How to isolate your biceps with bodyweight curls:

  1. Grab the bar/rings with an underhand (supinated) grip, placing your hands about shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be fully extended, and your body forms a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Curl the bar/rings with the intention of bringing them behind your head by flexing the elbows, and pulling with your arms.
  3. Pause briefly at the top of the movement to maximize muscle engagement.
  4. Lower your body back down in a controlled manner, fully extending your arms.

Focus on the mind-muscle connection and perform the reps with deliberation and control for best results.

9. Rope climbing

Rope climbing is a versatile and challenging exercise that not only targets bicep development but also contributes to overall upper body strength and endurance. The primary function of the biceps is elbow flexion, and climbing a rope involves repeatedly pulling your body upward, engaging the biceps significantly.

How to climb like a monkey for massive biceps:

  1. Start by gripping the rope with both hands, keeping your arms extended.
  2. Use an alternating pattern to climb. As one hand moves up, the other hand follows.
  3. To descend, climb back down in a controlled manner using the hand under hand method (the eccentric parts is just as important, so don’t skip it).
  4. Rest for 2-5 min and repeat for sets.

Make sure the rope is securely anchored and can support your body weight, and opt for a rope with a texture that provides a good grip.

Use weights or bands

Even though calisthenics is our favourite way of training, weights definitely have their place in a well rounded routine.

10. Curls

Doing curls are one of the most effective ways of isolating the bicep, the curls are a single joint movement unlike many of the bodyweight exercises, and provide a unique opportunity for isolating and growing the biceps. If you fell like you biceps are lagging behind or are recovering from a injury (tennis elbow fx.) doing bicep curls is definitely a good use of your time.

How to isolate and grow your biceps with curls:

  1. Choose the right variation for you, some of the best for hypertrophy is the preacher curls and incline curl where there is a lot of load on the bicep in the stretched position.
  2. Select Appropriate Weight: Choose a weight that allows you to perform 8-30 repetitions with proper form. Adjust the weight as needed for different sets.
  3. Full Range of Motion: Ensure you perform a full range of motion by fully extending your arms at the bottom and contracting your biceps at the top.

Top tips for successful curling:

  • Don’t compromise form for heavier weights. Focus on proper technique to maximize bicep activation.
  • Incorporate different curl variations to target various parts of the biceps.

Final thoughts

Training the biceps with calisthenics or bodyweight exercises can be highly effective, when done correctly. However big and strong biceps doesn’t appear overnight, with consistent effort, progressive overload, good nutrition, and proper recovery the results your are after will appear.

References
  1. Sato S, Yoshida R, Kiyono R, Yahata K, Yasaka K, Nunes JP, Nosaka K, Nakamura M. Elbow Joint Angles in Elbow Flexor Unilateral Resistance Exercise Training Determine Its Effects on Muscle Strength and Thickness of Trained and Non-trained Arms. Front Physiol. 2021 Sep 16;12:734509. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.734509. PMID: 34616309; PMCID: PMC8489980.

 

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