How To Know When To Transition Into Weighted Pullups?
March 25th 2019
When should lifters start transitioning into weighted pullups?
There is no “right” time to start doing weighted pullups. However, the more unweighted pullups you are able to do, the easier the transition will be to start doing more weighted pullups.
What is a weighted pullup?
A weighted pullup is a pull-up variation that involves using some form of resistance to increase the difficulty of the exercise. This can be done by adding weight to your body. This can be achieved by using a weight belt, a weight vest or by holding the weight.
The additional weight will make pullups a lot more challenging and can be a great way to strengthen your body. This exercise is relatively easy to manipulate since you can always adjust the weight being added with your level of performance.
Weighted pullups benefits
1. Upper body strength
If you are trying to build upper body strength, doing weighted pullups should be an exercise to consider. This is one reason why Olympic level weightlifters often use this exercise as one of their core accessory movements. It can be as challenging as you can make it.
Your lats, rhomboids and traps are all being targeted heavily during a weighted pullup. If you want to develop some serious strength, you will not be disappointed by selecting the weighted pullups.
2. Overall muscular strength
Is it true? The more weight you can lift, the stronger you get? Yes, this can be accepted as fact.
This is one reason why the weighted pullup is a popular choice for all strength athletes. When you are able to move more resistance over a certain distance, you are getting bigger and stronger than you normally would if there was no resistance.
Therefore, lifters want to be any to add more resistance to their exercise so that they have the opportunity to get stronger, bigger and faster in a shorter amount of time.
3. No leg drive
In regular, unweighted pullups, lifters can do a lot of things to cheat. In CrossFit, athletes are kipping their pullups and using a lot of leg movement to get their chin above the bar. This was not how pullups were designed to be done.
On the other hand, weighted pullups definitely take your legs out of the equation. It becomes more dangerous for someone to move that aggressive to try and cheat their way through a weighted pullup. Now, they must rely on their muscular strength and conditioning to successfully do a weight pullup.
4. Stronger grip muscles
By adding more weight to your pullups, you are also building grip strength since you are holding onto the pullup bar. Developing grip strength is often overlooked since it is something that is not frequently measured or talked about. Nevertheless, it is always important to develop a strong grip since it will never be a weakness in your training or life.
With that said, weighted pullups force lifters to develop a strong grip since you want to train your back to be as strong as possible.
5. Advanced technique preparation
A weighted pullup is no walk in the park. It is an advanced exercise that requires lifters to understand the basics in the gym. You would not tell someone to drive a bus if they did not have any practice with driving. The same concept applies here. You would not tell someone to do a more advanced and technical lift if they cannot do a weighted pullup. So, learning how to do a weighted pullup will set you up to do more advanced exercises.
6. Bigger lats
With a bigger weighted pullup, you will get bigger lats. The more upright your pullups are, the more you target the lats. Vertical pulling activates the lats and this is achieved by doing weighted pullups. This is one of the reasons why pullups are in my 12 best compound exercises I would highly recommend all lifters do.
7. Can train you for advanced movements
You can view weighted pullups as a transition into more complex movements. These are your set of training wheels before your next big exercise shift. For example, training your weighted pullups can help you achieve muscle ups quicker. Your ability to handle more weight will make handling an unweighted muscle up feel much, much easier.
You can also help strengthen your unweighted pullups. Instead of just having your chin over the bar, why not do pullups where your chest hits the bar. That extra range of motion is more difficult that a regular pullup. In fact, I have been training myself to do pullups to my chest for about eight months now. It feels great to start mastering my bodyweight in pullups and I am positive that having weighted pullups would make the transition more smooth.
Weighted pullups can help you increase your shoulder mobility. From the starting position at the bottom of a pullup to the finished position with your chin above the bar, your shoulder needs to have a healthy range of motion in order to perform this compound exercise. In fact, the weights are pulling your shoulder, stretching it and making sure that you have healthy overall shoulder mobility.
9. Helps your posture
Indirectly, when you do pullups, you are lengthening your spine. When you sleep, your spine decompresses. As you wake up and begin to tackle life, your spine recompresses. And for us lifters, our spine is further compressed with the exercises we choose to do. Squats and deadlifts will compress your spine a bit in order for you to lift heavy weights.
