Want to be able to save the damsel in distress hanging from your leg while you hang from a cliff edge? Pretty much the scenario in every action movie that would require unreal grip, arm, and back strength. It turns out weighted chin-ups do all of this.
Weighted chin-ups are regular chin-ups but with additional weight either hanging from your waist with a dip belt, wearing a weighted vest, or holding a dumbbell between your legs.
But how do you do weighted chin-ups so they effectively build the arms and back, and what if you don’t have a weight belt?
Table of Contents
- Weighted Chin-Up Benefits
- Weighted Chin-Ups Muscles Worked
- How To Do Weighted Chin-Ups
- How To Do Weighted Chin-Ups Without A Belt
- Weighted Chin-Ups Alternatives
- Weighted Chin-Ups Progression
- Frequently Asked Questions About Weighted Chin-Ups
Weighted Chin-Up Benefits
Weighted chin-ups come with a host of benefits. Similar to bodyweight chin-ups but amplified.
Build Insane Upper Body Pulling Strength
Instead of only pulling your bodyweight, now you have extra load hanging between your legs. You get to overload your grip, arms, and back musculature. Unlike building muscle, getting stronger is highly influenced by intensity .
That is, how heavy you lift. Once you develop a basic level of strength, you may be able to get 5-10 reps per set of bodyweight chin-ups with ease. As you get better at them, sets of 20 aren’t out of the questions.
Doing more reps isn’t going to improve your ability to maximally produce force (aka get stronger). You need some load! The weighted chin-up allows you to increase the intensity of the exercise and, therefore, develop upper body pulling strength.
Develop Huge Back And Biceps
Once you can pump high rep bodyweight chin-up sets, you may need to add load to grow your back and biceps further. That’s not to say high rep chin-ups aren’t going to build muscle. Of course, they are.
But it has been suggested using multiple rep ranges is more effective for hypertrophy (muscle growth) than sticking to one rep range . Therefore, to reduce the rep range and maintain a high level of effort, you need to add load.
Very rarely will you see someone who can weighted chin-up half of their bodyweight as extra load have small back and biceps.
Improve Shoulder Mobility
The bodyweight chin-up is already an excellent shoulder mobility exercise when in the dead hang position. It puts the shoulder into flexion and external rotation, which are the opposite movements to the function of the lats.
Pair that with added load, and you have a wicked loaded stretch that will free up your lats and shoulders for enhanced shoulder mobility. You may even find a reduction in shoulder impingement or pain.
Improve Grip Strength Quickly
Hanging from a chin-up bar is a simple way to improve grip strength. Now that you have added load hanging from your waist, it increases the demands on your grip. Every rep of weighted chin-ups you do doubles up as reps for your grip strength.
Weighted Chin-Ups Muscles Worked
Weighted chin-ups work the lats, biceps, and forearms. It is primarily a lat exercise, but because the hands are in a supinated (underhand) position, the biceps are in an advantageous position to contribute to the movement.
How To Do Weighted Chin-Ups
Find yourself a bar to hang from and use this step by step for the perfect weighted chin-up:
- Clip a plate on the chain of your dip belt and hang it around your waist.
- Grip the bar with your palms toward you, known as a supinated or underhand grip.
- Create a big chest from the dead hang position like you’re trying to face your upper chest to the chin-up bar.
- Pull yourself up by driving your elbows to your ribs while maintaining a big chest.
- If you’re strong enough, your chest should touch the chin-up bar.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the dead hang position.
One thing to be aware of is the weight swinging. If you aren’t strict enough, the plate will swing and make it infinitely harder to do a correct chin-up. It means you must control the movement on the way up and down and not allow your body to kip and swing.
How To Do Weighted Chin-Ups Without A Belt
Doing weighted chin-ups without a belt requires either a dumbbell or a weighted vest. If you don’t have a belt, you probably don’t have a weighted vest either, and there’s no special trick to doing weighted chin-ups with a vest. So, here’s how to position a dumbbell for weighted chin-ups:
- Place a dumbbell vertically on the floor. Hang from the bar and place the instep of your feet against the handle, so it’s pinned between your feet.
- The top of the dumbbell will rest on top of your shoes.
- Raise the dumbbell, so you’re in a 90° hip and knee position. I.e., the top of a hanging knee raise.
This variation can be challenging because it requires holding a weighted isometric ab exercise. Instead, you can try this variation:
- Hanging from a chin-up bar, cross your ankles behind you.
- Have a partner place a dumbbell between your legs so your calves support the top of the dumbbell.
Weighted Chin-Ups Alternatives
Loading the vertical pulling movement isn’t solely limited to the weighted chin-up. Here is the best alternative if you cannot perform the weighted chin-up.
The lat pulldown allows you to load the vertical pull movement easily and is the best weighted chin-up alternative. It is the only movement that replicates the same motion and, therefore, the same muscles.
Rows can be great but don’t put the lats under the same stretch. You can do the lat pulldown with the same chin-up grip. Here’s how:
- Grip the pulldown attachment with a supinated (underhand) grip.
- From a fully extended position, drive your elbows to your ribs as you maintain a big chest position.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
Weighted Chin-Ups Progression
Here is a simple 4-week weighted chin-up progression training twice a week. Use a weight that allows you to get all sets and reps.
Day 1 – 3 x 5
Day 2 – 5 x 3
Day 1 – 3 x 6
Day 2 – 6 x 3
Day 1 – 4 x 5
Day 2 – 5 x 3, 2 x max reps bodyweight
Day 1 – 4 x 6
Day 2 – 5 x 3, 3 x max reps bodyweight
Frequently Asked Questions About Weighted Chin-Ups
Are Weighted Chin-Ups Effective?
Weighted chin-ups are very effective for developing upper body pulling strength and building the back, biceps, and grip.
When Should I Do Weighted Chin-Ups?
Once you can perform multiple sets of five or more chin-ups, you will be ready to start low rep weighted chin-ups.
Will Weighted Chin-Ups Build Mass?
Weighted chin-ups will build back mass, especially if you perform adequate volume. 20 to 30 reps per workout is a good rule of thumb to follow regarding your weighted chin-up volume landmarks.
Are Weighted Chin-Ups Enough For Biceps?
While weighted chin-ups are great for building the biceps, they aren’t enough to maximize biceps growth. You must isolate elbow flexion with different variations of curls. Further, you need to use various hand positions (supinated, neutral, pronated) to target the different muscles of the upper arm and upper forearm.
How Many Times A Week Should I Do Weighted Chin-Ups?
One to two times per week is more than enough for weighted chin-ups. If you want to do more vertical pulling exercises, I would advise using bodyweight chin-ups, different grip variations of pull-ups, and pulldowns.
The weighted chin-up should be a staple within your strength training routine, especially if you want to build a wide back. But the benefits don’t stop there where improving shoulder mobility and developing unreal upper body strength are the cornerstones of the weighted chin-up.
1. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading recommendations for muscle strength, hypertrophy, and local endurance: A re-examination of the repetition continuum. Sports, 9(2), 32.