The one arm chin up
Bicep exercises for men are so popular that when you visit any gym you soon realize that this is without a doubt the most popular muscle to train. This is also why the first thing most new gym members do is pick up a couple of dumbbells and begin doing biceps exercises for mass even if they do not have a clue how on what to do.
It’s also true that if asked to show our muscles most of us will instinctively flex our arm and tense our biceps as if our life depended on it so I think it is fair to say that most men desire big arms and the good news is that there are a variety of bicep exercises without weights that can be used for building muscular endurance, muscular size or strength depending on what your goals are.
Although bicep exercises for muscular endurance are not the most popular bicep exercises at home or in the gym there are still occasions when this bicep exercises are the preferred option particularly if improved sporting performance or exceptional fitness is the main goal of the training involved.
If this is your goal remember muscular endurance can only be developed with bicep exercises that allow you to do at least 20 and perhaps considerably more repetitions for each set.
Therefore, to build endurance the best biceps exercises without equipment are the ones that only require you to lift a small percentage of your overall bodyweight.
Bicep exercises for muscular endurance
The horizontal or inverted chin up – is a perfect exercise for anyone who either wants to develop endurance or who has not yet built up the strength for the more demanding bicep exercises without weights such as pull ups.
To do the inverted chin up you can use either a power rack and set the bar at the appropriate height or if you train in the house you can get away with using something like a broom handle placed against the top of two stools.
Either way the height of the bar needs to allow you to fully extend your arms whilst lying on the floor. Have your palms facing towards you, pull your chest up to touch the bar and then lower your body back down to the floor and then repeat the exercise.
Reverse push ups – as strange as it seems you can turn the classic push up from an exercise that works the triceps to one for the biceps by changing the position of your hands and because only a small percentage of your bodyweight is lifted this is also a great biceps exercise for women.
Have your hands at twice shoulder width apart and turn them so that your fingers are pointing off to the side and towards your feet rather than towards your head which would be the case with a normal push up.
The unfamiliar nature of this exercise means that it does feel strange at first but once you get accustomed to it this soon disappears.
As with the standard press up it is possible to build up to a high number of repetitions quickly with this bicep exercise and although it works other muscles (particularly the shoulders) it will develop biceps endurance.
Using bicep exercises for developing upper body explosive power is an important consideration for many sports and martial arts and is absolutely crucial for some career options such as the military or emergency services.
If you enlist in an elite force such as the Marines or Parachute Regiment the need for upper body explosive power increases and it is hard to imagine how you could complete the advanced assault courses if you haven’t developed this important attribute with good bodyweight exercises.
The current popularity of the street sport parkour is another good example of an activity were explosive power is not only desirable but essential.
Bicep exercises without weights for explosive power
The clapping pull up – is great if you want to improve your explosive power and upper body strength. Although it is very similar to the standard pull up, the speed of movement needed to rise high above the bar, remove your hands, clap and then place your hands back to their original position makes this one of the most demanding and beneficial of all biceps exercises without weights.
This exercise requires you to do the complete opposite of what you would normally do for pull ups because unlike the standard version were you perform the exercise slow and under control the secret of this one is speed of movement.
To gain the height necessary to clap in mid air your body needs to move extremely fast which facilitates the building of the explosive power mentioned earlier.
However, because of the nature of this exercise do not attempt it until you have already mastered the standard biceps exercises and feel you possess the co-ordination and strength required to attempt it safely.
Before you begin always make sure you have warmed up properly and then assume the normal pull up position. From there you need to pull yourself up as fast as you can so that your chin rises well above the bar, quickly take your hands away, clap and then return them to their original position.
Also keep in mind that because of the co-ordination required this is an exercise were practice makes perfect so do not be disappointed if it takes you a while to nail it.
Make sure you lean back slightly as you start each rep so that your chin is away from the bar.
Try to practice this exercise on a bar that you can reach on your tip toes so that you do not have far to drop if you get it wrong.
Remember speed is the key, the faster you move the more chance of success you have.
Make sure there are no dangerous obstacles in your path in case you drop back to the ground.
Breathe in before the start of each rep and try to imagine you body being as light as possible.
Expel the air powerfully as you travel upwards (This will help to develop power similar to that displayed by martial artists when they perform breaking techniques)
Biceps exercises for mass and strength building
As mentioned earlier the vast majority of men want to have big and strong arms and although the triceps muscles are twice as big as the biceps and therefore are crucial to reaching this goal you still nerveless need to exercise the smaller biceps.
