Building Big Arms With Bodyweight Exercises

You can build seriously big arms with bodyweight exercises only. Of course, don’t expect to get the arms of Phil Heat by doing calisthenics. If you train intelligently and follow simple progressions, you can reach your maximum arm size as a natural bodybuilder by doing only bodyweight exercises. The variety of upper body exercises using only your bodyweight is unlimited. Gymnasts have been doing it for decades.

The best bodyweight exercises for biceps are pull-ups on Olympic rings. The Olympic rings allow your wrists to rotate freely. This puts the wrists and elbows in proper alignment and elbow tendonitis is avoided. If you want to place stress on the biceps, make sure that you finish the pull-up with your palms facing the chest. Many of you will probably wonder: “Why not just do regular chin-ups?”. The answer is that regular straight bar chin-ups place too much stress on your wrists. Another bonus of the pull-ups is that it’s a compound exercise that will build not only your biceps but your lats as well. Once you become proficient at pull-ups and can do about 3 sets of 15 reps your biceps will be much bigger than before. At that point consider introducing a more advanced version of the exercise to the mix.

For triceps close grip push-ups and parallel bar dips will work great. The close grip push-ups shift the load to your triceps. When you combine them with dips, you have a recipe for larger triceps. The triceps is very important because it forms 2/3 of the upper arm and responds faster to training. Once you can do 3 sets of 20 dips, you can switch to more advanced exercises.


The cool thing about these bodyweight exercises is that your forearms will get bigger as well. Every time you hang from the bar your grip tested. It’s not uncommon for people to want to use straps due to that factor. In general, avoid using straps when doing pull-ups. You want to have larger forearms, don’t you?

The Routine: Big Biceps And Triceps With Bodyweight Exercises

As a natural bodybuilder you need volume to grow. High Intensity Training (HIT) routines as promoted the ones by Mike Mentzer won’t work. However, the same holds true for extremely long workouts. You want to be somewhere in the middle. Finding the right amount of stress takes experience and you have to figure it on your own. Nobody can tell you precisely what you can endure. Listen to your body! Contrary to popular belief you can overtrain even if you do only bodyweight exercises.

Note: The routine below may be a little harder for the complete beginner. You may even have to lose weight before starting it. We recommend that you do it with junk free diet and moderate cardio.

Day 1: Biceps emphasis;

Pull-ups – 10 sets of as many as you with GOOD form.
Close grip push-ups – 8 sets of as many as you can with GOOD form.

Day 2: Rest or “leg day”;

Day 3: Triceps emphasis;

Dips – 10 sets of as many as you with GOOD form.
Australian pull-ups – 8 sets of as many as you can with Good form.

Day 4: Rest;

Day 5: Recovery and/or “leg day”;

Push-ups – 5 EASY sets.
Australian pull-ups – 5 EASY sets.

Day 6 & 7: Rest;

Note: The routine above is designed to hit your arms hard by doing only bodyweight exercises. If you are looking to build your whole body with calisthenics read this post:

Training Full Body With Calisthenics?

2 comments

  1. Barry

    Mate-can you tell me please (1)What are Australian pullups?
    (2)The program you have set out: will this guarantee me a ”peak” in the biceps? Have done a lot of work over the years with weights on biceps but very little progress.
    Think it may be now for a change to bodyweight.
    Is it possible to have a private email reply please?
    Thanks.

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