If you want to build big biceps then you need to stop only focusing on doing curls. In this video, I’m going to show you how to build bigger biceps by turning your body into the resistance and performing a variation on the popular chin up exercise to turn up the heat on your arms and get those gains coming again.
One of the absolute favorite exercises in the gym is the weighted chin up. I believe it is one of the best exercises for packing size on the biceps while additionally being one of the best and most challenging pulling exercises at your disposal. That said, there are a few things you can do to the standard chin up that will turn it into more of a biceps driven exercise than a lat driven one which will help you to see much faster gains on your biceps in the near future.
The first thing you want to focus on is your grip. Obviously, with this being a chin up and not a pull up you want to grab the bar with an underhand grip. That said, the most important thing you can do at this point is establish the proper width of the hands. Anatomically, we want to try and match the angle of the elbow and hands that is preferred when the arm is placed into full elbow flexion (like we would be at the top of a curl). This means that the hands are to be placed slightly outside the width of the elbows.
Since you cannot move your hands during the curl as you could if you were doing this with a pair of dumbbells, it is important that you establish this first before even doing a single rep. You will know if you are doing this right since you will feel a more intense contraction of the biceps when you get to the top of the chinup than you would if you didn’t set up the right grip first.
Next, you want to bend the wrist back slightly and be sure to grip the bar deep in the palm of your hands. This modification helps to take the forearms out of the exercise so that the biceps can do more of the work. The key is to keep the bar deep in your hands however so as not to overload the middle deep finger flexors, which can lead to medial elbow pain quickly if you forget to do this.
Now, as you lower and raise your body to the bar there are two things you want to be sure you do. The first is, you want to maintain an open angle of the elbow at the top. Too often, people confuse the cue to “get the chin over the bar” as something that you need to do while bringing your body close to the bar and your chin to the other side. This is incorrect. You only want to get your chin higher than the bar but you need to maintain distance away from it so as to keep tension on the biceps in that more closely approximated 90 to 120 angle of the elbow.
Second, in order to do this you will find that you will likely have to arc your body as you bring it up on each rep. This should mirror what that barbell does when you curl it up on a standard barbell curl. Obviously, the bar does not travel in a straight line up and down on every rep. Instead, it follows a definitive arcing pattern. You once again cannot move the pullup bar, but you can relatively move your body in relation to the bar to mimic the same mechanics at the joint and take advantage of the varied strength curves throughout the exercise.
This exercise will build your biceps faster than any other because it is progressively loading you in a way you are likely not used to at the moment. Though the lats do contribute to the performance of this exercise, you will be forced to handle fairly heavy loads since you will have to lift your own bodyweight. The percentage of work done by the biceps will often be higher than it would be if you were to try and apply the load through a standard barbell curl.
Give this a shot and if you are looking for a complete program that will help you to not only build big biceps but get a complete athletic body capable of performing at a moment’s notice, be sure to hit the link below and grab one of the ATHLEAN-X Training Systems.
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Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.