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17 Pull Exercises At Home To Build A Rock Solid Back

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Pull exercises are an effective way to build a strong, healthy, and injury-resistant back.

If you apply the pull exercises listed here to your workouts, you’ll transform your physique and athleticism in no time.

The 17 pull exercises in this list are some of the many I’ve relied heavily upon during my 20-year career as a personal trainer.

I’ve divided them into different categories for easier reading. 

These include: 

  • Hinge, 
  • Horizontal 
  • Vertical pull exercises 

These will give you all of the tools you need to take your back training up a few notches. 

These exercises will use barbells and body weight for resistance, but you could substitute them for dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc.

Steve working out with a heavily loaded barbell

Why is it only barbell and bodyweight pull exercises on this list?

Simply because the range of pulling exercises is huge.

A lot of these exercises can be performed with a barbell only, or with other resistance forms, such as kettlebells, dumbbells, or cable machines

If I was to list every single variation of these pull exercises, you’d be bored and I’d be repeating myself.

Instead, use a little creativity with these exercises and see if they could be adapted for use with alternative forms of resistance.

It’s still a comprehensive list of 17 pull exercises for you to get your teeth (or more aptly, back) into!


Hinge pull exercises

The hinge is a key human movement.

To those who don’t know the hinge, it’s a ‘folding’ of the body at the hips.

The movement involves flexion and extension of the hips, usually achieved by recruitment of the legs, core, glutes and lower back.

To hinge safely, the hips, core and lower back engage to maintain a neutral spine position, avoiding unnecessary strain.

Here’s a list of hinge pull exercises to add to your workouts…

Hinge pull exercises infographic

1. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are the ultimate hinge movement. They’re a foundation human movement with huge crossover into other patterns and physical abilities.

Used properly, they can build strength, reduce injury risk and ofer huge variety to a program.

Deadlifts are often seen as the king of exercises, and it’s a claim with plenty of support. You’ll build huge numbers with this exercise if you program it properly. 

Equipment needed for deadlifts:

Rogue Ohio Cerakote Bar

Rogue Ohio Bar Cerakote
Read our best Olympic barbell guide here

This is the bar that we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 120 hours of research and tested over 100 barbells.

It is affordable but comes with some high specs. The Rogue Work Hardening and 190k PSI tensile strength mean the bar will last a lifetime in a home gym.

It is a multi-purpose bar with a 28.5mm diameter shaft and composite bushings in the sleeves. This means it’s balanced for heavy slow bench presses but you can also perform snatches and fast overhead lifts.

Strong Home Gym deadlift form tips:

  • Feet shoulder width apart
  • Hands just outside of hips
  • Arms locked
  • Bar touches legs at all times
  • Heels down, weight balanced
  • Leg press to knee height
  • Drive hips forward once at knees
  • Lumbar curve maintained

Common deadlift mistakes to avoid:

  • Curving the back when lifting
  • Lifting hips before shoulders
  • Looking up too much

2. Trap bar deadlift

The trap bar deadlift takes out much of the leg work here, directing most of the load to your lower back, core, glutes and hips.

Thanks to the mechanical advantage of being in the ‘middle’ of the bar, you can lift a lot of weight with the trap bar.

Many people find this type of deadlift safer and easier on their lower back. It’s also much more balanced, without the load being out in front of you. 

Equipment needed for trap bar deadlifts:

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plates

Rogue Fleck Bumper Plate
Read our best bumper plates guide here

Bumper plates are ideal for a home gym.

They can last a lifetime and allow you to do additional lifts which require you to drop the bar.

Our team has compared over 100 types and the Rogue Fleck plates came out on top.

They are great value, use color allowing you to quickly see how much you’re lifting and the pattern will give your home gym a unique look.

How to do trap bar deadlifts:

  • Stand in the middle of the hexagon, holding the handles directly in line with the weight sleeves
  • Bend your legs, keep your back straight and your chest up
  • Drive through your legs, keeping your arms straight as you lift – this will lift the bar to hip height
  • At the top of the movement squeeze the glutes together and push the hips forward slightly
  • Reverse the movement on the way down – start by pushing the hips back and lowering the weight down by bending your legs, keeping your chest up and back straight throughout
  • Repeat as many times as required

3. Stiff legged deadlifts

The stiff legged deadlift is one of my favorite pulling exercises because it combines the eccentric contraction of the hamstrings with a lot of weight.

It means you can load the muscles well, whilst benefiting a lot of the other muscles around it. It’s also a simple and safe way to lift if you have a decent deadlift technique.

Just be careful here if you have limited mobility or an existing lower back issue – rehab those first. 

