Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 17, 2021

For most folks, the upper arms are probably going to be the one area of the upper body that they get to show off the most.

And while free weights are one of the best ways to do highly targeted biceps training, many of us often underestimate how effective bodyweight exercises like good old-fashioned pull-ups can be (push-ups can also help you build up your arms, but the push-up exercises will focus more on your triceps than biceps).

But before you just start doing some random work on a pull-up bar, let me show you the best bodyweight exercises our team has come up with.

These are the ones we recommend to our clients.

Our Top Bodyweight Biceps Exercises

man in an intense work out

You should be able to add these routines to your bicep workout in many different ways with little more than a pull-up bar and other household items.

1. Inverted Row

man doing inverted rows

Do this for 3 sets of 20 reps.

The inverted row is a great exercise for anyone who can’t quite do a full pull-up.

You’ll need a sturdy bar and set it up about waist high in between two couches or other sturdy pieces of furniture.

Get to the starting position by hanging off the bar with your body straight and heels on the ground, hands gripping onto the bar firmly.

Pull yourself up until your chin reaches the bar and feel how your shoulder blades will pull together. From here, return to the starting position. Repeat.

2. Chin-Ups

guy doing chin ups

Do this for 3 sets of 20 reps.

You’ll ideally have a designated pull-up bar from which you can hang without your feet touching the ground.

Grip onto the bar with both hands a bit less than shoulder-width apart and palms facing towards you.

Start the chin-ups by pulling yourself up until your chin is above the bar and then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

If you struggle to do enough reps, then try to use a chair to take away some of your body weight until you build up enough strength. You can also get down to the push-up position and work your way towards the stronger arms first.

3. Towel Chin-Up

man doing towel chin ups

Do this for 3 sets of 12 reps.

For this bodyweight biceps workout, you’ll need a considerable amount of strength built up in your arms.

I’ve found that you’d probably need to be able to complete at least 15 regular chin-ups to take it to this next stage.

Get a bath towel and throw it over the pullup bar, and slightly twist it to make it easier to grip onto with your hands.

Grab hold of one end in each hand, let yourself hang, and perform a standard chin-up move.

Don’t expect to do as many as regular pull-ups.

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4. Commando Pull-Up

man doing commando pull ups

A regular pull-up won’t do a whole lot for your biceps, but this simple modification will spice it up a lot.

What you need to do for this bodyweight biceps routine is to grip the bar with both hands from opposite sides.

As you’re hanging there, you’ll be looking down the length of the bar rather than straight at it.

Start the movement by flexing both arms and focusing on your biceps to bring on more pumps [1].

“There’s nothing better than feeling your shirtsleeves stretch after a hard workout. Arnold Schwarzenegger once commented that the sensation was even better than sex. But the benefits of getting all pumped-up go beyond mere vanity—research suggests that the process can also hit the accelerator on muscle growth.”

 

- Trevor Thieme, Strength coach and writer at Menshealth.com.

As your head approaches the bar, shift your head position to the right and keep pulling up until your shoulder reaches the bar.

Slowly release back down to change the position and repeat the movement to the left side.

5. Isometric Chin-Up

man doing isometric chin ups

Here’s another one of the bodyweight moves that I think everyone should do to trigger their biceps.

Grab onto the bar firmly with your hands, like you would for a regular chin-up with your palms facing you. Pull yourself up until your head and chin are above the bar.

This is where you want to hold the position with your arms fully engaged for as long as possible.

As soon as you notice your head dipping, lower yourself down again to the starting position.

6. Headbanger

man doing headbangers

This is an advanced exercise, and you’ll need to be strong enough to complete at least 10 regular chin-ups.

For this one, set yourself up by holding onto the bar with palms facing you and about shoulder-width apart.

Pull yourself up until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle with your biceps fully engaged.

From here, pull your body and head towards the bar without increasing the height you’re at.

It’s almost like you’re banging your head against the bar, which explains the name of the exercise.

A bonus information: just make sure you don’t get too enthusiastic; I’ve seen one or two bruises caused by these moves.

7. Resistance Band Biceps Curl

man doing resistance band bicep curls

Another great way to work your biceps without a set of free weights or pull-up bar is to turn to a resistance band set.

Stand up tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and the exercise band running under your feet.

Your arms should be straight down next to your body while holding onto the handles of the band in both hands.

Check that there’s already a bit of tension on the band before you start the curl, as you want to engage your biceps right from the start.

 

8. TRX Band Biceps Curl

woman doing trx band bicep curls

Our final bodyweight bicep recommendation requires a set of TRX or suspension bands [2].

Secure the bands to a wall in front of you, ideally at quite a high point to give you more of an angle on the straps.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the handles in front of your chest.

Slowly let yourself lean back until your arms are in a straight line with the bands, holding that position.

Keep your body perfectly straight and allow your biceps to do all the work by curling up while bringing you back to a standing position.

It’s one of those bodyweight workouts where the more you lean back, the tougher it gets.

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How Will These Bodyweight Bicep Exercises Fit Into Your Routine?

Whether you plan to do some upper arm work at home or just want to change things around a bit at the gym, your arms and biceps muscle will thank you for the bodyweight training.

The above exercises are easy to implement into your training plans with little more than a chin-up bar to get you going.

Try them out, and then report back to us what have these moves done for your biceps.


References:

  1. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19520337/muscle-pump-builds-size-and-strength/
  2. https://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2016/08/31/trx-bands

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