Weighted Bodyweight Training (Originally posted February 24th, 2018)

Originally posted on February 24th, 2018.

Update February 27th, 2018:

Introduction #

Goals #

This post is not about building up bodyweight reps of pull-ups and dips. There are a lot of resources on that topic that are different and people find their way through that easily enough over time (some longer than others). I’m trying to put into words my own method for auto-regulation and progression of weighted pull-ups and dips.

There are a lot of various protocols out there for starting to add weight. Some of them are good, some of them aren’t. Most work, but a lot are inefficient. In three years of bodyweight training, about 2 of which are with this method (after building up just bodyweight reps), I went from no dips or chin-ups (starting from 4 years ago), to a +160lb chin-up and +180lb dip at 200lbs bodyweight (currently maintaining at +135lbs for 4 on dips and for 2 on chin-ups).

Miscellaneous Notes #

I don’t say which exercise to do in the templates, you should be doing dips and chins paired together. That means: do a set of chins or dips, rest about 90s, and do the other exercise.

Notation used for sets and reps is as follows: SETSxREPS

When rep ranges are given, you usually want to start with something you know you can do on the lower end of the range and work up in reps over your time training. So if the rep range is 10-20, start with a set of 10ish and over your time training progress that working set up to the high teens and eventually 20 repetitions.

From here, I will refer to weighted pull-ups or weighted chin-ups as chins. If you want to do supinated/under-grip, neutral/hammer-grip (I prefer this one because it feels best on the shoulders and elbows), or pronated/over-grip, then that’s up to you. The difference is relatively minimal. I don’t like pronated/pull-ups because that grip can make it be difficult to define a stopping-point (chin above? chest-to-bar?) whereas supinated/neutral you pull until your arm is fully flexed and that’s it.

I usually only perform pull-ups (pronated) for bodyweight reps. That’s my opinion.

Lastly, training weighted chins and dips is rough. Take care of yourself, eat quality food, sleep well, stay hydrated, and if your joints feel funky, back-off the intensity a bit. You want to be in this for the long-run, not a short sprint.

Prerequisites? #

First, you should be uninjured and physically able to train. Second, I’m not a certified trainer or anything like that,

I’m not going to put any hard prerequisites down, just some that I would suggest (to prevent injury, and obviously to build necessary strength). All of these prerequisites should be able to be completed without any pain (for example, sternum pain when performing dips). I’m not a physiotherapist, get your own injuries sorted out before training something that could worsen them.

Once these are completed (lower end is what I would say is a minimum, higher end will just mean you’re even more prepared). I wish it was needless to say, but these all require good form:.

If you think there are other form guidelines to adhere to, feel free to comment them below or follow them yourself.

Programming #

Again, these are programming suggestions I have found to work well. I’ll break it up into three stages (beginner/intermediate/advanced) for progression because athletes at different stages progress at different rates.

One large factor in regards to where you start with progression is your bodyweight and gender as well as how well you can recover (influenced by diet/caloric surplus or deficit, genetics, etc). I started as a tall, skinny, lean male with a lot of room to put on muscle mass, I was also eating and sleeping really well, and along with the fact that I have decent athletic genetics (looking at what family members have done in the past), I was in a good position to progress somewhat quickly.

If you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum and struggle to progress upper body strength, then you may not be able to start in the beginner stage because progressing that fast is just not something you’re able to do. Don’t sweat it! Everyone is different, take what you can do and own it :).

Beginner #

If you’re new to weighting your chins/dips, you have taken a break from training them for a while, or you have a decent base and can recover adequately, then you may respond well to linear progression. Having a larger base of bodyweight reps will help a lot. Training 2-3x a week at this stage is good, 3x a week is the best (from personal experience with myself and others).

Here’s a general template which I will explain below (assuming working out on Monday/Wednesday/Friday). You can do a horizontal push and pull (push-ups/bench and rows) each day along with legs on whichever days you want (this template is geared primarily towards weighted chins and dips):

Every Week:

That’s it. Keep it simple.

Progression and Key Ideas:

As you’ll notice, each work-out is the same except for increasing weights. That’s linear progression. There are a few ways to modify this and push yourself further if desired. One way to change up this routine to make it exciting is to make your last set you do an AMRAP (as many reps as possible, I would write that as 3x5+ where the last set is minimum 5, maximum as much as possible) so you can see just how many reps you can get with that weight. If you get 10 reps on the AMRAP set, you could even add 5lbs the next workout instead of 2.5lbs. I would highly recommend stopping on that set with 1 rep left in the tank. Beginners can push themselves more and still recover, but not going to complete failure is desirable.

This type of progression can last anywhere from not at all to a couple of months. You’re adding 7.5lbs a week, this obviously can’t continue forever. A good stopping point is when you can’t progress for a week, as mentioned above in the template itself. Consider taking a deload (mentioned below) and trying another 3-4 week cycle of this beginner progression or switching to an intermediate routine.

I think I progressed from 20 bodyweight chin reps to +70lbs for 3x5 in about 3-4 months. As I said above, I started from a good position, so YMMV.

Intermediate #

When you get to an intermediate stage (usually after a few months to a year of steady training, including starting from just bodyweight without weight) and you can’t recover to linearly progress with a beginner routine, then, what do you know, it’s time for an intermediate routine. This routine is made for intermediates by adding a form of periodization where the trainee alternates between a light day and heavy day. If you’re unfamiliar with it, give it a google. Learning more is always helpful.

As said above, I prefer to do periodize for the intermediate stage by alternating between light and heavy days. For chins and dips, light would correspond to 8+ reps accumulating around 30-45 reps across your sets (the lower end of that range, 8, should only be used if it’s not to failure, higher reps are to build volume and accumulate work/fatigue, not to kill your body with intensity). Heavy days would correspond to 3-8 repetitions accumulating 15-25 reps across your sets (again, trying not to fail, especially at the lower ends of the rep range, failure exhausts the body and nervous system). A training template might look like this:

Week 1:

Week 2:

Progression and Key Ideas:

Advanced #

The advanced stage, depending on how fast you progress, is usually reached after a few years of steady training, maybe sooner or later depending on the person. At this point you’re lifting some heavy weights and you’ll usually need to do a lot more work to get just a little bit further. At this point, you should have an idea about how you respond to training stimulus, so maybe the template I’m going to list will work for you, maybe it won’t.

The key idea here is daily undulating periodization, which I wrote about a bit here. It takes the light/heavy periodization one step further and adds a medium day so you do work each week in every rep range: endurance, strength, and power. Some people like 8-12/5-8/3-5 for light/medium/heavy respectively. I’ve seen better results personally working in the 10-20/6-10/3-6 range. That higher repetition day really reenforces the movement pattern you’re working on (that’s anecdotal/personal training experience) and gives a break from hammering away at heavy and intense exercise. Here’s the template:

Progression and Key Ideas:

Deloading - a side note. #

I’ve tried multiple styles of deloads at different points in my training, here’s some of them just for some ideas:

Conclusion #

This post is opinionated; these are training styles that I have worked through and seen others work through with good results. If you see ideas here that you want to take into your own training, feel free to. If you try this and see good results with it feel free to let me know. The same goes with results that are less than stellar. I’d love to hear feedback.

If you have any suggestions for me (for writing, post style, or post content), I’d be incredibly happy to hear it. Feel free to email me at matt -> mattgray dot net or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading :).


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