Rack Pulls – How-To, Muscles Worked, Benefits, and More

Commonly referred to as a conventional deadlift variation, rack pulls mean different things to fitness enthusiasts. While some lifters refer to it as an insignificant routine, others rank it as an effective back movement with apparent results.

Many weightlifters use rack pull to increase the weight and perfecting the lockout part of deadlift training. To start, aim for a similar amount of weight you use for a regular deadlift.

There’s no need to wonder how best to max out because you’ll get the right facts in this piece.

With so many years of experience, managing bodybuilding without hassle, I’ve racked up a set of essential tips.

And if you’ve got no idea what muscles get worked during rack pull routines, here’s the read you need!

What is a Rack Pull?

The rack pull is a variation of conventional deadlift with a focus on improving drag strength and hip/back development.

The training routine also helps improve advanced deadlifting movements for professional weightlifters.

You will need a squat rack or power rack and a barbell to perform this training exercise.

How to Do It Right

Set rack height

Setting up your rack’s height is the first step. There are three levels you can position the rack:

  • below knee area,
  • above knee area,
  • and above the thigh region.

Experienced lifters can leverage custom positions in whatever area of the deadlift they desire. Some may also work a set of pulls across all possible heights for significant results across all active muscle areas.

Setting the rack to a lower position will help to elicit more glutes and hamstring involvement, bringing greater lower body strength. Placing the rack at a higher position improves lumbar better. 

Take a grip and maintain full body extension

After maintaining your desired rack position, the next step involves grasping the bar. Your palms should face you while wrapped around the bar. Also, you need to maintain your hands’ distance at least shoulder-width apart.

The next step involves pushing your hip region back. Then progress to maintaining a straight with your head facing forward. Go on to lift the weight by driving your hip forwards while keeping knees straight.

You should try to push your shoulders back at the height of this movement and reverse each rep.

Keep hold as tight as possible with a closed stance

A closed stance during rack pulls offer significant results. With a closed stance, more of your body get worked, regarding your focus area.

The upper body around the lumbar spine area will develop more when your grip remains in a compact form. Also, gluteal and hamstring activation becomes more comfortable with a tighter stance.

Muscles Worked

Glutes

This exercise significantly targets hip hypertrophy when done right. Glutes development from rack pulls directly results from a minimal range of motion and increased loading support. 

Through minimizing the range of motion, lifters are used to minimize lumbar and ham involvement. And with an enhanced core on the gluteal come significant hip extension potential.

Quadriceps

With this exercise, you will use minimal to medium range engagement when knee extensions get rounded off in a routine.

Even if limited knee flexion is possible through the entire rack pull routine, there’s significant building potential. In most cases, the exercise performed from lower positions engage quadriceps, even with low hip area involvement.

Hamstrings

The ham region gets activated during a rack pull movement in a similar fashion to the gluteal. But significant results become possible based on the rack pull’s positioning.

And just like quadriceps, the lower the starting height, the higher chance of hamstring extension and flexion work. The involvement of this area helps loading and endurance for better fitness.

Erector spinae

A limited range of motion, similar to sumo deadlift and trap bar deadlift routines, gives rack pulls significant activation potential.

Less hip flexion required for a rack pull decreases lumbar spine stress.

Trapezius

The upper back is involved in the rack pull routine. With such involvement, ideal upper back tension for increased build potential is achievable. New muscle growth is the primary target of rack pull in this area for enhanced girth and loading potential.

Back muscles

Aside from stimulating upper back region growth, rack pulls activate the entire back. Constant reps improve new muscle growth in the lower back region, just like trapezium and other areas.

Forms of Rack Pulls

Cross-fit

The rack pull form focuses on improving drag strength and speed. Cross-fit athletes also emphasize back strength and building support for increased fitness.

Sportsmen

Sports athletes need rack pulls for increasing overall muscle mass and strength. In some cases, athletes engage conventional deadlifts along with this routine for increased segmental pulling power.

Strongman/powerlifter

Powerlifters and strongman competitors rely on rack pulls for significant upper, mid, and lower back development and it also targets posterior chain build and grip strength.

Perks of Rack Pulls

1.  Trapezius development

If you’re keen on developing your top back, the semi range of motion rack pull offers could provide marked improvements.

Developing the trapezius stems directly from lifting heavier weights. The routine focuses on straightened backs, making more use of upper back strength for completing the exercise.

2.   Back development

Developing the entire back region is a significant core of this exercise. With these targeting lumbar part, hypertrophy around this area becomes easier to manage.

It also provides support for shorter weightlifters with an urgent need for increased drag power with minimal height commitments. 

3.   Limited lower back stress

Since there’s a greater focus on muscle development than loading on the lumbar spine, rack pulls provide ideal back relief.

Also, this exercise could be a significant part of some lifters’ recovery periods but still assure significant lift support.

4.   Multiple muscle group targets

Rack pulls work towards activating several muscle groups in each rep set. These pull target glute and hamstrings, trapezius, lumbar, and other body parts at the same time, offering more benefits for less.

5.   Improved pulling strength

Several pro lifters incorporate rack pulls in their training routine to increase muscular and neurological readiness.

