You can maximize hypertrophy by breaking up your workout routine in this way. If you want to exercise like some of the best bodybuilders in the world, you should try the push/pull method.
We’re sharing our top 12 pulling exercises for building muscle and overall strength to get you started. Each exercise consists of a pulling motion started from one of your pulling muscles, such as the biceps, back, or forearms.
Start practicing our top ten pull exercises right away to spark massive muscle growth!
What is a Pulling Exercise?
Pulling exercises are merely a very simple, unscientific way to categorize some movements. In reality, all movements are “pulling” movements because this is exactly how muscles work; they pull across joints to manipulate the limbs.
They either close the joints or pull the weight toward you, which is a common way to define a pulling movement. However, there are plenty of exceptions to these rules:
- Hip extension is a “pulling” movement that opens the hip joint.
Squats and good mornings have a similar structure, but squats are pushing exercises, while good mornings are pulling exercises.
- The most obvious finding is that pulling motions involve the posterior (back) side of the body’s muscles, but even this finding isn’t always accurate because the biceps are located on the anterior (front) side of the arm.
As mentioned, it is very “non-scientific”.
So, when we say pulling movements, we are talking about:
- those that involve the biceps and muscles on the backside.
• They typically shut down a joint.
• They all work well together.
The Top Lower Body Pulling Exercises
Barbell Conventional Deadlift
Although the deadlift technically falls somewhere between a pushing exercise and a pulling exercise, it targets your posterior chain and works well with other pulling exercises, so I classify it as a pulling exercise.
We specifically mentioned the”conventional” deadlift because its biomechanics are quite different from a sumo deadlift or trap bar deadlift. Although both the sumo and trap bar deadlift are excellent exercises, the quadriceps will be hit more by them because more knee flexion and less hip flexion are involved.
Whatever the case, the deadlift is the strongest pulling exercise available.
How To Perform the Deadlift:
• Stand close to the bar so that it is over midfoot with a stance between hip and shoulder-width apart
• Point toes slightly outward
• Take hold of the bar that is outside of your legs. Use either a double overhand or mixed grip
• As you lower your hips and back, maintain your tightness. Your shoulders will move back as your hips lower if you pay close attention to how your body moves.
• Stop when your arms are vertically straight.
• Sit with your shins straight.
• Make sure your back is straight and all of your muscles are tight.
• Disengage the bar’s tension. REFUSE to jerk the bar off the floor.
• Pull the bar up your leg now, keeping it in contact with your body the entire time.
Barbell Hip Thrust
The barbell hip thrust is the only exercise that activates the glutes AND hamstrings more than any other. Performance coaches prefer it over other glute exercises like back squats and lunges because it has more performance crossover, such as increased sprinting. This is because it activates the glutes more. Furthermore, Dr. is a proponent of it. Bret Contreas, the “world’s foremost expert on glute training”, for training the glutes.
You should be performing this lower body pulling exercise if you want to develop a strong, well-balanced butt.
How to Perform a Barbell Hip Thrust:
• Put your back on a bench so that the edge is about 1/3 to 1/4 of the way down.
• Put a barbell in your hip crease while your knees are bent and your feet are flat on the floor.
• Push your hips up while driving your feet into the ground.
• When fully extended, halt. Sit with your shins straight.
• Keep your knees pointing out at all times.
Do glute-ham raises instead of leg curls—or both—just make sure you’re doing glute-ham raises!). The best exercises for building hamstring strength and hypertrophy are glute-ham raises, which even activate more muscle than the leg curl mentioned earlier.
The fact that this exercise involves both flexing the knees and extending the hips is one of the reasons.
The spinal erectors must contract isometrically while performing glute-ham raises, which will also recruit the glutes.
How to Perform Glute-Ham Raises:
• A GHD machine is required. Don’t worry if your gym doesn’t have a GHD. For a body-weight variation, move down to number 6 (note that it will be harder than with a GHD machine to use a lat pull machine like the one in the image above).
• Knees should rest behind the large moon pad as you position the pads and your feet.
• The torso should begin with the knees bent, perpendicular to the floor, and straight up and down.
• Allow your body to descend, then extend your knees.
• When you’re parallel, allow your hips to flex.
• Now pull the torso back to the starting position by extending the hips followed by flexing the knees.
The good morning exercise is a strong pulling exercise for hip extensor training. The motion is comparable to a Romanian deadlift, but instead of being held in the hands, it is carried out across the back. Use lightweight exercises with higher repetitions and a slow tempo to reduce the torque on your lower back and hips as a result. Pay close attention to the muscles’ stretches and contractions.
How to Perform Good Mornings:
• Start with a lighter weight than you would if you were performing a barbell squat.
• Put your shoulders down and your hips back. keep your back straight.
• Maintain parallel shins. You shouldn’t budge your knees.
• Avoid dropping to parallel. Try to reach 15 degrees, but stop if your bracing fails.
• Hip-drive forward and rise back up.
Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
The only unilateral exercise on this list is the single-leg Romanian deadlift (SLDR). Unilateral exercises simply refer to an exercise that is performed on one side and can bring several benefits:
• Find any muscular imbalances.
• Exercises that target the lower body unilaterally can increase the gluteus medius and other upper leg muscles’ activation, which can aid in balance maintenance.
• Due to the movements’ increased similarity, there is a greater transfer to sporting performance.
Having at least one unilateral lower body exercise is crucial due to these advantages. Due to its excellent pulling motion, the SLDR is the ideal choice for this list.
In comparison to a standard deadlift, the Romanian deadlift involves significantly more hip flexion and less knee flexion. This means that more hip extension will be necessary, which is precisely what we want to train the glutes and hamstrings for.
How to Perform Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift:
• With the exception of being on one leg and carrying weight in your hands, the motion will be very similar to a good morning.
• Dumbbells or kettlebells are typically used for these.
• Pushing your hips back while standing on one foot. Let your back leg go up as your shoulders drop
• Keep the supporting shin vertical while bending the knee just a little.
• Go as low as you can while keeping your core tight without having to lower the weight all the way to the ground.
The best lower-body bodyweight exercise that nobody is performing is Nordic curls. The hamstrings are best trained by Nordic curls, which use an eccentric overload technique. The muscle can exert more force when it is lengthening during the eccentric phase of a contraction. This phenomenon is exploited by eccentric-overload training, which permits an excessive load to be applied to the muscle. Eccentric-overload training produces superior gains in strength and power because of this excessive load.
Nordic curls are slightly different from the other movements as the muscles aren’t actually “pulling”; instead, you are contracting the hamstrings and glutes to lower yourself down slowly.
You will also require a partner to support your angles and possibly assist with assisted nordic curls.
With nordic curls, start out slowly and feel free to use variations because they are very challenging to perform with perfect form. Many programs only ask participants to perform three sets of two to three repetitions at first.
How to Perform Nordic Curls:
• You might want to set up a knee pad before you kneel on the ground.
• Have a friend brace your lower legs (or use a smith machine with the bar lowered to keep your legs down)
• Lower your body as slowly as you can while maintaining a straight torso. If necessary, you can make a small amount of hip flexion.
The Top Upper Body Pulling Exercises
Rack-pulls are an effective pulling exercise for developing a massive upper back and massive traps. Since the biomechanics of the deadlift are very similar, this muscle will function in the same way by stabilizing the upper back and preventing it from rounding.
The range of motion (ROM) is considerably smaller, though, and you have a much stronger mechanical advantage. This enables you to load the bar with a lot more weight, which puts a lot of strain on your muscles. As the load increases during deadlifts, the upper back becomes more active, and trainees can use up to 50% more weight with rack pulls.
To put such a heavy demand on these muscles is absurd. That implies a huge increase in activation.
How to Perform a Rack-Pull:
• With the exception of the higher bar, the set-up is very similar to the deadlift.
• Placing the bar just above the knee will help you avoid using your hip extensors as much.
• Pull the slack out and do a deadlift motion.
The chin-up is at the top of the list when discussing the best pulling exercises for back training. Top strength coaches, including the infamous Mark Rippetoe, love it because of how much muscle it uses—basically, all of them.
The chin-up will activate the traps and biceps more than a pull-up because the elbows extend in front of the body, and it will also significantly increase the range of motion (ROM).
Because of this, if I have to choose, I’d rather do chin-ups than pull-ups. Both are excellent movements. See a detailed comparison of pull-ups vs. chin-ups.
The chin-up, which works every muscle in your back more effectively than the lat pull-down, is the best vertical pulling exercise you can perform.
How to Perform a Chin-Up:
• Supinated grips, or palms facing you, are the best grip for a pull-up bar.
• Shoulder-width apart should be the width.
• Pull your scapula back and hold it there before you begin to pull.
• As you raise your body, make sure your chin is above the pull-up bar.
• As you pull, maintain a tight core. Use your core more if you swing too much.
• Use bands for assistance or additional weight for more resistance to suit your skill level.
The Bent-over Row
On the other hand, the bent-over row is the best horizontal pulling exercise.
The bent-over row is performed while bending over and pulling a barbell up into the stomach, as the name suggests. In contrast to chin-ups, this exercise trains the back by extending it transversely, which completely different ways to work the back muscles. The killer isometric hold will also work the posterior chain. This makes the bent-over one of the best mass-pulling exercises.
How to Perform Bent-Over Rows:
• Grab a bar while it’s within reach and hold it out slightly wider than it should be.
• Up until you are standing straight, deadlift the bar.
• START ALWAYS from a standing position.
• While keeping your posterior chain tight, move your hips back.
• Knees should be bent just enough to allow your shoulder to come down.
• Drop to a position where your torso is as horizontal as possible.
• In front of your knees, let your arms hang loosely.
