In this article, we will take a look at calisthenics arm workouts and everything you need to know about this subject. We will show you how to increase the circumference of your arms with calisthenics exercises. We will take a closer look at the following points:
- Arm workouts for maximum results
- Scope of repeats for maximum growth
- What is the correct volume/week for you
- Exercises for a biceps workout
- Exercises for a triceps workout
- Type of workouts: super sets
- Workout routines
Arm workouts for maximum success
Your first thought is probably: "What do arm workouts have to do with my calisthenics workout? Only jocks care about having big arms". Perhaps, but specific arm workouts are a very important factor for your all-round performance. Why? The arms, or rather the biceps and the triceps, often constitute the limiting factors that prevent you from doing more chin-ups or mastering a handstand push-up. Assistance is the key word here. The weakest link in the chain must be specifically targeted and worked on individually, in order to achieve maximum success. For this reason, calisthenics arm workouts are very important to ensure that your arms do not limit your ability.
Scope of repeats for maximum growth
More muscle mass results in more strength potential. There are several factors that play a significant role in inducing maximum muscle growth. One important factor is high mechanical strain on the muscles. Doing 200 curls with one kilogram will probably result in too little mechanical stress, therefore, you should select the intensity/exertion on the muscles so that you are within the correct scope of repeats.
But what is the “right” scope of reps for maximum muscle growth?
Basically, you should be within the hypertrophic scope of 8-12 repeats. However, depending on your workout plan and periodisation, it sometimes makes perfect sense to do 4-6 reps and to increase the mechanical stress by including a more severe progression. You can also decide on a higher scope of repeats – perhaps 15-20. However, you should reduce the intensity, i.e. choose a less strenuous version of the exercise, otherwise you will probably not achieve the scope of repeats you are aiming for.
Another option is to increase the time under tension, i.e. the duration of the load per rep. For example, you could do one chin-up rep made up of 3 seconds of concentric and 3 seconds of eccentric movement. This option increases the focus on the working muscles, thereby promoting your mind-muscle connection. We will tell you how many sets of the corresponding exercises and repetitions you should do in the following point.
What is the correct volume/week for you?
Once we have clarified the scope of the repeats you should be doing for your calisthenics arm workouts, in order to achieve maximum muscle growth, we will look at the right volume for you. The volume is made up as follows:
Volume = Number of Sets x Number of Repeats x Weight
Because we are only working with our own bodyweight, we will not consider the simplicity of the weight in the formula. Therefore the following formula is decisive for us:
Volume = Number of Sets x Number of Repeats
To find out what volume is correct for you, we would like to introduce you to four terms:
1. MV = Maintenance Volume – the Maintenance Volume is necessary in order to maintain the current musculature.
2. MEV = Minimum Effective Volume – the minimum volume that is necessary to build some muscle.
3. MAV = Maximum Adaptive Volume – you need to remain within this volume range if you want to promote maximum muscle growth.
4. MRV = Maximum Recoverable Volume – the volume that you can still regenerate without moving into the overtraining range. This volume range should therefore be used with caution.
The following volume table was compiled by Dr Mike Israetel:
In this table, the volume is given in sets, and it has the following prerequisites. Your set should:
- be 60%-80% of 1RM (maximum strength value).
- consist of 8-20 repeats.
- end 1-4 reps before muscle failure sets in.
Accordingly, the volume for your workout should lie within the upper ranges. Of course, you can split the volume up over several workouts per week.
Exercises for a biceps workout
Chin-ups are pull-ups with a supine grip, which means that the palms of your hands are pointing towards you whilst gripping the bar. The starting position is the so-called "dead hang", in which you hang on the pull-up bar, without tensing any muscles. Now, start the movement by activating your shoulder girdle by pulling your shoulders backwards and down and fixing them there. The next step is to pull your body upwards until your chin is above the bar. Once this movement is complete, let your body down again slowly, in a controlled manner, until you are back in the starting position. Besides exercising your back muscles, this exercise also targets the biceps. If you cannot do chin-ups yet, you can do the exercise with a pull-up band, or alternatively, you could do one of the following exercises.
