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Are Chin-Ups Good For Biceps? (Explained For Beginners)

Chin-ups are an effective upper-body exercise used by many gym-goers as part of their structured fitness program.

They’re known for being great at building your back, shoulders, abs, and even chest too.

If you’re trying to build some strong muscular biceps though, you might be wondering if chin-ups could help you reach this goal too.

Well, that’s exactly what we’re looking at in this article.

In it, we discuss whether chin-ups are enough to build biceps, how to activate your biceps more during chin-ups, as well as looking into chin-up variations that may or may not be more beneficial to your biceps.

Are Chin-Ups Good For Biceps?

Yes, chin-ups are very good for biceps.

The underhand grip does a great job of activating your biceps during the movement and your biceps are placed under a lot of stress during chin-ups.

Your biceps play a big role in making the movement happen and lifting your entire body weight from the lowest part of the exercise to the highest point.

Another bonus of chin-ups is that they activate your brachialis too.

This sits underneath your bicep and can be quite hard to develop with other bicep-building exercises.

As your brachialis develops and increases in size, it can make your overall arm size bigger resulting in larger and more muscular-looking biceps.

Are Chin-Ups Enough For Biceps?

Technically yes, but realistically, you’ll need more than just chin-ups to build strong muscular biceps.

Chin-ups can drastically increase the size and strength of your biceps just by doing this one exercise alone.

However, your bicep development will eventually become limited as they get more and more used to the exercise.

To stop this from happening, you should introduce bicep curls and other bicep-building exercises alongside your chin-ups to get the most benefits.

While chin-ups are an extremely effective biceps exercise, you’ll likely notice a plateau in their development if you don’t bring other exercises into play too.

How To Activate Your Biceps More During Chin-Ups

There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get as much bicep activation from your chin-ups as possible.

Perform Chin-Ups Slowly And Controlled

Doing each rep slowly and under full control can make a huge difference to the development of the working muscles.

If you try to complete each set of chin-ups as quickly as possible, not only will you likely be making all kinds of errors in your technique, but you could actually be taking away a lot of bicep benefits too.

Each chin-up needs to be performed slowly, under control, and with full activation of all the working muscles.

Hold The Movement At The Highest Point

If you want to target your biceps as much as possible, you should hold the movement for a few seconds at the highest point.

At this stage, your biceps will be under a lot of stress.

By pausing at this point, you can keep your biceps under tension for a bit longer, which can make a big difference over a number of reps.

Holding your body weight at the highest point of chin-ups for a count of three can go a long way in your bicep-building goals.

Keep Your Hands Close Together On The Bar

Having your hands closer together on the bar can also make a big difference when it comes to bicep activation during chin-ups.

A wider grip tends to bring your lats into play a bit more whereas a closer grip (around shoulder width) encourages greater bicep activation.

Progress To Weighted Chin-Ups

If you’ve done lots of bicep-building exercises in the past, it could be that your biceps are very strong and you find chin-ups quite easy.

If this is the case, you can put your biceps under more stress by doing weighted chin-ups to activate them as much as possible.

(Watch this great vid showing you how to use this bicep-building chin-up variation in your workouts!)

Are Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups Better For Biceps?

As a general rule, chin-ups do a better job of activating the muscles on the front side of your body while pull-ups activate the muscles on the back side of your body a bit more.

With this in mind, it makes sense that chin-ups are better than pull-ups when it comes to building biceps.

Chin-ups rely more heavily on your arms and chest to lift your body weight.

This means that your biceps have to do more of the work throughout the movement.

During pull-ups, your back muscles (particularly your lats) do a lot of the heavy lifting, so your arm muscles (including your biceps) aren’t needed as much.

Your biceps will definitely play a part in pull-ups, just as your lats come into play during chin-ups.

Both exercises work very similar muscles, they just work them to varying degrees.

If you’re only going to add one of these exercises into your training program and you’re trying to build bigger biceps, chin-ups will be the best choice for you.

Why Do Some People Not Feel Their Biceps During Chin-Ups?

There are many reasons why you may not feel your biceps during chin-ups.

Other Muscles Are Weaker Than Your Biceps

It could be that other working muscles involved in chin-ups are weaker than your biceps.

While this may sound strange (as many of the working muscles in chin-ups are big muscle groups), having big biceps may result in other working muscles giving out before your biceps start to struggle.

Since many people focus on building big strong biceps, it makes sense that too much emphasis could be placed on them in training resulting in your arms being stronger than other parts of your body.

