What Are Bicep Curls?

Most of the calisthenics exercises are compound exercises, which means many muscles are working together at the same time to execute a single movement or skill. For example, doing a chin-up will work your lats, biceps, abdominals, anterior deltoids, etc. This article will show you the best 8 calisthenics bicep exercises starting with easier variations, followed by intermediate and advanced levels.

What Muscles Are Worked by Bicep Curls?

The primary muscles worked are the biceps and latissimus dorsi. The secondary muscles worked are pectoralis major, rear deltoids, traps, teres major, abdominals, obliques, forearms, and posterior and anterior deltoid.

What Level are Bicep Curls?

The article will start with beginners variations, and progress towards intermediate, and finally toadvanced level exercises. Therefore, all fitness levels can choose the best exercises that suit their needs and practice it in their training regimens. 

Calisthenics Bicep Exercises

Ring Curls 

Ring Curls are great for beginners to hit their biceps using just bodyweight as resistance. They are similar to the bicep curls with weights, but the main is that you’ll be standing at an angle whilst utilizing gymnastics rings. To do ring curls:

  1. Stand tall whilst holding gymnastics rings in front of you in a supinated grip.
  2. Extend your arms out fully in front of you and lay back so that your weight shifts to both your arms and your heels. Your body should be at a gradient. Keep your core engaged at all times. This is your starting position.
  3. Flex your elbows and pull your hands towards your head. Keep your elbows fixed in a single position.
  4. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat. Aim to perform this between 5-10 reps, for 4 sets.

As you get stronger, you should position at a steeper angle to increase the load on your upper body.

Bar Curls 

This exercise is similar to ring curls but the only difference is that it will be performed on a straight bar. You will need a low bar or a side of a dip bar. This will predominantly target your biceps. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab the bar shoulder-width apart using a supinated grip.
  2. Extend your arms out fully by leaning back slightly to hold your elbows against your body. Your body should be in a straight line. Ensure your core is engaged the entire time. This is your starting position
  3. Flex your elbows and tense your biceps to pull your body towards the bar. Keep your elbows fixed. 
  4. Slowly return to starting position and repeat. Aim to perform this between 5-10 reps, for 4 sets.

Same as ring curls, beginners should start with a higher bar so that your body will be at a steeper angle. This will take the load away from your upper body to your feet which makes it easier to perform more reps. Gradually progress to lower the bar to increase difficulty. 

Hefesto Pull-Ups

Hefesto Pull-Ups can be performed both on the bar and on rings. This is a reverse of bar curls where you will pull from behind rather than from in front of you. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab a bar or rings using supinated grip from behind at shoulder-width or more grip.
  2. Extend your arms out fully by leaning forward slightly. Engage your core and maintain a straight line with your body. This is your starting position.
  3. Pull your back towards the bar by engaging your biceps. Keep your elbows fixed. This is your starting position.

Slowly return to starting position and repeat. Aim to perform this between 5-10 reps, for 4 sets.

Chin-Ups

Chin-Ups are bodyweight pulls that utilize the supinated grip. It will give you the most bicep activation followed by your lats. This grip trains your forearms, and you will use your core through the movement to control your body. To perform this you will:

  1. Hang from the bar at shoulder-width apart, holding a supinated grip. Your arms are fully locked out and your feet are off the ground. This is your starting position
  2. Engage your core by drawing your belly button towards your spine. This will give you more control over your body.
  3. Pull up by bending your elbow joints, pulling your arms down until your chin is above the bar. Exhale as you do this.
  4. Gradually lower back to the starting position and lock both arms out fully to ensure a full range of motion. Repeat. Aim to perform this between 5-12 reps for 4 sets.

Commando Pull-Ups

Similar to chin-ups, commando pull-up recruits more biceps and chest than pull-ups. The key difference is that the commando pull-up requires you to engage your core to keep your body in the right position, as you would have to deviate your body from one side of the bar to the other. To perform this you will:

  1. Position yourself sideways to the pull-up bar and grab it with one hand just in front of the other. This will be your starting position.
  2. Pull yourself up so your chin clears the bar to one side. Your core should be engaged the entire movement.
  3. Lower back down, and then ensure your chin clears the opposite side of the bar. Aim to perform this between 5-12 reps for 4 sets.

Head Bangers

Head Bangers is a variation of the chin-ups, where you pull your body up to a bar, maintain yourself in the upper position then push yourself away from the bar by attempting to straighten out your arms. This is an unusual exercise that develops your biceps, as well as builds endurance and strength. To do this you will:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with a supinated grip, your hands are shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be off the ground. 
  2. Pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar and engage your core. Hold this position. This is called an upper chin-up and will be your starting point
  3. Quickly push your body away from the bar by extending your arms entirely, and quickly pull yourself towards the bar back to the upper chin-up position. Aim to perform this between 5-10 reps for 4 sets.

There are two levels to this exercise. Beginners to this exercise should start with level 1 and eventually move onto level 2 as it actives your core muscles more.

Assisted One Arm Chin-Ups

This exercise will give you the feeling of doing the one arm chin-up. You will pull predominantly from one arm with the assistance of your fingers on the other. The major muscles worked are your biceps, lats, and chest. To perform this, you will:

  1. Hang on a bar with the right hand in a supinated grip and left hand in a pronated grip with 4 fingers. This will put more of your weight onto your right side. This is your starting position.
  2. Gradually pull yourself up until your chin is your right hand, using mostly your right arm to pull. 
  3. Gradually lower down to the starting position and repeat. Aim to perform this between 4-8 reps for 4 sets.
  4. Repeat on the left arm.

Reduce down to using three fingers on the pronated grip hand to increase the resistance of the working arm. Your goal is to reduce down to one finger followed by doing a one arm chin-up.

One Arm Chin-Up

One arm chin-up is one the most difficult bodyweight pulling exercises, which requires a lot of upper body strength and core control to execute this movement. You will need to be able to do 20 chin-ups before attempting this. To perform this you will:

  1. Hang on the bar with one arm holding a supinated grip. Engage your core.
  2. Flex your bicep and pull your body towards your holding hand until your chin clears the bar.
  3. Lower back down to the starting position and repeat on the other arm. Aim to do this between 1-3 reps for 4 sets.

What are the Benefits of Bicep Curls?

Muscular Hypertrophy

These exercises are crucial if you want to have bigger arms. Your biceps are important, highly visible muscles therefore, your training regiment will have a large impact on the appearance of your arms. Working on your biceps through Bicep Curls will help to increase your biceps size.

Highly Functional

The action of flexing your arms is performed many times a day, from picking up your bag or carrying groceries back home. Doing bicep curls will make these daily tasks easier. It will also boost your athletic performance, which will assist you when it comes to compound exercises such as deadlifts, or hitting the ball harder in racket sports such as tennis and squash

Efficient

Bicep curls are mainly elbow flexors, which especially isolate your bicep muscles. However, they have a secondary function in shoulder flexion as it also isometrically recruits your anterior deltoid, lats, rhomboids, lower traps, and abdominals to impede the shoulder from rolling forward while performing curls. Thus, It utilizes these major muscles as stabilizers. 

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.