Back Exercises

Rack Pull

Learn how to properly execute the rack pull exercise

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Despite what the strong bro at your commercial gym tells you, there’s more than one way to deadlift. Deficit deadlifts, trap-bar deadlifts, kettlebell deadlifts--they all serve a purpose. And one variation we like is the rack pull, where you pull a loaded barbell starting from just below your knee. First, here are the main benefits:

  • Improved form: By starting the pull from just below you’re knee, you’re lessening the exercises range of motion (or ROM). As a result, you can maintain better form as you’re not hinging over as far. This can be useful for beginners who are just learning the move.

  • A stronger deadlift: Another benefit of lifting with a more limited ROM is that you can move more weight. This will get you used to handle heavier loads, which builds a foundation for using heavier weights with pulling exercises and improves the lockout portion of your pull. 

  • Bigger back muscles: Since you’re starting in a higher pulling position, you’ll be using less of your hamstrings and more of your back to lift the weight. In bodybuilding, this is a popular deadlift variation since it adds more muscle to your back. Though, be cautious with how much you add to the bar to avoid lower back pain. 

  • It’s tall-guy friendly: If you’re on the tall side--6’4” and over--then the range of motion of your standard deadlift is longer than average. Starting the pull from just below your knee or the middle of your shin can help you get into a more ideal starting position--shoulders over the bar, back straight, chest up, and hamstrings flexed. 


There are a couple of ways to set up the rack pull. In most commercial gyms, you’ll usually see people set the safety pins of a squat rack low, so they’re set at the middle of your shins. Then they’ll place the bar over the pins, load the bar, and pull from there. This works fine, but it can also dull the knurling of the bar [small lines etched into the metal to help with grip] and bend the bar if the user smashes it into the pins.  Some strength-specific gyms have deadlift blocks, which you can rest the plates of the loaded barbell on to increase the height. If you don’t have these at your commercial gym, you can stack two 45-pound bumper plates on each side and set either side of the bar on those. This is better for the bar and won’t require you to hog a power rack.