Calisthenics Biceps Workout: Build Your Guns With Bodyweight Training

In this article I will present you a calisthenics biceps workout that will build cannonball biceps and prepare your joints for harder calisthenics skills.

An ideal biceps workout with calisthenics includes a variety of curling exercises in the 6-15 reps range to optimize muscle development. To get the best out of your workout, you will focus on full range of motion exercises, as well as eccentrics.

In the following lines I will give you a workout routine for mass and strength, as well as explain each exercise to make sure you do them properly.

Calisthenics biceps workout for mass and strength

The calisthenics biceps workout I have prepared is split into three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. These routines feature my most favorite exercises:

  • Chin-ups
  • Pseudo planche push-ups
  • Pelican negatives
  • Pelican curls
  • Bodyweight curls

Each level has its own workout table.

Below you will find the workout tables, as well as how to interpret them. After that, you will find a section teaching you how to do each exercise in part. Lastly, there is a section on the most common mistakes people do in their biceps training and how to avoid them.

A chart presenting a beginner calisthenics biceps workout including the exercise, sets, reps, and rest time
A table presenting an intermediate calisthenics workout for biceps, a progression from the beginner table above
An advanced biceps workout with calisthenics, a progression in exercises from the intermediate chart presented above

Interpreting the tables

There are four, respectively five columns in the tables: letter, exercise, sets, reps, tempo, and rest. These are meant to give you guidelines on how you should approach the workout.

Exercise, sets, reps, and rest are self-explanatory.

These indicate the exercise you should be doing, how many sets and reps, and how much you should rest between sets.

There are two, however, which require more explanation:

  • Letter
  • Tempo


In the table, you will find a column with a letter and a number assigned. This indicates the order in which you will do the exercises.

Example from the beginner table above:

  • A1: Chin-ups, 3 sets, 1:30 minutes rest
  • B1: Pseudo planche push-ups, 3 sets, 1:30 minutes rest

You will do a set of chin-ups, take 1:30 minutes rest, then do two more sets. Once you finish all three sets, move onto the next exercise and complete it in the same fashion.

Example from the advanced table above:

  • C1: Pseudo planche push-ups, 3 sets, 1 minute rest
  • C2: Bodyweight curls, 3 sets, 1 minute rest

Perform a set of pseudo planche push-ups. Right after you complete that set, do a set of bodyweight curls without rest. Rest 1 minute, then repeat for 2 more sets. This is indicated in the form of a single rest period in the table.


The principle of tempo, or time under tension (TUT) indicates the speed at which each exercise should be performed. It is a four digit scheme which splits the execution of an exercise in four.

It refers to the three muscle contractions:

  • Concentric: when your muscle shortens while generating force
  • Isometric: when your muscle generates force without changing in length
  • Eccentric: when your muscle lengthens while generating force

Imagine doing a biceps curl.

The concentric phase is lifting the dumbbell from your hips to your shoulder. Holding the weight to your shoulder is an isometric contraction. When you bring the dumbbell down from your shoulder to your hips, you are performing an eccentric.

Example tempo from the intermediate table above: Chin-ups, tempo 30X1

  • The first number, 3, represents the eccentric phase of the exercise
  • The second number, 0, represents the isometric phase when the muscle has been stretched
  • The third number, (in this case a letter) X represents the concentric phase
  • The fourth number, 1, represents the isometric phase when the muscle has been shortened

This is what chin-ups with a tempo of 30X1 would look like when applied in training.

Your chin is above the bar, begin lowering into full extension over a period of 3 seconds. When reaching the full extension, do not rest. Pull back up immediately and explosively (X indicates an explosive movement). Hold the top position for 1 second, before lowering again for 3.

How to perform the exercises in the workout

Let us have a look at how to perform the exercises. If you want to avoid injury and maximize your results with the calisthenics biceps workout above, you have to make sure that you perform them with correct form.

As a recap, the exercises are:

  • Chin-ups
  • Pseudo planche push-ups
  • Pelican negatives
  • Pelican curls
  • Bodyweight curls


The chin-up is one of the staples of calisthenics. There is confusion around this exercise as to which variation to employ: the pull-up (pronated grip) or the chin-up (supinated grip). In the context of training your biceps, you should go with the chin-up.

One of the functions of the biceps is supination - rotation of the forearm.

Therefore, if you do a chin-up, as opposed to a pull-up, your biceps will be in what is called a ‘technical advantage’. It will be in an optimal position to engage.

Here is how you should do the exercise:

  1. 1
    From the dead hang depress and retract your scapula to get into an active hang.
  2. 2
    Pull yourself up so that your chest touches the bar.
  3. 3
    Lower back into an active hang, then pull back up.

