Weighted Pull Ups: The Best Way To Build a Big Back

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What are Weighted Pull-Ups?

Weighted pull-ups are a great exercise to increase your pulling strength and muscle mass in your upper body. This pull-up variation requires you to use a weighted vest or a weight belt during the exercise on top of your body weight. 

According to research, resistance training has strong effects on the musculoskeletal system, assists in the maintenance of functional abilities, and hinders osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain, and other disabilities. Moreover, ten weeks of resistance training may increase lean weight by 1.4 kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce fat weight by 1.8 kg. Read on to learn how to do pull-ups with weight vest.

What Muscles are Worked by Weighted Pull-Ups 

Weighted pull-ups enable you to add mechanical tension to your muscles, which is the foundation for muscular growth. The primary muscles worked are latissimus dorsi, trapezius, posterior deltoids, biceps, and teres major. The secondary muscles are the pectoralis major, abdominals, obliques, and forearms.

What Level are Weighted Pull Ups?

The weighted pull-up is an intermediate to advanced level exercise because you will need to be comfortable with doing bodyweight pull-ups before progressing to this variation. It is highly recommended that you are able to do 10+ bodyweight pull-ups, to condition your joints and muscles. Weighted pull-ups will increase the load on the targeted muscles which makes it much more difficult to perform more reps.

Weighted Vest For Pull Ups

There are two ways you could do weighted pull-ups which are either by using a dip belt or a weighted vest. I personally prefer using a dip belt over-weighted vest because they can adjust the weight according to their strength easily, and it keeps the weight in line with your center of gravity. Check out this article where I review the best 5 weight vests for home workouts.

A weighted vest can be irritating to put on and take off, and they have a relatively low weight – usually 20KG. Moreover, it compresses the spine which could be uncomfortable for your back. Below are the dip belt and weighted vest I personally use in my workouts:

Kensui EZ Vest

I have created an unboxing and product review on the Kensui Vest. You can check it out in this article: Kensui Vest: Is This The Best Weighted Vest to make an informed buying decision and get yourself a discount on purchase.

DMoose Dip Belt

The DMoose Dip Belt is a great belt for weighted pull-ups as the padding of the belt is soft so it doesn’t pinch into your skin around your torso. The chain is long enough to be wrapped around a large weighted plate, which makes this belt ideal for those who wants to pull or dip big numbers.

How To Do Weighted Pull Ups

1. Load The Weight

Begin by positioning yourself under a pull-up bar. Put the weight vest, or a dip belt on. Choose a weight that you are able to perform between 4-8 reps for 4 sets.

2. Hang From The Bar

Grab on the bar tightly using a pronated grip at shoulder-width apart, with your thumbs should wrap under and around the bar. Hang from the bar, and squeeze the weights in between your legs for stability. Your arms should be fully locked out with your feet off the ground. If the bar is high, you can step onto an elevated surface such as a chair or a bench to reach up. This is your starting position.

3. Pull Up

Exhale as your pull up by bending your elbows to raise your upperbody until your chin is over the bar. Keep your core tight throughout the movement.

3. Gradually Lower Down

Inhale as you gradually lower down to the starting position by extending your arms. Lock your arms out fully before performing the next rep. This will ensure a full range of motion.

4. Repeat

Repeat this movement between 4-8 reps for 4 sets (see the recommended workout regiment below). 

Weighted Pull-Ups Workout

Weight Pull-Ups for Mass

To progress with weighted pull-ups, it is highly recommended that you alternate between weighted pull-up sessions and bodyweight pull-up sessions. This will ensure that you develop muscles and connective tissues to continuously progress, and active recovery. For example

Monday:  weighted pull-ups between 4-8reps for 4 sets. 

Wednesday: bodyweight pull-ups between 8-12 reps for 4 sets. 

Friday:  weighted pull-ups between 4-8reps for 4 sets. 

Practice weighted pull-ups between 1-3 sessions a week. You can use progressive overload by adding 2.5KG-5KG to your training after 3-4 weeks, this will increase the demands on the musculoskeletal system to sustainably make gains in muscle size and strength. 

