Headbangers: A Calisthenics Exercise For Growing Biceps

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What are Headbangers

Headbangers are a pull-up variation that puts isolation on your back, biceps, and forearm muscles. Completing them with good form will develop upper body strength and endurance.  The great thing about this exercise is that you can change your grip position to target different muscles.

Headbangers involve shifting your entire body weight up against gravity, it gives great trunk stability and upper body strength. According to recent research on the muscle activation during the pull-up, of the four muscle groups assessed (trapezius, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and rectus abdominis). Researchers have found that the rectus abdominis was the most active muscle group for all participants when performing the pull-up.

What Muscles are Worked by Headbangers

Headbangers target your biceps, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, abdominals, forearms, deltoids, and triceps. This exercise is a compound movement that utilizes many muscle groups at once, and these are the muscles that you’ll need to strengthen in order to develop upper body strength.

What Level are Headbangers

Headbangers are an intermediate-level and above exercise, as you are required to have sufficient upper body strength such as being able to do 8 pull-ups and chin-ups with strict form, along with 15 seconds isometric hold with your chin above the bar. Check out the these articles below as I go over the techniques and progression on acquiring the strength necessary to perform this exercise:

How To Do Headbangers

1. Hang On The Bar

Begin in a dead hang by gripping firmly on the bar using an underhand grip at shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be off the ground and your core is squeezed.

2. Pull Up

Exhale as you pull yourself up so that your chin is above the bar, this is your starting position. Hold this isometric position.

You can experiment with different grips to target different muscle groups, for example using either a supinated/underhand grip to isolate biceps, or a pronated/overhand grip to isolate your lats. The width of your grip also affects the tension of different muscles. For example:

Supinated/Underhand Grip:

  • Supinated close grip targets your biceps
  • Supinated shoulder-width grip targets your biceps and middle back
  • Supinated wide grip targets your lats

Pronated/Overhand Grip:

  • Pronated close grip targets your biceps
  • Pronated shoulder-width grip targets your middle back
  • Pronated wide grip targets your lats

3. Push And Pull

Explosively push your head away from the bar by extending your arms horizontally. Aim to fully extend your arms, followed by quickly pulling yourself back towards the bar to the starting position.

4. Repeat

Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps for 4 sets (see the recommended reps and sets range below). There are many headbangers variations that you can try by using different grips. This grip includes underhand grip, pronated grip, and mix grip. This will be covered in the Headbangers Variations section.

Headbangers Workout

  • Beginners should perform between 4-6 reps, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Intermediate-level athletes should perform between 8-18 reps, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Advanced level athletes should perform 20+ reps or more for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

You should move on to harder variations once you have achieved your reps and set goals.

It is highly recommended that you utilize supersets to increase time under tension on the working muscles, which will overload the muscles, therefore, enhancing your muscular endurance and strength. An example workout could be:

  • 3 chin-ups + 5 headbangers
  • 3 chin-ups + 5 headbangers + 5s chin above bar isometric hold
  • 3 pull-ups + 5 headbangers
  • 3 pull-ups + 5 headbangers + 5s chin above bar isometric hold

The workout example above should be practiced for 4 sets, 2-3 times a week.

Headbangers Benefits

Upper Body Hypertrophy

Headbangers do wonders for your upper body muscles due to their compound mechanics. It will target your lats, biceps, front shoulders, and abs. Practicing this consistently with high volume will definitely contribute to your muscle mass, giving you bigger biceps and a monster back. Moreover, your muscular endurance will skyrocket, which will be beneficial in other aspects of your workouts such as cardio, or HITT. 

Improve Posture

If you have slumping shoulders or a rounded back, it can lead to back problems and aches. To correct these issues, you should practice pull-ups and their variations to target the upper body muscles and strengthen them. This will help stabilize the spine, therefore, improving your posture

Improve Grip Strength

Headbangers will develop your grip strength as you will be holding your body weight up in the top chin-up position. This will fire your forearm muscles away and aid growth, giving you crushing grip strength. A stronger grip strength assists you in carrying, holding, and lifting items in your everyday life and your athletic performance. 

According to a 2021 study, hand grip strength is often used as an indicator of overall muscle strength in adults. Weak grip strength is associated with a variety of clinical consequences including overall morbidity, and mortality, and is an integral diagnostic component of sarcopenia.

Head bangers Variations

L-Sit Headbangers

This variation is a progression that will activate your core as you will bring your legs up at a 90 degrees angle in relation, creating an L-sit. This helps to develop midline stability and strength. To perform this exercise you will:

  1. Begin in a dead-hang position gripping firmly on the bar using the either pronated or supinated grip, at shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be off the ground. Keep your core tight.
  2. Exhale and pull up to the top position where your chin is above the bar. Lift up your legs until they are at a 90 degrees angle in relation to your torso to hold an L-Sit. This is your starting position.
  3. Create a push and pull motion by explosively pushing your head away from the bar by horizontally extending your arms, followed by pulling yourself back to the starting position. Aim to keep your chin above the bar throughout the movement.
  4. Repeat this push and pull motion between 5-20 reps for 4 sets.

Headbangers Head Underbar

Headbangers head underbar is a regression to the regular headbangers. You will pull up using either a pronated or supinated grip until your head is just below the bar (bottom half pull-up). This is great if you are not yet able to perform a full pull-up, and you will still get the same benefits in targeting your biceps and lats. To perform this, you will:

  1. Begin in a dead-hang position gripping firmly on the bar using the either pronated or supinated grip, at shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be off the ground. Engage your core.
  2. Exhale and pull up until your head is below the bar (bottom half pull-up position). This is your starting position.
  3. Create a push and pull motion by explosively pushing your head away from the bar by horizontally extending your arms, followed by pulling yourself back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this push and pull motion between 5-20 reps for 4 sets.

Headbangers Mixed Grip

Headbangers with mixed grip utilize both the pronated and supinated grip. This will increase lateral instability, which will develop your core, and broaden your lats (make sure to switch grip to prevent muscle imbalances!). To perform this, you will:

  1. Start in a dead-hang position gripping firmly on the bar at shoulder-width apart, using a pronated grip in one hand, and supinated grip in the other. Your feet should be off the ground. Engage your core.
  2. Exhale and pull up until your chin is above the bar, to the top half pull-up position. This is your starting position.
  3. Create a push and pull motion by explosively pushing your head away from the bar by horizontally extending your arms, followed by pulling yourself back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this push and pull motion between 5-20 reps for 4 sets. Switch grips after every set.

The Final Verdict: Headbangers Exercise

Headbangers is definitely up there for the top five pull-up variations. Doing this exercise well can help improve your ability to do others, such as weighted pull-ups and muscle-ups. because they will still build your lats, biceps, shoulders, forearms, and core. Definitely add this into your routine to reduce boredom and the risk of injury. I recommend you to check out the following pull-up variations to further enhance your gains:

As always, thank you for reading this article, and hope you’ve found value in it. if you have any questions about the Redge Fit or anything about fitness, feel free to drop a comment down below, and don’t forget to give me a follow on  YouTubeTiktok, and Instagram where I will be posting useful content regularly!


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