T Nation

Chin-ups for Biceps


I have decided to try to incorporate chin-ups in my routine for bicep growth. Before I would do barbell curls (4x 6-8) and incline DB curls or hammer curls (3 x 10-12). My goals are to gain muscle and I have been using a push/pull/legs/rest split with good success.

I have progressed really well with the major compound lifts (bench,MP,dead,squat), but there has been little or no progession in strength when it comes to my biceps and triceps.

My question is what type of volumne should I use? I would like to use the same split. How should I do progression? I can do a strict 12 reps, 8 weighted.

Any other beginners have success by eliminating curls and using chins only? I think I have having a mental block by thinking the only way to hit this muscle group is by curling.

My diet is pretty decent. I get around 175-200 g of protien. I'm 5"11, 185 lbs and have been lifting for about 2 years.


Stop. Stop. Read this, or the "Guns" thread in the T-Cell.


Pull-ups and chin-ups are for lat width. They HAPPEN to offer bicep stimulation, but should never be used as a mainstay for a bicep exercise. Additionally, you need to make sure you're hitting your arms from all angles. I'll leave triceps out of it, but you should be doing a big, heavy bicep exercise for your bicep strength - such as a BB curl, and another slightly heavier one more focused towards isolation, like an EZ-bar preacher curl.

Additionally, doing things like hammer curls + k-pipe curls or variations of them with help work your brachi/brachioradialis and give the appearance of much bigger, fuller arms.

Stop. Doing. Chin-ups. For. Big. Arms.


Brett I have also been doing a push pull split for a while now and ditto what you said in the beginning-all my compound lifts went up with little to no improvement on arm isolation.Though I was only throwing in a 2/3 sets of these at the end of my session.

I cut the isolations out of it altogether and focused on the compounds(pulls,chins,rows,deads,squats,presses) only.Just out of curiosity 2 months later I tried a few isolation sets after my main stuff and voila,I had gotten stronger on the movements without doing them.As an aside my arms have also thickened.So for now I am putting iso on the back burner altogether as at the mo its needless to me.


Is that the only work for biceps you were doing? I'm guessing you were doing it at the end of the "pull" day, right after your back work, correct?

What triceps work do you do?

"Good success" needs to be defined, especially relative to your goal of gaining muscle.

In the last three months, how has your bodyweight changed?

In the last three months, how has your strength improved in the squat, deadlift, bench, military press, barbell curl, and triceps extension (or pressdown)?

After two years, it might be worth using a different split for a few months. Especially if your arms aren't getting the focus that you want to give them, wouldn't it make sense to spend some time with a dedicated arm day each week?

There have been tons of articles about arm training, advising all sorts of sets, reps, exercises, and frequency. Read a few and see what you can absorb. For example:

Curling isn't necessarily the only way to target the biceps, but if you want bigger and stronger arms, curling is the best way.

"What I'm saying, and what Hoffman, Poliquin, and plenty of other coaches are saying, is that in order to get your arm size into the high teens (or upwards of 45cm for my Euro brothers), you've got to be doing specific biceps and triceps work in addition to putting plenty of time and energy into squats, deadlifts, and other big exercises.
To build significantly bigger arms than you've got right now, you need to build a larger complete body, and the fastest path there requires a training plan that gives plenty of attention to the big lifts while also giving some attention to direct arm work, not the other way around."


colucci laying it DOWN


Thanks for the responses. Yes, biceps work would be done at the end of my Pull day, after 4 sets of deadlifts, rows and either pull-ups or lat pulldowns.

Triceps work is at the end of my Push day. 4 Sets of close-grip bench, and 3 sets of either frech press or dumbell overhead extensions.

I'm in my mid 30s now, and I lifted all throughout high school and college. Just now started back again. I have gained 18 pounds and my waist size on my pants is still about the same. All my friends, family, girlfriends etc have commented that I'm in "great shape", but to the standards here, I'm a beginner. I have increased the weight from 55-120 lbs in my big 4 lifts, so I think I have been pretty successful. Most of my progress was made in my first year though.

I have changed my program(s) several times, but have stuck with my current one for almost a year. The more I think about it, maybe the problem has to do more with my form when it comes to the heavier curls(i.e. slow negatives, squeeze the bar, hold the conctration). I think I'm so concerned about moving the weight, I just hoist it up there.

It just gets me confused sometimes since the one common theme seems to be progression... but then I see really big, experienced guys who don't care about how much weight they move. Do you have to progress to a certain level, and then the game changes??


I got real strong....then several years alter, I learned I was strong enough that "not so heavy weight" could provide growth if I really controlled the weight more.

In other words, yeah, I'm a bigger than average guy who you may still see warm up with one 45lbs plate on a movement. Also, just because I only used three 45lbs plates for the final set, it doesn't mean this is ALL the weight I can lift. If anything, it means when I used that weight, I still hit the target muscle group with more precision than someone just using that weight for the first time.

I do slow my reps down more now. When I do shrugs, I don't jerk the weight at all. I also hold the peak contraction....and that is with upwards of 4 plates a side.

That is a far cry from when I first got to that weight and was screaming just to get it in the air.

Get it?

Those really big guys you may see curling that 40lbs dumbbell are getting something different6 out of the movement than the newb who just lifted it for the first time.



OP, I used to do weighted chins as my primary bicep exercise but only because I had a back injury that I didn't want to aggravate with BB curls. after I healed up and went back to BB curls, I was getting better bicep stimulation (SURPRISE!) despite using less weight (80-100 lb EZbar curls vs 45-60 lb weighted chins at ~190 lb BW).

also, if you want serious arm growth, give them their own day. before I strained my right bicep a month or so ago (stupid mixed grip on deads...), I was picking up about 1/4" a month on my arms, and that was with training them directly once a week at the end of the week.

also, what Prof X says about getting more out of the weight used is very true. sloppier form has its place, but IMO a majority of your reps should be fairly strict so that the target muscle actually does the bulk of the work.


Ok, thanks for slapping me back on track. I just got into a rut of reading too many 'experts' while also being frusterated at my lack of development. I really liked the "Timeless Lessons" article. Thanks again.


you gotta look at these articles in context. for instance, I read that article "10 exercises you've never done" I think by Ben Bruno. he looked fairly impressive in the videos, but he's right, I've never done those exercises and I probably never will unless I tweak my back again. even he says at the end of the article that most lifters would be better off sticking to the basics, and that those exercises would just be good substitutes if you were injured or bored.

what counts knowledge-wise isn't articles, it's your own experience under the bar. you have to find what works for you, what makes you grow, what movements you can do safely and progress with over time. I think Prof X said he has whole conversations with his target muscles while lifting. it took me a while to get that, but eventually I found that every rep, every set, every session taught me something about my body. that isn't something you can get out of an article. the only way you'll find that out is by lifting.


Yeah, I've realized that I am worried about "moving the weight" rather than "working the muscle" during my workouts. But I guess I'm getting there. I at least realize what the problem is now. Since I was obsessed with weight progression and getting stronger, MMC seemed a distant second.


don't totally discount just moving the weight. that has its place too, but you have to progress from just being able to move the weight to mastering it and working the muscle.


See, you have to progress in strength in order to get bigger. that will never cease to be true. if your curling 110lbs now, and in one year, if your curling the same weight, i can almost guarantee your arms will not be much bigger. sure, you can slow the rep down, do in ultra strict, but you will still have to progress in weight to get further growth. That will never ever change.


And so here it is, the pinnacle point that every lifter reachers: Moving weight vs MMC.

Do both, and do both well.

Best of luck.