5 Chin Up Modifications To Help You Get Bigger Biceps

October 21, 2021

chin ups for biceps

 

Do you wish you had bigger biceps?

Some people turn to lifting heavy weights. Over time, however, this method can put tremendous strain on your wrists, low back and other areas. I remember getting frustrated in the gym many years ago because as soon as I began to lift the easy curl bar my right wrist would start screaming in pain. After doing a set of curls my wrist would hurt so bad I couldn’t do much else except complain about how much I hated lifting weights.

When I switched over to body weight exercises I incorporated the chin up into my routine and fell in love.  Most people say the chin up is effective for building your biceps but only to a certain point. Yet if you adjust how you do your chin ups you can continue to build size over the long haul. I’ll show you how.

How It All Began…

My love affair with the chin up actually started when I was much younger. I used to have chin up contests with my dad every week. I’d usually make him go first so I would have a clear number to shoot for.

We laid some ground rules before the contest started. On the “down” part of the chin up you had to go at least to parallel. On the “up” part you had to get your chin above the bar… otherwise it didn’t count.

During the contest we would crank out more and more until the lactic acid built up in our arms and we would collapse to the floor. I enjoyed these contests so much because I saw it as a way of showing my dad how strong I was. Now I realize that it was more than just a contest. It was a bonding experience. It brought us closer together. The chin up contest was “our thing” and to this day it brings a smile to my face.

We have not had a contest in quite some time but those early days set in motion my belief in the power of the chin up. It can build up your biceps and bring your family closer.

What’s not to love? 

Yet getting bigger biceps with chin ups is not just about cranking out more and more reps. There are some specific methods that you need to apply to your routine in order to get bigger.

I created a “1 Month Bigger Bicep Chin Up Plan” that you can download and follow. You’ll find it at the end of the article.

5 Ways to Build Bicep Mass with The Chin Up

1. Go Slowly

Speed has a huge effect on how you tear muscle tissue. When you perform an exercise as fast as you can, as with the plyometric, you are concentrating your efforts on training the nervous system. The motor units are firing faster so you can perform the movement quicker. This helps with agility & speed for basketball players and reflexive quickness for martial arts but does very little for developing muscle mass. The time under tension needs to be longer with each set and going slower is the key.

How long should each rep take? It should take 3-5 seconds for the “up” portion and 3-5 seconds for the “down” portion. When you count how many seconds it takes to perform each rep it will help you keep the necessary time under tension.

2. Incorporate Eccentric Chin Ups

Eccentrics is the portion of the movement when your muscle is elongating.  It is by far one of the best ways of tearing muscle tissue. The eccentric portion of the chin up is during the down part. In order to do an effective eccentric chin up just focus on the eccentric portion of the movement. That means that you will use a chair or other item to step up so that your chin is above the bar… then lower slowly for the eccentric part. When you get to the floor step up again. The goal is fatigue the muscle on just the eccentric part, not the concentric part.

The best time to implement eccentric chin ups is when your muscle is already pre-fatigued. In the bicep training program below I’ll show you exactly what I mean.

3. Stay In An 8-12 Rep Range For Each Set

You MUST, MUST, MUST stay in the right rep range. The sweet spot is between 8-12 reps. When you stay in a rep range less than that you are targeting muscular strength. When you are in a rep range higher than that you are targeting muscular endurance. 8-12 is the perfect range for hypertrophy or growth.

So how do you make sure that you totally fatigue within this rep range? You must always be modifying your form so that you are forced to stop in this range.

For example, say you are a beginner chin up dude and can only do a few chin ups. Don’t think in your head, “I can’t do 8 reps so I guess I’ll start off with 4 and eventually work my way up.” No! If you want to build some nice looking guns don’t do that. Do half the set of chin ups without support and do the other half with your feet on a chair. That way, you’re muscles will fatigue within the right rep range for growth to occur.

The same thing applies to when you are in your 7th or 8th set. Don’t stop at 4 reps and say, “Well, its my last set… of course I won’t be able to do as many.” Put your feet on the chair for some of the last reps so that you totally fatigue within the 8-12 rep range.

What if I can crank out 20-25 chin ups in a row? How do I fatigue in an 8-12 rep range?

I’m glad you asked. In this case you need to implement a technique called body weight distribution. Shift your weight so that one of your arms is taking more of the load. It might be a 70/30% split. Do this for a few reps. Then once you start fatiguing go back to a 50/50 to make sure that you fatigue within the right rep range.

Here’s the short of it: Do whatever modification it takes so that you totally fatigue within the 8-12 rep range.

4. Rest For Only 60 Seconds

Many people forget the importance of rest between sets. If you are working on skill work such as planches, handstands, etc. than you need to rest for long periods of time like 3-4 minutes. The reason is because you are targeting the nervous system. If you rest for short periods of time than your muscles fatigue and you can’t hit your central nervous system as hard.

When we are focusing on muscle growth you DO want the muscles to fatigue. When you rest for 60 seconds it gives your body enough time to remove some of the waste products of the exercise yet not so much that it fully recovers.

