In this article we will discuss the weighted pull-up and the reasons why adding weight to this classic bodyweight exercise can be beneficial to your strength, muscle gain, and overall pulling performance. Therefore, in this we will highlight the muscles worked by the weighted pull-up, offer an exercise demonstration video, and discuss in depth the three main benefits coaches and athletes should be aware of when doing weighted pull-ups.
The weighted pull-up works all of the muscle groups as the standard pull-up, which includes the:
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Posterior Shoulder
In the below video the weighted pull-up is demonstrated, performed in a nearly identical method to the bodyweight pull-up, with the main difference being that that former is weighted. External loading such as plates, dumbbells, weighted vest, and/or chains can be used to increase the resistance.
Benefits of the Weighted Pull-Up
The benefits of weighted pull-ups are very similar to the muscular and movement benefits seen from performing most pull-up variations. What makes the weighted pull-up extra special is the ability to impact upper body strength, muscle gain, and muscle size for intermediate and more advanced lifters.
Upper Body Hypertrophy
We know that hypertrophy (muscle growth) is typically built through a combination of moderate to high intensities (loading) and higher training volumes (total reps, which is the product of total sets x total repetitions). As an individual progresses, they may be able to move their body weight for higher rep ranges, moving them out of the hypertrophy range and more into muscle endurance and stamina sector. By adding weight to the pull-up, you are able to keep an individual in the moderate rep range and attack intensity (loading) work sets to near or full muscular failure.
Grip endurance and stamina is something that is very beneficial for training, regardless of sport. Doing higher rep sets, carries, and other pulling exercises can help to develop that attribute, however maximal grip strength can be more tricky. Movements that entail near-minimal to maximal effort on nearly every set (such as in the weighted pull-up, heavy deadlift, heavy farmers carry, etc) can work to increase grip strength in all sized athletes.
By increasing the amount of weight one must lift you instantly shock the neural systems and feedback centers within the hands and brain, enforcing adaptations to occur. This can result in greater receptivity of neural inputs for other strength lifts were grip is needed.
Continually Build Strength
Building massive strength in the back and upper body pulling capacities is pretty depended on the intensity (loading) at which you train at. If you were to train in the rep ranges of 10-20 for a few sets, you will surely have a great amount of muscular endurance, stamina, and some size (depending on grip width), however you may have some limitations with showcasing back and upper body pulling strength.
Compare this situation to the back squat, which, done in higher reps will surely build a great base for muscle and strength development, however may not necessarily equate to stronger 1-rep maxes as someone becomes more advanced (for beginners and even intermediates, doing anything will make you stronger).
Adding weight to pull-ups can and will help you gain some serious strength. I suggest you start including weighted pull-ups to the pull-up/chin-up routine once you can perform 10-15 perfect pull-ups, in which you can start to add loads and train in the 4-8 rep range. This will help you build size and strength, and keep your back growth going.
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