Weighted pull–ups are a type of pull–up variation which requires weight added either using a belt or weights in addition to your body weight.
If you’ve ever looked at a gymnast, you’ve noticed that not only are they some of the fittest and strongest athletes on earth – they have some of the best physiques. This is because their sport involves them consistently lifting and lowering themselves.
A lot of gymnasts have builds that could rival many bodybuilders and many of them do not even lift weights. That’s how effective the pull-up motion is.
If you’ve been able to progress with your pull-ups, you may want to make the exercise more challenging and include some alternatives. This will create a new stimulus for your muscles and studies show that progression of this sort is what drives results and gains in strength and muscle.
As mentioned, the pull-up is one of the best exercises you can perform, and your ability to do them shows true upper body strength.
Among other things, regularly performing pull-ups help with:
- Building muscle through the back and arms
- Improves grip strength to help with other exercises specifically deadlifts
- A crossover effect: when you become strong at pulling it strengthens your pushing ability
- Improves your functional strength which assists in day-to-day life
- More balanced muscle development
- Improved posture
Weighted Pull Ups Benefits
If you’ve worked your way up to a good amount of pull-ups (at least 10 +) you may be ready to make them more challenging with weighted pull-ups. Performing this many reps is a great achievement, but with fitness, your body can plateau after a while.
Your body will find the easiest way to perform an exercise as it wants to exert as little energy as possible. So when you were first able to perform 12 pull-ups, your body responded back positively.
If you’ve been stuck at that amount for months, you won’t be getting the same response anymore.
This can cause muscle gain plateaus which can stop your progress. Therefore, it’s important to include variation by increasing volume or resistance to enhance muscle gains.
Weighted pull-ups are an easy way to increase the resistance of a pull-up to stimulate more muscle – especially more lat activation. Weighted pull-ups require strict mechanics to perform properly so they also help your form and technique. They also force you to balance and coordinate properly as swinging and momentum become too difficult with added weights.
Weighted Pull Up Muscles Worked
As far as muscle recruitment goes, you can expect to work every muscle in the upper body
Here is a list of muscles worked during a Weighted Pull Up:
- Latissimus dorsi
- Biceps, brachioradialis, brachialis
- Teres major
- External obliques
- Thoracic spinae erectors
How To Do Weighted Pull Ups
With weighted pull-ups, you will add resistance in the form of dumbbells or weight plates. You can even find weighted vests to wear during them, but a more affordable way is to use the existing weights you can find in the gym.
The main thing to keep in mind when starting weighted pull-ups is to use light weights to become comfortable with the added resistance. You can then progress to heavier plates and dumbbells once you’re comfortable.
If you can only perform a few reps with the added weight, you will want to lighten things up to be able to perform multiple reps.
Here are ways you can do a weighted pull Ups:
You will place the dumbbell between your ankles so the plate part of the dumbbell is in front and behind your ankles.
Once in the pull-up position you can pull your heels up close to your glutes to keep everything more stable. This foot and leg position is actually important to try to hold during any style of pull-up.
When your legs are not engaged and held in position, it results in impaired neural drive to the core and your arms resulting in sloppy and weak pull-ups.
When you don’t keep the heels held up behind you, and the lower body engaged, it can cause sagging hips, poor spine alignment, weak muscle control, and impaired muscle activation.
You will then grasp the bar around shoulder-width apart – as you would with a normal pull-up – keep your head up, core tight, and lift your body up – leading with your chest – until your chin is just above the bar.
Pause for a moment and then lower down under control to perform one rep.
Keep your elbows close to your body and avoid having them flail outward too much. Make sure not to swing or use momentum to propel yourself upward.
Avoid lowering down to full extension as the added weight could put unnecessary force on your rotator cuffs. When you progress with this, you can even try adding in a barbell that can be laid across behind your knees while lifting your heels up to hold it in place.
We can also call these “dipping belts” and they are a weightlifting belt with chains that can loop through weight plates, or kettlebells, for added resistance.
The weight will hang between your legs as you are performing the pull-ups. Weight belts like this will allow your arms, wrists, and upper body more resistance and challenge as you lift your bodyweight upward.
Many gyms will have these as a great way to perform weighted pull-ups. One way is to perform the pull-up with your body straight like you’re standing up. The chains will hang over your feet and this will help to engage the lower body, keeps the entire body tense, and allows for better muscle activation.
The other popular way to use chains is by laying them across your traps having them hang down in front of you. The added weight will help force you to lead with your chest. The weight hanging in the front will help keep your body lined up properly and can even help with posture.