The Calisthenics Bicep Workout: 7 Best Exercises You Can Do At Home

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Can you build biceps with calisthenics?

Yes- you just have to get creative with your exercises.

In this post, you will learn:

  • the top 7 bodyweight exercises for building strong biceps,
  • a calisthenics bicep workout you can do at home with minimal equipment,
  • other alternatives if you don’t have a bar

Let’s get started.

calisthenic-bicep-workout

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Okay, let’s get started.

Can you build biceps with calisthenics?

You can build your biceps with calisthenics as long as you focus on the right exercises, and do them with good form.

Specifically, you need to do mix and match a variety of pulling exercises to get the best results.

Also, it is important to build a mind-muscle connection with your bicep muscles. This means that you actively focus on feeling the bicep contracting during each exercise.

Lastly, control the eccentric. This means that you slow down the lowering phase of the exercise. Doing this will increase the time under tension of your biceps, which has been shown to correlate with muscle hypertrophy.

Let’s go over the exercises now.

What calisthenics movements work the biceps?

The biceps has three functions:

1. To flex the elbow

2. To supinate the forearm (turn the palm up)

3. To flex the shoulder

So any bodyweight exercise that does these three things will train the biceps to an extent.

I’ll go over the best exercises in just a moment.

Equipment You Will Need

Bodyweight training often doesn’t need a lot of equipment to get an amazing workout. But to get the most out of bicep training, you should invest in some equipment.

You only need two things:

A Pull-up Bar

At this point, there are so many different types of pull-up bars you can get.

They range from

  • a simple metal bar
  • to ones that can be mounted on your doorway,
  • to fully-stocked pull-up stations.

This is such an essential piece of equipment, you should get one ASAP.

Here is the one I have (which is a steal on Amazon).

Gymnastic Rings

The second thing you’ll need is gymnastic rings.

This is the most versatile piece of equipment you can get and it attaches right to your pull-up bar.

Rings will allow you to rotate your hands freely, and unlock the ability to do all kinds of horizontal pushing and pulling exercises.

They come in wood or plastic varieties. I recommend wood as they are of better quality.

Okay, on to the exercises.

The best bodyweight bicep exercises

In this next section, I’ll cover the best calisthenics exercises for the biceps. Some of the movements are advanced, but I also cover how to make them easier.

Commando Pull ups

Commando pull-ups are a fun exercise that focuses on elbow flexion and a bit of shoulder flexion as well.

  • Grab the pull-up bar with a neutral grip. (with your palms facing each other as you stand perpendicular to the bar).
  • Play around with the distance between your hands to find what’s comfortable. (The closer the better).
  • Begin by flexing your elbows and lifting your body up toward the bar.
  • You will need to bring your head to one side of the bar so that your trap muscle makes contact with the bar.
  • Lower yourself slowly back to the starting position.
  • On the next repetition, bring your head to the opposite side of the bar.
  • Repeat this movement for reps, focusing on doing the eccentric slowly.

To make this exercise easier, simply jump up to the top position and slowly lower yourself down.

One Arm Chin Up Negatives

One arm chin-up negatives is an advanced exercise that really overloads the biceps. There are many ways to scale it depending on your fitness level. It is one of the best ways to completely overload the biceps!

Here’s how to do it.

  • Use a chair or a bench to get to the top chin-up position (hands supinated – facing you).
  • Next, take one hand and slide it as far out to the side as you can, straightening the elbow while still holding on to the bar.
  • From here, engage your core and slowly lower yourself down.
  • Do this slowly, and keep your elbow close to your body.
  • As you are descending, really focus on the mind-muscle bicep connection.
  • Jump back up to the starting position and repeat with your other hand.

To make this exercise easier, don’t straighten the non-working elbow all the way. The more elbow bend, the more assistance it can provide.

Headbangers

The next exercise is the headbanger. This movement requires a good deal of balance, but very effective if done properly.

  • Grab the pull-up bar with an overhand grip at a shoulder-width distance.
  • Get into the top of the pull-up position and pause at the top.
  • From here, begin pushing away from the bar by straightening your elbows and leaning back slightly.
  • Try not to let your body lower at all and stay at the same height.
  • Then, quickly pull yourself back closer to the bar by flexing your elbows. Pretend as if you were going to bang your head into the bar.
  • Continue alternating from a flexed elbow and extended elbow position in a quick but controlled manner.

To scale this exercise back, feel free to keep your feet on a bench or a chair to offload some of your body weight.

Horizontal Bodyweight Ring Curls

Now we will isolate the biceps with the rings. These are also known as upside down curls. The rings will allow you to train both elbow flexion and supination.

  • Position yourself horizontally under the rings and grab the rings with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  • Your hands should be shoulder-width apart on the ring handles.
  • Feel free to bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your spine straight, your core tight, and your glutes engaged.
  • Ideally, your body should be in a straight line with your knees making a 90-degree angle.
  • Curl both of your arms as you bring the rings toward your forehead.
  • Rotate your hands so that they are completely supinated at the top.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body and do not let your hips sag.
  • Pause at the top and feel the peak bicep contraction.
  • Slowly lower the eccentric and repeat.

To make this movement easier, change the angle by making your back more perpendicular.

Inverted Row With Supinated Grip (On Rings)

Next is the supinated grip row. This great exercise will train both your back muscles as well as your biceps.

  • Position yourself horizontally under the rings and grab the rings with a supinated/ underhand grip.
  • Your hands should be shoulder-width apart on the ring handles.
  • Feel free to bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your spine straight, your core tight, and your glutes engaged.
  • Ideally, your body should be in a straight line with your knees making a 90-degree angle.
  • From here, pull your chest up toward the ring by flexing your elbows and squeezing your biceps.
  • Hold the top position for 1 second and slowly lower yourself back down.

