Back On Why Rack Pulls Suck, Again

Remember that great scene in the Godfather III – ‘just when  I thought I was out, they pull me back in’? It seems to be the story of my life with boards.ie.

As I’m sure some of you know, I got unceremoniously banned a few months ago, and while my daily moron quotient has dropped substantially, I still get the odd message from people saying “hey whatcha think of this”.

And it happened again this morning.

This time about rack pulls.

Rack pulls are probably good for this guy, because he’s trying to add muscle to his upper back. But is that why YOU’RE doing them?

Every now and again there’s some good threads, will well thought arguments I’d love to get involved in, but since I cannot contribute directly, I ‘ll do so here.​​

(rack pulls are like a full deadlift except instead of lowering the bar all the way to the ground, you lower it to the safety catchers in a squat rack)

This rack pull subject had 2 basic tenets running thru it;

#1 – Rack pulls are easier on your back

#2 – Rack pulls are a good way to train your deadlift lockout

…and as usual everyone had an argument about things that should be self evident.

Everything from struggling to get a good deadlifting position NOT being linked to flexibility, to a poster telling someone that even tho their physio advised against it because of slipped disc, they should learn how to deadlift off the floors since this is where the highest level of strain is and they need to strengthen that.

(yes – believe it or not, that actually happened)​​

Anyway, here’s some thoughts on rack pulls, one of the most misunderstood exercises;

– the only real practical purpose of deadlifting outside of a powerlifting competition is to train, and strengthen, your hip hinge pattern and the muscle that contribute to it​​​

​- rack pulls are a great way to strengthen and train your hip hinge ​​​​pattern if you have an issues preventing you from going all the way to the floor

– if for some reason you cannot perform a full ROM deadlift to the floor, rack pulls are a suitable alternative, but you should be addressing the underlying issue in tandem

– the movement of a rack pull is easier to perform because their is less hinging involved, and the body doesn’t have to work as hard to stabilise the lumbopelvic area

– how do you know if you’ve the requisite flexibility and stability to deadlift off the floor safely? This is the diagnostic test we use, looking for symmetric 2/2s


​​​​​​​​​- rack pulls done above your knee are not a good way to train your deadlift lockout because they’re not usually specific to the reason why you’re struggiing to lock out your deadlift, which is…

– ….most deadlift problems start off the floor. If your hips shoot up and lower back rounds as you break the bar off the floor, once it gets to your knees your legs will be pretty straight and since the hams and glutes are supposed to straighten the hips, their job is over and it’s completely on your lower bakc to finish the lift

– working on improving your position off the floor and learning how to hold position strength TO your knees will do much more for your lockout than a brick ton of rack pulls

– lads love rack pulls because you can load the bar up super heavy and act like your strong

– rack pulls done at the right height (I like anywhere from plates elevated to 2 inches off floor to centre of knee cap) can be a brilliant accessory movement if you perform them with the same positions and intentions as a normal deadlift

– most guys turn above the knee rack pulls into a standing leg press and grip tested, rather than back strength work

– rack pulls are almost always a better option for someone with a history of back injury than any other form of deadlift (when loaded and coached appropriately)

– stop watching your favourite youtube celebrity and looking for training advice, it’s like watching Friends for dating advice

I could ramble on all day about when, and when not, to use rack pulls but without seeing you in person or getting to coach you, it’s very hard to know what the appropriate variation is.

Long story short;

– if you can’t bend over and get close to touching your toes, you probably need to rack pull first while working on core stability, your hinging patterns, general hip health, and possibly your adductors

(don’t worry too much about your hamstrings yet – they tend to lock up because all that other stuff above isn’t working correctly)

So.. there ya go.

Rack pulls. Useful, but misunderstood. Like a girl trying to shave her legs with a cutthroat.

Our Dublin Personal Training Gym is more than just a gym – it’s a place to learn, grow and have fun.

 

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.