Cable Pull Through Alternatives (11 Substitutes For Glutes)

The cable pull-through is a brilliant exercise for your posterior chain, especially if you’re looking to develop your glutes and hamstrings.  

But, the problem is performing the movement in your home gym can be difficult as it requires a cable machine which is often bulky. So what happens if you can’t perform the cable pull through?

In this article, you’ll discover 11 of the best cable pull through alternative exercises around and how to do each one.  

If you don’t have a cable machine in your home gym and can’t perform the traditional cable pull through movement, then you should perform one of the alternatives mentioned on the list below.

1. Cable Hip Flexion

The cable hip flexion is a fantastic alternative to cable pull through as it works the glutes max, glutes minimis, and hip flexors.

As you’re working each leg individually, it allows you to iron out any muscular imbalances that might have occurred from working the muscles bi-laterally. The movement fully isolates the glutes and enables you to move them through an extensive range of motion. It’s a simple exercise suitable for all levels of experience.

How to do it: 

  • Set the cable pulley to the lowest setting and attach an ankle strap.  
  • Attach the strap to your right ankle step away from the machine (with your back towards the weight stack).  
  • Drive your knee upward and slowly lower to the starting position.  
  • Repeat for several reps, then swap legs.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Place an upright bench in front of you, slightly offset so you can hold it for balance.

cable hip flexion

2. Dimel Deadlifts

This cable rope pull through alternative is named after powerlifting champion Matt Dimel who loved using this partial rep ballistic deadlift variation. It primarily hits your glutes and hamstrings, and if I’m honest, it burns like hell.

All you need for this movement is a barbell and Olympic plates—no fancy equipment is required for this killer exercise.

Related Article - How Much Does A Barbell Cost?

How to do it: 

  • Place a barbell in front of you with your feet placed under the bar hip-width apart.  
  • Bend your knees slightly and hinge from your hips.  
  • Hold the barbell with an overhand shoulder-width grip.  
  • Pick the barbell up and straighten your body until you’re upright.  
  • Perform a partial rep, stopping just below the knee and explosively firing the hips forward to straighten up.  
  • Repeat.  
Dimel Deadlifts

3. Band Lying Hip Flexion 

The band lying hip flexion exercise helps develop your hip flexors, increasing stability and reducing injury risk.

This particular exercise is brilliant for runners and is suitable for rehabilitation programs. It works similarly to the cable hip flexion, but with the exception that you're lying down, and it’s banded.

How to do it: 

  • Fix a band to an anchor point and place one foot inside the loop. 
  • Lying flat, draw one knee toward your chest in a steady motion and return to the start. 
  • Complete your set and swap legs.  
Band Lying Hip Flexion

4. Sled Pull-through 

No cable machine? No problem, you don’t need one for this pull through movement.

This unusual cable pull through alternative only trains your muscles concentrically, meaning you’ll have less muscle soreness from this type of movement. It causes less DOMS, so it’s suitable for athletes who don’t want to affect their future training performance.

Read Also - Sled Push Alternatives Without Sled

How to do it: 

  • Attach straps with handles to a sled and step over the straps (with your back to the sled).
  • Keeping your hands between your legs, hinge from your hips and walk forward until the straps have tension.
  • Drive your hips forward and squeeze the glutes.  
  • Hinge & step forward, then repeat the movement.  
Sled Pull-Through

5. Glute Ham Machine Raise 

As far as cable pull through alternative exercises go, the glute-ham machine raise is pretty challenging to perform, and I recommend more advanced gym-goers only attempt it.

However, it’s a fantastic glutes and hamstring developer; if you master this movement, you’ll build a strong lower body.

The movement places your hamstrings through a large range of motion, stretching them to their fullest. Not only does it help with muscle growth, but it improves hamstring flexibility and hip strength.

It’s worth noting this bodyweight exercise requires a large machine, so it’s not ideal for small home gyms. If you don’t have the equipment, check out another cable pull through substitute on this list.

Required Equipment - Best Glute Ham Raise Developers

How to do it: 

  • Take some time to adjust the height and length of the glute-ham machine, this will change how your body moves, so it's essential to adjust it to suit your body.  
  • Lie on the glute-ham machine and place your feet into the foot anchors.  
  • Lower your body until your legs are completely straight.  
  • Hinge from your hips, pushing them into the support pad. Then as your approach 90-degrees, your knees should be bent.  
  • Lower yourself towards the floor slowly, and repeat.  
Glute Ham Machine Raise

6. Banded Pull Through

The banded pull through is a like-for-like cable rope pull through alternative, which swaps the cable for a resistance band. It’s ideal for home gyms as it doesn’t require a large cable machine, only a resistance band and an anchor point.

