Next to the basic squat, the deadlift is one of the most common lower back, glutes, and legs exercises done by people today. It is a fantastic compound exercise that helps build the muscle strength and power of different muscle groups and joints throughout the body.
Despite being such a great workout, a number of people only know one basic movement of this exercise – where you stand behind a weight that’s on the ground, squat down while keeping your back straight and butt pushed out, and lift the weight as you come back up to a standing position. While there’s nothing wrong with this simple movement, if you want to lift heavier and increase your pulling strength, the conventional deadlift is not it.
This is where rack pulls come in. These are a variation of the conventional deadlift with all the benefits of the original exercise but with the added benefit of helping you lift heavier, increasing pulling strength, and making your lower back and hips even stronger. If this sounds like something you are curious about, then this article is what you’ve been looking for.
Stick around to learn the proper rack pull form, what equipment you will need to complete this exercise, the benefits of and muscles worked by this workout and much more.
What Is A Rack Pull?
Before getting into the details of the correct rack pull form, what on earth is this exercise?
For those who’ve never come across this workout before, a rack pull is a variation of the traditional deadlift. When doing this workout you use a loaded barbell and the support of a power rack. As the name suggests, the exercise will help improve your pulling strength and since it is still a deadlift, it will work on strengthening the same muscles that the traditional deadlift does.
What Muscles Does Deadlift Work?
The deadlift is mostly a lower body workout that is known to help activate the gluteus, hamstrings, erector spinae and quadriceps (2). It also helps strengthen your forearm and core muscles as well as grip strength (3, 1, 4).
The Rack Pull Proper Form: How To Successfully Do This Workout Without Injuring Yourself Or Your Back
Now that you know the muscles targeted by this workout, how do you safely do it? Before getting into the proper rack pull form, here are some things to take note of:
- Form is important – Ignoring the proper form used in any workout is the biggest disservice that you could do to yourself. Pay attention to the rack pull form directions below because not only does it lower your risk of injury but it also allows you to move efficiently, increase your performance, and enables you to have a full range of motion.
- Start light – The rack pull might look easy to do which might tempt you to overload the barbel as you try and lift super heavy. That would be a bad idea. As with every ‘new to you’ exercise, pace yourself. Start with lighter weights and gradually add more as you gauge how your body and muscles feel as you lift.
- Do your workout in slow controlled movements – Not only does this ensure that your muscles are actually feeling the burn, but quick and jerky movements especially with heavy equipment increase your risk of injury.
- Equipment required – For this exercise you will need a barbell, weight plates, and a power rack – a squat rack works just as well if your gym does not have the power rack. Some optional equipment include:
- A weight lifting belt – While this belt can be used by anyone, it is often seen on powerlifters. The belt helps support your core and spine when you are lifting very heavy weights at the gym.
- Gym/lifting wrist straps – Not only do they help you grip the barbell better, but some claim that these straps actually help you lift up to 30 percent heavier.
As a beginner, the belt and wrist straps aren’t really important as you will not be lifting anywhere as heavy as the power lifters. However, with time, and as you gradually increase the weights on the barbell, you might have to invest in them.
Dropping pounds by the dozens without putting yourself through the wringer is everyone’s weight loss pipe dream. But what if we told you that the BetterMe app can make that happen? Keep yourself in prime shape with our fat-blasting workouts, delicious budget-sparing recipes, and body-transforming challenges with our app!
How To Do A Rack Pull
- Start by setting the rack at your desired height. For most people this is either right above or right below the knee – the rack height is usually determined by your actual height.
- Once the rack height has been determined, pick up your barbell, place it on the rack and proceed to add your chosen weight plates to it. It is advised to start with your usual traditional deadlift weight – you could go slightly lighter but please refrain from going heavier than this.
- With the weight secured to the barbell, get into position. Here is where proper rack form comes into play
- Step up to the barbell – your toes should end up right under the barbell with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Keep your chest up, shoulders back, spine straight and your eyes gazing straight ahead. Pick a spot on the wall to stare at.