Curls on rings
In order to train the biceps individually, we use curls. But not with dumbbells – here, we are talking about ring curls. To do this exercise, you will need gymnastics rings or a sling trainer. Grab the grips and lean back slightly. Stretch out your arms and hold your elbows against your body. The palms of your hands or fingers should be towards you. To begin the movement, tense your biceps and pull your body towards your hands. As soon as you reach your hands, return to the starting position, slowly and a controlled manner. The further forward your feet are, the more difficult the movement becomes. This enables you to find the right intensity for yourself very easily.
Check out our Gymnastic Rings here!
Pelican Curls are a slightly more demanding variation of ring curls. For this exercise, the gymnastics rings should be set at hip height. Stand between the rings and grasp the handles with your fingers pointing in the direction of vision. Now, take two steps forward so that the point of attachment of the rings is behind you. In order to get into the starting position, lean forward. Make sure that your shoulders remain protracted, so that you have your shoulders under control at all times. Your hands are now behind your body. To start the movement, tense your biceps and pull your body towards your hands, so that you are almost standing upright again. Now lower yourself into the starting position, slowly and in a controlled manner.
Exercises for a triceps workout
Dips are the most effective workout method for your triceps. In order to do them, you need a dip bar or rings. (Note: Ring dips are more difficult). You start the movement supporting yourself on your arms. Now push yourself up by the shoulders so that your ears come away from your shoulders. Next, bend your elbows and slowly lower your upper body in a controlled, manner until your upper arms are 90 degrees beneath your forearms. Push yourself up to the starting position again, making sure that your ears come away from your shoulders. Make sure that your elbows stay against your body and that you do not hollow your back. Do not leave the hollow body position during the exercise.
Have a look at our Pullup and Dip bar here!
Diamond push-ups are a variation of regular push-ups, which target the triceps. You begin in the push-up position, tensing your glutes and trying to pull in your bellybutton, in order to get into a stable basic position. Now, position your hands so that they form a diamond – in other words, your two thumbs and your two forefingers must touch each other. Now, lean forward a little and let your upper body down slowly and in a controlled manner, until your chest reaches your hands.
From this position, push yourself back up to the starting position. Once again, you should make sure that your elbows remain against your body and that your core is constantly tensed, so that you do not hollow your back. Alternatively, you can also do the exercise with push-up bars. The additional amplitude of movement allows for an enhanced workout effect, and due to their neutral position, there is no strain on the wrists.
Check out our Push-Up Bars here!
Overhead Triceps Extensions
For overhead triceps extensions, you need a low bar, about 30-60cm above the ground. Alternatively, you can use gymnastics rings that are hung at an appropriate height. Grasp the bar with both hands, with the fingers pointing away from you, then move your feet sufficiently far back, so that from the side, your body roughly forms a C-shape. For this exercise, it is also important to tense your core – do not allow your body to sag, creating a hollow back. To begin the movement, bend your arms so that your head is beneath your hands or the bar. From this position, push yourself back into the starting position, keeping your elbows in a neutral position, and not allowing them to point outwards. The higher the bar, the easier the exercise becomes.
Workout method: Super sets
Super sets are a great alternative to save time so that you don't have to spend hours working out. You combine two exercises, first doing Exercise 1, then taking a one-minute break before doing Exercise 2 and so on. This way, you have a 2-minute break between the sets of Exercise 1, which gives you more power for each set. Make sure that you choose two exercises that work different muscle groups, neither of which will tire the muscles needed for the other exercise. That would make it difficult for you to complete the super sets. For example, you could choose one exercise for the biceps and one for the triceps.
Super set with
5 x 12 Chin-ups
5 x 12 Dips
Super set with
5 x 12 Ring Curls
5 x 12 Overhead Triceps Extensions
If you have any questions about this article, you’re welcome to contact us or our coach, Flex, at (www.flex-calisthenics.de), so that we can answer all your questions. If you have any questions about your workout plan, get in touch with Flex – he’s the guy to talk to about calisthenics coaching. On that note, we wish you lots of fun during your workouts, and every success with your muscle building!
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