Weighted pull up standards not only allow you to benchmark your performance against yourself but also against others.
For the average male, a good pull up weight is their body weight plus an extra 77 pounds. This weight is for a single repetition. However, an individual’s pull up weight will also be affected by their training level and current body weight.
These benchmarks were important for me when I first started doing pull ups, and they should benefit you as well.
After all, you want to know if you’re doing a good job with your training right?
My research will reveal the numbers YOU should be hitting for it to be deemed “respectable”.
You’ll also find out how to improve your pull up strength if your numbers are below average.
- Factors Affecting Weighted Pull Up Standards
- Beginner Weighted Pull Up Standards
- Intermediate Weighted Pull Up Standards
- Advanced Weighted Pull Up Standards
- Average Male Weighted Pull Up Strength
- How Good Is Your Weighted Pull Up Vs Others?
- 5 Reasons Your Pull Up Strength Is Below Average
- 5 Ways To Improve Your Pull Up Strength
- How These Weight Standards Were Calculated
Factors Affecting Weighted Pull Up Standards
3 factors affect how much weight you can pull up:
- Training Level. The longer you’ve been practicing the pull up, the more weight you can lift. As a general rule, beginners have been practicing for at least 1 month, intermediates at least 2 years, and advanced lifters at least 5 years.
- Body weight and composition. The ideal body weight for pull ups seems to be between 200-250lbs. But pull up strength is also heavily influenced by your upper body muscle to fat ratio. Leaner people tend to be able to do pull ups more effectively.
- Rep number. The less reps you do, the more weight you can pull up. This post focuses on a 1-10 rep range which is generally accepted to be the best for building muscle strength and size.
Beginner Weighted Pull Up Standards
A beginner has been practicing the pull up for at least 1 month.
Here’s how much weight beginners should lift on the pull up:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Note: x-rep max is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for x-number of reps. Generally speaking, rep ranges closer to 1 are ideal for strength gains, whilst rep ranges closer to 10 are ideal for size gains (hypertrophy).
Here’s how much weight beginners should be lifting on the pull up, as a percentage of body weight:
- 120lb body weight – -29 to -17%.
- 150lb body weight- -21 to -12%.
- 200lb body weight- -17 to -10%.
- 250lb body weight- -19 to -11%.
- 300lb body weight- -22 to -13%.
A negative value indicates an assisted pull up (where resistance bands or machines help you to pull your body weight upwards).
Therefore if you’ve been practicing the pull up for only 1 month, don’t worry about not being able to do a full pull-up.
In fact, it’s normal for a beginner to only be able to do assisted pull ups at this stage.
Intermediate Weighted Pull Up Standards
An intermediate has been practicing the pull up for at least 2 years.
Here’s how much weight intermediates should be able to lift on the pull up:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Here’s how much weight intermediates should be lifting on the pull up, as a percentage of body weight:
- 120lb body weight – +33 to +45%.
- 150lb body weight- +32 to +44%.
- 200lb body weight- +28 to +39%.
- 250lb body weight- +23 to +32%.
- 300lb body weight- +18 to +25%.
If you’ve been practicing the pull up for 2 years or more, you should be able to do weighted pull ups.
This commonly takes the form of a dumbbell held between the legs or a barbell plate strapped with a weight lifting belt.
If you’re above these averages as an intermediate, then you’re doing a great job.
These are also very respectable standards for beginners to aim for.
Advanced Weighted Pull Up Standards
An advanced lifter has been practicing the pull up for at least 5 years.
Here’s how much weight advanced lifters should be able to lift on the pull up:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Here’s how much weight advanced lifters should be lifting on the pull up, as a percentage of body weight:
- 120lb body weight – +61 to +83%.
- 150lb body weight- +57 to +78%.
- 200lb body weight- +49 to +67%.
- 250lb body weight- +41 to +56%.
- 300lb body weight- +34 to +47%.
If you’ve been practicing the weighted pull up for 5 years or more, and you’re above these averages, then you’re doing a fantastic job.
These are also very respectable standards for intermediates to aim for.