You’re Using An Incorrect Technique

While the technique involved in chin-ups is fairly straightforward, there are certain points where mistakes can be made.

Small things such as hand position on the bar or allowing too much momentum to be built and used during chin-ups could all result in your biceps not being worked as hard during the exercise.

Mind-To-Muscle Connection

Something else to consider is that chin-ups might not put enough focus on your biceps for you to feel them activate.

That isn’t to say your biceps aren’t working. It could simply be that, as multiple muscles are activating at the same time, you can’t focus on each individual one.

Your biceps may be activating exactly as they should, but you aren’t able to feel them as you aren’t used to working them as part of a compound exercise.

Why Do Some People Get Sore Biceps After Chin-Ups?

Normal Post Exercise Muscular Discomfort

Your biceps are one of the main muscles doing most of the work during chin-ups.

During the exercise, microscopic tears will form in the working muscles which leads to some mild discomfort afterward.

It can be fairly easy to confuse this discomfort for pain and soreness.

Mild discomfort in the working muscles (like your biceps) after chin-ups is likely to be completely normal and is to be expected from challenging exercises like this.

Technique Errors

It’s worth remembering that your biceps aren’t the only muscle working during chin-ups.

Your shoulders, chest, back, and core all play a part in the movement too.

Despite this, some people struggle to fully allow all of the working muscles to activate in equal measure.

Some people rely almost entirely on their biceps to lift their body weight during chin-ups, which is a surefire way to feel soreness in them after their workout.

If your biceps are more sore than you would expect them to be after chin-ups, it’s worth taking a look at your technique to ensure you aren’t making any mistakes that could cause excessive stress to be placed on them.

(Watch this short video to find out how you should be doing chin-ups for the most benefits to your biceps!)

Weak Biceps

If you have weak biceps in comparison to the other working muscles involved in chin-ups, you could experience sore biceps after doing them.

As your biceps are a relatively small muscle compared to some of the others used in chin-ups, it could be that any soreness experienced afterward is a result of your biceps being a little bit weaker and unable to handle the stress chin-ups place on them.

Injury

Anything more than mild discomfort felt in the working muscles after chin-ups could be a sign of injury. 

Although chin-ups are a pretty safe exercise to do, sometimes things can go wrong and you could pick up an injury.

If the soreness you’re experiencing in your biceps stops you from doing your normal daily activities, it’s a good idea to speak to a medical professional to rule out a serious injury.

Are Negative Chin-Ups Good For Biceps?

Yes, although full chin-ups are more beneficial.

Negative chin-ups bring your biceps into play, but it’s worth remembering that your biceps are under most stress at the highest point when they’re almost fully contracted.

Negative chin-ups don’t really include this part of the exercise. So while they may be beneficial to the biceps, they won’t be as good as full chin-ups.

Are Weighted Chin-Ups Good For Biceps?

Yes, weighted chin-ups are one of the best bicep-building exercises you can do.

Standard chin-ups require a huge amount of bicep activation in order to lift your entire body weight up from a hanging position to the highest point of the exercise.

This places more stress on your biceps than even some curl variations.

Weighted chin-ups take this even further and result in even more effort being needed from your biceps to lift both your body weight and the additional weight up.

Are Assisted Chin-Ups Good For Biceps?

Assisted chin-ups can be a great way of building strength in the working muscles during standard chin-ups (including your biceps).

They can certainly help build your biceps but they won’t be as effective as full chin-up reps.

If you can’t do full reps, then assisted chin-ups can be an ideal challenge for your biceps.

However, if you already have good levels of strength in your arms, they might not be challenging enough for your biceps to get many benefits.

Are Ring Chin-Ups Good For Biceps?

Ring chin-ups are very good at making your biceps and shoulders work hard during the movement. 

As the rings are much more unstable compared to a standard chin-up bar, pretty much all of the working muscles have to work harder to keep your body stable while also lifting your body weight from the lowest point of the exercise to the highest.

Which Bicep Head Do Chin-Ups Work?

Your bicep is actually made up of two heads – a long head and a short head.

The long head is the one that builds the famous bicep peak, whereas the short head adds width and thickness to your arms.

Chin-ups primarily work the short head of your biceps.

This makes them very good at adding thickness to your biceps which can help give a larger overall appearance to the size of your arms.

How Many Chin-Ups Should You Do For Biceps?

Depending on how many chin-ups you can already comfortably do, it can be beneficial to do at least 8 repetitions per set of chin-ups.

If you can successfully do 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 chin-ups, you’ll likely see good amounts of development in your biceps.

Sources

Chin-Ups Muscles Worked