The question is how can this be done with bicep exercises without weights?
As always the rules of adaptation, overload and progression apply and you will only succeed in building great arms if you can keep your biceps exercises in the 6-10 repetition range.
This rule is not guesswork but the result of nearly one hundred years of body building which has shown that this repetition range is the most successful for doing the job. This is why body building legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane used this method 30 years ago and why body building champions are still using it for bicep exercises today.
Therefore, once you begin your bicep exercises for mass you can choose to incorporate any bodyweight bicep exercises without weights that you wish as long they allow you to keep to this basic rule.
However, once your body adapts to these exercises you have to develop ways of either making your biceps exercises more demanding or changing to a different exercise to make further progress.
Failure to do so will only result in increased repetitions which can only build increased muscular endurance.
Bicep exercises for size and strength building
The pull up is – is one of the oldest and most versatile bodyweight bicep exercises without weights that you can do and the beauty of it is, if you combine several different types of these bicep exercises in one session you could in fact have a very effective total upper body workout.
Although the pull up works primarily the Latissimus Dorsi it still exercises the biceps and is therefore a great inclusion into any program of biceps exercises for size and strength.
To do the standard pull up, hang from a bar with your arms fully extended, palms facing away from you and shoulder width apart. From there take a deep breath and slowly pull yourself up until your chin is a couple of inches passed the bar and then lower yourself back down to the starting position breathing out as you do so.
You can make the exercise a lot more difficult by including static holds on each rep by holding the bottom, middle and top positions for 5 seconds.
The slower you do each rep the harder but more beneficial the exercise is.
Concentrate on keeping your biceps, latissimus dorsi and abs tensed throughout the movement.
Apart from your arms, keep your body as still as possible and try not to use momentum to lift yourself up.
Negative rep pull ups – If you are not strong enough to do standard pull ups you can do still incorporate this exercise into your training program by doing negative reps instead.
Begin by standing on a bench or chair set at a height that allows you to grab the bar with your chin just above it. From there it is just a case of taking your feet of the bench and lowering yourself down slowly until your arms are fully extended and then repeating as many times as required.
Negative reps allow you to build up your strength and train your nervous system to develop the muscular coordination necessary to do standard pull ups.
However, to derive the most benefit from them and prevent injury it is imperative that this exercise is done in a controlled deliberate manner and free falling from the from the top to the bottom position not only causes injury but defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.
Chin ups – are defiantly the most famous biceps exercise without weights and are very effective at building a foundation of muscle and strength, having said that, once you can do more than 3-4 sets of 10 repetitions you must increase the difficulty of the exercise to continue making progress.
As with pull ups one way to do this is to include static holds on each repetition by holding the top, middle and bottom positions for 5 seconds.
How to do chin ups
The method of doing chin ups is exactly the same as that described for pull ups except for one specific difference and that is that your palms are facing towards you and not away from you.
It is this small difference that allows the chin up to place more emphasis on the biceps than the pull up making it one of the most effective of all bicep exercises.
Another way of making chin ups more demanding is to grip the bar with only one hand and use the other hand to grip the wrist or forearm of the arm doing the chin up (Any fan of the Rocky films will no what I mean). The lower down you grip the arm doing the chin up, the harder the biceps exercise will be.
If you experience any pain in your elbows doing regular chin ups, experiment with different grips or invest in some gymnastic rings as these greatly reduce the stress on the elbow joints.
The one armed chin-up – is a natural progression of the standard chin up and is without a doubt a challenging exercise that can take many months to master. At the same time, it is also one of the most impressive physical feats that you can achieve and once you nail it you can take comfort in the fact that you will be part of an elite group as only one person in every one hundred thousand can manage it.
The first stage of progression for the one arm chin up is to build up your regular two arm chin ups until you can do at least 20 solid ones.
The time it takes you to achieve this depends on many factors such as your current upper body strength, your weight and how dedicated to the task you are, but most people can get to 20 reps with a couple of months of hard training.
Once you can do the 20 reps with two hands it is time to start the long road to progressing to the one arm chin up and the next stage is to tie a towel, thick rope or belt over the bar which you grip with one hand whilst the other arm grabs the bar in the normal way.