Average Male Weighted Pull Up Strength
Here’s how much weight the average 200lb US male should lift on the weighted pull up, at different training levels:
|Training Level||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Therefore the average man should be able to lift -17 to +67% of his body weight.
The exact weight will depend on training experience and rep number (as seen in the aforementioned standards).
How Good Is Your Weighted Pull Up Vs Others?
Determining your current weighted pull up as a fraction of your body weight is a reliable way to compare your performance with others.
To do this, simply divide the total weight you’re pulling by your body weight.
Here are the percentages of males who can pull up their body weight:
|Pull Up 1RM Weight (As A Fraction Of Bodyweight)||% Of People Who Can Do It|
- 75% of men can pull up 1.15x their bodyweight for a single repetition. This represents the lower percentile of males and is a respectable weight for absolute beginners to achieve. But you should aim for higher numbers with more training.
- 50% of men can pull up 1.40x their bodyweight for a single repetition. This represents the median percentile of males and is a respectable weight for intermediates to achieve. It’s also a good target for beginners to aim for.
- 25% of men can pull up 1.60x their bodyweight for a single repetition. This represents the upper percentile of males and is a respectable weight for advanced lifters to achieve. It’s also a good target for intermediates to aim for.
If you’re struggling to build muscle and strength, you might be interested in my complete guide to gain your first 10 pounds of muscle.
5 Reasons Your Pull Up Strength Is Below Average
Here are 5 common reasons why your pull up is below average:
1) You’re relative upper body and core strength are lacking.
The pull up activates the following muscles:
- Latissimus dorsi (primary driver).
- Trapezius (primary driver).
- Rhomboids (primary driver).
- Biceps (primary driver).
- Upper pectorals (stabilizer).
- Deltoids (stabilizer).
- Forearms (stabilizer).
- Abdominals (stabilizer).
In order to do a pull up, you’ll need a good degree of strength in these muscles relative to your body weight.
Now, lifting your body weight in any exercise is no easy task.
But it’s especially difficult on the pull up because most people don’t use the associated overhead pulling motion in their every day lives.
This means the pull up muscles are often underdeveloped.
The involvement of multiple muscles and the fact that these muscles are often underdeveloped pre-training makes the pull up one of the hardest exercises out there.
“The pull up is difficult because you’re pulling your body weight up in one direction, and you’re forced to stabilize your core to reduce swinging motion.”Dr Matt Tanneberg, Thrillist.
2) Your back and arm muscle activation is uncoordinated.
The pull up is a highly technical exercise.
Not only does it require multiple muscles, but the order of muscle activation also matters a lot.
Put simply- the pull up has 3 phases- the setup phase, initial pull phase, and end pull phase.
The setup phase requires you to retract your shoulder blades to brace your upper body and allow maximum pulling power to be transferred onto the bar.
Next comes the initial pull phase which engages your lats and back muscles to begin lifting your body upwards.
Finally the end pull phase engages your biceps to bring your chin over the bar.
The core should also be tensed throughout the exercise to keep your torso rigid, and the legs should be pointed forwards to reduce swinging momentum.
If these 3 phases aren’t performed in the right order, a lot of pulling power can be lost.
And this can make the pull up extremely difficult.
“The upper back and arm muscles need to fire in the right order for an efficient pull-up”Liam Rodgers, Pullupmate.
3) You’re pulling with the arms only.
This is a mistake made by many beginners (including myself).
Remember that the pull up is predominately a back exercise and the back muscles are much larger than the arms.
So don’ forget to pull with your back.
At the bottom phase, you should focus on contracting your back muscles to bring your upper arms closer to the torso.
It’s only in the upper phase when your chin is approaching the bar, that you should focus on pulling with your arms.
Doing this will help you complete more reps and heavier weights on the pull up.
Pulling with your back rather than just the arms will also help to reduce shoulder pain and decrease the risk for injury.
If shoulder pain is preventing you from completing a pull up, you should avoid letting your arms become fully extended at the end of the downward phase.
Instead, stop just before the arms lock-out.
4) You have unrealistic expectations for pull up progression.
I said it before and I’ll say it again:
Pull ups are hard!
