How To Do Weighted Pull Ups Properly

Just as the name suggests, weighted pull ups are pulls ups that are…weighted (surprise!)

They follow the exact movement pattern of the regular pull up, but instead of using only your bodyweight to channel tension into your muscles, you use an external weight too.

The weights used for this exercise can be any free weight you can lift during the pull up. A few examples are the dumbbell, weighted belt and weighted vest.

That’s said, below is a complete breakdown of the proper technique:

  • Wear a weighted vest that has been pre-loaded with sandbags.
  • Stand behind a pull-up bar and raise your arms overhead to grip it with an overhand grip. Feel free to use whatever grip width you’re comfortable with.
  • Once you’ve selected your preferred grip width, tighten your grip while squeezing your core and glutes for lower body stability.
  • Contract your latissimus dorsi and use them to pull yourself up until you get to the full range of motion. Full range of motion in this case means your chin should reach bar level.
  • Start your descent slowly and with control. Your whole body should still be tensed to maintain your stability.

WHAT MUSCLES DO WEIGHTED PULL UPS WORK?

LATISSIMUS DORSI

Your lats are the prime movers during weighted pull ups.

They do most of the heavy lifting by depressing and retracting your shoulder to produce the power with which your body is lifted towards the pull-up bar.

FOREARMS AND BICEPS

These are the two main synergists of weighted pull ups that help your larger back muscles produce enough power to pull your body up.

CORE

While the regular pull up alone already stimulates the core to a great degree, adding weight to the exercise demands a lot more stability.

These additional demands make your core muscles work significantly harder to meet them, and in the process they get toned too.

ROTATOR CUFF

Stabilizers play the very crucial role of keeping your joints in place so you can complete your reps with the correct form.

In weighted pull ups, the stabilizing muscles around your rotator cuff help your biceps and lats provide power for lifting your body by keeping your joints stable as you lift.

BENEFITS OF WEIGHTED PULL UPS

ENHANCES BALANCE AND CONTROL

Since this exercise requires that you control a external load in addition to your weight, it allows you to improve your overall balance and control.

 

STRENGTH AND HYPERTROPHY GAINS

Calisthenics exercises like weighted pull ups are highly underutilized in hypertrophy and muscle strength development.

And it’s a shame because such exercises make a pretty good job of building your muscle size and strength over a relatively short time.

Weighted pull ups bring with them the extra challenge of having to neutralize unwanted movements which requires a whole lot of coordination and strength.

As for the hypertrophy gains, this exercise enables you to progress the basic pull up and increase muscle size on your back, shoulders and biceps.

INCREASES GRIP STRENGTH

Grip strength tends to be grossly overlooked when it comes to factors that contribute to overall pulling strength.

When you are deadlifting, for example, your forearm and bicep muscles produce a lot of isometric force to resist the external load from lengthening your muscle fibres during the lift.

This increases tension in the target muscles and activates them further.

Weight pull ups improve your grip strength by strengthening the forearms and biceps, which are the ‘grip’ muscles.

ALTERNATIVES TO WEIGHTED PULL UPS

LAT PUSHDOWN

The lat pushdown works your lats without flexing your elbows. It also targets the teres major, rear deltoid and triceps.

Steps:

  • On a cable machine, set the bar higher than head level.
  • Reach to the bar and grab it with an overhand grip that is a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a step back so that your arms are completely extended and you feel a stretch in your upper back.
  • Bend your elbows and knees slightly, lift your chest up and arch your back slightly to stretch the lats.
  • Push the bar towards your hips until it gets to your thighs.
  • Slowly and steadily, let the bar get back to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you want.

SINGLE ARM LAT PULLDOWN

This unilateral movement gives your lats and biceps an intense stretch while strengthening your core too.

Steps:

  • On a cable machine, set a cable with a stirrup at head level.
  • Grab the stirrup using a neutral grip.
  • Assume a half-kneeling position with the shoulder on the active side aligned with the cable and the working arm completely extended so that you feel a stretch in the lats.
  • Brace your core.
  • Pull the cable down until your elbow is pushing against your side.
  • Squeeze the lats at the bottom.
  • Let the cable get back to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you want before switching sides.

WEIGHTED PULL UPS MISTAKES TO AVOID

USING TOO MUCH WEIGHT

When doing this exercise, make sure you are comfortable with the amount of weight on the weight vest or whichever other weight you are using.

Using an amount of weight that you can’t control may leave you with an injured or painful back, and also ruin your form to make the exercise ineffective.

NOT TIGHTENING YOUR CORE

As has been mentioned severally in this article, this movement greatly challenges your balance and coordination.

This makes it necessary for your body to demand a lot more stability than it would in the basic version.

To meet the stability needs of your body, your core has to stay tight from start to finish.

SUMMING UP

The pull up is a highly versatile exercise that that be modified to suit nearly any fitness goal or fit into any training program.

Weighted pull ups happen to be one of its many variations that provide extra tension to your muscles for increased hypertrophy and pulling strength.

The additional core training makes it even more appealing, and that’s all the more reason for including it in your fitness routine.

If you’re looking for one compound exercise out of which you’ll get plenty of benefits, then you need look no further.