Best Pulling Exercises
How important are your back muscles? Well, you use those muscles every time you lift a grocery bag, stand up, or change a flat tire – just about every time you have a pulling or lifting movement. Therefore, you should give those essential muscles nothing but the best pulling exercises.
So many activities in your everyday life will become incredibly easier just by strengthening your back muscles. And, if you’re keen on becoming a pro athlete, stronger back muscles will play a critical role in getting you there.
There are many top bodybuilders you can look up to as you seek to build incredible back muscles:
- Ronnie Coleman (Mr. Olympia winner for 8 consecutive years)
- Lee Haney (shares all-time Mr. Olympia titles record with Ronnie Coleman)
- Dorian Yates (Mr. Olympia winner for six years in a row)
Read on to see how to do back workouts and how such exercises can improve your whole body.
Are Pulling Exercises the Best Way to Increase Overall Strength?
Many of the pulling exercises for your back are compound exercises, activating multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
Since the compound exercises are also multi-joint exercises, you end up burning more calories from the higher intensity exercise (3). The result is improved core body strength, because these exercises require core balance and coordination.
Another aspect that makes pulling exercises great for increasing overall body strength is that they are usually part of a push/pull/legs split workout. A PPL split routine is one of the best whole body trainings for gaining muscle. Your gains come from spreading out your workouts instead of doing a one-day workout (2).
Please take note that pulling workouts in the gym aren’t just for bodybuilders. Other types of athletes and the general public benefit from them as well. Even Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder, includes weight training in his workouts to prevent injuries.
Best Pulling Exercises without Equipment
The best way to do pulling exercises at home is to workout using homemade weights. This way there’s no excuse not to work out just because you don’t have the right equipment.
In that regard, one of the best pulling workouts that doesn’t require sophisticated equipment is the side lateral raises.
Side Lateral Raises
This is an amazing shoulder exercise that works on the stabilizing muscles in your back as you perform the workout while standing.
Since the workout doesn’t require particularly heavy weights, you can use a pair of water bottles in each hand. Take care to not swing the weights up and down. It is preferable to use lighter weights than risk injuring your deltoids (shoulder muscles).
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Workouts
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the well-known bodybuilder, actor, and politician gave some insights on Reddit, on how to workout at home without equipment (1).
He stated that during his younger years in Austria he did pull-ups from tree branches. If you have a bit of backyard space and some trees with strong branches, you might try this too.
Other exercises he mentioned, although not specifically back exercises, could improve your overall physical strength, including your back. They included chopping wood as a strength building workout and running up stairs.
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Best Pulling Exercises with Only Barbell or Dumbbell
Pulling exercises that only use barbells or dumbbells may be more accessible for those who don’t have such gym equipment as Smith machines or lat pull machines.
But the lack of cable machines doesn’t mean that you won’t get the best results.
Even Ronnie Coleman achieved great results from using dumbbells.
Work Out Like Ronnie Coleman
Ronnie Coleman is unquestionably a bodybuilding legend, as he won Mr. Olympia eight times. He has highlighted the immense value of dumbbells as an ideal choice for workout equipment (8).
Coleman has attributed his best chest development to dumbbell presses. This was similar for his triceps.
Most importantly, Coleman emphasizes the need for working out your back.
Therefore, if you only have barbells and dumbbells, know that you have the best equipment which helped someone become an award-winning bodybuilder.
You can use dumbbells to do the dumbbell row, including such variations as the incline row and elevated plank row hold.
The dumbbell row is a simple workout that’s opposite to a bench press.
You’ll use a bench, on which you place one bent knee and one arm, while lifting the dumbbell with the opposite arm. As your torso is positioned parallel to the ground, you are lifting the weight towards you in a drawing motion that’s the reverse of a bench press.
Best Pulling Exercises for Strength
Pull-ups & chin-ups are among the best pulling exercises for strength, which target your back also.
These workouts target muscles higher up on your back, unlike the lat pulldowns which focused on your low back.
Pull-Ups & Chin-Ups
Pull-ups and chin-ups strengthen your upper back and forearms as well as your grip strength. Ultimately, they boost your overall body strength.
A wide-grip pull up routine is particularly good for building up a “V” shape back. It enhances the wideness of your lats.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) provides reliable guidelines that you can use to perform this workout safely.