Equipment needed for stiff legged deadlifts:

How to do stiff legged deadlifts:

  • Hold the barbell with the grip of your choice (I prefer overhand)
  • Deadlift the bar into your starting position, which is where you’re holding the barbell with straight arms
  • Keeping your back and legs straight, tilt your hips back as your torso starts to point towards the floor
  • Keep pushing your hips back, with your legs straight as you lower the bar towards the floor
  • As you feel your hamstrings stretch fully, pause for a second and push the hips forward and lift the bar back to the starting position
  • At the top of the movement squeeze the glutes together
  • Repeat as many times as required

4. Power cleans

The power clean is a less technical version of the full clean, sometimes known as a ‘squat clean’ in CrossFit, much to the chagrin of weightlifters worldwide!

It’s a way of building serious all-body power, with a particular emphasis on the legs, lower back and glutes. It’s also a movement with huge athletic crossover.

It’s an exercise that builds both strength and power generation capacity in one movement. Ideally, have your technique looked at by a trainer or coach first.

Equipment needed for power cleans:

How to do power cleans:

  • Load your bar and stand centrally. Assume an overhand (or even better, hook) grip
  • Bend your legs, keep your back straight and your chest up
  • Drive through your legs, keeping your arms straight – this will lift the bar to hip height
  • When the bar reaches hip height, pull the bar to chest height, driving your elbows underneath and ‘through’ the bar
  • As you’re doing this, ‘drop’ under the bar into a quarter squat position – you should ‘catch’ the bar with bent legs to absorb some of the weight
  • Stabilize the bar at chest height, with your upper arms parallel to the floor and your elbows pointing directly in front of you (this is known as the rack position)
  • Stand up to finish the movement
  • Drop the bar to the floor (only if you have bumper plates!)
  • Repeat as many times as required

These exercises are all suitable for heavy lifting to build strength, or medium weight, medium reps for muscle mass. Typically, I’d avoid performing these exercises with light weights and high reps because I think there are better ways of doing this. 


Horizontal pull exercises

The horizontal pulls in this list are exercises designed to target the mid and upper back.

They’re some of the classic bodybuilding style exercises, and they’ll be performed either seated or standing. 

Horizontal refers to the direction of the pull, rather than the direction of the torso. For example you could sit upright and pull towards you, with your arms straight out in front.

Likewise, you could be lying face down on a bench, pulling towards you as well. As a general rule, these exercises are suitable for larger volumes.

All of these exercises are suitable for home gyms.

Horizontal pull exercises infographic part 1

Want to improve your home gym?

Use the hours of research, testing and experience inside the ultimate guide to build a home gym. Find out…

  • The 4 items of kit every gym needs
  • What you should avoid
  • Where to find bargains and discounts

Click here to learn more about how to build a home gym.


5. Pendlay row

I think of the Pendlay row as an explosive, powerful version of the standard bent over row. The bar must touch the floor between reps, which helps to maximize the range of movement.

It also encourages the lifter to use as much explosive power as possible. Pendlay rows are a great ebay to develop explosive strength in the mid and upper back.

Note: If you want inspiration crafting your pull days, be sure to also check out our pull day workout article.

Equipment needed for the Pendlay row:

How to do the Pendlay row:

  • Starting position is with your torso so parallel to the floor
  • Hinge at the hips and bend your knees to go down to grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width 
  • From this starting position, pull the bar towards your chest with power. Do not allow your torso to lift as you pull
  • Lower under control to the starting position
  • Make sure the bar touches the floor – this maximizes range of movement and work done in the pull
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

6. Bent over row

This is the classic horizontal row exercise and has been a staple of training programs for years.

It’s a way to not only train the lats, but it also activates the glutes and lower back as it requires them to work in order to keep the torso stable whilst lifting a heavy weight.

As you lift the weight, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together throughout to activate the upper back muscles. 

Equipment needed for bent over barbell rows:

How to do bent over barbell rows:

  • Hold the barbell with the grip of your choice – overhand or underhand
  • Set your body position – straight, stiff back. Chest pointing towards the floor, perhaps with a slight incline, slight knee bend
  • Pull the barbell up towards your chest, squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top
  • At the top of the movement pause then slowly lower the barbell, but don’t let it touch the floor
  • Repeat as many times as required

7. Seal row

The seal row is an exercise designed to focus all of the pulling emphasis on the lats, spinal erectors and upper back.

It does this thanks to the fact that the torso is fully supported by the bench, meaning the lower back isn’t engaged and having to maintain a neutral position.

