Biceps training can be as simple as picking up a pair of dumbbells and going to town. They are often tucked neatly at the end of an upper-body workout, or maybe you train your biceps on their own day. Occasionally, you may find yourself separated from your dumbbell rack—or the gym entirely, so how do you bolster your biceps under these less-than-ideal circumstances?
Biceps workouts without weights are a real head-scratcher. You may feel limited when biceps curls are no longer available, but in reality, you can see significant strength and muscle growth without weights!
For beginner, intermediate, and advanced athletes looking to train their biceps without weight—here’s how to get the job done.
- Biceps Workout Without Weights for Beginners
- Biceps Workout Without Weights for Intermediates
- Biceps Workout Without Weights for Advanced Athletes
As a beginner, biceps training without weights is a double whammy. Many of the best biceps exercises use calisthenic training, which may be very challenging at first. We suggest selecting the most beginner-friendly exercises to progress them. As for equipment, if you have a table and a pull-up bar, then you’re in business.
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Combine this movement with a neutral-grip pull-up for a strong biceps stimulus using a simple workout routine.
- Inverted Row: 3 x 12
- Neutral-Grip Pull-Up*: 3 x AMRAP**
*If a bodyweight pull-up is too difficult, try a banded pull-up variation.
**AMRAP = as many repetitions as possible.
At an intermediate level you’ll need to put the gas on some of your beginner staples. Greater volume, harder variations, and some eccentric overload are the keys to your progress. Pair more advanced exercises with your now polished beginner workouts to keep seeing great strength and muscle growth.
Add some extra volume to your inverted row now that you’re at an intermediate experience level. Swapping to a chin-up with your palms facing up puts your biceps in a great position to work.
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Finish things off with an extremely challenging eccentric single-arm chin-up in order to force growth and build towards your future workouts.
- Inverted Row: 4 x 12
- Chin-Up: 3 x AMRAP
- Eccentric Single-Arm Chin-Up*: 2 x 5 eccentric reps per arm
*Control your descent on the eccentric single-arm chin-up. Use both arms to reposition yourself or a box to step back into position for each additional repetition. If this is too difficult at first, try using a resistance band to assist yourself.
As an advanced athlete, you’ll need to load your arms as much as possible to build your biceps. Compared to beginner and intermediate workouts, you’ll be performing the hardest variations and intensifiers to drive growth. Single-arm chin-ups, commando chin-ups, and inverted rows with a finisher should get the job done.
- Single-Arm Chin-Up: 3 x AMRAP
- Commando Chin-Up: 3 x 8 per side
- Inverted Row: 3 x 12*
*Perform a rest-pause AMRAP on the last set. Complete the initial 12 reps before resting 10 seconds and performing an AMRAP.
How to Progress Biceps Workouts Without Weights
Biceps workouts without weights are a bit unforgiving. If you find yourself stuck between workouts, try using tempo, eccentrics, various progressive overload strategies, and even some aggressive intensifiers.
Tempo is the intentional pacing of each part of your repetition. The concentric is when you are lifting the weight, whereas the eccentric is where you are lowering. (1) Using some strategic pauses (called isometric training) in particularly challenging ranges of motion is great for specific weak points.
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If you’re finding it hard to squeak out more progress on your biceps without weight, try intentionally slowing your repetitions down. This makes the same exercises, sets, repetitions, and even weight that much more effective without changing anything other than the repetition speed.
The eccentric portion of an exercise is when you are lowering the weight back into the starting position. You are stronger during the eccentric part of a repetition, so when you don’t have anything other than body weight to train with, eccentric repetitions may help you snap out of a plateau. (2) When you start to fail on the concentric portion of an exercise, knock out a few more repetitions using just the eccentric.
Progressive overload is how you keep getting stronger or seeing muscle growth as your body adapts to your workouts. Increasing sets, reps, lowering rest times, or increasing load are some of your options here.
Building your biceps without weights might make it harder to progress. Slowly increase reps and sets, utilize tempo, and then reduce your rest periods. Over several weeks, this sequence should help produce greater muscle growth and strength.
Intensifiers are a strong card to play when you’re trying to train your biceps without weight. Many exercises may initially seem too easy or too hard, but pairing them with intensifiers helps you squeeze out as much growth as possible. Using a higher-rep rest-pause training style breathes new life into exercises that have become too easy.
Who Should Perform Biceps Workouts Without Weights
Biceps workouts without weights carry over nicely to calisthenic specialists and strength athletes. Similarly, if you just don’t have the required equipment, you’ll probably benefit from these workouts too.
Although biceps curls would be a much more direct way of growing your biceps, sometimes you’re stuck without equipment. In that instance you either accept your fate or get a bit creative.
