Thanks to the recent boom in interest in calisthenics, the humble pull-up is being incorporated into workouts across the globe. But a pull-up alone can get a little boring, and there's a limit to the strength building you can do using body weight alone.
To solve the problem, there are various options to make the move harder, with two of the most popular being L-sit pull-ups which use more muscle groups, or weighted pull-ups, which increase resistance for greater strength building.
If you want to improve your pull-up strength, you may be wondering whether L-sit pull-ups or weighted pull-ups are the best way to go and which has the potential for the most benefits.
In this article, we will compare the two kinds of pull-ups head-to-head so that you can decide which is right for you, based on the benefits, equipment, and strength required.
What's the Difference Between L-Sit Pull-Ups and Weighted Pull-Ups?
The main difference between L-sit pull-ups and weighted pull-ups is that the L-sit uses body weight to build strength. In contrast, the weighted pull-up uses physical weights to increase strength and muscle mass-building potential.
The next difference is the legs; with the L-sit, the legs are raised and parallel with the ground, whereas with the weighted pull-up, the legs generally point downwards in a standing position. Although both exercises focus mainly on the same muscle groups, each movement's effect on the muscles is slightly different.
Both are challenging moves that require enough physical strength to pull the body up high enough to get benefit from the exercise.
What are L-Sit Pull-Ups?
An L-sit pull-up is a variation of the standard pull-up that involves lifting the legs to target more muscle groups to increase the potential benefits you get from a pull-up.
L-sit pull-ups are generally performed on a high bar in a gym or outdoor gym with the right equipment. They're often incorporated into freestyle calisthenics and performed by calisthenics athletes as part of a workout.
The L-sit is considered a fairly complex move in the calisthenics world and is probably not something you can dive straight into if you're a pull-up novice.
To perform an L-sit, you need to be able to hold your body weight through your hands and arms, and it helps to be proficient in regular pull-ups and have the body strength to hold the move for greater benefit.
How Do You Do an L-Sit Pull-Up?
If you've never done an L-sit before, they can be tricky at first, and many people struggle to pull up high enough to raise their head above the bar.
Don't worry if you find them tough because they will get easier with time and practice.
Holding form in your legs and body is key to getting the most benefit from an L-sit and will help improve posture if done regularly.
- Grip the bar with your palms facing away from you.
- Make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart.
- With the arms extended, raise your legs until they are at a 90-degree angle to your torso and parallel to the ground.
- Keep your legs together and point the toes forwards.
- Pull up using your arms until your chin is higher than the bar.
- Hold form, and continue to do more reps.
There are no hard and fast rules about the number of L-sit reps you should do per session. If you're new to L-sits, it's a good idea to start low and then build up to 10-15. Rest for around 20 seconds between each set of reps.
You can also perform this move as a chin-up, which is very similar, except the palms should face towards you instead of away from you. Chin-ups work more muscle groups at the front of the body, whereas pull-ups focus on more muscles at the back.
Benefits of an L-Sit Pull-Up
To work out which is the best exercise for your goals, it helps to know the potential benefits of each pull-up.
The L-sit pull-up is a challenging move that can help increase strength, mobility, flexibility, stability, and improved posture.
L-sit pull-ups also burn fat and calories, and if done regularly, they can help with weight loss and muscle tone.
When the move is performed in its proper form, you can expect to work and increase strength in the following muscle groups:
- Hip Flexors
- Neck Muscles
- Upper and Lower Back
What are Weighted Pull-Ups?
A weighted pull-up is a standard pull-up with the addition of weight to make the exercise more difficult. This can be done by wearing a weight belt or vest or attaching weights to your body with a strap.
As with L-sit pull-ups, weighted pull-ups are a little more tricky than a standard pull up, so it's a good idea to master the regular ones before incorporating weight.
Adding weight increases resistance and strength building, making the move more challenging.
How Do You Do a Weighted Pull-Up?
Because you have no free hands during a pull-up, weights need to be safely attached to the body.
There are various ways to incorporate weight into a pull-up, and people who do these regularly often improvise with various items of gym equipment. However, you can buy weighted accessories which are easier to get on and off.
Here are some popular ways to incorporate weight into a pull-up:
- Holding a dumbbell between the lower legs. This is probably the most challenging way to add weights to a pull-up, but the equipment is simple.
- Strapping or chaining a weight plate or kettlebell around the waist. A simple yet effective way to add weight with equipment available in most gyms without buying vests, etc.
- Weighted vests or belts (also known as dipping belts). A pricier way to incorporate weight into a pull-up.
- Weighted chains tied around the waist.
To perform a weighted pull-up, follow the steps below:
- Attach your weight of choice (usually around the waist), making sure it's secure. If you're using a dumbbell, you might need to stand on a stool or bench with the dumbbell between your feet to get onto the bar.
