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Rack Pull Guide: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and Techniques

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Rack Pull Guide: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and Techniques
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Fitness enthusiasts frequently employ modified versions of common exercises, especially in strength training to supplement other forms of exercise.

For instance, the rack pull is a deadlift variation in which a heavy barbell is positioned on the supports of a power rack, typically just above or below the knees, and is raised by grasping the bar and fully extending the hips.

This high-intensity deadlift alternative effectively increases pulling power, which is transferable to many sports or even increases your deadlift technique.

Here in this article, we will describe the rack pull, including how to do rack pull, the muscles it works, a few safety concerns, and much more.

How to Do Rack Pull

The rack pull requires a few pieces of essential equipment, but it is pretty easy to set up and execute.

This exercise is much more familiar to experienced deadlifters because it replicates the standard deadlift's movement pattern.

Rack pulls can be an excellent exercise for new deadlifters. The key to preventing any potential injuries is to act with appropriate form while gradually increasing the weight.

Start light to fine-tune your technique, then gradually raise the weight as your strength and skill level advance. Avoid jerking or slamming the barbell to lessen the risk of injury and minimize damage to the equipment.

Step-By-Step Directions

Equipment Required: Power rack, weight plates, barbell, weightlifting belt (optional), straps (optional)

  • Set the rack supports to the correct height first, typically slightly above or below the knees.
  • Add the weight to each barbell side after setting it on the rack supports.
  • Step up to the barbell and take a stance with your shoulders apart. Next, slightly bend your knees and hips to get into position.
  • Grab the bar using a double overhand or alternating grip slightly broader than shoulder width.
  • Before beginning the lift, tighten your lats and load your hamstrings by lightly pushing against the floor. It will take the slack out of your placement.
  • Lift the barbell slowly until your hips are fully extended, being careful not to round your back at the top.
  • Return the bar to its starting position while maintaining a slight tension. Keep the bar on the supports, as this could harm the rack and barbell.
  • The movement should be repeated for the desired number of sets and reps.

Many people utilize weightlifting straps since grip strength may become a limiting issue as the load gets larger. A weightlifting belt can also be employed, although healthy folks shouldn't rely on it as a training aid.

According to a 2014 study, health workers are not advised to use a back belt to prevent lower-back problems because doing so may weaken their transverse abdominal strength.

Benefits of the Rack Pull

The rack pull exercise has multiple benefits if you perform it regularly. The following are some of the most common ones:

Improves Pulling and Grip Strength

Regularly performing rack pulls can result in significant gains in pulling power. This improvement in pulling strength is very transferable compared to other pulling exercises like the conventional deadlift.

Additionally, gains in muscle strength have been linked to better athletic performance, particularly in sports that call for quickness and explosive power.

Additionally, pulling exercises like the rack pull helps you strengthen your grip, which has been linked to a lower chance of developing different ailments and improving an elder's quality of life.

Promotes Muscular Development

A combination exercise that works several important muscular groups is the rack pull. The rack pulls primarily target the glutes, hamstrings, lats, upper back muscles like the traps, and the entire posterior chain.

Though there is still a lack of concrete evidence, performing the rack pull frequently may significantly foster the growth of these muscle groups. The rack pull could be a great exercise to include in your workout routine if you're trying to gain muscle, particularly in your posterior chain.

Reduces Injury Risk

There is always some risk involved, as with any vigorous compound exercise.

The deadlift is no exception, but compared to a standard deadlift, the rack pull may assist lower the risk of injury for those who are particularly concerned about getting hurt or for those who are recovering from an injury.

This is because you can do the exercise with a more upright posture and less lateral stress, referred to as shearing force, on the spine thanks to the rack pull's somewhat higher starting position than a standard deadlift. As a result, there may be a lower chance of being hurt or worsening an existing injury.

Muscles Worked By the Rack Pull

The compound exercise known as the rack pull works multiple muscle groups simultaneously. The following are the main muscle groups that the rack pull targets:

Glutes:

The three gluteal muscles—the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus—are primarily in charge of the hip joint's extension. They are essential for stabilizing the hip joint throughout the movement and deadlifting the barbell off the rack.

Hamstrings:

Hip extension and knee flexion are movements controlled by the hamstrings. They are crucial to the movement's opening phase, helping the glutes raise the barbell from the rack.

Erector Spinae:

The muscles around the spine are erectors or paraspinal muscles. Despite being more active in the bottom half of the movement, they aid in spinal extension throughout.

Lats:

The most significant back muscle is the latissimus dorsi, also known as the lats. They assist in keeping your back taut during the exercise, safeguarding your spine.

Upper Back and the Traps:

The trapezius muscle, often known as the upper-back muscles (or "traps"), keeps your shoulders in line and upholds a tall posture throughout the activity.

Hand and Arm Muscles:

These are made up of several tiny muscles, which are crucial for maintaining a firm grasp on the barbell throughout the action.

Quadriceps:

For knee extension, the quadriceps are responsible. Despite not being the primary movers in the rack pull, they help to straighten the legs during the lift's lockout phase.

Precautions and Considerations

Although the rack pull has several potential advantages, you should consider a few safety measures when using the exercise.

Technique is Crucial

Good technique is one of the most crucial parts of completing the rack pull. During the movement, it's vital to keep in mind the following indications and suggestions:

  • Throughout the exercise, keep your spine neutral and avoid hyperextending it during the lockout phase.
  • Do not abruptly remove the weight from the rack.
  • Instead of using your fingers to hold the barbell, take a firm hold of it in your palm.
  • When placing the bar back on the rack, be careful not to hit your knees.
  • Instead of making large jumps, gradually raise the weight on the bar over time.

You'll be less likely to suffer an injury while completing the exercise if you pay attention to these signs and suggestions.

