Weighted Pull Ups
Weighted pull-ups are a functional exercise and in my opinion are the best back exercise for upper back mass.
If you can’t perform weighted pull-ups perform bodyweight pull-ups, if you can’t perform body-weight pull-ups perform assisted pull-ups or simply jump up and grab the bar while focusing on the negative portion of each repetition.
The only way to get better at pull-ups is to do them! Don’t skip pull-ups simply because you find them a struggle (I recall repping out sets of weighted dips with a 45lb plate before I could even perform 1 proper form wide grip pull-up, so don’t get discouraged!).
Targets: Back & Biceps
Required: Pull-Up Bar & Weight Belt
Weighted Pull Ups Form
With Arms fully extended and slightly wider than shoulder-width grasp your pull-up bar and assume a dead hang position.
Use either a dip belt with a weight plate or lock a dumbbell between your legs.
Tilt your head to look slightly upward and maintain a small arch in your back, this will create the slight angle you’ll maintain in your torso for the duration of the set.
Drive your arms down and back, pulling through your lats until your chin clears the bar.
Slowly lower yourself back down to the dead hang starting position.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions with this full range of motion.
Here’s The Weight Vest I Use & Recommend…
I spent literally years messing around with uncomfortable weight belts and trying to balance a dumbbell between my legs etc. to add weight to my bodyweight exercise progressions.
I honestly wish I picked up one of these adjustable weighted vests sooner – it’s extremely comfortable, can be adjusted to a ton of different weight configurations and as such is the ultimate investment to assist with your progressive overload.
Pick up the weight vest I use and recommend here.
Weighted Pull Ups Variations
Instead of gripping directly onto your pull-up bar opt to hold onto either end of a towel, draping it over your pull-up bar.
The towel pull-up is harder than it looks and is fantastic for developing both grip and core strength as well as smashing the lats.
Form wise the chin-up is the same as the pull-up however you’ll be utilizing an underhand, closer grip – placing greater emphasis on the biceps.
Neutral Grip Chin-Ups
Form wise the chin-up is the same as the pull-up however you’ll be utilizing a neutral hammer style grip (palms facing inward).
Additional emphasis is placed on the biceps and forearms.
Don’t Make These Mistakes When Performing Weighted Pull Ups…
In order to add size and increase back strength we need to be using our back when we’re performing weighted pull ups.
By default most guys attempt to pull through their arms (especially when lifting heavy) as opposed to their lats… this results in a bicep pump and a half assed back workout.
Using correct form and ensuring you’re activating the right muscles requires conscious effort without a doubt.
At the beginner of each set I ensure I lean back and have a slight arch in my back to ensure I’ll be driving through my lats to pull myself up to the bar.
Sitting completely upright or hunching forward is a sure-fire way to set yourself up to struggle the weight through your arms.
Kipping & Using Momentum
Kipping and swinging weighted pull ups are absolutely pointless.
You may be clearing your chin over the pull-up bar and technically be ‘performing the exercise’ however, you’ll never reap any of the benefits of the exercise as you’re relying on momentum to move your body from a dead hang to your chin clearing the pull-up bar.
Both strength and size cannot be built when kipping and using momentum to rep out your pull-ups.
Strength and size are a result of progressive overload, and progressive overload is only possible via constantly increasing the tension placed on your muscles (by adding reps to your bodyweight pull-ups, adding a weight belt with additional resistance etc).
Poor Elbow Positioning
If your elbows are in front of you you’re essentially replicating an overhand chin-up.
Your elbows should be tracking downwards and backwards, instead of remaining close together in front of your torso.
You’ll find that incorrect elbow positioning makes the makeshift ‘pull-up’ that much easier as your biceps are able to muscle in and take over when your back begins to struggle.
To ensure you’re pulling back and down widen your grip, a narrow grip makes it more preferential by default to position your elbows incorrectly.
Chin-ups are a fantastic exercise, there’s no doubt they can be used to add mass and peak to the biceps, but when we’re trying to build pull up strength and a wide cobra-esque back they’re not ideal.
Not Contracting The Back Muscles
If you’re pulling directly up you’re pulling your body through your arms and you’re not going to be able to contract your back muscles – rendering your weighted pull ups ineffective.
In order to ensure your squeezing your shoulder blades together your chest should be puffed forward and you should have a slight arch in your back – allowing you to pull back and down while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Watch Ido Portal’s demonstration video again above for a perfect example of this form being practised.
Utilizing A Partial ROM
A pull up should start from a dead hang position. Your arms should be fully extended, no exceptions.
The pull-up ends when your shoulder blades are contracted and your chin clears the pull-up bar.
This is the absolute minimum range of motion you should be utilizing.
As your strength and mobility improves so should the height to which you’re pulling yourself – aim to touch your upper chest on the pull-up bar.
Not only will you get more out of your pull-ups, but you’re also ticking off one of the perquisite boxes to perform muscle-ups.
Attempting To Do Weighted Pull-Ups When You Can’t Do Pull-Ups
If you’re not strong enough to perform strict form weighted pull ups you should not be settling for poor form weighted pull ups.
As mentioned earlier, the momentum, pulling through the arms and lack of contraction that encompasses a poor form pull up will not build any strength or skill to allow you to magically clear the bar with a strict form pull-up.
Instead of kipping off the bar focus on exercises that will build the necessary strength to do strict form pull ups.
What exercises should you be focusing on?
Bent over rows.