- Grip the bar with your arms extended and your palms facing away.
- Make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart and your elbows are in.
- Pull up using your arms until your chin is higher than the bar and then smoothly come back down.
- Repeat the rep/sets as many as desired.
The number of reps you'll need to do will depend on your ability. It's a good idea to split them into sets of five and make sure you rest for around 20 seconds in between.
Don’t worry if you can’t do many reps to begin with because your ability to do more will increase over time and as you get stronger. Start off low and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.
When Should You Add Weight to Your Pull-Ups?
Before you can consider adding weights to a pull-up, you need to be proficient in regular body weight pull-ups and ideally be able to pull up at least ten reps per session.
Once you get good at pull-ups, you'll probably notice they get easier. Many people add on weight because their muscle mass increases start to plateau due to the limitations of using body weight alone.
If you get to a point that you’re ready to introduce weight, start off slowly by adding a small amount to begin with and increase over time if you feel you need to. Adding too much weight too soon can increase the risk of injury.
Benefits of a Weighted Pull-Up
Weighted pull-ups use many of the same muscle groups as an L-sit pull-up (see above) but with the added benefit of greater resistance. This resistance helps build greater strength and muscle mass, especially in the back, arms, and shoulders.
The weighted pull-up is used to build muscle bulk, and if they're performed regularly, muscles will appear more prominent and defined.
As well as improving strength, using weights in pull-ups helps improve grip, stability, and posture.
Which is Better: L-Sit Pull-Ups or Weighted Pull-Ups?
Each kind of pull-up comes with its own benefits and of course, which is best for you depends on your exercise goals. To decide which is the best-pull up, we've compared them in various categories to help choose which fits best with your end goals.
Best for Muscle Mass
All kinds of pull-ups are excellent for building strength in the arms, back, neck, and shoulder muscles. However, there’s a limit to how far you can go in building muscle mass if you rely on body weight alone.
If your goal is to build as much muscle strength and mass as possible, then the best pull-up choice for you would be the weighted pull-up, which uses additional resistance to enhance strength-building potential.
Weighted pull-ups are particularly good for defining and increasing muscle strength in the back, which can sometimes be a problem area when it comes to increasing size. For this reason, weighted pull-ups are popular with bodybuilders who want to bulk up all muscle groups.
Best for Beginners
Neither kind of pull-up is suitable for someone who hasn't done pull-ups before or doesn't have the physical strength to lift their body weight.
But if you're already good with pull-ups and lifting your own body weight, weighted pull-ups are probably easier to master than L-sit pull-ups, especially if you start with a lower amount of weight.
The L-sit stance can be trickier to master because it requires balance and flexibility to hold posture throughout the set. In comparison, the weighted pull-up movement is more similar to a regular pull-up.
Best for Grip
Both L-sit and weighted pull-ups are an excellent way to increase grip strength. For this reason, they're often performed by bodybuilders who want to improve their deadlift grip or rock climbers who wish to increase their hand strength.
Of the two, the pull-up with the greatest potential for building grip strength is the weighted pull-up, which puts the body down further and puts greater resistance on the hands and wrists.
This isn't to say that regular pull-ups or L-sit pull-ups aren't a great way to improve grip strength, it's just that the weighted version has greater benefits.
Best for Flexibility
If increasing flexibility and mobility is an important goal for you, of the two, the best kind of pull-up which incorporates more stretching is the L-sit pull-up.
The L-sit pull-up stretches out more muscles in the legs and core because of the pose that is required to perform the move and remain in position.
As well as increased flexibility in the shoulders, the L-sit is especially good for improving hamstring flexibility. Increased flexibility and mobility will make the :-sit and other forms of exercise easier to perform over time.
Best for Core Strength
L-sit and weighted pull-ups are both good for improving core strength, but of the two, the one with the greatest potential is the L-sit pull-up.
Because of the stance required, the L-sit uses more muscles in the core area and, if done regularly, can help improve strength in the abs and make them appear more defined.
Best for Muscle Mass: Weighted Pull-Ups
Best for Beginners: Weighted Pull-Ups
Best for Grip: Weighted Pull-Ups
Best for Flexibility: L-Sit Pull-Ups
Best for Core Strength: L-Sit Pull-Ups
So, we've compared L-sit pull-ups against weighted pull-ups, and they both come with amazing benefits if performed regularly, but the pull-up that came top in most categories was the weighted version.
The weighted pull-up came out best for building muscle mass; they're an easier way to take pull-ups to the next level and are the best for improving hand grip. However, the L-sit pull-up is best for flexibility and building core strength.
Ultimately, it all depends on which exercise best suits your personal abilities and goals. If you're not looking to build huge muscles, then the L-sit has plenty of benefits and is an excellent way to improve strength and posture using body weight alone.
Or if you can’t decide, do a mix of both!