By removing the need for the lower back to engage, you can lift a heavier weight safely. Just make sure the bench is set up securely!

Equipment needed for the seal row:

REP AB-3000 Bench

REP AB-3000 Weight Bench
Read our best weight bench guide here

This is the weight bench we recommend for ‘most people’.

We compared over 70 benches against 12 criteria. This is our highest-ranked flat, incline & decline (FID) bench.

Some adjustable benches can be a bit wobbly when on the incline. But the AB-3000 is very sturdy.

With a height 18mm it’s comparable to benches that cost twice as much.

How to do the seal row:

  • Elevate a flat bench by around 6 inches by placing weight plates under each end of the bench
  • Position the barbell under the bench where your arms would be when lying face down on it
  • Lie face down on the bench and reach down to grab the barbell
  • Keeping your arms straight, pull the barbell up towards you until it hits the underside of the bench
  • At the top of the movement, squeeze the shoulder blades together, then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position
  • Repeat as many times as required

8. Inverted rows

Inverted rows are a great way to train grip, scapular retraction, core and spinal stability in one go.

It’s a simple set up, doesn’t need much in the way of technique and has a lot of additional bicep and shoulder training benefits.

Inverted rows are deceptively tough as well! As always, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together throughout the movement.

This is a great back workout finisher, because the first reps are easy, but the intensity builds quickly.

Equipment needed for inverted rows:

REP PR-4000 Power Rack

REP-PR-4000 Power Rack
Read our best squat rack guide here

Looking for an affordable yet high quality power rack?

Look no further!

After comparing over 100 types of squat racks the PR-4000 came out on top.

You can add any attachment to it (including cables, dip bars and plate holders). You can even add additional uprights to back to make it even more of a beast!

The 1 inch westside hole spacing means you can position the spotter arms to the ideal height when you bench press. So you can safely drop the bar and have a full range of motion when you lift.

And the 3×3″ 11 gauge steel make this the best value rack we could find.

How to do an inverted row:

  • Secure your bar in place
  • Secure your feet (or at least make sure they’re not going to slip!)
  • With a straight back, slowly lower yourself away from the bar until your arms are straight
  • Maintaining the straight back, pull yourself back up to the bar, squeezing the shoulder blades together throughout
  • When your torso reaches the bar, pause then slowly lower yourself away from the bar by straightening your arms
  • Repeat as many times as required

Horizontal pull exercises infographic part 2

9. Feet elevated inverted rows

Feet-elevated rows take the inverted row to a whole new level.

The raised feet change the angle of movement, making it a tougher exercise.

There’s also a control element at play – a lack of upper body stability means the stabilizing muscles in the upper back and shoulders fire up here, adding to the exercise.

Just make sure you’re balanced before starting the exercise.

Equipment needed for feet elevated inverted rows:

How to do feet elevated inverted rows:

  • Secure your bar in place
  • Secure your feet (or at least make sure they’re not going to slip!)
  • With a straight back, slowly lower yourself away from the bar until your arms are straight
  • Maintaining the straight back, pull yourself back up to the bar, squeezing the shoulder blades together throughout
  • When your torso reaches the bar, pause then slowly lower yourself away from the bar by straightening your arms
  • Repeat as many times as required

10. Single arm landmine row

The single arm landmine row is a great way to add unilateral exercises into this list. It’s a way of isolating each side, whilst still benefitting the upper and lower back.

You can lift heavy with a single arm landmine row, because you focus much more of the movement on the direct upward pull of the bar.

Just make sure you don’t over-rotate when you lower the weight to the side. 

Equipment needed for single arm landmine row:

How to do single arm landmine rows:

  • Load the barbell with the weight and secure it in place
  • Stand next to the bar, hinge at the hip until your chest is pointing towards the floor and take hold of the bar in one hand – the bar should be held with a straight arm
  • Keeping yourself in position, maintain the straight back and row the weight up towards the side of your chest
  • At the top of the movement, squeeze the shoulder blade into the center for a moment, then release
  • Slowly lower the barbell back down until your arm is straight, and repeat the rep

11. Rope inverted rows

The rope inverted rows are similar to the standard inverted rows, but you use a battle rope to pull yourself up with.

This has the effect of training the back as usual, but also drastically increases the work done by the forearms.

Anecdotally, I’ve found this to be helpful for people with tennis elbow (not medical advice, just an observation). It’s a great way to train the forearms and back at the same time!

