Building a Stronger Pull-up: Weighted Pull-ups vs. Adding More Reps?

What are you supposed to do once you reach 10 pull-ups in a row? Do you add weight or keep on doing volume routines to increase your numbers even further? The truth is that both approaches are legit, and it comes down to personal choice. The conditions you are in are also very important.

I prefer to add weight and keep the repetitions low. This method has some advantages:

1.You can focus on doing quality repetitions instead of pumping endless reps until you lose count.


2.You need less volume to get stronger because the intensity is high. If you rely only on your bodyweight to build strength, sooner or later, the volume will reach epic levels eating a lot of energy and time.

On the other hand, the downside of the weighted approach is that you need equipment. Also, it’s easier to overtrain because the intensity is higher. To avoid similar issues, you have to treat the weighted pull-up appropriately. Many people, however, still consider it an assistance lift and don’t even use training cycles to get stronger. If you are serious about your pull-ups, at one point, you will have to integrate more advanced programming plans.

I often implement simple linear cycles in my pull-up training. You can read more about this approach here. Nevertheless, you can use other forms of cycling too. There are different paths to the same destination.

Obviously, the weighted pull-up builds strength whereas reps increase your pull-up endurance. Both have a certain carryover to each other. If you build up your pull-ups to a respectable number like 20, you will be able to lift a decent weight the first time you try the weighted version.

Conversely, if you are capable of 3 or more pull-ups with 100lbs/45 kg or more added to you, your bodyweight numbers will be pretty decent too.

However, at the end of the day, you have to decide what is more important to you – brute strength or pure endurance – and train for it. Low reps alone won’t make you an endurance king while high reps won’t build the central nervous system (CNS) required for low rep work. There is a difference between distance running and sprinting.

Another approach is to switch to harder variations instead of adding weight or reps. For example, once you can do 10-15 pull-ups, you can try the L-sit variation or a wider grip. This is also a valid approach, although it has a major downside – the motion of the movement is altered, and you may experience joint pain with some of the variations.

FAQ

Can’t I do both – weighted pull-ups and high reps with my own bodyweight?

Yes, as long as your program allows you to recover.

When should I add weight to my pull-ups?

When you can do about 10-15 reps with solid form. You can find more info here.

What is a decent number for weighted pull-ups?

Once you are over 50% BW, you are an intermediate.

When you reach 75% BW, you can consider yourself elite and a stronger pull-uper than 90% of the population.

Will weighted pull-ups help me reach crazy numbers like 50?

They will help, but specific endurance work will be required too.

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