Pull-ups are one of the best bicep-building exercises you can do. As an added benefit, these exercises help develop your chest and back muscles. You don't need a gym membership to build your guns — you can easily work out at home with pull-up bar exercises.
Use Proper Form
Use a basic pull-up bar for your biceps workout.
HOW TO DO IT: Hang from a pull-up bar with your palms facing out and your hands shoulder-width apart. You may need to bend your knees and hold your feet behind you if you can still touch the ground while holding the bar.
Using the muscles in your upper back and arms, pull yourself up toward the bar until your chin is above the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down with control.
If you aren't yet strong enough to perform this exercise as prescribed, modify your pull-up by getting help from a spotter or weight-assisted machine.
Pull-Ups for Biceps Mass
The way you grip the bar during your pull-ups changes which shoulder, arm and chest muscles your upper body recruits. However, according to a November 2016 article published by Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, the biceps muscle is recruited equally despite using different grip patterns — supinated, pronated, neutral and wide-grip variations — during this exercise. To build muscle in your arms, incorporate a variety of pull-ups for biceps mass.
Add Some Variety
Add a variety of pull-ups to your workout routine to target different upper body and back muscles while strengthening your biceps.
Parallel-Grip Pull-Up: Use a set of parallel bars (one bar above each shoulder), face your palms toward each other and perform a pull-up.
Wide-Grip Pull-Up: Grip the bar with your hands wider than shoulder width and do a standard pull-up.
One-Arm Pull-Up: Hold on to the bar with only one arm and use your free hand to grasp that arm as you do your pull-up.
Muscle Ups: Once you get to the top of your pull-up, hoist your body above the bar so that your waist is at the level of the pull-up bar.
Plyo Pull-Up: As you do your pull-up, explode over the bar, letting go for a split second before grabbing the bar and finishing your rep. If you can, add a clap at the top of your pull-up.
Mixed-Grip Pull-Up: One hand faces forward, the other faces you. Do your reps then switch your grip.
Close-Grip Pull-Up: Keep your hands close to each other (almost touching) as you perform a standard pull-up.
L-Sit Pull-Up: Hinge at the hips so that your legs are straight out in front of you as you do your pull-ups.
Crossover Pull-Ups: Perform a pull-up. Before doing your next rep, bring your knees over to your right side. On your next rep, raise them to the left.
Up the Ante
Increasing the size of your biceps requires short and intense muscle contraction. But your muscles adapt to whatever workout you do consistently by increasing the number of contractile proteins in your muscles and making your muscle fibers grow larger.
In order to keep seeing results and gaining strength and mass, you need to continue challenging your muscles with a new stimulus. Three ways to accomplish that are:
1. Add Some Weight: Adding weight to your pull-ups means your upper body has to work harder to pull yourself up. Clasp a dumbbell between your ankles or use ankle weights if your body weight is too light. Alternatively, attach weight plates to a dip belt, which you can wear around your waist.
2. Do Some Eccentrics: Eccentric-focused exercises increase the time devoted to lowering your body as your elbows extend during each repetition, which can help you stay within a target rep range, perform more reps or lift heavier weights. Double the amount of time it takes you to lower back to the start. For example, if you usually pull up on a three count and lower on a three count, double your lowering time to six.
3. Add Some Drop Sets: Add drop sets to your biceps pull-up workout. Drop sets are repetitive sets of the same exercise but with slight variations in between sets (usually a drop in weight, making the exercise slightly easier). Start with the most challenging grip and move to the easiest as your body fatigues, allowing your body to do more work overall.
Sample Biceps Pull-Up Workout
If you need a little bit more inspiration to get you started with your biceps workout with a pull-up bar, a few ideas include:
Beginner Pull-Up Workout: Start with just one pull-up on your first day. Each subsequent day, add one more pull-up to your workout. Do this for a month.
Navy SEAL Pull-Up Workout: Do as many pull-ups as you can, being aware that true SEAL candidates aren't allowed to swing, kick or bicycle their legs during the test. Aim for 11 to be considered competitive with SEAL candidates.
Pyramid Pull-Up Workout: Start with as many pull-ups as you can do. Then cut that number by one each set you do. For example, if you can do 10, follow that with nine, then eight, then seven and so on.
Drop Set Pull-Up Workout: Complete as many wide-grip pull-ups as possible; then move to neutral-grip pull-ups. Do as many of those as you can; then finish with as many chin-ups as you can do.