Equipment needed for rope inverted rows:

  • Squat rack (or somewhere to secure the rope)
  • Rope

How to do a rope inverted row:

  • Secure your rope in place, leaving enough length to complete a full row
  • Make sure your feet are stable and not going to slip
  • Hold the rope in each hand and slowly lower yourself until your arms are straight
  • Maintaining the straight back, pull yourself back up, squeezing the shoulder blades together throughout
  • When your torso reaches your hands, pause, then slowly lower yourself until your arms are straight
  • Repeat as many times as required

These 7 exercises represent the horizontal row section of the list. These are a great way to add muscle and strength to your back, whilst promoting great shoulder health. Horizontal pulling exercises are some of the most important upper body exercises there are. 


Vertical pull exercises

This is the third and final section of the pull exercises list.

These are the vertical pulls – the ones where the pull involves up and down.

Again, these exercises are a mixture of bodyweight and barbell based. They’re important exercises that should feature in training programs. 

These exercises are fantastic for putting on some serious muscle, and can be used to target specific goals and requirements.

Vertical pull exercises infographic part 1

12. Pull ups

Pull ups combine the huge muscle building benefits of training a lot of muscle in one go, with the physical challenge of being pretty damn tough.

Pull ups train grip and at the bottom, they stretch the lats. This stretch helps with shoulder health.

They’re a simple technique to learn, but hard to do. If you can do pull ups well, add weight to ensure you fail at around the 8-10 rep mark.

Equipment needed for pull ups:

How to do a pull up:

  • Jump up and grab the pull up bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Lean back slightly and pull your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do
  • When your chest reaches the bar, slowly lower yourself down to a full extension of the arms
  • Repeat the movement

13. Chin ups

The chin up is the pull up with an underhand grip.

Although the movement pattern is exactly the same, the underhand grip activates the bicep more, which has a couple of benefits – it builds the arms, so you don’t need additional bicep work.

The other one is that it is slightly easier than pull ups because of the bicep help, so you can add more volume.

Adding the pull ups and chin ups to the workout makes it both challenging and effective, plus it’ll help you improve your strength and shoulder flexibility dramatically.

Equipment needed for chin ups:

  • Pull up/chin up bar

How to do a chin up:

  • Jump up and grab the pull up bar with an underhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Lean back slightly and pull your chest to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do
  • When your chest reaches the bar, slowly lower yourself down to a full extension of the arms
  • Repeat the movement

14. Snatch pulls

The snatch pull is used mostly as a weightlifting accessory exercise, but it’s one that is a great back exercise because it suits our movement pattern.

It activates a lot of the spinal erectors and upper back muscles, whilst avoiding the potentially dangerous aspects of the upright row by shifting the grip wide.

The bar is to be pulled as straight as possible, staying close to the body throughout the movement.

Again, have your technique checked by a trainer or coach if you’re unsure. 

Equipment needed for snatch pulls:

How to do snatch pulls:

  • Take the bar with a snatch grip (double overhand, wide grip)
  • Bend your knees, keeping your back straight and the chest high
  • Drive with your legs, keep your back straight and pull directly upwards
  • Pull the elbows up high and squeeze the shoulder blades together
  • Maintain the pull until the bar reaches chest height
  • Keep the bar close to the body throughout
  • Lower the bar under control
  • Repeat as many times as required

Vertical pull exercises infographic part 2

15. Sumo deadlift high pulls

The sumo deadlift high pull is a polarizing movement – some love it, others hate it.

I like it because it trains a huge amount of muscle, it’s a challenging exercise, it’s a movement pattern that demands great technique and it can be tweaked for a high or low load variation.

It’s in this section because it’s a vertical pull, but it’s more than just that.

It also trains the legs and core, so there’s a lot of value from the exercise. 

Equipment needed for sumo deadlift high pull:

How to do a sumo deadlift high pull:

  • Start with your feet wide apart to give you a wide base of support
  • Keeping your back upright and straight, squat next to the bar
  • Hold the barbell with hands close together – maybe 8-12 inches apart – overhand grip
  • Stand up by driving the feet into the floor, maintaining a straight back throughout
  • Once the barbell is at hip height, aggressively pull the bar to the chest
  • Lower the bar to the hips, then to the floor and repeat the movement

16. Clean high pulls

The clean high pull is a drastically under-used exercise in my opinion. It’s a weightlifting accessory exercise primarily, but it combines the benefits of a deadlift and an upright row.

Unless you’re a weightlifter (in the sport of weightlifting sense, not a person who lifts weights!) I would use these with a moderate weight and a higher rep range.

As always, have your technique checked by a trainer or coach if you’re unsure of the technique.