Pullups help your stretch out your body. It enforces the natural arch in your spine and slowly improves your posture over time. Now, imagine adding more weight to speed up this process? This is another hidden benefit of doing weighted pullups. You can also get an extra stretch by just hanging from the bar and allowing the weight to pull your body down towards the Earth.
10. Great compound exercise that engages the entire body
When you are doing regular bodyweight pullups, you may feel that you are not really engaging your entire body. However, something changes when you begin to add on more weight. You feel the urgency to perform and take the exercise more seriously.
After all, since there is an extra weight attached to you, you can not just breeze through the exercise as you normally would. Instead, you focus up and tense up your entire body to accomplish the task. This full body control and coordination will mentally prep you for other areas in your life.
How to do weighted pullups?
A weighted pullup is no different than a regular, bodyweight pullup. It just has this one additional step: you need to add weight before you start doing pullups. So, what are the available weights to add?
Pullups with a weighted vest
A weighted vest may be one of the most efficient ways to train your weighted pullups. It would be best to get a weighted vest with adjustable weights so that you can accommodate any training circumstances. In addition to weightlifting, you can use it for other sports as well, such as running, hiking, climbing, etc. If you are looking for a recommendation, you can check this one out here.
Pullups with chains
There is nothing better that screams out “hardcore lifting” than using chains when you workout. Using these bad boys will instantly increase your testosterone over five times your current level and get your blood pumping with adrenaline.
Chains often vary in weight, depending on the length, material used and company. They can range from 20lbs up to 60lbs. Obviously, you would want to get chains that last. Nobody wants their chains to break within a few years of using them. Chains should last you a lifetime. If you are looking for a recommendation, you can check these chains out here.
Pullups with a weight belt
Weight belts usually have a padding that is connected to a chain. These chains are used to hook in barbell plates. This is a cheaper alternative and would be a great addition to your equipment stock. If you are looking for something to last, you can check out this weight belt here.
Pullups with a barbell plate or dumbbell
This is one method I would not recommend due to safety reasons. There are some lifters that will try to put a barbell plate or a dumbbell between their legs and try to do weighted pullups that way. While this may work for light weights, can you do that for 45lbs? 90lbs? 135lbs?
In addition to that, these lifters often risk damaging the equipment as well since they will drop the weights if they need to. Do not be that guy and respect the equipment. You want everything to last but still complain why some gyms are increasing their membership price. They need to account for fools that keep breaking their equipment.
Weighted pullups negatives
Imagine killing a spider by running over it with a car. The same concept applies here. If you are looking to do pullup negatives, why not just do them with your own bodyweight?
I also did my research on this topic and found that lifters who ask this question tend to be lifters who are unable to do any pullups or can do only a few pullups.
If you are looking to get stronger and do more pullups, do pullup negatives with your own bodyweight. Once you are able to do at least 10 full pullups, you can begin to think about doing weighted pullups. But until then, focus on the basics and put in the work.
Weighted vs unweighted pullups
It depends on your goals. Usually, pullups are done as an accessory movement, which should help your main compound movements, like the bench press, overhead press, barbell row, or deadlift.
If you can do 1-5 unweighted pullups, it is highly recommended to get that number up to 10-15 reps. You just need to get stronger.
If you are doing 10-15 unweighted pullups, you have several options. You can train your endurance to do more unweighted pullups or you can train with weighted pullups. Usually, most lifters opt to do weighted pullups as they will naturally be unable to do 10-15 reps with weight. As a result, they will need to progress and train that movement to get better at it.
Want to gain hypertrophy? Do both. A bigger muscle has the potential to be a stronger muscle. So, having these two power exercises in your program will only help you, not harm.
Strength and power gains
Want to gain strength and power? Do both but you may opt to do more weighted pullups. You will be doing less reps but at a higher intensity, which will force your body to generate more strength and power. Ideally, the rep range you want to train your weighted pullups in is around 4-6 reps.
Low rep weighted pullups
That is fine. Everyone starts from somewhere. If you can only do low reps of weighted pullups, you can do one of two things: lower the resistance and do more reps or do more sets.
Lower the resistance
If you lower the resistance, you can do more reps. By doing more reps, you can accumulate more volume, which will drive your progression.
Do more sets
Keep the resistance the same but do more sets. If you are only able to do 1-4 weighted pullups, try to do more sets to get in more volume. Volume is one of the most important indicators of progress. Something to aim for is to do at least 5x5 of your weighted pullup resistance before moving up in weight.