The rack pull has been said to be both useful and detrimental by many professionals. Strength trainers and weightlifters tend to lean towards the useful side of the rack pull while therapists and chiropractors advise their patients to stay away from the exercise. In this article, I will be discussing both sides of the argument. I will provide the benefits and downsides of the rack pull while giving rack pull alternatives and ways to strengthen the posterior chain and prevent injury.
Why The Rack Pull?
The rack pull is infamous for being an accessory movement to the deadlift. Considering the shorter range of motion throughout the lift, this exercise mimics the last 50% of a deadlift. The rack pull exercise allows a lot of weight to be used with little movement. Being a pulling/lifting exercise, the rack pull is beneficial to the posterior chain (when done properly). If you are serious about increasing your deadlift, the rack pull is a good accessory lift. If you are newer to the gym and do not have much experience, I recommend using a lighter weight or starting with one of my rack pull alternatives (scroll down).
Rack Pull muscles worked: Glutes (maximus, medius, minimus), hamstrings, erector spinae (lower back), quadriceps, traps, upper back, forearms/hands.
Rack Pull How To Guide:
First, choose a comfortable weight that allows you to master the form of the rack pull before you test your body's true strength.
To begin the rack pull, place the barbell slightly below knee level. This is a very important step to help you complete the rack pull exercise with maximum efficiency while protecting yourself from injury.
Next, grip the bar outside your knees at a comfortable position. Before you start to lift the bar, make sure your head is up, spine is straight, and knees are pushing externally and not internally.
When at the top of the movement, sustain good posture while squeezing your shoulder blades back (do not let shoulders round). When lowering the bar, slowly hinge at the hips and maintain a neutral spine.
Repeat this motion for a comfortable amount of repetitions.
Rack Pull Alternatives:
- Glute Hyperextension: Out of all the rack pull alternatives, the glute hyperextension muscles used are most similar to the rack pull. This exercise targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It involves a bench or machine where you can secure your feet, then lift the torso up while contracting the glutes and hamstrings.
- Reverse Hyperextension: Another one of my favorite rack pull alternatives, the reverse hyperextension is great for those with lower back pain or injury. The exercise starts by laying flat down on a reverse hyper machine with your feet hanging off the edge, then lifting the legs up while contracting the glutes and lower back muscles.
- Hip Thrust: The hip thrust is a popular exercise for targeting the glutes and building a strong posterior chain. The exercises involves sitting on the floor with your back against a bench or box, then placing a barbell or dumbbell over the hips and lifting them up, and squeezing the glutes.
- Back Extension: The last exercise is one of my favorite lower back rack pull alternatives. The back extension is a simple but effective exercise for targeting lower back muscles. Similar to glute hyperextension, you lock your feet into a machine and lift your torso. The only difference is the angle at which you do it, placing more stress on the lower back.
Rack Pull Alternatives - Low Back Strengthening And Relief:
A downside of the rack pull and some rack pull alternatives are the strain the exercise places on the lower back. When heavyweight is involved, exercises like the deadlift and rack pull are detrimental to the lower back. If you injure your lower back through lifting, deep-tissue massage is a great way to help reduce tension and relieve pain.
To do this you are going to want to apply targeted, effective deep-tissue massage to a few lower back and upper glute muscles (QL, spinal erectors, and Gluteus Medius). This can be done by a trained physical or massage therapist, but I highly recommend using a purposefully made tool on your own time like the QL Claw. The QL Claw was designed specifically to relieve muscle-induced lower back pain in cases like this.
More Rack Pull Alternatives:
If you are looking to build lower back strength in a safer and less stressful way than the rack pull or rack pull alternatives, check out my Back Of Steel Strengthening Program. This program includes exact exercises that helped me create a bulletproof lower back that has been healthy ever since my prior pain.
 Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.
 Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.