Equipment needed for clean high pulls:

How to do a clean high pull:

  • Start with your feet width apart 
  • Keeping your back upright and straight, squat next to the bar
  • Hold the barbell with an overhand grip, and hands just either side of the knees
  • Stand up by driving the feet into the floor, maintaining a straight back throughout
  • Once the barbell is at hip height, aggressively pull the bar to the chest
  • Lower the bar to the hips, then to the floor and repeat the movement

17. Barbell shrugs

These might not be an obvious choice for a vertical pull exercise, but shrugs are a great way to target the upper back.

Shrugs have benefits that stretch beyond the obvious muscle building capacity of the exercise – they also help to prevent upper back, shoulder, and neck injuries.

Strong traps and rhomboid muscles help to improve posture and reduce injury risk. 

Equipment needed for barbell shrugs: 

How to do shrugs:

  • Stand upright with the barbell in front of your body – the arms should be straight, and just slightly to either side of your body
  • Keeping the bar straight, pull your shoulders up – visualize trying to touch your ears with your shoulders!
  • When the shoulders are as high as possible, squeeze them together and lower back down
  • Repeat as required

Other important info about pull exercises

Pull exercises are a fundamental element of any resistance training program.

Here’s a few points to bear in mind when programming your back training.

Take notice of these, because they can be the difference between getting it right, or getting yourself injured…

They build strength – if you let them

Pull exercises train a lot of muscle mass, so you are capable of lifting a lot of weight with them. This means they are a great asset for a strength training program. 

By pulling a lot of weight with exercises that are suitable, such as deadlifts, you’ll build overall strength and add significant muscle mass.

Depending on your goals you should be setting aside significant training time to build strength, because it also improves injury resistance as well as raw power.

Mix up the different types of hinge pulls to pack on big numbers to your lifts.

There’s no reason at all why you can’t feasibly increase your strength across a number of lifts with a good basis of pulling strength.

The crossover benefits are huge. 

Form is vitally important 

Pull exercises are no more dangerous than any other exercises, when they’re performed correctly.

The difficulty is that many people have a vulnerable back, and poor form on pulling exercises can trigger an injury.

The bigger risks are with the heavier lifts, so take time to warm up. Practice your form, and make sure you are lifting appropriately. 

Don’t be complacent on the lighter, higher volume lifts either. Complacency around form is a common way for people to pick up injuries, so make sure you treat every rep with respect.

If you feel any discomfort, don’t try to train through it. Give yourself time to rest and recover properly. 

Strengthen the core alongside pulls

If you’re going to increase the amount of pulling (especially hinge pulling) you do, you’ll need to make sure your core is geared up to cope.

Any existing vulnerabilities you have with your lower back need to be addressed. You can do this by strengthening your lower back and abdominals.

One of my favorite ways of addressing this area is with the McGill Big 3…

You can supplement any pulling exercises you do by following our ‘Belt and Braces’ abs workout program – it’s designed to give you an incredible core.

If you add these exercises to your weekly program, you’ll benefit from a strong, stable, and powerful core section that will help you cope with pulling exercises easily.  

Mixing them up to maximize gains and stimulation

Any form of resistance training is benefited by variety. A difference in exercises, rep ranges, training angles and weights all help to stimulate a training response.

As a general rule (which also applies to pull exercises), you should lift heavy for strength, lift fast for power and lift with volume for muscle mass.

Your program set up depends on your fitness goals, but sticking to these broad principles will help you to guide your workouts to help you achieve successes. 

Take the time to experiment with different approaches to your pull exercises and you’ll discover a lot about your training.

Don’t just pull

When you put together a workout program, don’t just repeat the same movement patterns. You’ll likely develop overtraining injuries and muscle imbalances.


Whilst I believe most people (especially those of us who work at desks or drive a lot) need to do a lot more vertical pulling, we shouldn’t be neglecting other movements.

The body is capable of pushing, squatting, lunging, rotating and running, as well as pulling and hingeing. Make sure you do these movements too.

Don’t neglect your overall strength and fitness in pursuit of just one area of improvement. 


Pull exercises: The bottom line

The versatility of pull exercises is huge, and when you use them effectively you will transform your physique and fitness.

Explore the exercises in this list – there might be some you’ve never used (or even heard of), so use this list to your advantage – you don’t need much equipment, just a bar, bench, plates and a rack to build a rock solid back.

Read the list, print it out, and get busy. Your fitness, physique, and athleticism are about to be seriously upgraded!

Want to improve your home gym?

Use the hours of research, testing and experience inside the ultimate guide to build a home gym. Find out…

  • The 4 items of kit every gym needs
  • What you should avoid
  • Where to find bargains and discounts

Click here to learn more about how to build a home gym.

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Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

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