Pull-ups & Chin-ups for Max Biceps Development

By | September 20, 2017

7 Tips for Growing Bigger Biceps with Pull-ups and Chin-ups

pull ups and chin ups for biceps


Hi. While doing chinups, is straight legs or bent legs backward more effective? And after doing 3 chinups my knee naturally goes forward and it makes it easy to do. What should I do to get maximum biceps development ? – Prajol


Leg Positioning

Hi Prajol, Keeping the legs straight is a more effective technique when it comes to maximal strength recruitment and power generation during the pull-up and chin-up exercises (note: click here for my video that briefly explains why). But what’s more important than your leg positioning is your spinal alignment and core contraction. If you’re contracting your entire core (e.g. “crushing the can”) with a strong exhale and keeping your spine lengthened in both directions with a tailbone tuck and glute contraction, then you’ll be right on the mark (note: like this).

Note: see here for some help with these pull-up form adjustments: Pull-up Training 101.

Exercise Selection

Now, for maximum biceps development, focus on both wide (i.e. but no wider than slightly outside of shoulders) and narrow-grip chin-ups. These are done with an underhand grip (i.e. with your palms facing you – see here: Pull-ups VS Chin-ups).  And if you have a set of parallel bars, mix in some neutral-grip pull-ups, too. Furthermore, I’d also supplement the pull-up training with other rowing & pulling exercises (e.g. dumbbell rows). And if you have more time and energy, some bicep isolation exercises, too (e.g. dumbbell curls). And keep in mind this routine should also be built on a foundation of full body strength training that includes more demanding exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and presses.

Sets and Reps

Keep your repetition numbers in the 8-12 range – using a little assistance or extra resistance, if necessary – and do 3-5 sets per exercise, per workout.


Another key is that you keep your repetitions slow and controlled (i.e. no bouncing or kipping pull-ups). You’re looking to maximally stress the tissues of your biceps, and that means you need to avoid any momentum. Pull yourself up under control, then lower down under control.

I’d also slow the lowering phase of every rep to maximize the time under tension during the eccentric contraction, which is what delivers most of your strength and hypertrophy results. You can even do additional “negative reps” after your sets of chin-ups, where you only perform the lowering portion of the exercise.

Mind to Muscle Connection

Work on your mind to muscle connection when performing your pull-ups, actively thinking about contracting your biceps as hard as possible throughout the full range of motion. You can even visualize yourself doing this before stepping up to the bar.


If you’re doing a lot of bicep work, you’ll want to make sure you compensate for that specialization so that you don’t run into problems down the road (e.g. becoming “muscle-bound”). A good way to do this is by including some variants of Seal pose in your cooldown routine. You can see my free video on this here: A New Twist on Seal Pose.

And then I’d also recommend some variants of Locust pose, which will more directly target the biceps. You can find a tutorial on that in my program, The Pull-up Solution.

I’ve found that these targeted cooldown exercises are critical for long-term training success, and especially for those who want to maximize their pull-ups potential.

Taking it to the Next Level

If you implement all of the suggestions above, your biceps will absolutely grow. But there will come a point when you need to take things to the next level to continue making progress. And for that, I recommend gradually working your way up to one-arm pull-ups. Here’s my guide for doing it quickly and safely: 5 Smart Steps to Your First 1-Arm Pull-up.


Choose a variety of exercises that will target the biceps in different ways, program your sets and reps and tempo for hypertrophy, and make sure your training is balanced. Easier said than done, but I think you can do it, if you put your mind to it.

If you’d like some more help, check out the links below.

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About The Author

John SiffermanJohn Sifferman is a health-first fitness coach who has been teaching, coaching, and training people in various capacities since 2006. John is the author of The Pull-up Solution, the complete pull-up and chin-up training system that helps people rapidly increase their pull-up numbers in three months or less.

You can get a free copy of John’s 3-month pull-up training program and download more of his premium pull-up training resource as part of his free 5-day Pull-up Training Crash Course.



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