Are One Arm Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups The Key To Massive Biceps? Can pull-ups give you massive arms?

Sorry, but I have to be the guy who stops the music once again. The answer is: “No. Being able to do one arm pull-ups/chin-ups does not mean that you will have balloon sized biceps too.” The evidence of this fact is everywhere. There are plenty of people on YouTube who can do one arm pull-ups easily, and yet don’t have exceptionally big biceps. There are trainees with arms smaller than 13 inches who can do perfect one arm pull-ups – rock climbers are a good example.

Note: The climber in the video certainly has decently developed arms but they are not otherworldly. Similar size can be achieved without the use of one arm pull-ups. Nevertheless, this is a very good example for naturals.

Why? First, the majority of people who are into calisthenics are natural which limits the potential for growth right from the start. Second, the nature of the movement requires you to stay somewhat light. Having extra size on you helps your squat but kills your one arm pull-up potential.

This does not mean that training for the one arm pull-up will not cause hypertrophy of the biceps. It will. In order to get to that level you need to develop insane elbow and tendon strength in the biceps area. If you are able to do one arm pull-ups, you will have exceptionally strong arms. However, size is something else. There is not a set requirement for how big your arms need to be in order to get the one arm pull-up.


Back in the day, I read online that if you can do 15 one arm pull-ups, you have most likely reached your arm potential size wise. I think this idea is attributed to Arthur Jones, but I am not entirely sure. Whoever is the genius behind, he is wrong. First, setting arbitrary numbers is not logical. What if I can do “only” 10 one arm pull-ups? Does this mean that if I add 5 more, my arms will get bigger? Hell no. Arbitrary numbers rarely work past a certain threshold. Still, I have to say that I also believe that you can reach your arm potential through heavy pull-up/chin-up/rope climbing training – without doing a single curl in your life. Pulling in all of its forms will always be a great upper arm exercise – way more fun than curls, although I like those too.

The truth is that at the end of the day genetics will dictate the name of the game. There are people who have frames and genes more suited for muscular growth. For example, if a classic fragile ectomorph trains intelligently for a long time, he will be able to get that mystic one arm pull-up but this does not guarantee growth beyond what his poor genetics had ordered. Training does not change your genes.

It’s also worth mentioning that the world of street fitness has been infiltrated by people who are not natural. People wrongfully assume that if someone is doing push-up in the park, he must be a “full natty brah” by default. Look at Kali Muscle and think:

Does this mofo look natural to you? To me he is as natural as paying millions to ball players and pennies to doctors and firefighters. In other words he is natural only for our unnatural world.

Many of the street fitness celebrities are on steroids and there is nothing you can do to change this fact. Sorry, but this is the case and I really don’t care if the purists out there feel offended. When you are 200 lbs / 90kg of muscle with bitch tits, you are not natural regardless of the exercises you are doing. Remember that video of the homeless bodybuilder from France? The guy wasn’t natty either. Angles are everything and the media know it very well.

In brief, the one arm pull-up is worth pursuing if you like the movement. Still, you shouldn’t expect to develop 19 inches shredded arms from it. It’s not going to happen unless you are a mutant to begin with. At the same time, don’t think you need to be able to do one arm pull-ups to reach your arm potential. You can use other exercises too. The goal is to progress and get stronger through consistent training and intelligent programming that respects the cyclical nature of strength gains. The means of transportation (exercises) are entirely up to you.

3 comments

  1. kle

    Recently achieved my first one arm pullup. If someone is interested what it takes, I can do around 25 neutral grip pullups and 6 pullups with 35 kg attached at 182 cm and 74 kg … Still rocking them 14 inch arms haha:D

  2. igor

    muscle size will only increase as the weight of the muscle mass increases, so obviously, you have to eat enough to gain weight for your arms to grow. of course one arm chin ups alone wont give you big arms if you dont weigh enough, but you do have to be very strong to perform them and you can achieve substantial hypertrophy with the exercise.

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