What is a Rack Pull?

Dan Cavallari

A rack pull is a type of weight lifting exercise in which the lifter performs a partial dead lift. This means the arms are kept straight and dangling in front of the body, and the barbell is only pulled up by the straight arms rather than curled as in a barbell curl exercise. The difference between a rack pull and a dead lift is the equipment used and the height at which the barbell is placed for the starting position. A dead lift starts with the barbell on the ground, while the rack pull starts with the barbell resting on a weight rack higher off the ground.

Olympic-style barbells are commonly used for performing rack pulls.
Olympic-style barbells are commonly used for performing rack pulls.

A squat rack or weight rack will be necessary to perform this exercise, and most lifters will lift a significant amount of weight during a rack pull, so Olympic size weights and barbells will be necessary for experienced lifters. People who are new to weight training may want to try this exercise with a smaller amount of weight before attempting it with heavier weights, as improper form can lead to injury. All weight lifting of this type should be done with a spotter nearby if possible, though the squat rack will provide some level of safety should the lifter lose his grip on the barbell.

To perform a rack pull, the lifter will load the appropriate amount of weight onto a barbell and place the weights and barbell on the squat rack so the rack holds the weights at about knee height or slightly lower. This can be done by adjusting the pins on the squat rack so the supports are at the correct height. Once the weight is in place, the lifter will stand before the barbell and grasp it with the palms facing inward toward the body. The lifter will be bent forward at the waist with the knees slightly bent. He will then lift the weight with the arms still dangling down, until the barbell is at about thigh height, or just below the hips. The arms should not bend throughout the motion. The lifter can then return to the starting position.

The motion is repeated several times for the best workout with short rests of a second or two in between each repetition. The entire series of repetitions can be repeated after 30 seconds to a minute of rest to allow muscles to recover before supporting the weight again.

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