Other organizations that can provide reliable exercise guidelines include:
- National Pilates Certification Program (NPCP)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa)
- National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
To perform pull-ups correctly, you need to follow 4 important steps.
First, use an overhand grip to hold the pull-up bar. This means your palms should be facing away from you. Proper grip is essential in aligning the right muscles that will be engaged in the workout.
The next important thing is to make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart. You’ll have a hard time doing the workout if you place your arms too far apart.
The third aspect will determine whether you actually exert your back muscles or not. You should contract your upper back muscles during the pulling phase of the exercise.
Once you get your chest close to the bar, lower your body back down in a controlled motion.
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Best Pulling Exercises for Mass
Deadlifts are particularly effective in building body mass.
This workout was actually used in a study that showed increased muscular power during lifting tasks in overweight and obese individuals (7). Therefore, it’s not just limited to dedicated muscle builders, but it works for just about everyone.
The pull exercise employs your lower back, core, and forearms at the same time. Since it offers various grip changes, performance styles, and variations in general, you’re sure not to get bored with this workout.
Some varieties of the deadlift include:
- sumo deadlift
- hex/ trap bar deadlifts
- snatch grip deadlift
- deficit deadlift / rack pulls
- the hack lift
You must apply the correct technique to get the same results as Lou Ferrigno, Kevin Levrone, Flex Wheeler, Jay Cutler, and other top bodybuilders.
The conventional deadlift has 5 crucial steps that you must follow (5).
- To start, you must stand as close as possible to the barbell. That means, your mid-foot will be placed under the bar. Standing far from the barbell will force you to stretch forward instead of simply bending down.
- The workout begins when you bend over to hold the barbell. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart so you can maintain proper balance while pulling it up.
- You now need to bend your knees until your shins touch the barbell. Make sure that you have a firm stance so you don’t lose your balance.
- For the upward motion, lift your chest up while straightening your lower back. During this period your arms will simply maintain a strong hold on the barbell.
- After taking a deep breath, stand up fully with the weight.
Best Pulling Exercises for Posture
Although pull exercises for the back focus on the target muscles, such exercises give more benefits. For instance, certain back exercises also improve your posture.
Here is one of the best back exercises for your posture:
Standing “Y” Raise
This can be an excellent workout for any aspiring weightlifter who aims to become as powerful as Ilya Ilyin, Pyros Dimas, Marcin Dolega, and Apti Aukhadov.
The “Y” raise is much like snatch weightlifting, but using dumbbells in a standing position.
Follow these steps to do it right:
- Your feet must be shoulder-width apart when standing.
- Hold the dumbbells in your hands and align your palms to face your hips.
- Raise the weights forward and upward with palms to facing each other.
- When the weights are at the high point, your body will form a Y shape.
- Finally, lower the weights back down.
The lateral pulldown/ lat pulldown is a compound exercise targeting your back muscles – particularly the latissimus dorsi.
A lat pulldown workout is also effective at correcting the rounded-back, forward-head posture. This trains your body to bring down and pull together your shoulder blades. With regular exercise, this will improve shoulder function and proper posture (4).
To do the lat pulldowns right, make sure to arch your back slightly as you pull the bar down to the top of your chest, and keep your elbows directly below the bar(6).
Rest and Alternate
Remember that your muscle growth happens while you sleep (9). Therefore, make sure to give you muscles enough time to rest after every workout.
How do you achieve that when exercising every day?
You can do it successfully by alternating your workouts. After exercising your back on the first day, you can focus on your lower limbs the next day. Also check this 20 Min Full Body Workout at Home!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 72-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger is working out at home — here are some of his moves you can do too (2020, cnbc.com)
- Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Energy cost of isolated resistance exercises across low- to high-intensities (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- EXERCISE AND PREGNANCY: WOMEN TAKING THE LEAD IN THEIR WORKOUTS (2018, blog.nasm.org)
- Fitness coach reveals crazy cost of feeding world’s strongest man (2018, news.com.au)
- Lat Pulldown (n.d., msn.com)
- Muscular Power during a Lifting Task Increases after Three Months of Resistance Training in Overweight and Obese Individuals (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Ronnie Coleman delivers his top training tips to help sculpt the perfect rig (2019, news.com.au)
- What Happens When You Sleep? (n.d., sleepfoundation.org)