How to Do The Barbell Rack Pull Properly

The barbell rack pull is an exercise tailored around easing your experience while doing a deadlift.

As such, it’s a variation of the classic deadlift exercise. What makes it different is that it brings the barbell closer to you thus shortening the distance you have to hoist it.

This instantly lightens the load you have to carry. As a result, it allows you to take on heavier weights and do more reps.

Whilst this might seem like a gym-centred exercise, there are a number of ways you can improvise as long as you have a barbell.

To do the exercise:

  • Set the rack supports to the proper height. There is no right height while setting up an environment right for you.
  • The standard height is usually left at the knees but you should adjust the rack to your knees keeping in mind the level of difficulty you’re going for
  • Place the barbell on the rack supports. Load the desired amount of weight on each side.
  • Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at your hips.
  • Grab the bar with hands just a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Use a double-overhand or alternating grip, your pick.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and shift the weight onto your hamstrings by pushing against the floor slightly.
  • In a slow and controlled movement, lift the barbell up until your hips fully extend.
  • Keep your spine in a neutral position.
  • Slowly and steadily return the bar to the starting position.

WHAT MUSCLES DO THE BARBELL RACK PULL WORK?

GLUTES

The glutes play a pivotal role – literally in enabling you to lift the barbell.

On top of acting as an anchor, they also facilitate hip extension thus providing stability in between engaging the core and lifting the barbell.

HAMSTRINGS

The strength of your hamstrings determines how much room you give yourself in regards to the distance high your rack goes whilst doing the barbell rack pull.

This is because the hamstring helps with the extension abilities of both your knees and hips.

Therefore how far you can bend to comfortably bend to pick up the barbell is dependent on the strength of your hamstrings

LOWER BACK

The lower part of the back is the most sensitive part of the whole back. This is because of the area that surrounds the spine.

When you need to hold the barbell up, the lower back is used to hold the weight and strain from the movement.

In the process, you end up engaging the lower back and strengthening it with every rep.

LATS

When you do anything that involves the back, chances are the lats are being engaged. The lats with the glutes and hips to start and maintain movements in the barbell rack pull exercise

TRAPS

Traps are responsible for keeping the shoulders steady so that they don’t cave in. This often happens when you carry more than you can handle.

Traps are most engaged when you engage your arms away from the body i.e., when hoisting the barbell

FOREARM

The forearm is crucial in helping you maintain a steady grip on the barbell. Something you need for all the steps while doing the barbell rack pull.

QUADRICEPS

Doing the barbell rack pull requires you to flex and straighten your leg. The quadriceps are responsible for moving from a point of flexion to straightening your legs.

BARBELL RACK PULL BENEFITS

INCREASES BODILY STRENGTH

The barbell rack pull targets multiple muscle groups, all across your body. Not only does this raise your fitness levels it ensures that you are uniformly conditioned.

For instance, it engages the glutes, calf muscles, core and shoulders – muscle groups located all over the body

IMPROVES YOUR ABILITY TO DO OTHER EXERCISES

The barbell rack pull is largely a low impact exercise. However, the control and varying difficulty it provides you with makes it a good stepping stone to higher impact exercises

For instance, the shoulder stability it provides should be helpful if you want to graduate to deadlifts.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE BARBELL RACK PULL

TRAP BAR DEADLIFT

This is a restricted alternative to the barbell rack pull due to its limited range of motion. It also demands more of the lower body than the rack pull

SUMO DEADLIFT

The sumo deadlift offers you a relatively short range of motion as well. However unlike the barbell rack pull it engages fewer areas mostly in the upper body i.e., the trapezius and upper back

That said it doesn’t compensate for this by engaging said areas more intensely than a rack lift would.

PULL THROUGH AND KETTLEBELL SWING

This is the perfect exercise if you’re looking for something with an even lower impact than the rack pull. To do the exercise:

  • Stand with shoulder-width distance while the kettlebell is a foot in front of where you stand. Bend at your waist, while you grab the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Ensure your palms are facing you, lift the kettlebell and swing between your legs while your knees are bent slightly. Keep your neck and back completely flat.
  • Push the kettlebell forward toward the front of your body but do not have the bell travel above your shoulders.
  • Allow the kettlebell to then swing back between your legs and maintain a flat back and neck.

BARBELL RACK PULL MISTAKES TO AVOID

ARCHING YOUR BACK

This exercise involves a lot of back engagement. As such, you put your back under a lot of pressure when you arch your back.

If you ensure that your back is straight, it should be withstandable. However, arching your back induces an excessive amount of strain on your back and can lead to injuries.

THRUSTING YOUR HIPS FORWARD

The hips are a very important muscle when doing the barbell rack pull.

However, its movements can easily make you exaggerate how much hip is needed by thrusting your hip forwarded

What this does instead is that it puts you at risk of injury as it throws your form off completely.

BAD KNEE ANGLES

When lifting the barbell off the rack, your knees are heavily involved. Bad knee angles can put excessive amounts of pressure on your knee joints which causes injuries.

This is especially so if you’re a beginner and might not understand the exercise well.

CONCLUSION

If you’ve been looking to get into deadlifting, there are fewer better ways to start than with the barbell rack lift.

It offers you control and gradually builds your strength. However, it is a very form-particular exercise. As such you should always pay attention to your form when doing the exercise.