Weighted Pull-Ups Benefits

Upper Body Muscular Hypertrophy

The strength required to perform bodyweight pull-ups alone is already challenging, but when you include an external load, it will give you an additional challenge to your muscles as it adds mechanical tension to your muscles, which will stimulate them to repair and become bigger and stronger, enabling you to gain more muscles in terms of size and strength to your biceps, back, shoulders, and abs.

study suggests that a 10-week resistance training, which includes pull-ups can increase bone density by 2.7.7,7%, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce depression by 80%.

Crushing Grip Strength

Weighted pull-ups will help you build incredible grip strength as your forearm muscles are working harder to hold your body off the ground. This will have a positive carryover to your everyday activities such as lifting heavy objects or opening a tight jar. Furthermore, it will be beneficial for athletes such as martial artists, climbers, and Olympic lifters. Grip strength will impact your forearm size, which is a sign of strength, and it’s super impressive!

Develop You For More Advanced Skills

Weighted pull-ups will give you more explosive pulling power, which will create upperbody strength development, and enable you to progress to more challenging variations such as chest-to-bar pull-ups, muscle ups, and one-arm pull-ups. The positive carry-over effect is very beneficial as it helps you to achieve these advanced moves much faster, and easier.

Pull-Ups Progression

Australian Pull-Ups

The Australian pull-up is a great exercise that prepares and develops your muscle for pull-ups and chin-ups. This regression exercise has the same movement path as the pull-ups and targets the same muscle groups such as the lats, trapezius, biceps, posterior deltoids, and abdominals. If you want an in-depth tutorial where we cover the proper techniques, variations, and pros and cons of this exercise then check out this Australian pull-ups article

It is easier to perform as your body will be at an incline which takes load away from your upper body and distribute it to your lower body. The general rule is that the steeper the slope, the easier it will be, and the flatter the slope, the harder it will be. You should practice between 6-12 reps, for 4 sets.

Negative Pull-Ups

This is another great preparatory exercise for pull-ups. It will require you to get into the top pull-up position by jumping or using an elevated surface to lift your body so that your chin is up and above the bar. This is followed by lowering down slowly with a count of 3 seconds. Lock your arms out fully before performing the next rep.

Negative pull-ups will target many muscle groups including your back, arms, shoulders, and core, along with your developing your grip strength for the pull-up. Aim to perform this between 2-3 reps for 4 sets.

Weighted Pull-Ups Variations

Weighted Chin-Ups

Weighted chin-ups will require you to use a supinated/underhand grip. This variation isolates your biceps which stimulates greater mass development in your arms to a greater degree than that of the pronated/overhand grip. To perform this, you will:

  1. Load the weight by either putting on a weight vest or using a dip belt with a weight that you can perform between 4-8 reps for 4 sets.
  2. Hang from the bar using a supinated/underhand grip at shoulder-width apart. Your arms are fully locked out and your core is tight. If you are using a dip belt, squeeze the weight in between your legs. This is your starting position.
  3. Exhale as you pull up until your chin is above the bar. Keep your core engaged.
  4. Inhale as you lower down to the starting position. Lock your arms out fully before performing the next rep.
  5. Repeat.

Weighted Ring Pull-Ups

Weighted ring pull-ups are another great compound upper body exercise that recruits a larger number of your muscles to coordinate harmoniously together,  due to the instability of the rings which triggers higher muscle recruitment during the movement. To perform this you will:

  1. Load the weight by either putting on a weight vest or using a dip belt with a weight that you can perform between 4-8 reps for 4 sets.
  2. Hang from the rings using a pronated/overhand grip at shoulder-width apart. Your arms are fully locked out and your core is tight. If you are using a dip belt, squeeze the weight in between your legs. This is your starting position.
  3. Exhale as you pull up until your chin is over the rings. Keep your core engaged.
  4. Inhale as you lower down to the starting position. Lock your arms out fully before performing the next rep.
  5. Repeat.

All Pull Exercises

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