- Bend your knees slightly and hinge back at the hips – Think about pushing your butt back.
- Grab the barbel with both hands. Your hands should be outside your knees at a slightly wider position than your shoulders.
Please note that there are two ways for you to grab the barbell – Overhand grip where your palms are facing your body or the alternating grip where one palm faces your body while the other faces away from you. This is all dependent on personal preference and comfort.
- On an inhale, lift the weight and come into a standing position. The power of this lift should come from your heels, up your legs to your hips. Do not lift with your back as this will most likely lead to back pain.
- Pull your shoulders back and hold on to the weight at this standing position for two to three breaths.
- On an exhale, slowly lower the weight by bending your knees, lowering your upper body, as you push your hips back. Your gaze should still be on the chosen spot on the wall and back straight.
This movement, like the lift, should be slow and controlled – don’t just suddenly drop the weight. You might damage the equipment or hurt yourself.
This counts as 1 rep. Do 10 reps for 1 set – and as many sets as desired after that.
Read More: Barbell Workout Plan For Beginners
Rack Pull Benefits: Why You Should Add This Exercise to Your Routine
Here are some rack pull exercise benefits to help convince you to include this workout in your upcoming leg day routine
- It’s beginner friendly – Generally, machine assisted exercises are better for beginners not only because they prevent injury, but also because they assist you learn proper form faster. If you’ve been finding traditional deadlift form a little complicated, doing the rack pull variation might help you correct your mistakes.
- It’s a great way to increase grip strength – If you already exercise with weights, you are already unknowingly increasing your grip strength. If you are actively trying to increase grip strength then lifting heavier is your best bet. With rack pulls, you gradually add weight plates to your barbell continuously making it heavier which gradually increases grip strength.
- It increases pulling strength – The movement of pulling the barbell up as you stand helps increase the strength of your arms and back which helps make other arm exercises like pull ups, dumbbell rows, bicep curls, bent-over rows, lat pull-downs, etc. that much easier to perform.
- It’s a fantastic lower body workout – As previously mentioned, this is a great workout that targets lower body muscles like glutes, quads, hamstrings, and the calf muscles.
- Can increase balance and stability – Other than the lower body, deadlifts also target the lower back and core. A strong lower back and core mean increased stability and balance, as well as a lower risk of getting injured, especially back injuries.
- It is a functional exercise – Functional exercises are those whose movements mimic movements you’d make in your daily life eg. picking up a baby, groceries, etc. Deadlifts are functional in that they train you in the functional activity of lifting things from the floor.
Want to build an attention-grabbing bubble butt, blast away fat that’s stored in all the wrong places, spring-clean your diet, turn back the clock on your skin, skyrocket your self-confidence and shatter your insecurities? Check out the BetterMe app and set this plan in motion!
What Are Some Snatch Grip Rack Pull Benefits
Unlike the rack pull form described above, the snatch grip variation requires you to use a much wider grip than slightly wider than shoulder width – your hands will almost be touching the weights set on the barbell.
The benefits of this exercise are the same as the traditional deadlift as well as the rack pull. Where it differs is that the snatch grip targets way more upper body muscles (especially those in the middle back) than these two other exercises – all thanks to the much wider grip on the barbell.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the correct rack pull form is the first step in not only doing this workout well, but also reaping its benefits. If you are going to be doing this workout, remember to always have proper form, use controlled motions, and not to lift too heavy. Workout in front of a mirror or film yourself to ensure that you are keeping your body in the right position.
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!
- EFFECT OF DEADLIFT TRAINING ON CORE STRENGTH IN PREVIOUSLY-UNTRAINED MALES (2017, researchgate.net)
- Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Ergogenic effects of lifting straps on movement velocity, grip strength, perceived exertion and grip security during the deadlift exercise (2021, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight-training exercises and isometric instability activities (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)