How To Add Weight To Your Chin-ups and Pull-ups Example training cycles to increase your pull-up weight.

If you are able to do 15 pull-ups or more, adding reps will mainly build your endurance. Of course, if you increase your pull-ups from 15 to 30, your absolute strength will go up too. Strength and endurance are linked and both have a certain amount of carryover to each other. However, if your primary goal is to improve your strength levels, it makes more sense to attack your goals directly, instead of hoping that indirect work will help you.

Thus, after reaching 15 reps of pull-ups, you can simply add weight with a belt and bring your reps down a bit.

There are two main ways to build up your pulling strength. One is rep work and the other one is heavy low rep training.


REP WORK

Let’s say that we have a lifter that can do 15 pull-ups (they don’t have to be easy, but form must be decent). If that person adds 10 lbs / 4,5 kg to him with the help of a pull-up belt, he would probably be able to do 8-12 reps (depends on the person).

If he adds 20 lbs / 9 kg to him, the reps may go down to 6-7. The goal is to add enough weight so that your bring the reps down to a relatively easy set of 5.

Let’say that in our case that’s 25 lbs / 12 kg.

In other words, we have a puller that can do pull-ups with added 25 lbs for a set of 5. One of the ways to improve your strength is to simply build up to 12-15 pull-ups + 25 lbs in a single set. To improve, you could do a workout consisting of 5 sets and try to add a rep to  every time you train.

Example: Set 1 – 5 reps, {rest 5-8 minutes} Set 2 – 4-5 reps, {rest 5-10 minutes} Set 3 – 3-4 reps….etc.

You keep the weight the same until you can do 12-15 reps with decent form during your first set. It does not matter whether the reps are hard or even brutal. All that matters is that you keep GOOD form and don’t kick with your legs. Go all the way down to complete dead hang. Don’t do biceps hangs and partials. You can even pause at the bottom for a second to make your form even stricter.

However, those are technically paused pull-ups and your weight will go down. Before doing sets with added weight warm-up and do a set or two with just your bodyweight without going close to failure. You want to preserve your energy for your working sets.

How often?

This question really depends on what else your are doing in your training. However, I don’t see the point of performing this workout more than twice a week. If pull-ups are your main focus, you can do it three times a week but that may be pushing it.

My favorite is to simply rest 4 days and repeat again. This means that if you do your first workout on Monday, your next session will be on Saturday, and your next on Tuesday next week. During those 4 days don’t work your biceps or back. Your are supposed to rest.

LOW REP WORK

The other way to add weight is to simply…add weight.

When programming weighted pull-ups and chin-ups, I prefer to do ramping sets for sets of 5. This means that every set you increase the weight until you reach your working set.

Here’s a hypothetical cycle for our imaginary lifter doing 25 lbs for an easy set of 5.

Week 1:

Set 1: 1 set of 5-8 easy bodyweight chin-ups with no weight after a general warm-up.

Set 2: 1 set of 5 + 5 lbs / 2,5 kg

Set 3: 1 set of 5 + 10 lbs / 4,5 kg

Set 4: 1 set of 5 + 15 lbs / 7 kg

Set 5: 1 set of 5 + 25 lbs / 12 kg

Week 2: Add 1-2,5 kg to your last sets.

….

At one point your top set will get really heavy. You have two options – reduce it to a triple and keep on adding 1-2 kg for a few more workouts, or simply end your training cycle and build back up again. I don’t recommend doing less than 3 reps. There is no need. Sets of 3 offer plenty of intensity.

Do this workout with at least 4 days in between. Maybe even 5 or 6. It really depends on the rest of your training. However, if you choose to do it more often only add 0,5 kg and not 1-2,5 kg to your sets. Why? Because that will give the body more time to adapt. Keep in mind that the pull-up is very dependent on arm strength, and you can’t be adding a lot of weight to it fast. If you do, you will simply stall.

Here’s a hypothetical cycle with a back off. Note: only the working set is written.

Workout 1:

5 reps with 25 lbs / 12 kg

Workout 2:

5 reps with 30 lbs / 14 kg

Workout 3:

5 reps with 35 lbs / 16 kg – gets really heavy starting to make 2 lbs jumps;

Workout 4:

5 reps with 37 lbs / 16,81 kg

Workout 5:

5 reps with 39 lbs / 18 kg; – gets heavy, switch to triples

Workout 6:

3 reps of 41 lbs / 18,6 kg

Workout 7:

3 reps of 43 lbs / 20 kg

Workout 8:

3 reps of 45 lbs / 21 kg

When the weight gets too heavy, and you can’t complete 3 clean reps, end the cycle and reduce the weight to 30-35 lbs. Then build back up again to a new personal best. The goal of cycling is to allow your joints to recover in the beginning with a lighter load. However, in order to be progress you must start your new cycles with a weight that’s heavier than your previous starting point.

FAQ:

Related article: How To Get Better At Weighted Pull-ups

Why do you recommend to do ramping sets?

Because heavy sets across are too hard, take too much time and are not needed to progress. Also, when you have only one working set it’s easier on the mind, and you can focus on it with greater concentration, respect and intensity.

Do you recommend pull-ups or chin-ups?

I recommend that you do ring pull-ups because they are the easiest on the elbow and wrist. The second best are neutral grip pull-ups. However, the ring pull-up allows you to essentially combine all three – pull-ups, neutral grip pull-ups and chin-ups. I think they are the best and will carryover to all other versions.

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