I am finally able to do 5 pull ups. As this puts me in the optimal rep range for strength gains I thought about adding weight to stay in that rep range.

I do my exercises at home, that's why I thought about loading a backpack with dumbbell plates. I really like the effect pull ups have on my core (I often had sore abs after a day of "greasing the grove"-style exercise). While weights in a backpack increase the resistance on my upper body, I fear that my core training is neglected.

Are my worries justified? How do different positions of weights (on the back, the chest, around the hip, on the feet) impact pull ups?

4 Answers 4


The preferred way to load pull-ups is with a dip belt hung around the hips. This allows for variable loading from very little weight to multiple 45 pound plates, but more relevant to this question, it centers the weight on your hips instead of the shoulders. This means it doesn't change the angle you're pulling at, it simply makes you heavier. It should maintain the stress on your abs that you're looking for.

Ross Enamait has video instructions (and static images) on how to put a dip belt together from hardware store materials. It's quite a straightforward, cheap, useful tool. You can also buy a specialized dip belt, which is still useful but not cheap.


High five for working out at home! You can achieve the superb fitness level with home exercise if you know what you are doing.

Anyhow I remember doing pull-ups with a backpack once too. However the backpack would disbalance me since it was not tightly wrapped around my body. That's why it's much better to weighted pull yourself with a belt. The belt will distribute the attached weight's position better. Also after I passed 20kgs on the weighted pull-ups my backpack started tearing apart slowly.

Another reason why I prefer a belt to a backpack is that the backpack rests on your upper body which is working during the pull-ups. Thus if the backpack gets heavier you will find out that it prevents your shoulders and back to flex properly to their full potential during the pull-ups.

I know belts for weighted pull-ups can be expensive but you can avoid that with a karate belt that costs around $1-2. Also I have tested my karate belt in weighted chin-ups with 65kgs attached to me. I have written an article about using a karate belt as a substitute to expensive weight belts.


Flip it(the backpack) to the front, dude...hang it from your legs, be creative. Placement is going to bring in helper muscles, but if you want an emphasis on your core, just swing it around the front, it's a pulling motion, the weight will be focused on your center, and shouldn't get in the way of the exercise at all (shoulders maybe)...

BTW 5 pull-ups in a row? Why not move on to 10? or 15?

  • 5 to stay the optimal range for strength training.
    – Baarn
    Oct 18, 2013 at 14:59
  • got a reference on that?
    – Hituptony
    Oct 18, 2013 at 15:01
  • 2
    This answer is my preferred reference. I was thinking of asking a question if this applies to every exercise and not just weight lifting, but assumed it does.
    – Baarn
    Oct 18, 2013 at 15:09

The weight itself won't impact the pullup much no matter where you locate it, as even in a backpack or buckled around the hips it's still going to be close enough to the center of the body that it won't pull "away" from the line of motion (Unless you excessively sway or arch).

If you had some sort of contraption where the weight was suspended out away from your body, it would have an effect, but as long as the weight is backpack type close, the effect will be negligible.

If you start adding external weight to other exercises, you want to try and keep the weight in line with the motion of the limbs. So if you add weight for pushups (as an example), you want to try to keep it as close to the upper shoulder/arm line as you can. It's anatomically safer and more effective.

The other consideration is that they make weight belts with chains/clasps specifically designed to be able to suspend weight plates, you can use these for just about any pullup/dip type exercise.

  • "If you start adding external weight to other exercises, you want to try and keep the weight in line with the motion of the limbs." Could you elaborate a bit on that? Doesn't it rather apply to open kinetic chain exercises? Oct 19, 2013 at 9:23
  • @zero-divisor to some extent. Open chain if you move the weight off the expected line, it can introduce injury and/or make the exercise unnecessarily difficult (Bringing a bench press down to the hips instead of the chest). If you move the weight away from the central line in a closed chain, it either forces a form adaptation or minimizes the effectiveness (Such as placing a weight plate on the calves when doing pushups, doesn't do much).
    – JohnP
    Oct 19, 2013 at 14:42

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