The purpose of this technique is that it begins to give you the feel of doing a one arm chin because the arm that is pulling up using the bar in the normal way now has to work a lot harder.
From then on you want to keep the number of sets and reps low as there is a high risk of injury if you over train and remember your goal is to build muscle and strength rather than muscular endurance so I would not do more that 5 reps for each set and no more than two sets for each arm.
To make this progression harder you simply grab the rope further down as the lower down you hold the rope the less assistance this arm can provide.
You can then make the exercise even more difficult by using just your thumb and index finger to pinch the rope as the reduction in gripping power makes your other arm work even harder.
If you use a thick rope tie knots in it every six inches to act as markers for your progression.
When you can comfortably do five reps using your thumb and index finger it is time to begin the next phase which is negative one arm chins.
When doing negative reps you need to lower yourself down under control and very slowly. Take at least 5 seconds from start to finish and pause at different places on the way down if possible.
If your grip is not strong enough to hold your weight you will soon drop back down to the floor so it is a good idea to use a bar that you can reach on your tip toes as this is a lot safer than dropping 2 or 3 feet and it also conserves your energy as you do not have to jump up to reach the bar.
When doing one arm chin ups you will also find that your body starts to turn away from the bar, you can combat this by griping the bar as hard as you can and twisting your hand towards you at the same time.
As well as focusing on your grip you should also have your free arm pinned tight against your body.
As just mentioned the natural inclination of your body is to turn away from the bar so use your free arm and shoulder to turn in to it (imagine your body is a human cork screw and you will get the idea)
Remember like many things in life patience is the key to mastering the one arm chin up. It can take months or years to achieve so do not rush through the different progressions and do not train for it more than 2 or a maximum of three times a week as rushing the progressions or over training almost always results in injury.
The very best bodyweight biceps exercise for mass
Although I said you have to keep the repetition range between 6-10 to build strength and muscle and although this correct, the single biceps exercise without weights doesn’t actually consist of any repetitions at all but is in fact static holds involving the humble chin up.
Not only is this one of the great biceps exercises for building muscle mas and strength for those just starting out but it is also perfect for spurring new growth in anyone who has been training for a while but whose progress has stagnated. It is for this reason that this gets my highest recommendation of all bicep exercises without weights
How to do the chin up static hold
This exercise consists of 3 static holds with each one targeting the biceps from a different angle.
1 From a dead hang position pull yourself up until your chin is a couple of inches above the bar and hold the position for as long as is possible.
Once you can no longer hold the position perform a negative chin up by lowering yourself back down slowly. Concentrate on squeezing the biceps as tight as you can throughout the hold.
2 Again from a dead hang position pull yourself up until your biceps are at 90 degrees and hold this position for as long as possible before slowly lowering yourself down.
3 From the dead hang position pull yourself up only 2-3 inches and hold this position for as long as possible. Although this is virtually a dead hang position it is important to lift yourself up those couple of inches rather than just hang from the bar as this takes the strain of the shoulder joints.
Eventually you should to try to hold each one of the static holds for one minute with one minutes rest between each one. You will find this exercise extremely demanding, painful and your arms will shake uncontrollably.
However, if you have the mental strength to persevere with this exercise on a regular basis it will pay off huge dividends.
Why it works
There are several important factors that make the chin up static hold so effective and they are the following.
The biceps have to contract for the duration of the exercise and have no time to rest. The result is that more muscle fibres are recruited and have to work for a longer period of time than would be the case with a repetitions based exercise which offers rest periods during the negative part of the movement.
It is a compound exercise that works many other muscles besides the biceps and these exercises are more effective than for example, isolation biceps curls.
If you manage to hold each position for one minute you will in fact be contracting your biceps for 180 seconds with just this exercise alone. Consider the difference between this length of time and the few seconds the biceps are actually work with an exercise such as biceps curls.
If you want to develop fantastic muscular endurance choose bicep exercises without weights that only require you to lift a low percentage of your bodyweight and do at least 20 repetitions per set.
For muscle size and strength choose biceps exercises for mass that allow you to keep your repetitions to between 6-10 and increase the difficulty of the exercise or choose more demanding biceps exercises without weights to keep within the range required.
Static holds are great for building incredible biceps. If you doubt this consider the huge biceps of Olympic gymnasts, what stands out more than anything else about their bodies is the powerful biceps they have built and it is a fact that most of their training involves static holds more than any other bicep exercises.
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