Here’s a quick visual guide to rep ranges and rest periods:

When targeting muscular endurance: Do more than 12 reps: Rest for 15-30 seconds between sets

When targeting muscular growth: Do 8-12 reps: Rest for 60 seconds between sets

When targeting skill work/strength development: Do 6-8 reps (or less): Rest for 3-4 minutes between sets

5. Go For Higher Volume of Sets

You must cause bicep muscle damage in order for it to grow back stronger and bigger. You are not going to do that with just 1 or 2 sets. The best way to do it is with multiple sets. I recommend the magic number of 8 total sets. Each subsequent set helps you bring the muscle to a greater and greater level of fatigue.

The 1 Month Bigger Biceps Chin Up Plan

I created the plan below to help you get bigger biceps using the chin up. The plan incorporates each of the above principles. Pick a split where you have at least one day off in between workout days: Ie – Mon/Wed/Fri or Tues/Thurs/Sat.

Week 1: Ramp Up Week

Day 1: 
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 60 second rest between sets

Day 2:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 60 second rest between sets

Day 3:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 60 second rest between sets

Week 2: Work It Hard Week

Day 1:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 60 second rest between sets
Eccentric Chin Ups – 4 Sets – 60 second rest between sets
(Eccentric Chin Up explanation: Start in the up position of a chin up. Lower yourself down for a 5-10 second count. Get back up to starting position by stepping on to a chair. Do this for 8-12 total reps/ 4 sets).

Day 2:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 60 second rest between sets
Eccentric Chin Ups – 4 Sets – 60 second rest between sets (see explanation above)

Day 3:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 60 second rest between sets
Eccentric Chin Ups – 4 Sets – 60 second rest between sets (see explanation above)

Week 3: Bicep Destroyer Week

Day 1:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 45 second rest between sets
Eccentric Chin Ups – 4 Sets – 45 second rest between sets (see explanation above)
Chin Up Pyramid – 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 (Start with two reps. Rest 30 seconds before doing four reps. Continue with six, eight and 10 before attempting to go back down. Make it as far as possible with good form. If you have to use a chair because your muscles are so blasted thats fine.)

Day 2:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 45 second rest between sets
Eccentric Chin Ups – 4 Sets – 45 second rest between sets
Chin Up Pyramid – 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2

Day 3:
Chin Ups – 8 Sets – 45 second rest between sets
Eccentric Chin Ups – 4 Sets – 45 second rest between sets
Chin Up Pyramid – 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2

Week 4: Active Recovery

Don’t do any major bicep work during this week. You can do some light static holds (hold the chin up bar for 30 seconds) but that is it. Let your biceps fully recover.

Nutrition for Biceps

You MUST, MUST, MUST be eating enough protein and enough calories in order for you to grow your biceps. You can’t work out like a maniac and think you are going to grow. It just doesn’t work that way. Here is a great resource for learning how many calories and protein to consume.

Follow the advice above and you’ll be showing off those guns in no time!

-Todd

Photo: chin up,

Show/Hide Comments (37 comments)
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37 Comments
  1. clive

    I heat 5 sets of 10 chip ups slowly . it is bad to do that? if not what are the benefits?

    Reply
  2. rock

    Hello friends
    Which exercise is best for grow our height chin up or push up? And I’m 19

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi there,

      There’s no exercise that increases height as far as I know. If you’re not an adult yet, try to get proper nutrition to reach your growth potential.

      – Todd

      Reply
  3. ziyyad

    Hi there,just wanna ask,i wanna to increase my bicep size fastly,is this plan really effective to add size the bicep in 1 month? Just wanna ask,please answer,thanks.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Ziyyad,

      It absolutely is effective. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

      – Todd

      Reply
  4. Julian

    I dont believe it will help me at all. I train Bodyweight exercises for 3 years now and always focused on the Basics.. I habe developed a great chest, lats, and deltoids, core from it. But my biceps never got a nice peak. Not even the chin ups help.. Tried it all. Slow, fast, close grip chin ups, my bis never get a nice “ball shape”.. Will maybe hit the weights to improve that.. Idk every kind of pull ups i do i only feel in my back.

    Reply
  5. Prajol

    So may I continue with my thumbless grip chinups!!!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Absolutely.

      – Todd

      Reply
  6. Prajol

    Hey brother. One question.my chinup bar is very thick. So I dont wrap my thumb around the bar. I put my thumb on the side of rest of my fingers. Does this does any negative effect to biceps growth? I really want big biceps.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Prajol,

      The difference that that would make is very negligible, don’t bother thinking about it.

      – Todd

      Reply
  7. Strus

    If want to put more tension on your biceps, try to put your shoulder to your wrist. It is that simple!
    Then go slower, use wide grip and so on

    Reply
  8. Tiaan

    Great advice and a well written article- can’t wait to get started on this program and also to explore the rest of the website! I’ll be sharing with all my friends & social media connections 4 sure 🙂 Thanks again, I’ll be sure to share my progress after 1 month!!

