Strength training is critical for athletes and people who are looking to improve their physical appearance. The rack pull is a great exercise for developing back strength, which can carry over to other sports and weightlifting movements. Additionally, the rack pull will help you build a thick and wide back. There are a few different ways to perform the rack pull, but the most common is to set the barbell up on pins in a power rack at about knee height. From there, you will take a shoulder-width grip on the bar and pull it off the pins. The key is to keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire movement. As you pull the bar off the pins, drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. In this article, you’ll find all the information you need on the rack pull exercise, including benefits, technique tips, and the muscles worked.
Rack Pull Vs Deadlift: What’s The Difference?
The rack pull is a variation of the deadlift, but there are a few key differences.
First, the range of motion is shorter in the rack pull since the bar starts at knee height rather than on the floor. Second, you can use more weight in the rack pull because of the shortened range of motion.
Finally, the rack pull is often considered a safer exercise than the deadlift since there’s less stress on the lower back.
That being said, the rack pull is still a very challenging exercise, and you should only attempt it if you have prior experience with the deadlift. If not, stick to exercises like the Romanian deadlift and the Good Morning until you build up the necessary strength and technique.
What’s The Benefit Of Rack Pulls?
Many people wonder—why do rack pulls instead of deadlifts? Here are some of the specific benefits of the rack pull:
Better Pulling And Grip Strength
Pulling strength is important for many athletes, especially those who play sports like football and rugby (6). The rack pull can help you develop pulling strength by teaching you to drive through your heels and use your hips to generate power.
Additionally, the rack pull will help you build grip strength since you have to hold on to the bar for the entire movement.
Improved Deadlift Technique
The rack pull can also be used as a teaching tool to help you improve your deadlift technique.
By working on a shortened range of motion, you can focus on key elements of the movement, such as keeping your back flat and using your hips to generate power. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can then move on to exercises like the deadlift (5).
Stronger And Wider Back
The rack pull is a great exercise for building a strong and wide back. It specifically targets the lats, which are the large muscles on the sides of your back.
By developing your lats, you’ll be able to build a broader physique and improve your strength in other exercises like the deadlift and overhead press.
Reduced Risk Of Injury
One of the main benefits of the rack pull is that it’s often considered a safer exercise than the deadlift. This is because the range of motion is shorter, which puts less stress on your lower back.
How To Do Rack Pulls
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of rack pulls, let’s go over the proper technique. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do rack pulls:
- Set the bar up on pins in a power rack at about knee height.
- Take a shoulder-width grip on the bar and pull it off the pins.
- Keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire movement.
- As you pull the bar off the pins, drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
- Lower the bar back to the pins under control and repeat for 3-5 sets of 5-10 repetitions.
Rack Pull Variations
There are a few different variations of the rack pull that you can use to target different muscles or challenge your strength. Here are some of the most popular rack pull variations:
Snatch Grip Rack Pulls
This variation is performed with a wider grip than traditional rack pulls. This challenges your grip strength and activates your lats to a greater degree.
Deficit Rack Pulls
This variation is performed with your feet elevated on a plate or box. This increases the range of motion, making the exercise more challenging.
Banded Rack Pulls
This variation is performed with resistance bands attached to the bar. The bands provide additional resistance, making the exercise more challenging.
One-Arm Rack Pulls
This variation is performed with one arm at a time. This allows you to focus on one side of your body and build up strength evenly.
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Rack Pull Muscles Worked
The rack pull is a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups. Here are the primary muscles worked (7):
Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
The lats are the large muscles on the sides of your back. The rack pull is a great exercise for developing these muscles and improving your strength in other exercises like the deadlift and overhead press.
The traps are the muscles on the sides of your neck. The rack pull will help to build these muscles, which can improve your posture and reduce the risk of injuries (3).
The glutes are the muscles in your butt. The rack pull will help to build these muscles, which can improve your performance in other exercises like the squat and deadlift.