Even people who have been training for a long time can struggle with the pull up if they’ve never practiced them before.
So don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling to progress on the pull up.
Instead, be patient.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try progressing faster than you’re ready for.
So make sure you can do assisted pull ups with good form before moving onto unassisted pull ups.
Likewise, make sure you can do unassisted pull ups properly before progressing onto weighted pull ups.
Also remember that adding just 10lbs to your pull up is actually a big jump (given the difficulty of this exercise).
So when you add weight, try to limit yourself to 5-10lb increments.
5) You’re grip placement is wrong.
Did you know that there’s an optimum grip placement for the pull up?
It’s just wider than shoulder-width apart.
If you’re grip is too narrow, workload shifts from the back to the arm muscles.
And when this happens, your pulling power will also be reduced since the arms are weaker than the back.
Conversely, too wide a grip will also negatively affect your pull up.
That’s because workload begins to shift from the arms and directly onto the lats.
Remember that you’re trying to pull your entire body weight here.
So the aim of the game is to distribute the workload to as many working muscles as possible.
“Don’t go too wide and don’t go too narrow. An overly narrow grip is where most people screw up the pull up.”Jeff Cavaliere, C.S.C.S, Athlean-X.
For more tips on mastering the pull up, you can check out my other article here!
5 Ways To Improve Your Pull Up Strength
Here are 5 tips to improve you’re pull up:
1) Perfect your form by doing assisted pull ups first.
Nailing your form is essential if you want to increase your pulling power and progress on the pull up.
Here’s how to do the pull up with perfect form:
If you find unassisted pull ups too difficult, you should start with assisted pull ups first.
Resistance bands are some of the cheapest and most convenient ways to do assisted pull ups.
Simply tie one end to the pull up bar and slip your knee over the other end.
As the band stretches, the tension created will help to pull your body weight up.
And as your pulling strength increases, you can progress onto bands with less resistance (thereby increasing the difficulty), until you can do unassisted pull ups.
I use and recommend the Undersun Fitness bands (link for cheapest price)
They come in a set of 5 bands, each with different resistance levels.
This means you can start with the heaviest band and work your way to the lightest.
The best thing about these bands is their build quality.
Mine has lasted me for over 2 years with no signs of wear and tear.
This is unlike the budget models I’ve tried in the past, 2 sets of which have snapped on me.
The Undersuns are also the only bands to come with a lifetime warranty!
2) Add weight in small but regular increments.
After you learn to do your first unassisted pull up, you should slowly work your way towards doing 8 to 10 reps per set.
Once you can do this, it’s time to add weight.
This can be done by holding a dumbbell between your legs or strapping on a barbell plate with a chained weight belt.
I’d recommend adding 2.5lbs at a time.
Once you can comfortably do 8 reps with 2.5lbs, you can then increase to 5lbs and reduce the reps as necessary. This should take 1 to 2 weeks depending on how frequently you train pull ups.
These small increments mean you’ll be increasing your pull up strength regularly.
Pull Up Progressions 📈
Do you find pull ups too easy?
If so, here are three progressions:
1. Slow negatives (3-5 seconds)
2. Paused Pull Ups (at the bottom)
3. Weighted Pull Ups
— Nathan Collins (@nathann_collins) May 22, 2021
3) Eat a muscle-building diet.
This is essential for pull up progression.
And especially for weighted pull ups.
Pull ups are an extremely powerful and energy-demanding exercise.
And when you’re doing weighted pull ups, the nutritional requirement for post-workout muscle growth increases furthermore.
If you don’t eat enough protein and calories, your pulling strength will plateau very quickly.
The general recommendation for muscle gains is to eat 1g of protein per pound of body weight and a 5-15% caloric surplus every day.
This is a guideline I have used for many years and I can say it’s great for making lean muscle gains.
Ideally, you should get most of your protein and calories from whole foods.
But it’s not always easy to eat so much food every day.
That’s where protein shakes can help.
I use and recommend the MyProtein Impact Whey (link for cheapest price) to help me reach my nutrition targets.
Each scoop contains 21g protein and just 100 calories.
