Bodyweight Workout to Grow Biceps and Back Muscles

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics

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Throughout the past years, I’ve successfully done dozens of different bodyweight workouts to grow biceps and back muscles. Still, all based on essential and fundamental exercises because, in my opinion, after years of bodyweight training, you don’t need sophisticated exercises or routines to get stronger or muscular. Simplicity was and still is the key to grow muscles and strength with bodyweight fitness, but it requires a tremendous amount of work, patience, and time though.

So I decided to give you one progressive bodyweight pull-up workout to help you develop arms, back muscles, and enormous strength at the same time! I can’t discuss growing big biceps and back muscles without referring to pull-ups, because it’s pulling exercises that you need to recruit these muscles.

The Bodyweight Pull-Up Workout Is:

  1. Regular Pull-Ups: 2 sets x 5 reps
  2. Chinups: 2 sets x 5 reps
  3. Towel Pull-Ups: 4 sets x 5 reps (each arm)
  4. Uneven Pull-Ups: 4 sets x 5 reps (each arm)
  5. Various Pull-Ups: 10 sets x 5 reps (below is the entire workout recorded).

Workout Duration: 50 minutes if you respect pause and set and reps interval.

Total Work Volume: 142 pull-ups if you don’t adjust to your fitness.

Workout after effect: I have extreme soreness in my biceps, forearms, lats, rear delts, and abs too.

I added two very difficult pull-up variations in addition to the fundamental ones because they recruit the largest muscle fibers associated with strength and muscle growth. Towel and Uneven Pull-Ups generate a lot of tension in the muscles, and strength rapidly drops in just a couple of sets. Although they bring a good pump and fatigues the muscles to a certain extent, you also need light pull-up variations to accrue total work volume and drain them completely.

Regular Pull-Ups and Chinups

Bodyweight Pull-Ups

You should primarily consider these first 20 total repetitions as a warm-up for the following tough pull-up variations, but they still add to your total work volume in the end. Rest 30-45 seconds from a set to another and precisely 2 minutes before starting,

Towel Pull-Ups

An entire set was done after you’ve trained both arms in an equal number of repetitions. Rest briefly before switching to the second arm because otherwise, your ability to match the same amount of reps may be uncertain.

The break time from a set to another is between 90 seconds and 2 minutes.

Pull explosively on the concentric part and move slower on the negative to get the full benefits. Towel Pull-Ups are useful in training the biceps, rear-delts, and lats.

Towel Pull-Ups to Grow Biceps and Back

Lights Out!

If your pause is relatively small and if the exercise feels extremely intense at the same time, then your heart rate might go crazy, beyond 140 bpm. I recommend you slow down a little, focus more on breathing, catch up with oxygen consumption. You may need at some point to extend the pause to achieve that. So do it!

The purpose of this calisthenics pull-up workout is to stimulate muscle growth and gain more strength. If your heart rate surpasses 140 bpm, you will start to feel the workout more like high-intensity training. That’s not wrong at all if your purpose is to enhance this capacity too. However, the focus of my workout is on contracting and squeezing the muscles as hard as possible with compound movements and nothing else. Therefore, pay attention to this micro detail and keep a heart rate below 120-130 bpm. You will feel more energetic and stronger!

Training the muscles while your heart rate exceeds 140-150 bpm only stresses the body out more than required for your goal. This induced stress will force the body to utilize more glucose and glycogen reserve to support the need for that anaerobic metabolism. My tip for you is to stay in an aerobic state as much as possible. It’s oxygen consumption that draws the line so don’t fall behind with it!

Uneven Pull-Ups

Rest 3 minutes before starting this difficult bodyweight pull-up variation and use a 2 minutes break time from one set to another.

Uneven Pull-Ups will burn your forearms and biceps entirely. You’ll have a hard time sustaining your body weight into one hand only because it requires tremendous grip strength.  You also have to squeeze the bar hard to eliminate momentum and swinging.

Uneven Pull-Ups

Then, rest another 3 minutes after you finish Uneven Pull-Ups and continue the workout with,

Various Basic and Lighter Pull-Ups

  1. Wide Pull-Ups
  2. Commando Pull-Ups (neutral grip)
  3. Chinups
  4. Regular Pull-Ups
  5. Horizontal Pull-Ups too
  6. Close Chinups

Alternate these variations for 10 sets of at least 5 reps. The break time between sets goes from 30 seconds to a maximum of 1 minute. I used a pause of 45 seconds. Choose any variation and grip from the list above, as fancied. Go slow throughout the full range of motion and pay attention to form at all times. At this stage, what matters is to burn out the muscles!

Tips to Stimulate Biceps to Grow!

  1. You need both hard bodyweight pull-ups as well as light bodyweight pull-ups (Read more about it here: Getting Ripped with Calisthenics. Progressive Overload or Volume?).
  2. You need volume to challenge and fatigue the muscles. After Uneven Pull-Ups, you’ll feel pretty much exhausted, but you have plenty of energy left. Just decrease the difficulty, and you’ll be able to boost a lot more reps. In fact, these 50 repetitions at the end burned my back, forearms, and biceps entirely.
  3. Adjust reps and sets. If you can only do 3 reps, then add over 4-5 sets.
  4. For beginners, rest briefly (5-10 seconds) after every rep and do as many as you can but keep a correct form and respect a full range of motion. Pull powerfully and go slow on the eccentric portion to increase time under tension. Or you can do pull-ups with an elastic rubber band to reduce resistance a little.

I also recorded this workout entirely on my YouTube channel. I highly recommend you watch it if you want to see how it’s done correctly. A workout bonus below:

100 Pull-Ups In Under 20 Minutes

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