In this article we will discuss the weighted pull-up and the specific benefits that it offers strength, power, and fitness athletes in regards to back development overall performance. In an earlier article we discussed the weighted pull-up in depth, where we differentiate between the two most common ways to perform weighted pull-ups (without a belt/with dumbbells, or belted). Be sure to check that article out, as some of the below benefits are dependent on the ability of the individual to maximally load this moment.
Weighted Pull-Up Exercise Demo
In the below video the weighted pull-up (with a belt) is demonstrated, which is done in the exact fashion a bodyweight, strict pull-up would be done. Note, that weighted pull-ups can be done with dumbbells, belt, chains, bands, or any other form of external resistance. You can take a look at some other weighted pull-up alternatives in my previous article, each offering similar benefits as the ones discussed below.
4 Weighted Pull-Up Benefits
Below are four benefits of the weighted pull-up, many of which are specifically brought about due to the overloading nature of this movement. While some of the below benefits can be had performing bodyweight strict pull-ups, it is not likely that increases in size and strength will progress linearly as a lifter gains more muscle and strength. Therefore, the weighted pull-up can be used to continually progress and enhance the below benefits for any lifter.
Increased Back Size (Hypertrophy)
Muscle hypertrophy is often brought about by increased training volume, muscular overloading, and a metabolic environment (short rest periods, moderate to heavy loading). Weighted pull-ups, for individuals who can successfully perform 10-15 strict pull-ups, may be a necessary exercise progression to bring about the needed muscle damage and overloading to force a muscle to adapt and grow. By adding load to this movement, you force stubborn muscle fibers to adapt, create more force output capacities, and ultimately grow in muscular size to account for the new increased muscular demands.
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Upper Body Pulling Strength
Like any muscle group, the back can be trained using lower reps and heavier loads when maximal pulling and back strength is the goal. This may be highly beneficial for powerlifters, weightlifters, and those individuals looking to maximize muscular recruitment, force output, and overall upper body strength and size (often needed when deadlifting, carrying heavy loads, etc). The weighted pull-up can be easily loaded with 10, 20, and even 50+ kilograms (and more) with the use of a weight belt, making it a great upper body accessory lift to build serious pulling strength.
Unlock Advanced Training Techniques
As you progress in your muscle and training development, you will need to implement metabolic techniques to force muscle adaptation and to bring about new growth. Methods like drop sets, giant sets, and weighted negatives can all be done very easily with a weight belt/dumbbell during the weighted pull-up, making it a great exercise to be used when looking to boost back size and strength in a workout.
Grip and Biceps Strength
Grip and biceps strength can be overlooked when it comes to pulling strength and injury prevention. When deadlifting, for example, the grip and biceps muscles must produce a large amount of isometric force to resist the load from lengthening the muscle fibers throughout the lift, creating great amounts of muscle strain on a muscle group. If slack is present in a deadlift, other muscle groups can also start to compensate, furthering any issues in technique, alignment, and force production. Exercises like the weight pull-up can be done to increase back, forearm (grip) and bicep strength in a very specific pulling fashion while minimizing loading on other parts of the body (which is beneficial for athletes and coaches monitoring total training volumes from compound lifts).
Build a Massive Back With….
Here are a few articles that shed some light on exercises and training tips for gaining strength and muscle.
- The Romanian Deadlift for Bigger Hamstrings and a Stronger Back
- The Rounded Back Deadlift: Is Rounding THAT Bad?
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Editor’s Note: David “Skip” Hardy, owner of Phoenix Custom Fitness LLC, BS Exercise & Sports Science, NASM CPT & Fitness Nutrition Specialist, had the following to add after reading the above article:
“Awesome article, thanks to Mike Dewar for laying out some great information on the benefits of Weighted Pull-Ups! Pull-Ups are one of the gold standard exercises that have been used for building strength and muscle hypertrophy for so long, and they are certainly not going to die out anytime soon. They are one of the main exercises on the check list of so many strength training enthusiasts, whether our goal is 1 repetition or 100. It’s the simplicity of the exercise that makes it such a popular milestone for us as we gauge our improvements in our Strength Training, but as Mike points out in this article the place where you can really start to see the significance of this exercise is when you start paying attention to the details and make some adjustments to the basic form. Adding an external load is one such adjustment that can add variation to your workout and take your training to the next level. Its one thing to walk up to a bar jump up and start pumping out rep after rep until failure, which I have seen so many people do day after day in the gym, and a completely different beast when you decide to challenge yourself with more than just what your body can give you. If you are looking to get yourself off of that plateau, whether with increasing Strength or Muscle Hypertrophy, then take Mike’s well worded advice and see what adding Dumbbells, a Weight Belt, or Resistance Bands to your Pull-Ups can do to give your muscles a challenge that will have them screaming and begging for mercy.”