How to Start With Weighted Pull Ups

Finding regular pull-ups too easy? Find out how to start with weighted pull-ups and increase your pull-up strength, in this post.

What Is a Weighted Pull Up?

In calisthenics, ‘weighted’ refers to performing an exercise with external resistance in addition to your bodyweight. In regards to a weighted pull-up, this can be achieved by using a weighted vest, a dipping belt, or simply by holding weights (where possible) to add additional load to your pull-ups.

The extra weight can make a weighted pull-ups workout a lot more difficult and can be the perfect way of improving your body’s strength. Weighted pull-ups for mass are relatively easy to control since you can always change the weight you attach according to your level of difficulty.

How to Get Started With Weighted Pull-Ups?

Since you can start with only a small weight, there shouldn’t be too much difference in weighted pull-ups vs bodyweight pull-ups, so long as you start light.

Once you’re able to perform reps with good form, you can continue to increase the additional weight gradually.

So, what are the ideal ways to add weights to your pull-ups?

Weighted Vest

A weighted vest can be one of the most effective ways to add weight to your pull-ups. 

We recommend buying a weighted vest with customisable weights, such as this one from Gravity Fitness which has the weight spread over 16 different pockets, allowing you to add and remove weight as you desire.

One of the great things about a weighted vest is that it can be used in other training scenarios, such as climbing, running, and hiking etc.

Dipping Belt

AFQ dipping belt with kettlebell attached

An alternative option would be to buy a dipping belt which allows you to attach weights to it. This method gives you complete freedom around how much weight you can add. Just attach weight plates using the belt’s clip and off you go.

Dip belts run around the hip area and have a wide area to fully support the back. They have a chain suspended from them to tie the weights.

The only downside here is that you need to own the additional weight in the first place, so this option may be better for those who have access to a gym and can use their weight plates.

Dumbbell or Barbell Plate

This method is a simple option for those who don’t own a weighted vest or a dipping belt, must be performed with great care. 

You can add weight simply by placing barbell plates, dumbbells, a kettlebell, or anything else suitable between your knees or ankles and keeping it sandwiched there whilst you perform pull-ups.

This is only feasible for lighter weight loads, so we wouldn’t advise doing this for anything over 5/10kg. Furthermore, people also end up damaging the equipment with this method, as it’s very easy to drop the weights whenever the pressure gets too much. 

When Should You Add Weight to Your Pull-Ups?

There is no point in rushing to add weights to your pull-ups, and if you can’t perform them with good, clean form, then they are useless. 

We would recommend being able to perform 10 clean pull-ups first before adding weight, but once you have can do this, then we would say the choice is down to you. Add them when you feel that you can handle weight whilst maintaining a clean form.

Remember, the fewer weights you add, the faster you can begin. Starting with 5 kg should not feel significantly different, so start with this and work at this weight until you can perform 6-10 reps.

Weighted pull-ups are a great workout, but you must not rush your body to try to do them. Building strength can be a slow process as your body reacts to an increasing load.

How Often Should You Do Weighted Pull-Ups?

We recommend adding weighted pull-ups to your workout no more than twice per week, ideally pairing them with other back and bicep exercises but you should always start with a pull-up.

The reason for restricting the frequency to twice a week is muscle healing and development. Bear in mind that after an intense workout, the entire musculoskeletal system needs a break. The framework consists of interconnected bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

Without proper rest during workouts, there is a possibility that these components can get worn out, and that can lead to injury.

Are Weighted Pull-Ups Bad for You?

Yes and no. Adding weight to pull-ups can increase the chances of injury. How much the chances increase depends on who you are, what your training background is and whether you have any pre-existing medical conditions, among other factors. So, weighted pull-ups can be bad for certain individuals.

So, it is not a matter of weighted pull-ups being bad for you. Because if performed in the right way by healthy people who are well-trained for the exercise, they are very effective and most importantly, safe. But if not performed properly, they can cause damage.

We always advise warming up first with regular bodyweight pull-ups and add weight as your muscles feel warmed up.

The Final Takeaway

Pull-ups are a vital exercise to target a wide range of muscles in the upper back, and to generate incredible, shoulder, upper back, and core strength. Weight only increases these advantages if you perform the pull-up properly. 

It is worth adding weights, but it has got to be done with stead progression. This method takes a lot from your body, and it is a terrible idea to rush it without any preparation. However, as soon as your body allows, you should start with weighted pull-ups.

Weighted pull-ups add a whole new dimension to your workouts, which also means a new chance for growth and results!

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