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Weighted Pull-ups | The King of Back Workouts

Many will argue that Pull-ups are the single most important upper body movement.

It is not only a lat builder, but also works your grip, arms, core, traps , rhomboids and pecs.

Yes you heard that right, the pull up also works your chest. Since your pec minor is responsible for shoulder extension which is performed during a pull-up.

Whats Wrong with Regular Bodyweight Pull-ups?

Regular bodyweight pull-ups have severe disadvantages.

Imagine you weighed 160lbs and if you could only bench press your bodyweight, instead

When you bench press at the gym, you probably warm up with a light weight, lets say 50% of your bodyweight, then you increase the weight to 100% of your bodyweight for you last warm up set. Then you perform 3 heavy sets with 120% of your body weight.

Weights allow you to vary the intensity to get into the rep ranges optimal for your goals. Once bodyweight gets too easy and you can perform over 12 reps, you will mostly likely need weights to get into the rep ranges to optimize the process of gaining muscle and/or strength..

What Muscles are used in a Weighted Pullup

The muscles used are the same as a regular bodyweight pullup.

The muscles are the biceps, the brachialis, the lats, the traps and the forearrms.

The one main difference compared to bodyweight pullups is that you will be also working your abdominals to stabilize the weights if you are using either a dip belt or ankle weights.

Best Practices for Weighted Pull-ups


To perform weighted pull-ups we recommend first being able to perform 10 perfect reps with your bodyweight.

What you'll need to perform weighted Pullups

You will need ankleweights, a weightvest or a dipbelt to add weight. You will also need weight plates. Lastly, we recommend using chalk to enhance your grip so you can lift more weight.

Warming Up

Perform your warm up with body weight pull-ups, then add half the weight you plan to use for your main sets and perform a few more reps with this weight.

For example if you plan to use 50lbs for your working sets. Start with 5-8 reps of body weight pullups, then perform around 3-5 reps with 25lbs.

Deciding the amount of weight.

The amount of weight you should use depends on a few factors.

If you are training for strength you should pick a weight that you can perform for 3-5 reps for 3 sets.

If you are training for hypertrophy pick a weight you can do for 8-12 reps for 3 sets.

If you are training for both pick a weight you can do for 6-8 reps for 3 sets.

Weighted Pull-ups Alternatives

If you don't have access to weights, good alternatives to weighted pullups are:

  • L-sit Pullups
  • Assisted One arm Pullups
  • Sternum Pullups
  • Archer Pullups

Weighted Pull-ups FAQs

Q.How often should you train weighted pull ups?

We recommend training weighted pullups 1-2x per week, performing 3 sets each workout.

Q.Should you do them in the beginning middle or end of you workouts?

Weighted Pullup are a very demanding compound exercise, therefore we recommend performing them as the first exercise in your workout.

Q. Are weighted pullup safe?

Yes they are very safe and its a closed chain movement with zero spinal loading. The only thing to be careful with is that you warm up properly as weighted pull-ups add much more stress on the joints compared to bodyweight.

Furthermore, like in any new exercise don’t go too hard on your first few days! Otherwise you will get cramps and/or be have a lot of muscle soreness the next day.

Lastly, if you are using a dip belt, be cause to make sure the weights and belt is secured so they won’t fall on your toes!

Q. What Muscles are worked in a weighted pull-up?

The muscles worked are the exact same as bodyweight pullups which are the lats, forearms, and biceps.

The one difference is your core will be more activated if you use a dipbelt as your core will be stabilizing the weight. It is very common to have sore abs the next day when you are starting out with weighted puklups.

About the Author

Remy started calisthenics in 2014 and has mastered advanced movements such as the one arm pull-up, front-lever, one arm muscle-up and more.