    Reply
  9. Ignatius

    Hey Todd, great article ! Just wondering if the 8sets times 8-12 reps work for bicep curls too? Right now I’m using curls to target biceps and pull ups to target back. Can pull ups totally replace bicep curls?

    Reply
  10. MOFO69

    This workout structure can be applied to basically any body weight exercise, correct?

    Reply
  11. Prashant

    If I do 3 days a week this schedule and 3 days a week some abs schedule, would it be too exhausting?

    Reply
  12. MOFO69

    Is this workout focused on volume or will it help me get stronger as well?

    Reply
  13. Nelson

    Hello Todd ,
    When you say , do 4 full reps and 4 repetitions on the bench ( for those who can not make a total of 8 ) , as is the full repetition with the bank ?
    Start from the top and put your foot on the bench, or start on the bench and you do your chin up ?

    thank you

    Nelson ( Brazil ) .

    Reply
  14. Adam

    Hey Todd after the one month plan what do I do then do I just do a recycle of it and if I do how many months shall I do it for

    Reply
  15. Gary

    Dennis is right! You’re the man Todd. This is what I need. Thanks

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      LOL! Thanks Gary. 😉

      Reply
  16. ALex

    Hey Todd,

    I’m confused about 8 set rule. Are you saying that for each exercise there must be 8 sets of it or for the entire workout?

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Alex,

      8 sets for most exercises. You can couple them with other styles of training to maximize muscle tear such as eccentric training, pyramids, etc. Remember that it takes a lot to fatigue the muscle. Doing one set will not be enough.

      Reply
  17. Mark Dettman

    A quick question about your description of doing the chin up. When you say that on the “down” part of the chin-up you had to go to at least parallel, what exactly do you mean by that. When I do chin ups I go all the way down to where my arms are completely (or almost completely) extended, like I was just hanging. I do keep a small amount of flexion in the elbow to avoid possibly hyper-extending it.

    Also, I assume that you are employing the underhand grip when doing these?

    Thanks for the advice.
    -Mark

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, I now go all the way down. When I was doing contests with my dad we just did it our own way. I’d recommend that you go all the way down. 🙂

      And yes, underhand grip.

      Todd

      Reply
  18. john

    ohhh impressive
    but i had another question
    if i worked on the my endurance will i still get bigger and stronger muscle or it just improve my endurance?
    if i worked on growing my muscle will i still get stronger muscle and improve my endurance?
    if i worked on getting stronger will my muscle still get bigger and my endurance improve?

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi John,
      Sounds like you are looking for the most efficient method of exercising to get the most bang for the buck.

      I would recommend choosing a specific goal and then working on it. Don’t rely on strength exercises, for example, to get better endurance or endurance exercise to get bigger.

      Fun questions. 🙂
      Todd

      Reply
  19. Dennis Habern

    Hey Todd:

    Greetings from Germany.

    I have problems with my shoulders, therefore, currently, I cannot participate in

    the Dips or Chin-ups. Any suggestion how I can break-in to accomplishing

    Dips and Chin-Ups at a slow pace?

    dennishabern@hotmail.com

    Thanks.

    Dennis

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hey Dennis,

      Can you explain your question again? Do mean that you are wanted to do dips & chin ups even through you have shoulder problems?

      Reply
  20. john

    dude how do you know this principle is right?
    i mean how did you conclude the principle of reps range?

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hey John, Good for you to question. There’s a ton of bologna out there. Look up “rep ranges for hypertrophy” on any scholarly sports performance database (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research) and you’ll find this to be very standard. Nothing too innovative here.

      Reply
    • Steve

      Personally I love your advice Todd. I think people tend to waaay over-complicate everything about their training. They fret about the ideal rep range, whether to eat 2000 or 2100 calories, whether to train at 7 am or 8 am etc… Your advice is simple, easy to follow, but effective. Far better taking action on your advice than reading 200 fitness blogs and not doing anything. Thanks!

      Reply
  21. Joshua

    That is a good list, I would add two comments.
    1. Change grip width, some normal, some wide, some narrow, yes you will end up using more forearms/lats/back… but you also will hit the biceps from different angels which can help.
    2. if you cant do 8, you can use bands for assist (wrap a band around the bar and either stand on it or have your knees on it), if you can do a lot then a weightvest is a good way to limit your # of reps (and a good vest will have a decent amount of range so you can start low and keep adding weight as you improve). If you don’t want to buy a vest you can try holding a dumbbell with your feet or using a dip belt.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hey Joshua,

      Great suggestions! I also have a weight vest and it goes from 2.5lbs up to 100lbs so occasionally I’ll break that out along with modifying my weight distribution.

      Todd

      Reply
  22. Musab

    Thanks for the important info
    Does the rep range principle applies also on on the other body parts like push ups for chest or sit ups for abs?

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Musab. Yes, always 8-12 for any body part. 🙂

      Reply
  23. Phil

    This is great! I love chin-ups, but they have become too easy and I don’t know how to safely add weight. I will start incorporating the weight shifting and the slow movement and see how that works out.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Great Phil! How’s the handstands going? I know you asked about them a little while ago.

      Reply
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