Pseudo planche push-ups

Although a push-up working the biceps doesn’t sound right, the pseudo planche variation is an exception. As opposed to a regular push-up, the pseudo planche push-up is adjusted in a way that the biceps has to work more.

The key is to change your hand placement and to lean forward.

Here is how to do the exercise:

  1. 1
    Get in a push-up position with your forearms and wrists rotated, so that your fingers are pointing backward.
  2. 2
    Lean forward so that your shoulder passes your wrists and your hands are below your ribs. As you get more advanced, your hands will be below your hips.
  3. 3
    Lower until your chest touches the ground, then push back up and lock your elbows.

Pelican negative

The pelican negative is not a popular exercise by any means but it is one of the most ideal exercises to include in a calisthenics biceps workout. Being an eccentric-only exercise, it is great at breaking down muscle fiber, forcing adaptations to occur.

Working with the eccentric progression will make you stronger for the pelican curl, bridging the gap between the intermediate and advanced workouts above.

How to do the pelican negative:

  1. 1
    Grab your rings or the bar with a false grip (wrist on the rings or bar).
  2. 2
    Keeping your elbows close to your body, and the arms externally rotated, begin descending forward.
  3. 3
    Control the descent for the set amount of time, until your elbows are fully locked.

Pelican curls

The pelican curl is similar to the pelican negative. However, this time around you will be adding the concentric part, making it a full range of motion exercise. Furthermore, you will not descend until your elbows are fully locked, but close to that.

To make the exercise harder, all you have to do is elevate the feet.

Here is how to do the exercise:

  1. 1
    Grab the rings or bar with a false grip (wrist on the rings or bar).
  2. 2
    Keeping your elbows close to your body, and the arms externally rotated, begin descending forward.
  3. 3
    Descend until your elbows are almost locked, then push back up to the top position.

Bodyweight curls

The bodyweight curl is ideal for any calisthenics biceps workout because it does not require a lot of strength to get started with. However, it can be adjusted to all levels, including advanced. All you have to do is change the position of your body in relation to the ground.

If you elevate your feet, you will find the bodyweight curl much more challenging.

Before explaining the form, I want you to remember that this is not a row.

When you are doing a bodyweight row, you are focusing on bringing the elbow behind you and squeezing the back muscles. Your chest is going towards the bar or rings. With bodyweight curls, your elbows stay in front of your body and your face goes towards the bar or rings.

How to perform the exercise:

  1. 1
    Grab the bar or rings with a supinated grip.
  2. 2
    Keeping your elbows in front of your body, bring your face to the bar or rings, doing a curling motion. Squeeze at the top to get a peak contraction.
  3. 3
    Descend in a controlled manner and repeat.

What to avoid in your biceps training with calisthenics

There are a few things I see a lot of people get wrong in their workout. In this part of the article I want to address them, so you can avoid making mistakes that will slow down or kill your biceps gains.

These mistakes are:

  • Doing exercises above your strength level
  • Not using different repetition ranges
  • Ignoring the eccentric

Doing exercises above your strength level

This is one of the major mistakes I see not only with beginners but with some advanced athletes as well. If you search for a calisthenics biceps workout online, more often than not you will find the following exercises:

  • One arm pull-ups
  • One arm chin-ups

Among others.

The issue with these exercises is that they are too difficult.

Unless you can do several repetitions of an exercise, you are just testing your strength.

Instead of doing the one arm chin-up for sets of one repetition, which is ego lifting, you are better off doing sets of eight repetitions of archer chin-ups, or weighted chin-ups.

Not using different repetition ranges

You might have noticed in the workouts above that the reps range span from 6 all the way to 15. This is not something random; it has to do with how the physiology of hypertrophy (muscle building) works.

Here is what the repetitions in the workout emphasize:

  • 4-6 strength & hypertrophy
  • 8-12 hypertrophy
  • 12-15 endurance

This is, of course, overly simplified.

For the best results in your training you should work your muscles in different ranges to promote the development of all muscle fibers.

Ignoring the eccentric

Remember how I said that the eccentric is the contraction that results in the most muscle fiber breakdown? It has the potential to bring the most results in your training. Yet, most people just let the weight drop down.

This is an issue for two reasons:

  • You are missing on potential strength and muscle gains
  • You are subjecting your body to injury

Imagine being in the top position of a chin-up.

If you control the movement down, your biceps will act as a braking system and contract as much as possible to control the descent. This is the reason I have added the tempo scheme to the workout.

However, if you are dropping into your joints you may find yourself injured sooner or later.


As you can see, you do not need fancy exercises or a lot of them to get bigger biceps with calisthenics. It all boils down to a quality calisthenics biceps workout and consistency on your part.

Knowing how to do the exercises properly is also an important part.

Lastly, it is essential to take note of the three most common mistakes and make sure that they are not present in your training.

Over to you.