Erector Spinae (Lower Back)
The erector spinae is a group of muscles that runs along your spine. The rack pull is a great exercise for strengthening these muscles and reducing the risk of lower back pain (1).
The quadriceps are the large muscles on the front of your thighs. The rack pull will help to build these muscles, which can improve your performance in other exercises like the squat and lunge.
The hamstrings are the large muscles on the back of your thighs. The rack pull will help to build these muscles, which can improve your performance in other exercises like the deadlift and lunge.
The calves are the muscles on the back of your lower legs. The rack pull will help to build these muscles, which can improve your performance in other exercises like the squat and lunge.
Precautions While Doing Rack Pull
While the rack pull is a great exercise for building strength, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start doing this exercise. Here are some precautions to consider:
Use Proper Form
It’s important to use proper form when doing rack pulls. Keep these cues in mind while performing the exercises:
- Neutral spine – this means keeping your back in a straight line from your head to your tailbone.
- Engaged core – this means keeping your abs and glutes contracted throughout the entire movement.
- Grip the bar – grip the bar deep in the palm of your hand as opposed to your fingers.
- Protect your knees – keep your knees in line with your toes throughout the movement. Be cautious not to strike your knees when re-racking the weight.
- Keep your shoulders down and back – this means keeping your shoulders in a neutral position and not allowing them to round forward.
Use Appropriate Weight
It’s important to use an appropriate amount of weight when doing rack pulls. If you use too much weight, you’ll likely sacrifice form. If you use too little weight, the exercise won’t be challenging enough.
Don’t Use Too Much Volume
It’s important not to do too many reps or sets when doing rack pulls. Doing too much volume can lead to overtraining and injuries. A good starting point is 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps.
Don’t Do This Exercise Every Day
You shouldn’t do rack pulls every day. This exercise is best performed 1-2 times per week.
Warm Up Before You Start
It’s important to warm up before doing rack pulls. A good way to do this is to perform some dynamic stretches and light cardio. This will help to prepare your muscles for the exercise and reduce the risk of injuries (2).
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How To Incorporate Rack Pulls Into Your Workout
Here are a few ideas for incorporating rack pulls into your workout routine:
Do Them As A Standalone Exercise
You can do rack pulls as a standalone exercise. This is a great option if you’re looking to focus on building strength in your back and legs.
Do Them As A Finisher
You can also do rack pulls as a finisher. This means doing them at the end of your workout after you’ve already completed your main lifts. This is a great way to add an extra challenge to your workout and tax your muscles.
Do Them As Part Of A Circuit
You can also do rack pulls as part of a circuit. This means pairing them with other exercises like squats, presses, and rows. This is a great option if you’re looking to add some variety to your workout.
Do Them As Part Of A Complex
You can also do rack pulls as part of a complex. This means pairing them with other exercises like deadlifts, clean and presses, and snatches. This is a great option if you’re looking to challenge your body and build strength.
Final Thoughts On Rack Pulls
The rack pull is a great exercise for building strength in your back and legs. Keep these cues in mind while performing the exercise: use proper form, use appropriate weight, don’t use too much volume, don’t do this exercise every day, and warm up before you start. You can also incorporate rack pulls into your workout routine by doing them as a standalone exercise, a finisher, part of a circuit, or part of a complex.
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!
- A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain (2016, mdpi.com)
- Does warming up prevent injury in sport: the evidence from randomised controlled trials? (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Lower Trapezius Strengthening Exercises on Pain, Dysfunction, Posture Alignment, Muscle Thickness and Contraction Rate in Patients with Neck Pain; Randomized Controlled Trial (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review | PLOS ONE (2020, journals.plos.org) b
- Rack Pull Exercise Guide: How to Master Rack Pulls (2022, masterclass.com)
- The Importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- UNDERSTANDING THE DEADLIFT AND ITS VARIATIONS (2020, journals.lww.com)