To make this movement easier, change the angle by making your back more perpendicular.

Close Grip Pull-Up Isometrics

The next exercise is an isometric exercise, which means you’ll hold the end contraction for time.

The close grip will help activate the arm muscle more.

  • Start with your hands closer than shoulder-width apart on an overhead bar.
  • Use a chair or a bench to jump up to the top of a pull-up position.
  • Squeeze your biceps as tight as possible then hold the end range.
  • Your biceps will begin to give out, at which time you will slowly lower yourself into an eccentric.

Korean Ring Dip (AKA The Bicep Dip)

The Korean Ring Dip is an advanced exercise that trains the chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps.

It also trains your shoulder stabilizer muscles as well.

Do not attempt them unless you are comfortable performing ring dips already.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Position the rings shoulder-width apart and jump up to the supported ring dip support position.
  • From here, turn your hands out completely (supination) and maintain this position throughout the entire set.
  • Begin bending your elbows, and allowing your torso to lean forward a bit as you lower into the dip.
  • Really focus on keeping your hands turned out.
  • At the bottom, retract your shoulder blades and keep your shoulders externally rotated.
  • Make sure to have full control throughout the entire movement.

To make this movement easier, only do the eccentric portion of the exercise.

Okay, so that’s how you get big biceps with bodyweight and a little equipment,

Now let’s go over some exercises that you can do without a bar.

Calisthenics Biceps Exercises Without A Bar

If you don’t have any equipment, you can actually do different types of push-up exercises to train your biceps.

How?

Because the biceps work to stabilize your elbow joint when your elbow is extended, and it works to flex your shoulders to a degree.

As a result, you can manipulate your hand placement to activate the bicep in a pushing exercise.

Here’s how:

Reverse Grip Pushups

To do the reverse grip biceps push-up, you will need to make sure that your starting position is correct.

If you don’t have the proper form, it won’t work.

  • Place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart with your fingers pointing backward.
  • Assume a push-up position, keeping your core tight, your glutes engaged, and your spine neutral.
  • Next, lean forward so that your shoulders are in front of your hands. This is the only way to ensure your biceps get activated.
  • From here, do a push-up, ensuring that you are tucking your elbows in, close towards your body.
  • It is important to maintain a forward lean the entire time you do this exercise.

Still don’t think this trains the biceps?

Try this.

Pretend as if you are doing the reverse grip push-up while standing against a wall.

Stand up close to the wall to imitate that you are in the bottom position of a push-up.

Place your hands down by your navel, and make sure your fingers are pointing toward the floor.

Now, push against the wall as if you were trying to extend the elbow.

As you are doing this, take one hand and touch your opposite bicep.

What do you feel?

One-Handed Wall Pulls

To do this exercise, you will need a door frame or a sturdy pole to do it.

  • Find a sturdy door frame that can support your body weight.
  • Grab the door with both hands at the level of your upper chest.
  • Place your feet as close to the frame as possible and lean back slightly.
  • Next, straighten both arms so that you are completely leaning back and supporting yourself with your hands.
  • From here, let go with one hand so that you are only supporting yourself with one hand.
  • Begin pulling yourself toward the frame until your chest makes contact.
  • Really focus on squeezing the bicep as much as possible.

Resistance Bands Bicep Curls

If you don’t have a bar or rings, your last option is to get resistance bands.

These are the ones I recommend.

band-exercises-for-arms

With bands, you can do a ton of bicep curl work as if you were using a dumbbell.

Just don’t forget to focus on the mind-muscle connection, and time under tension!

Calisthenics Biceps Workout Program

Alright now let’s get to the biceps bodyweight workout program.

ExerciseSetsReps
Commando Pull-ups38-10
Reverse Grip Push-ups310
Supine Bodyweight Rows312
Resistance Band Bicep Curls320

Do this workout two times per week, swapping out the movements as you see necessary.

As you can see this workout focuses on compound movements.

I.e, many of the exercises target several muscle groups in the upper arm (and upper body) to make your training efficient!

You should never focus purely on one muscle group. It is important that you become a well-rounded human by training all the muscles in your body evenly.

That is why I designed a simple at-home calisthenics workout template that anyone can follow.

Just enter your email below to get started!

The WCT Calisthenics Workout Tempates

Included you will recieve two different templates
A 4 Day/Week Upper Lower Workout Template A 3 Day/Week Push Pull Legs Template
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Other Related Questions

How many times a week should I work out my biceps?

You should train your biceps at least twice a week. Since the biceps are a small muscle group, it is unlikely that you will overtrain them.

With that said, all kinds of pulling exercises will train biceps to a degree. As a result, you might inadvertently find yourself hitting your biceps muscles when training your back.

Do push-ups work your biceps?

Traditional regular push-ups work your triceps, chest, and front deltoids muscles.

However, if you reverse your grip and lean forward, as you would when doing a pseudo planche push-up, your biceps will get activated.

That’s because this movement causes your shoulders to be in a constant in a flexed state. As you might recall, shoulder flexion is one of the main functions of the bicep muscle.

Do planks work biceps?

Planks do not train the bicep muscles, especially if you are performing a forearm plank.

The planche exercise, on the other hand, does train the biceps via isometric contraction.

That’s because the planche requires a large degree of forward lean which activates the biceps via shoulder flexion.

Final Words On Build Biceps without weights

It’s possible to build stronger arms and bigger biceps with calisthenics alone. It just takes some creativity when designing your workout routine.

Now I want to hear from you.

Which bicep exercise are you most excited to try?

Comment below and let us know!

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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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