Your biceps act as strong synergists during most back work. That means they should inevitably get smoked using even bodyweight back exercises.
Calisthenics are bodyweight exercises and drive serious full-body gains when you get good at them. Since your biceps are incorporated into most major back exercises, calisthenic training should hit them hard. In this way, biceps workouts without weights are the most specific way of building strength that carries over to your calisthenic progress.
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Perfecting the art of bodyweight training builds up your biceps and also takes some of that strain off your biceps muscles. Tap into some great full-body coordination, proprioception, and bracing to benefit your strength training as well.
Benefits of Biceps Workouts Without Weights
First and foremost, you’re going to get bigger biceps—but your grip will come along for the ride. Some of the best biceps exercises without weights are bodyweight workouts, meaning your core and coordination also get a boost. Finally, you don’t actually need any equipment to accomplish your task.
Starting with the obvious—training your biceps grows bigger biceps. Specific results require specific stimuli. If you’re in the market for larger arms but don’t have any weight, you can still see the arm growth you’re looking for. Biceps workouts without weights make you get a bit creative and bring a ton of secondary benefits, but you’ll undoubtedly grow bigger biceps.
Biceps exercises are nearly inseparable from grip training. While you may not be thinking about your hands—your fingers sliding off the pull-up bar is the only reminder you need. Every rep relies upon your ability to keep your hands secured on the bar; as your biceps grow, your grip strength improves.
Most of the best biceps workouts without weights lean heavily into no equipment back exercises. Since you’ll be performing a high volume of these upper-body exercises, your core slowly gets roasted too. Your biceps are the star, but your core strength and endurance also act as a linchpin for success.
Controlling your body as you lift yourself through the air is an additional challenge to your biceps training.
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Force production is not your only responsibility. During each rep you’ll also be required to coordinate your limbs and maintain a full-body brace. Expect some major challenges to your proprioception here.
No Equipment Needed
The most convenient benefit is that your biceps workouts without weights require no equipment. Biceps curls may be a more direct way to train your arms, but using bodyweight removes that middleman. There is no need for equipment or a gym, making a biceps workout without weights an ideal at-home workout. Simply grab a pull-up bar, and you have everything you need.
Muscles Worked by Biceps Workouts Without Weights
There are very few direct bodyweight biceps exercises, so you’ll be hammering a ton of upper-body calisthenics because of this. Expect to see great gains in your forearms, upper back, lats, and core.
Your biceps brachii and brachialis are two of the major upper arm muscles that make up your “biceps” group. The biceps brachii spans from your forearm to your shoulder with slightly unique attachment points. Your brachialis inserts on the forearm and above your elbow, at approximately the middle of your upper arm. Both of these muscles flex your elbow and are the main target of your biceps exercises. (3)
In order to hang onto the pull-up bar, chair, or any other implement you’ll be using—your forearms are going to work. The hands and forearm muscles work together to produce a strong squeeze. Expect to earn some callused hands and thick forearms because you can’t build biceps if you’re falling off the bar.
Many pull-up, chin-up, and row variations are great for targeting your biceps without weights. With that in mind, anything that forces you to stabilize your shoulders or retract your shoulder blades draws heavily upon upper back muscles.
Exercises such as inverted rows, pull-ups, and chin-ups throw some love at your upper back.
Many bodyweight exercises that are great for biceps workouts without weights are also big lat exercises. The biceps flex your elbow, the lats extend your shoulder—and when you combine these two you’ve got nearly every conceivable row and pull-up variation.
The core is the combined muscles of your abdominals, back, and hips. The core is designed to stabilize your position during calisthenic exercises. Your back and biceps do the heavy lifting, but your core needs to be locked-in tight to neutralize your position.
Flex On ‘Em
Sometimes an arm day isn’t as simple as it sounds. A few high rep sets of biceps curls might be your normal go-to here, but there’s certainly more than one way to build your biceps. A biceps workout without weights is extremely convenient, effective, and scalable to your experience level. You’re also bringing plenty of other muscles (and benefits) along for the ride.
Don’t think you need to leave your arm gains on the table just because you don’t have any equipment — instead, grab that table and row your way to bigger biceps!
- Padulo J, Laffaye G, Chamari K, Concu A. Concentric and eccentric: muscle contraction or exercise? Sports Health. 2013 Jul;5(4):306. doi: 10.1177/1941738113491386. PMID: 24459543; PMCID: PMC3899915.
- Nuzzo, J. L., Pinto, M. D., Nosaka, K., & Steele, J. (2023). The Eccentric:Concentric Strength Ratio of Human Skeletal Muscle In Vivo: Meta-analysis of the Influences of Sex, Age, Joint Action, and Velocity. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 53(6), 1125–1136.
- Plantz MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Brachialis Muscle. [Updated 2023 Feb 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-.
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