Keep Your Rack & Barbells From Getting Damaged

The rack pull can seriously harm barbells and racks if done incorrectly. Avoiding entirely dropping the weight on the supports is the best approach to avoid harming the barbells and racks.

Set the barbell down slowly, starting at the top of the exercise. A specific barbell for rack pulls, and other activities that can harm the body is also beneficial.

Rack Pull Variations

The rack pull is an excellent exercise for building strength in the back and legs. However, there are many different ways to do this exercise, and each variation has its benefits.

Block Pull

Lacking a rack to perform rack pulls? Try a block pull, which elevates the barbell using blocks or bumper plates instead. Stack them to the desired height, then pull them like a rack.

  • To support the block, place the barbell there. Fill each side with the necessary weight.
  • Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly flex your hips and knees.
  • Hands should be broader than shoulder-width apart as you grasp the bar.
  • Squeeze your lats and push on the floor to transfer the weight to your hams.
  • Lift the barbell slowly and steadily until your hips are fully stretched. Retain a neutral spine posture.
  • Return the bar to its starting position slowly and steadily.
  • Perform 2 sets of 4 reps.

Isometric Rack Pull

A power rack is necessary for the isometric rack pull. Isometric workouts might be beneficial if you're recovering from an injury or enduring pain when performing traditional deadlifts or rack pulls.

It's a terrific way to get back into lifting without the additional stress because it puts less strain on your back and hips than traditional ways.

  • Place the barbell beneath two safety stoppers.
  • Hold the barbell with an overhand grip while standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Hinge forward while pulling the barbell quickly into the pins with your hips pushed back. (If you exert enough force, isometric muscle contractions will aid in strengthening and stabilizing joints.)
  • Repeat several times in a row.

Reverse Band Rack Pull

With the reverse band rack pull, your back, glutes, and leg muscles get stronger. You'll need a band to pull off the reversal motion, which will provide extra support. Although primarily the powerlifting community favors this exercise, anyone can perform it.

  • Load your bar. Using pegs or the rack itself, fasten the bands to the top of the rack. Ensure that they are safe.
  • Put your feet hip-width apart and stand. Place the bar so that it is just above the tops of your feet.
  • Push your hips and bend forward until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Use a double-overhand grip to hold the bar.
  • Your hips should drop somewhat as you slightly pull up on the bar.
  • While extending your knees and hips, drive through your feet.
  • By pulling your hips back and hunching forward, reverse the motion.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps.

Rack Pull Alternatives

The sumo and trap bar deadlift are great substitutes for the rack pull.

Training Rack Pulls for Various Objectives

  • Develop Strength – Program 3–6 reps in 4–5 sets. Rest as necessary in between sets.
  • Develop Muscle — Program 3–5 sets of 8–12 reps each. Between sets, take a maximum of 45-second breaks.
  • Improve Technique — Perform 3–4 sets of 5–8 reps. Pay attention to your form and technique. Rest as necessary in between sets. Here, quality should be your primary concern.

FAQs

1. Will rack pulls build muscle?

Yes, rack pulls can build muscle. They are an excellent exercise for targeting the lower back and posterior chain, which are essential muscle groups for strength and size. Rack pulls can be done with various weights and intensities, making them a versatile tool for building muscle mass.

2. Are rack pulls suitable for back development?

Rack pulls are an excellent exercise for developing the back. They work the muscles in the back similarly to deadlifts but can be done with a lighter weight. It makes them a good option for people who are just starting or have lower strength levels.

3. Why do bodybuilders do rack pulls?

Rack pulls are a great way to improve your deadlift. They help you develop more power in your hips and glutes, which will help you lift heavier weights when you do a regular deadlift.

4. What muscles do rack pulls work?

Glutes, hamstrings, quads, forearms, upper back, traps, lats, and spinae erectors.

The Final Verdict

Pulling weight off the ground from standing is a fantastic way to train the entire body. Not only does rack pull training work the muscles of the back, but it also recruits the glutes, hamstrings, lats, and quadriceps.

The exercise is ideal for developing total-body strength, muscles, and power. It improves pulling technique and grip strength, reducing the risk of injuries during weight pulling.

The exercise is relatively simple, but a few key technique points, as we have mentioned, should be followed to avoid injury and maximize results. With a bit of practice, you'll be pulling big weights in no time. So what are you waiting for? Get under the bar and give it a try!

Reading List

Article Sources

  • Holmes, Clifton J. “UNDERSTANDING THE DEADLIFT AND ITS VARIATIONS.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, vol. 24, no. 3, June 2020, pp. 17–23. journals.lww.com, https://doi.org/10.1249/FIT.0000000000000570.
  • Kurustien, Nopporn, et al. “Trunk Stabilizer Muscle Activity during Manual Lifting with and without Back Belt Use in Experienced Workers.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet Thangphaet, vol. 97 Suppl 7, July 2014, pp. S75-79.
  • Labott, Berit Kristin, et al. “Effects of Exercise Training on Handgrip Strength in Older Adults: A Meta-Analytical Review.” Gerontology, vol. 65, no. 6, 2019, pp. 686–98. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1159/000501203.
  • Musalek, Christina, and Sylvia Kirchengast. “Grip Strength as an Indicator of Health-Related Quality of Life in Old Age—A Pilot Study.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 12, Dec. 2017, p. 1447. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14121447.
  • Schellenberg, Florian, et al. “Towards Evidence Based Strength Training: A Comparison of Muscle Forces during Deadlifts, Goodmornings and Split Squats.” BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, vol. 9, July 2017, p. 13. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1186/s13102-017-0077-x.
  • Suchomel, Timothy J., et al. “The Importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), vol. 46, no. 10, Oct. 2016, pp. 1419–49. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0486-0.

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