How To Use Bodyweight Training To Get Massive Biceps

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
November 09, 2015

Have ever wondered how you to get massive biceps?

I have.

In fact, getting big biceps was one of the most important goals I used to have.

When I started training, I thought that I could only grow my biceps with weightlifting and so I enrolled in a gym and I started training with exercises like bicep curls, hammer curls, etc.

huge biceps

However, despite feeling the pump in my biceps, my wrists started to hurt and so I had to stop weight lifting for a while.

Fortunately, I had some experience with chin ups and I turned my attention towards calisthenics exercises to accomplish my goal of having bigger biceps.

Even though I didn’t know much about muscle building or training in general back then, my biceps started to grow really fast.

I was really amazed since all I was doing was trying to getter better at chin ups.

But Todd, is it really possible to get huge biceps with only calisthenics exercises?

The answer is… Yes!

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at gymnasts or some street calisthenics legends like Hannibal.

Their biceps are huge!

And they train only (or mostly) with bodyweight exercises.

Todd, I have been training with bodyweight exercises for quite a while, but I haven’t gotten the results I have been looking for. What am I doing wrong? Why don’t my biceps grow bigger?

Just training with calisthenics exercises isn’t enough.

If you want your biceps to grow bigger, your calisthenics training plan has to be in alignment with the irrefutable laws of muscle building.

How To Build Muscle With Calisthenics

gymnastics biceps

If you want to grow bigger biceps, you will have to build muscle.

So, in this section I am going to cover briefly some of the basics of calisthenics muscle building.

The Muscle Building Principles

As I said in the beginning, if you want to grow your biceps with calisthenics training, your training program should use muscle building principles.

These principles are (ordered in terms of importance to muscle building):

  • Time under tension
  • Lifestyle (rest and nutrition)
  • Progressive Overload
  • Muscle Isolation
  • Split training

You don’t have to apply all of these principles to build muscle, but having all of them is place is the most efficient and fastest way to build massive biceps (or any other muscle).

Time Under Tension

This is the most important training principle for muscle building.

Even if you get all the other principles right, if you miss this one, your muscle building results won’t be as exciting and it will take you longer to achieve your goal.

One reason people can’t build muscle with calisthenics is that they either train with very low reps (3-5) and very hard exercises or train with very high reps (15+) with relatively easy exercises.

In the first case, there is a lot of intensity, but the time under it is brief and not enough to tear down the muscle. In the second case, there is lots of time under tension but the intensity is very low.

To build muscle, you will have to balance these two ways of training, by using exercises that are of moderate intensity and train with lots of volume.

To increase the volume you can do some of these simple things:

  • Train with slow reps (3-5 seconds up and 3-5 seconds down).
  • Train withing the 8-12 rep range.
  • Perform multiple sets.
  • Rest briefly between sets (1-2 minutes).
  • Train the muscle from multiple angles (angular training).

Lifestyle (Rest and Nutrition)

The second most important principle is your rest and nutrition.

In terms of rest, you simply have to sleep at least 8 hours every night so that your muscles can recover fully from your workouts.

Of course, if you are practicing recovery exercises (like foam rolling), so much the better.

In terms of nutrition, you will have to consume the necessary calories to build muscle.

Since you want to build more muscle you will have to increase your caloric intake as well.

One of the easiest ways to increase your caloric intake is to GOMAD.

Progressive Overload

The third principle in importance is progressive overload.

After a while, as you get stronger, your chosen exercises are going to become easier and thus the intensity is going to drop.

This problem can be easily dealt with by gradually progressing to harder moves as you are getting stronger.

Make sure to keep applying the time under tension principle.

Muscle Isolation

One of the most common questions I have been getting in regards to muscle building is this:

Todd, I want to build muscle, should I use isolation or compound exercises?

Well… it depends.

I consider isolation exercises to be better suited for those who have already built some muscle and want to reach the next level.

If you are a beginner, you should focus your attention on compound movements to get a better foundation.

Split Training

Split training refers to when you split your training into different body parts per day.

This is very good for muscle building since you can focus all of your attention in specific muscle groups and increase time under tension.

13 Calisthenics Exercises For Your Biceps

pull ups

In this section, you are going to find all the exercises that are going to be used in this program. Some more variations are going to be included so that you have more options in case you get bored.

The exercises are going to be divided into pulling, pushing and isometric exercises. The pulling exercises are also using the back muscles while the pushing exercises the chest muscles.

Pulling Exercises

Bicep Exercise #1: Pull ups

As Pavel in the video, says your form determines if you the pull ups focus on your biceps or back. For our purpose you should use the one that targets the biceps more.

Bicep Exercise #2: Horizontal Pull ups

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmpBroOPbZg

Similarly to regular pull ups, focus on bringing your wrists to the elbow to target the biceps more.

Bicep Exercise #3: Typewriter pull up

Even though this is a great tutorial, in the typewriter pull ups you have to go from side to side without going down, like Frank does in this video.

Bicep Exercise #4: Archer pull up

Bicep Exercise #5: Frenchies

To complete one rep, you have to complete 3 isometric holds in the top position, at 90 degrees and over 90 degrees angle for of 5-10 seconds.

Pushing Exercises

Most people think that you can train your biceps only with pulling motions and focus most of their attention at them. But that’s not true. You can target your biceps with pushing exercises as well.

Bicep Exercise #6: Pseudo planche push ups

Having the fingers pointing back puts more emphasis on the biceps. You can make this exercise more difficult by putting your legs on an elevated surface.

Bicep Exercise #7: Pelican push ups

This is a very advanced variation of push ups and not appropriate for beginners. To progress safely towards this movement, train with partial reps and gradually increase the depth of the push up.

