Weighted Pull-Ups Without Belt/Dumbbell – Should You Do Them?

In this article we will discuss the reasoning behind performing weighted pull-ups with and without a belt/with a dumbbell. Both methods (with a belt vs without a belt/with a dumbbell) offer coaches and athletes a way to overload the back muscles to created muscular hypertrophy, upper body strength, and maximize pulling and grip strength.

How do you do a weighted pull-up?

The weighted pull-up has been discussed in previous articles, which detail out the benefits and specific techniques needed to perform heavy weighted pull-ups. In the video below you will get a glimpse of how to properly set up a weighted pull-up without a belt (using a dumbbell) and how to properly secure the load throughout the entirety of the movement.

Should you use a belt or a dumbbell for weighted pull-ups?

At the end of the day, doing weighted pull-ups with any form of load is the goal, as the body and muscles care very little about which one you choose as long as it delivers the necessary overloading it needs to grow. In the below section we will detail out some things to keep in mind when deciding on whether you should perform weighted pull-ups without a belt (aka with a dumbbell between the legs) or with a belt and plates.

Ease of Use

For simplicity’s sake, performing weighted pull-ups with a dumbbell/without a belt is the clear winner in this department. They require zero equipment (other than the dumbbell) and can be done by anyone who is capable of squeezing their legs/feet together. This is also helpful for teaching individuals how to stay controlled and rigid during a weighted pull-up, as the dumbbell reinforces midline stability and body control.

Amount of Loading

When performing weighted pull-ups, there will come a time when heavier loading will occur, whether for increasing muscle growth, strength, or a combination of the two. Performing weighted pull-ups without a belt/with dumbbells can pose a problem (and some discomfort) when heavy loads are used. An individual will have greater discomfort and issues securing a 70lb dumbbell between their legs/feet than if they had 70lbs strapped to a belt around their waste. If the goal is super heavy weighted pull-ups (or if the load you are using is impending you from performing more repetitions based on lack of security of the load), then I would suggest using a belt.

Drop Sets

Extending the work set using methods like drop sets (simply perform a set to near failure and drop the load by a few pounds, and repeat) is a great way to increase muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth). Performing weighted pull-ups without a belt/with a dumbbell offer coaches and athletes one of the easiest ways to drop loads after reaching failure while minimizing the time spent in between drop sets. When using a belt, weighted pull-ups can be quite cumbersome to load/unload as the lifter must drop from the bar, adjust the strap/weight belt, and add/remove load. With dumbbells, you can simply drop the dumbbell, add another (lighter) dumbbell between the legs, and get after it.

Discomfort Level

We briefly mentioned this one above, however discomfort in a weighted pull-up can limit (1) your willingness to even perform these amazing exercises, (2) your ability to go to muscular failure, and (3) your ability to load the weighted pull-up with significant amounts of weight to drive muscle growth and strength. As discussed above, heavy sets can be uncomfortable and challenging to secure a dumbbell between the legs/feet, making the belt a more efficient way to secure the load and maximize your repetitions in a weighted pull-up. Using dumbbells may be more comfortable for those individuals who are not used to wearing a weight-belt, however in time they should become more comfortable with both variations (without a belt/using a dumbbell…and with a belt).

Should You Use a Belt when Training?

Take a look at some of these articles discussing weight belts and what you need to know before you train with them.

Featured Image: @saludnutrition on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.