• To raise the bar into your belly, pull your scapula back. The elbows should be angled away from the body at roughly a 45 degree angle.
• Pull the elbows up to the sky with emphasis. As high as you can, drive them.
• Supinated grip is another option. This will exert more pressure on the biceps. The elbows staying close to the body is the only variation.
I use Kroc rows for unilateral dumbbell pull exercises. In comparison to dumbbell rows, Kroc rows are the black sheep. These were created by Matt Kroc, a freakishly strong man, to help him improve his grip strength and to build up his upper back for the deadlift.
With heavyweight AND high volume, upwards of 20–30 reps, the Kroc rows are different from conventional dumbbell rows. To do this, there is a much bigger ROM that uses an explosive pull at the bottom and allows more “body English”.
Some of the strongest men on the planet, including Jim Windler, have made this their preferred movement. You ought to carry them out as well.
How to Perform Kroc Rows:
• Unlike dumbbell rows, which are typically done with one hand propped on a bench or weight rack (if the gym is not busy), a Kroc row is done with both feet on the ground.
• The rowing arm’s leg should be placed back.
• uphold a straight back. However, some movement is inevitable.
• Allowing the dumbbell to sink will cause your shoulder to drop and your scapula to protrude.)
• Pull the dumbbell and the scapula pack up alongside the body with an explosive motion.
• Do not worry about “squeezing” at the top. Allow the dumbbell to land again, then repeat.
• Once more, very high repetitions are used for these.
While a “smaller” movement than the rest, the face-pull is arguably the best pulling exercise for posture. They are a straightforward but incredibly effective exercise that works the posterior delts and the entire upper back. While the front muscles (chest, anterior belts) are overused, many people have underdeveloped and weak versions of these muscles. This results in bad posture, less-than-ideal exercise form (rounding of the back), and general problems with the shoulder complex.
Face-pulls are therefore used to either treat these issues or stop them from ever happening in the first place. This pulling exercise ought to be practiced by everyone. And I really do mean everyone. from the elderly to professional athletes. It will help you tremendously in your training career if you have a strong upper back and increased mobility in your scapula and shoulder complex.
How to Perform Face-Pulls:
• Set a rope attachment on a cable pulley at face level,
• Thumbs positioned at the bottom of the rope, grab the ropes.
• Pull your elbows HIGHLY back and your scapula back. It’s ideal to have your elbows at shoulder height.
• Pull your hands apart so they extend past your face as you pull towards your head.
It’s always a good idea to include at least one bicep curl in your exercise routine to strengthen the biceps as well as the elbow joints and tendons. The good news is that there are many options available, and studies have found little distinction between bicep curls, hammer curls, and EZ bar curls. In light of this, I frequently prescribe the EZ bar curl or the hammer curl because they are both more comfortable and less likely to put stress on the elbow joint.
How to Perform Bicep Curls:
• Select a tool that suits your comfort level. Use a cable machine if you want.
• Stand with your elbows close to your sides and your knees slightly bent.
• Pull the bar to your chest while maintaining your elbow position.
• Slowly lower the bar.
• You Can Also Perform Negatives – Use a heavier weight and “cheat” the bar up. Concentrate on the negative and let the bar down slowly
Benefits of Pull Exercises
They Help You Avoid Muscle Imbalances.
Weightlifters frequently devote more time to working out the muscles they can see in the mirror, such as the pecs, shoulders, and abs, than they do the muscle groups on the back of their bodies, such as the traps, lats, and rhomboids.
Over time this can cause size and strength imbalances between the muscles on the front and back of your body, which spoils your “aesthetics,” and may increase your risk of injury.
Adding good pull day workouts to your routine helps you avoid muscle imbalances by ensuring you spend time training your “pulling” muscles each week, so they never lag too far behind your “pushing” muscles.
They Improve Your Performance on Other Key Exercises.
If you want to press, squat, and pull heavy weights, you must have a strong back because it serves as the foundation for your bench and overhead presses, the thing that holds the bar in the squat, and the main muscle used in the deadlift.
As a result, strengthening your back is one of the best things you can do to improve how well you perform these exercises. Additionally, sticking to a solid pull-day exercise regimen is one of the best ways to strengthen your back.
They’re Time Efficient.
Some people work out their back one day a week and their biceps the next.
Others complicate things further by training their rear delts and traps on their “shoulder day,” the remaining back muscles on their “back day,” and their biceps on a separate “arm day.”
All of these methods can be effective, but they aren’t the most time-effective.
A better option is to perform one or two upper body pull workouts per week that enable you to train your biceps and all of your back muscles at once.
Here are the top 12 pulling exercises for strength and muscle development. Start building those muscles right away by heading outside! Don’t forget to pay attention to proper form and technique; as you gain strength, don’t be afraid to add a little weight.
With consistency and effort, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you start to see results. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be able to complete that chin-up or pull-up that has been eluding you for so long. So why are you still waiting? Get to work!