Bicep Exercise #8: Korean dips

Isometric Exercises

In this category we have some of the most difficult exercises. Progressing towards these movements will not only help you build huge biceps, but also increase your overall strength.

The more advanced moves come from gymnastics.

Bicep Exercise #9: Pull up Iso Hold

Bicep Exercise #10: Isometric Bicep Curls

You can find more information about isometric holds here.

Bicep Exercise #11: Elbow Lever

Bicep Exercise #12: Back Lever

Bicep Exercise #13: The Plance

How To Develop Balanced & Aesthetic Arms

chin ups

Fortunately, training with calisthenics leads most of the times to balanced results.

However, you should avoid focusing solely on bicep development and leaving the other parts of the arm untrained.

In fact, training the whole arm evenly is going to lead to superior results, as your arms are going to look bigger and more aesthetic. Don’t forget that the triceps are a bigger muscle group than the biceps and that they are an essential part of having massive arms.

For this reason, your training program should have at least a day dedicated to triceps. For triceps development you can use push ups variations such us diamond push ups, triceps extensions, dips, etc.

Furthermore, another part that needs to be trained is the forearms. Luckily, the forearms are going to get a lot of work with the pull ups, but you can train them even more by using fat grips, towel or rope for your pulling exercises.

Warming Up & Cooling Down

horizontal rows biceps

Since your training program is going to have some days completely focused on bicep development, it makes sense to have some warm up and cool down routines appropriately adjusted to your training.

The most important thing for your warm up is to prepare your biceps for the hard work, while the cool down helps relieve the tension from the biceps.

Your warm up and cool down routines don’t have to be completely different from a regular warm up or cool down routine.

In fact, you can just add some exercises that focus on your biceps on your current routines.

The Warm Up

Some of the exercises you can add to your warm up routine are these:

So if your warm ups looked like this:

A: 3-5 minutes jump rope

B: 1-2 minutes shoulder 8’s

C: Wrist conditioning

You could simply add one (or more) of the three options after exercise C.

The Cool Down

Some of the exercises you can add to your cool down are these:

  • 2-5 minutes biceps foam rolling
  • 2-5 minutes bicep stretching

Similarly to the warm up, you can add any of these options at the end of your existing cool down routine. If you don’t have a cool down routine, you can use this one.

A: 2-5 minutes lats stretch or foam rolling

B: 2-5 minutes pecs stretch or foam rolling

C: 2-5 minutes biceps stretch or foam rolling

D: 2-5 minutes triceps stretch or foam rolling

The Massive-Biceps Training Plan

So, after all this intro, it’s time to dive right into the training programs.

Since the biceps are a small muscle group, to avoid over training the muscle there are going to be only two days dedicated to biceps training. The other three training days are going to be dedicated to legs and core (2 days) and to triceps (1 day).

In addition, for this workout plan you will have to choose one isometric skill to achieve. For the achievement of the isometric skill you can follow a rep scheme as seen in the Prilepin Tables.

If you choose the back lever, you can as well train for the front lever for balance. If you do that, however, the workout is going to be more focused on strength and it will be hard to complete the rest of the exercises. But it’s up to you to decide.

Workout #1: Pulling Focused Workout

A: Gymnastic Skill Training

B: 4x(8-12) reps Pull up variation

C: 4x(8-12)reps Horizontal Pull up variation

D: 4×5 reps eccentric chin ups (optional)

Notes

  • For the gymnastic skill, you should rest 3-5 minutes between sets.
  • For exercises B, C and D you should rest 1-2 minutes between sets.
  • During exercise D, your eccentric descent should last 10-15 seconds.
  • Exercise D is optional and you can perform it as a finisher.
  • The exercises should be modified during the workout so that you can successfully complete at least 8 reps. To do that you can add some assistance using a chair or elastic bands.
  • You should choose different training variation by changing the grip at each workout, so that you can target your biceps from multiple angles.

Workout #2: Pull/ Push Combination

A: Gymnastic Skill Training

B: 4x(8-12) reps Korean dips (or any other bicep focused pushing)

C: 4x(3-5) reps frenchies

D: 4(3-5) reps horizontal frenchies

Notes

  • Similar to Workout #1.

Workout #3: Triceps Focused

A: Gymnastic Skill Training

B: 4x(8-12) reps push up variation

C: 4x(8-12) reps bench dips

D: 4x(8-12) reps triceps extensions (optional)

Notes

  • Similar to Workout #1.

The training program

The training program is going to have 5 training days per week.

  • 2 days for biceps
  • 2 days for legs and core
  • 1 day for triceps

Every 4th or 5th week is going to be a deload week, in which you will drop the intensity to allow your biceps and the rest of the muscles to recover fully. Weeks 1-3 are going to be the same in terms of structure, so here I am going to only present one week.

Week #1:

Monday: Workout #1
Tuesday: Leg + core
Wednesday: Workout #2
Thursday: Leg + core
Friday: Workout #3
Saturday: optional workout or rest
Sunday: Rest

Notes

  • During the sixth day (Saturday), you can train you biceps with a less strenuous bicep workout (e.g. half of workout #1), train your core or rest.
  • During your rest days, I would recommend you to practice foam rolling sessions to recover faster.

Conclusion

big biceps

Some people consider training for aesthetics useless.

But this ain’t true at all.

Getting more muscular and having a more aesthetic body can help you a lot in developing your confidence and being more motivated to train harder.

As such, getting massive biceps is definitely a goal worth achieving.

Go for it!

Do you have any question in regards to getting huge biceps only with calisthenics?

If so, feel free to comment below. I would love to help you out.

– Bodyweight Todd

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