It works your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors) and is a simple exercise for all levels.

As you’re using a resistance band, the strength curve of the movement will differ from the cable pull through. The cable generally has a consistent tension throughout the exercise. In contrast, the resistance band is easier at the start and becomes more difficult as the band lengthens near the top of the movement.

Related Article - Best Resistance Bands Reviewed

How to do it: 

  • Fix a resistance band to a sturdy anchor point, roughly one foot from the ground.  
  • Stand over the band and grab the band with both hands (keeping the band between your legs).  
  • Stand upright and walk a few feet away to create tension. 
  • Hinge from the hips while keeping a straight back.  
  • Stop when your upper body is parallel to the floor with your hamstrings at full stretch.  
  • Fire your hips forwards, squeezing the glutes, and repeat.  
Banded Pull Through

7. Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing uses the same movement pattern as the cable pull through. But, this substitute for cable pull through is performed more explosively, making it perfect for increasing muscle power generation.

When the kettlebell swing is performed using heavy enough weight, it’s incredibly effective at developing explosive power for sports.

It primarily develops your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

This cable pull through alternative is brilliant for all experience levels; however, I must state you should ALWAYS use the correct form. If you’re not sure about your form, leave this exercise out for the time being and try another from this list.

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How to do it: 

  • Stand over a kettlebell with your feet hip-width apart and pointing forward.  
  • Hinge from the hips and hold the kettlebell.  
  • Fire your hips forward and allow the kettlebell to move with the momentum. Your body will now be upright, and your arms raised out front holding the kettlebell.  
  • Allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs and return to the starting position.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don’t use your arms to move the kettlebell; they’re just a pivot point for the kettlebell; all the power comes from your hips.

kettlebell swing

8. Banded Hip Abduction

The band seated abduction is one of the best alternative cable pull through exercises around. It’s straightforward to perform, so it’s suitable for beginners, and it barely requires any equipment other than a seat and resistance band.

This cable pull through alternative is excellent for working your abductors and glutes, and it also helps improve your mobility and hip flexion.

I’ve found the banded hip abduction is a fantastic exercise to add to the end of your leg day. It’s a low impact exercise, but it packs a punch. 

How to do it: 

  • Place a resistance band above your knees, placed around your thighs.  
  • Sit on a seat or bench.  
  • Keep your body upright at 90-degrees and push your thighs outwards while squeezing the glutes together.  
  • Slowly return to the beginning and repeat.  
Banded Hip Abduction

9. Overhead Medicine Ball Throw 

This alternative exercise for cable pull through involves a powerful hip hinge movement followed by a hip extension.

Ideally, the overhead medicine ball throw should be performed outside unless you have a ridiculously high ceiling in your home gym. The last thing you want is a hole in your ceiling, isn’t it? 

As this movement is performed explosively, it's excellent for developing power in your posterior chain, making it ideal for sports-specific training.

Further Reading - Medicine Ball Slam Alternative Exercises

How to do it: 

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart while holding a medicine ball placed in front of your hips.  
  • Brace your core muscles and draw your shoulder blades back and down.  
  • Lean forward, hinging from your hips, and lower the ball towards the floor. Keep a neutral spine throughout the movement.  
  • Keep your arms straight and explosively fire the hips forwards, standing up straight, throwing the ball overhead.  
  • Retrieve the ball and repeat it several times to finish your set. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don’t throw the ball straight up, as what goes up must come down... and you don’t want a heavy medicine ball on your head. Throw the ball backwards.

Overhead Medicine Ball Throw

10. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Romanian deadlifts look and feel similar to the cable pull through as they follow the same hip hinge movement pattern, working your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. However, the main difference is the placement of the weight and the way the load acts on your body.

During this cable pull through alternative, the weight loads the front of your body which places more stress on your lower back. But, this isn’t a problem so long as you use good form and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.  

The deadlift is a complex movement, and while it’s suitable for all levels, if you’ve never done them before, you should take your time to perfect your form.