With so many variations targeted at isolating specific muscle groups, increasing pulling strength is more accessible through this routine.

6.   Grip strength

Increasing grip strength is a significant core for powerlifters, making rack pulls an ideal routine for your workout.

Since rack pulls offer half deadlift range of motion, there’s an increased chance of building big mass required for heavier lifts. Regular exercise also focuses on enhanced locking required for smoother deadlifts.

Recommended Reps, Sets, and Timeline for Different Results

1. Movement development

(10 – 12) x 3 – 5 sets (Light-moderate)

Rest timeline

60 – 75seconds

2. Endurance

(14 – 20+) x 2 – 5 sets (Light – Moderate)

Rest timeline

30 – 60seconds

3. Hypertrophy

(10 – 15) x 3 – 6 sets (Moderate – Heavy)

(12 – 16) x 2 – 5 sets (Moderate – Extreme)

Rest timeline

30 – 80seconds

4. Strength

3 – 6 sets (Heavy) with 4 – 7reps

Rest timeline

45 – 60seconds

Variations

Accommodating resistance rack pulls

The rack pulls paired with chains can offer significant muscle working, similar to other deadlift routines.

With accommodating resistance, the increased force required for greater rack gain strength is easier to manage. This exercise is focused on building muscle activation rates and segmental lifting power.

Reverse band rack pulls

Neural firing patterns, grip strength improvement, and more are the major core of reverse band rack pulls.

The routine begins with fixing resistance bands to overhead support before stretching at maximum to each lift’s beginning.

When lifters engage more acceleration to manage a pull, resistance from the band decreases. With this reduction, there’s a limited need to increase the force to manage each pull, improving muscle activation chances.

Fat bar rack pulls

The major difference with conventional rack pulls is that fat bar variations use barbells with a wider diameter.

With this variation, lifters can challenge and improve their overall grip strength.

Trap bar deadlift

These deadlifts are used to give stress on easing back pressure in-lift. Newbies to rack pull usually get this routine as a start-off recommendation.

Trap bar deadlifts focus on overall strength training required for tasking lifts. Most times, hex-shaped trap bars come in handy for nailing.

With these bars designs, powerlifters can stand in the equipment and handle its bars on both sides. Such a build makes it more comfortable to grab the lift with minimal issues. But professional lifters can easily manage these reps with regular barbells.

Perform this routine by holding onto the bar’s handles and grabbing them upwards. While lifting this set of weights, rest your hips while raising your torso. Also, it would be best if you looked forward when beginning the rep.

Stand up with your hips and knees straightened, with a flattened position. Then lower your back when returning the lifts to their original position.

Newbie Mistakes to Avoid When Engaging Rack Pulls

Over lifting

Lifting too much weight during rack pulls, particularly at a beginner level, could be damaging. With too much weight lifted, the chances of muscle strain and injury get significant spikes.

The best course of action is to progress from smaller weights, with progress targeted at enhancing lift potential over time.

Knee angling

Beginners should avoid the sumo deadlift when selecting variations to try out. Too much pressure on your knees could make them give out in moments. Weight displacement that could lead to injuries could occur as a result.

Newbies should keep their rack pulls running with the knee region free from angling. Subsequent reps with significant comfort should prompt you to try out angling knees later on.

Wrong stance

Keeping your shoulders width apart, back straight, and shoulders leaned is essential to managing smooth rack pulls.

Safety Precautions

Back problems

Lifters with nagging back problems may not get good experiences from rack pulls right out the bat. And to remain on the safe side, most strongmen and powerlifters try these exercises with caution during recovery. In a nutshell, it may not be worth the risk.

Form practice

Practicing your stance is essential to maxing out benefits from rack pulls. Regular form practice also helps increase the prevention of injury and muscle strain.

Slow, steady reps

Gradual exercise could offer better results than hurried sessions. With slow-motion, targeted muscles get significant activation that outweighs rushed repetitions. Slower exercise also minimizes the chances of injury taking place.

Weightlifting safety gear

Putting on gloves, lifting belts, wrist straps, and more are essential to prevent slips and injury during a lift.

Emergency stop

Don’t continue with the exercise when you feel significant discomfort in your back, shoulder, or lower regions.

FAQs

What muscles do rack pulls work?

Rack pulls usually focus on working lower back parts. Also, this routine places emphasis on working the top half of the back, glutes, and hamstrings muscles when focusing on your lockout at the top of the exercise.

Is rack pull worth it?

Rack pulls are worth engaging in due to this routine’s core is in enhancing barbell grip strength and help to activate multiple muscles.

What’s the difference between deadlifts and rack pulls?

Deadlifts have a crucial difference from rack pulls based on their full range of motion. Rack pulls, on the other hand, support a semi range of motion.

Are rack pulls good for the back?

Rack pulls help to engage several muscles in the body and is the best barbell routine for back muscle development.

Final Pull

The rack pull movement has an improved focus on building back, glute, and hamstring muscle. And with all the facts you now have, attaining increased muscle hypertrophy becomes easier to manage.

Lifters targeting specific muscles will also find the info above essential when maxing out development routines. Rack pulls have several gains; all you need is to select the pattern best suited to your routine.