How to Increase Biceps Strength without Biceps Curls

Biceps strength can be greatly increased with any pull-up & chin-up workout when you are a beginner. Problem is, the better you get at pull-ups, the more you learn to engage your back – pull with the lats or armpit muscles. This is great because you will develop a great looking v-shaped body. However your biceps strength will reach a plateau because your arms will get less and less stimulation.

One solution is to start heavily relying on direct arm training with barbell and dumbbell curls. Although this is a great approach, there is yet another way to train with a compound exercise for greater biceps strength. Compound moves allow for a more natural loading of the muscles.

Here is a video we shot in the backyard of a nearby school of the mix grip chin-up. Notice how I am leaning towards the under grip arm and trying to pull with this side of my back. Don’t just pull yourself up. Instead use the muscles of the under grip side of the body.

Enter The Mix Grip Chin Up

Most demonstrations you will see of the mix grip chin-up online just show the regular variation where you simply grab the bar with a mixed grip and pull yourself. While this style of pull-ups is ok, it won’t bring the benefits of the style I’m about to teach you.

  • One hand palm up, one hand palm down. Get a strong grip and make sure to place the bar in the top one third of your palm.
  • Shoulder width apart. This grip is the most natural one and allows you to emphasize one arm without causing an injury.
  • Pull with the under grip hand. Lean towards your hand that’s in a chin-up position and pull.
  • Use the lat (back muscle) of the under grip side. Start the move by pulling down your shoulder with a straight arm towards your body. Then contract your lat and finally flex the biceps and chin yourself up.
  • Lower under control. Make sure to lower slowly, feel the muscle gradually relaxing and avoid just dropping down. This way you will avoid elbow injuries from dropping too fast.

Benefits of Training with the Mix Grip Chin-up

  • Smash plateaus. Adding a new movement and emphasizing one arm will allow you to gain more muscle and strength
  • Serious workout with pull-up bar only. You only need a pull up bar to train anywhere with quite a large resistance – which means more strength.
  • Simple fitness. Summer is a time to enjoy life and not hide away in a gym. Armed with this move you can enjoy the benefits of the sun.
  • Increase biceps strength with added resistance. You will increase the size and strength of your arms in particular without having to carry weights, belts or backpacks.
  • One arm chin-up preparation. Mastering this move will put you on the road to achieving the one arm chin-up.

mix-grip-chin

How to Incorporate Mix Grip Chin-ups

  • Rotate between strength and size. Every 3-4 weeks, alternate between heavier lower reps (3-6) and higher reps (7-12). This will ensure constant progress.
  • Avoid failure on the strength phase. When doing heavy low reps, don’t force the last rep. Instead leave a few reps in reserve and add more sets. You can train 3-5 times per week with the same or similar move or muscle group.
  • Train less often on the size phase. When doing slightly higher reps, make every set count and train hard. You will need more rest between such workouts. You will be able to train 1-2 times per week per muscle group in this way.
  • Alternate with a pushing move. Couple the exercise with a vertical push move like the handstand push up, the military press, or a dumbbell press variation.

What are your summer workout ideas? Share them below.

12 thoughts on “How to Increase Biceps Strength without Biceps Curls”

  1. Such a valuable article here – I am not one to be seen doing bicep curls but I love me some chinups! Top notch advice and methods – My gym doesn’t have a standard straight pullup bar, isn’t that crazy? Luckily I’ve found a pullup bar not too far, so I can enjoy some sun while working out… nice 🙂 Excellent article!

  2. Just got back from trying these bad boys out… killer man, love em. Because of the crappy bar at the gym, I had to go a little wider than in the vid, but I’m sure there are benefits to that variation as well?

  3. Craig, just as long as it doesn’t hurt your shoulder, it should be ok. I tried them super wide and it hurt bad…

    btw – speaking of pullups and summer…

  4. Solid post, Yavor. In my quest to eliminate all but the most effective exercises, biceps curls got the boot long ago. I nearly got a membership at the nearby Globo Gym but changed my mind and am going to rely on only three pieces of equipment this summer: jump rope, kettlebell, and pull up bar. Looking forward to adding this one to my repertoire.

  5. I feel like my biceps have hit a plateau lately… I’ve actually never tried these but will definitely give them a shot next time I do my “pullup workout” at the park. Great post!

  6. Darrin,

    the jumpore, the kettlebell and the pull-up are a great selection. By the way – I’m not slamming curls. In fact I do them often 🙂 What I’m saying is that these mixed-grip pull-ups help a lot.

    Alykhan,

    try them out. They are 2-3 times harder than regular pull-ups. So if you get really got at the mix grip with unilateral emphasis, you will have bigger arms.

    Cheers guys,

    Yavor

  7. Just tried this less than an hour ago. My arms are fried, along with my back. Great stuff, as usual!

    -Drew

  8. I’ve never tried them myself but I will definitely give them a shot. Seems like it would be a great exercises to throw in periodically when you’re nearing a plateau. Nice post by the way!

    Josh

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