This makes it perfect for supplementing your protein intake to make muscle gains with minimal fat gains.
The MyVegan Pea Protein is a good plant alternative.
If you’re very skinny (<12% body fat), then I instead recommend the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass.
It’s a bit more expensive, but each scoop contains 50g of protein and 1250 calories.
This is ideal for a quick and easy hit of protein and calories.
I also add a scoop of MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate (link for cheapest price) into my shakes to help me train harder.
Creatine is a natural compound found in all our muscles.
It helps with energy utilization, allowing you to squeeze more reps and heavier weights from your workout.
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4) Increase your pull up training frequency.
When it comes to weight training, the back muscles can take a beating.
So don’t be scared about increasing the frequency of your back workouts.
If you’re eating right, you should be able to comfortably fit 2-4 pull up sessions per week with each session comprising 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps.
This will allow you to capitalize on the full benefits of pull up training.
If you’re a beginner, your muscles may be sore after a workout.
It’s ok to proceed with training if your muscles a slightly sore.
But if training becomes painful, then you should consider reducing the number of training days until your muscles have fully adapted to your new training frequency, and then slowly work your way up.
If you want to improve your pull ups at home, you’ll need a proper bar.
I would generally not recommend doorway pull up bars.
They may be cheap, but in my experience, they tend to damage the door frame.
Instead, I use and recommend the Sports Royal Power Tower (link for cheapest price).
This is a standalone pull up tower.
It’s reasonably priced, easy to assemble, stable, and does not have a huge footprint.
Additionally, you can use it to do weighted chest dips which are one of the best chest-building exercises you can do (aside from the bench press).
5) Work on accessory back exercises.
As I mentioned before, many people struggle with the pull up because the muscles involved in the overhead pulling motion are rarely utilized in everyday activities.
Therefore it makes sense to train these muscles.
Here are some of my favorite back and bicep exercises to assist with building pull up strength:
- Bent over rows.
- Reverse flyes.
- Hammer curls.
- Bicep curls.
- Dumbbell pull overs.
Most of us don’t have the space and budget for a barbell setup or a full set of dumbbells.
Selectorized dumbbells are the perfect alternative.
I use and recommend the Powerblock Elite series (link for cheapest price).
These can go up to 90lbs per dumbbell and replace up to 28 pairs of dumbbells.
This makes them ideal for heavy lifting and building back strength in small home gyms.
They also feature small 2.5lb weight increments on the lower poundages, making them great for weighted pull up progression.
The weight change mechanism is smooth, they’re durable, and can also be used to train the entire body.
They are also some of the most affordable heavy dumbbells on the market.
You’ll need a chained belt like this DMoose to attach the Powerblocks to your body for weighted pull-ups.
If you can’t splash out $300 on a pair of dumbbells, then the Yes4All spinlock dumbbells make a good budget alternative.
Just be aware that spinlock dumbbells don’t have the small weight increments offered by selectorized dumbbells like the Powerblocks.
How These Weight Standards Were Calculated
The numbers for my research were sourced from Strength Level’s database of 265,000 user-generated pull ups.
Average pull up standards.
Pull up 1RMs were taken from the Strength Level database.
These were then multiplied by the following fractions to get the 6-10RM weights:
- x0.84 for 6RM.
- x0.82 for 7RM.
- x0.80 for 8RM.
- x0.78 for 9RM.
- x0.73 for 10RM.
% of people who can pull up their body weight.
The Strength Level database also allows for different pull up weights to be sampled against a total population.
I sampled a variety of weights for a 200-lb male beginner aged 24-39.
I’ve shared weighted pull up standards at different training levels and body weights.
If you’re above these averages, then you’re lifting a very respectable weight and you should be proud of yourself.
But if you’re below average, then you can try some of the tips I share to improve your pull up strength.
How much weight do you currently lift on the pull up?
Let me know in the comments!
Or check out my other posts to find out:
- One-arm dumbbell row weight standards.
- Bent-over dumbbell row weight standards
- Reverse dumbbell fly weight standards.
- Bicep curl weight standards.
- Lateral raise weight standards.
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)