Last Update  On January 19, 2012
Rack Pulls For Bigger Upper Back

by Vladi
The deadlift is usually the pulling lift that gets most of the attention but as always there are other ways to do things and achieve results. The rack pull/partial deadlift/deadlift lockout is a perfect example. The rack pull is usually done in a power rack/squat rack with the pins set below the knees. This way you reduce the assistence and the leg drive you would get during a full range deadlift and most of the stress is placed on the upper back and lats depending on your grip.
The wider the grip the more lats you will bring into the movement. In other words the rack pull is a deadlift with back emphasis. Also the lower back is hit extremely hard too and get ready to experience the craziest pump ever if you go for higher reps. (above 6).

Another benefit from the rack pull is the fact that its somewhat less stressful than the deadlift despite the fact that you will use heavy ass weight on it. The range of motion is just shorter. It's still not a lift that will allow you to do happy faces or think about the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother or Two and a Half Men.

"Hmmm...bro why does the rack pull work more back....u have brain damage maybe?"

It's simple. What's the function of the back during a deadlift? To support the trunk so that the hips can transmit force to the bar. All back muscles have to work extremely hard mostly in isometric fashion in order to maintain proper spine position. At the same time the part of the deadlift where the back gets the fame is the lockout. Quite often people will fail to lockout their lifts because the back will round to a certain point (this is to be expected with heavy attempts) and once the hips are almost extended it's up to the back to finish the job. The first part of the deadlift is mostly quads. The quads have to lift the weight from the floor a couple of inches. After that the hips take over. Also by reducing the range of motion you can focus much more on using the back. Just try it. Use a moderate weight at first until you get a feel for the lift and get ready for new kind of upper and lower back soreness.

"Ok. Bro...but my back hurts during normal deadlifts. Should I bother with rack pulls?"

Probably not. Provided you use good form and moderate weight on your deadlifts and your back still complains a lot the rack pull maybe be problematic too. Don't feel sad now. There are other exercises for back thickness such as bent over barbell rows, T-bar rows, chest supported rows, dumbbell rows, 
Bulgarian rings rows...etc. All of those build brutal back strength and thick muscles.

If you are interested in back routine without deadlifts read this article.

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