Athlean-X strength trainer and founder Jeff Cavaliere CSCS is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to building muscle and making gains. Whether he’s sharing his knowledge of the science behind the best moves for a chiseled chest, the best bodyweight strength training exercises, or the movement you should be doing every day to develop your calves, he knows what’s going on. So if you’re trying to develop your arms, he knows you can repeat pull-ups and pull-ups.
But which one is better to really help you get those big arm gains? He breaks it down by starting with an anatomy lesson of the upper arm, which is made up of the biceps and triceps muscles.
âAs we know, the job of the biceps is to supine the forearm and flex the elbow. It also has the ability to flex the shoulder because it has a long bicep head that runs through the joint,â explains Cavaliere. “The triceps are of course designed to extend the elbow and bring the extended arm behind the body.”
When you do pull-ups, there is another âvery importantâ muscle used in the upper arm called the brachialis. âThis muscle is a powerful flexor in the elbow. The brachialis sits directly under the biceps and, once developed, can give you wider arms and bigger biceps,â says Cavaliere.
To build bigger arms, you are ultimately going to want to strengthen your biceps as well as your upper arm. So with the chinup, the sneaky position requires a supination, which engages the biceps more than in a pullup. However, there is also forearm supination, and this can engage your lats rather than your biceps.
âWhen the elbow drifts in front of the body, the stretch in the back muscles becomes more important,â Cavaliere explains. âBecause of the activation of the stretch reflex at the bottom of the repetition, we can turn the exercise into an exercise that promotes the lats rather than the biceps. You don’t want that to happen if you’re trying to develop your muscles. biceps. “
You can do this by making sure you focus on how you are pulling your body towards the bar. Instead of pulling yourself straight up or staying very close to the bar, you should keep some distance between your body and the bar as you go up.
âAct as if you are curving your body against the barbell like you would with a barbell against your body in a traditional barbell curl,â Cavaliere explains. “It will require the biceps to do more work and the lats to do less.”
As for the pull-ups, the mechanism is different thanks to an overhand grip rather than an underhand grip, which shifts the attention from the biceps to the brachii muscle. Cavaliere notes that the thing to focus on with the pull-ups is the grip width on the bar.
âThe wider you take, the less you will work the brachialis because the amount of elbow flexion will be less,â Cavaliere explains. “With the brachialis, one of the strongest elbow flexors, we want to get more flexion by taking a tighter grip.” As with the chinup, he suggests that you also keep your body away from the barbell, as if you get too close it will lessen the effect on the brachii muscle.
So what’s best for building bigger arms? The answer is both – a trick question from Cavaliere.
Your best allocation depends on your goals and the type of program you are doing.
âIf you are following a sibling separation, I would consider arm exercise more of a pull-up, and that would take place the day we come back,â Cavaliere explains. “I consider the chinup to be the best bicep exercise if performed the way I showed you, and it would sort of work out on bicep or arm day.”
For a pull-up workout, you can either put them in alternate workouts or use them together in the same workout. If you’re doing them in the same workout, Cavaliere suggests focusing on increasing strength like a weighted pull-up, then using your pull-up as a higher repetition accessory exercise. Or, you can incorporate them into a total body workout program where you either do the pull-up or chinup every time you work out.
âThe point is, guys, both are great exercises,â Cavaliere says. “The way you do what you do always matters.”
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