Read More - Romanian Deadlift Vs Deadlift

How to do it: 

  • Place a barbell on the floor and stand behind it with your feet hip-width.  
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip placed just outside your knees.  
  • Keep your spine straight and hips higher than your knees, and lift the bar from the floor.  
  • Straighten up your body and squeeze your glutes. 
  • Keep your legs relatively straight and hinge from the hips, stopping before the barbell touches the floor.  
  • Repeat.  
Romanian Deadlift

11. Barbell Hip Thrust

If you don’t have space for a cable machine, no problem at all, this cable pull through alternative has your back... or should I say glutes.  

The barbell hip thrust places large amounts of stress on your glutes, causing increased size and strength development.  

It’s lower back-friendly, so it’s ideal for anyone who has lower back issues, and best of all, it doesn’t take up a ton of room.  

This cable pull-through substitute is ideal for sports-specific training such as Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, football, basketball, etc. In addition, it helps with power development.

How to do it: 

  • Sit on the floor with your back against a flat bench or step. 
  • Roll a barbell over your legs until it’s over your hip crease.  
  • Place your feet at 90-degrees (feet flat).  
  • Push your hips up and lift the barbell off the floor.  
  • Adjust yourself, so the bench supports your mid-back.  
  • Dip your hips and then drive them upwards, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement.  
  • Repeat.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Place a small resistance band (glute loop) around above your knees; this helps work your glutes through various planes of movement, increasing glute activation.  

Barbell Hip Thrust

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Over Cable Pull Throughs

One of the main advantages of performing the cable pull through alternative exercises is the various loading patterns and the increased activation of specific muscle groups.

For example, if you’re looking to develop your glutes, you might want to opt to use the barbell hip thrust as it isolates the glutes and allows you to overload them with large amounts of weight.  

Another reason you might look to use an alternative to cable pull through is the lack of equipment or space. Cable machines take up room, and not all home gyms have machines available. But, switching to a banded pull through requires little space and equipment.  

Plus, sometimes, it’s nice to add variation to your workout routine, so it’s always good to have a variety of exercises in your arsenal. 


Major Muscles That Cable Pull Throughs & Alternate Exercises Work

Hamstrings

The hamstrings are placed under significant load during the lowering phase of the movement, and they’re fully stretched at the bottom of the cable pull through. They’re an essential mover for the cable pull through and the alternatives.

Glutes (especially the gluteus maximus)

The glutes are the largest muscle in the body and are often neglected. Failure to work the glutes sufficiently can lead to lower back issues. Strong glutes help prevent injuries; keep them strong, and you’ll be strong.

Lower Back

Even though the cable pull through places less stress on your lower back than other exercises, it’s still worked to some extent. It’s worth noting some of the alternatives on the list above place more stress on the lower back, e.g., the Romanian deadlift.

Core

While it’s not a primary muscle worked during this movement, it does provide stability for your upper body and works in conjunction with your spine.

Erector Spinae

The spinae helps keep your back in a neutral position throughout this movement. Along with your core muscles, it enables you to maintain upper body stability. 


Frequently Asked Cable Pull Through Questions

Is cable pull through effective? 

The glute bridge is an effective exercise for developing your posterior chain. It’s a hip hinge movement similar to a deadlift but doesn’t place as much stress on your lower back. It’s a fantastic exercise for beginners to learn how to hinge from their hips.

Can you build muscle with cable pull through exercises? 

You sure can; the cable pull through is a brilliant exercise for developing the hamstrings, lower back, glutes, and core muscles. It helps you create a strong posterior chain similar to the deadlift exercise.

As with any muscle-building movement, you always want to use the principle of progressive overload to stimulate the muscle into growth.

What’s an ideal cable pull-through weight? 

An easy way to assess the best weight for you is to use the phrase "if it's pulling you over, it's too heavy." If you feel you're losing balance during the movement, the likelihood is you're lifting too much weight. Focus on perfecting your form; only then should you up the weight.

Why does cable pull through hurt my back? 

While I'm not a doctor or physiotherapist, one of the most common reasons for lower back pain during a movement is a lack of glute activation.

Focus on glute activation exercises such as glute bridge or hip thrusts to wake up any lazy glute muscles. If the pain is bad, seek help from your doctor or physician. 


Conclusion

If you’ve been looking to perform the cable pull through but can’t due to lack of space, no equipment, or you want to mix things up, the list of cable pull through alternative exercises can help. 

Try adding one or two exercises from this list into your workout routine and watch your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back develop impressive strength.  

Last Updated on May 4, 2022