Workout routines are changing so fast that it's hard to keep up. Functional strength training is great, but the movements tend to focus on vertical pulls or horizontal push exercises.
This leaves a big gap in the horizontal pull area.
Horizontal pull exercises are great for building some of the most visible muscles across your body and giving you a great-looking physique.
In this guide, we'll introduce the best horizontal pulling exercises and give you some great options to incorporate into your routine.
Table of Contents
- 10 Horizontal Pulling Exercises (How To Perform Them)
- Why Pull Horizontally: Benefits Explained
- Horizontal Pull Workout Questions
10 Horizontal Pulling Exercises (How To Perform Them)
1. Horizontal Cable Row
A horizontal cable row is a classic back exercise, and almost every gym has a machine for it.
With the pulley and cable, you can better align the direction of the row and set the desired weight accurately. This makes it easier to build muscle and get the most from the exercise.
The horizontal cable row is great for lifters of all levels, but if you're a beginner, you should just be aware that the pull is harder at the beginning of the exercise and easier at the end.
- 1Sit down at the seated row station or low row machine.
- 2Reach forward and grab the handles. Keep your torso upright and your hands in line with your belly button.
- 3Extend forward to stretch your back, and then pull the handles backwards towards you.
- 4When your hands reach your body, slowly go back to the start.
- 5Repeat for 8-10 reps.
2. T-Bar Row
A T bar row is generally done by serious lifters in the gym. It involves pulling weight on a single bar, which engages your chest muscles and provides a serious challenge for your upper back.
This is one of the more challenging horizontal back exercises, and you need to focus on getting the proper form to really target the right muscle group.
This makes it better suited for more advanced lifters.
- 1Stand with one foot on either side of the T bar row.
- 2With your knees slightly bent, reach down and grab the bar with a neutral grip.
- 3Pull the loaded bar towards you until it reaches your chest.
- 4Slowly lower it down to the ground.
- 5Repeat for 8-10 reps.
Related Article - T Bar Row Vs Bent Over Barbell Row
3. Single Arm Cable Rows
Single arm cable rows are great for isolating one side of your body at a time.
The cable machine gives you a full range of movement to engage your back muscles for longer, and the cable itself gives consistent tension to make the movement patterns more challenging.
Single arm cable rows are great for beginners and perfect for anyone carrying an injury, meaning they can only train one side of their body.
- 1Set your low row machine to a medium/low height, so it's about level with your chest when you sit on a bench.
- 2Grip the handle, and pull it horizontally towards you.
- 3When the handle reaches your torso, pause, and then slowly lower back to starting position.
- 4Repeat for 10-14 reps on each side.
Also Check Out - Best Cable Back Exercises
4. Single-Arm Dumbbell / Kettlebell Rows
Single arm dumbbell and kettlebell rows use exactly the same movement as the cable row, so you get all the same benefits.
By using weights, the one arm row movement engages a lot of your smaller muscle fibers, and you still get a great range of movement.
Most home gym owners are more likely to have free weights than a cable machine, so this is one of the best upper body horizontal pull exercises with dumbbells to do at home.
- 1Grab a dumbbell in one hand and lean your other hand on an incline bench or regular bench for support.
- 2Lean your torso forward to a 45-degree angle.
- 3Row the dumbbell upwards until it reaches your ribcage.
- 4Pause at the top, and slowly lower back down.
- 5Repeat for 12-15 reps.
Related Article - 14 Effective Dumbbell Back Exercises
5. Resistance Band Rows
Resistance band rows are pretty much the same exercise as a bent over row but without free weights.
You get a lot of freedom to move with resistance bands and a great range of movement to fully engage your muscles.
Plus, you don't have to buy any expensive equipment, which is perfect if you only have a small gym at home.
Resistance band rows aren't going to give you the same muscle growth as inverted rows or cable machine exercises, but they'll improve your flexibility and muscle resilience.
Perfect for beginners or anyone recovering from injury.
- 1Secure the resistance band under your feet, or anchor it to the floor.
- 2Grab the band handles and hold it around waist height.
- 3Lean your torso forward, so you're at about 45 degrees, and extend your arms backwards.
- 4When your arms are fully extended backwards, pause, and then return to the starting position.
- 5Repeat for 15-18 reps.
Read Also - Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?
6. Standing Cable Rows
Cable machines are great for horizontal push and pull exercises because they support a full range of movement.
Standing cable rows are simple to perform, but the basic movement patterns involved really isolate your upper body muscles.
This lets you build a strong back without any compound movement.
Standing cable rows are great for beginners, and by standing instead of sitting, you'll also engage your core muscles.
- 1Set the cable machine to about chest height and grip the handle in both hands.
- 2Pull the handles towards you in a straight line and pull your shoulder blades together.
- 3Pause when your hands reach your body, and slowly extend your arms again until you’re back where you started.
- 4Repeat for 10-15 reps.
7. TRX Rows
TRX is a form of suspension training that relies on your body weight to provide resistance.
It's one of the only horizontal pulls which relies on your own body weight, so it's a great addition to your pull workout routine.
The TRX row requires a bit more core strength than other movement patterns, so it’s probably not the best option for beginners.
If you don't have a TRX at home, check out our guide to the best TRX alternatives for home use.
- 1Anchor your suspension band securely overhead and grab the strap attachment in each hand.
- 2Lean your body backwards until you're at a 45-degree angle until your upper arms are fully extended.
- 3Pull your body back, so you're in an upright position, pause, and lower slowly back down.
- 4Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Suggested Equipment - 8 Best Suspension Trainers
8. Bent Over Barbell/Dumbbell Rows
Bent over barbell rows are pretty much the same workout as a standing cable row, and you get many of the same benefits.
The dumbbells or barbells give you a full range of movement, which engages your lats for longer and can give you serious muscle gains across your back.
This is one of the best horizontal pulling movements for beginners, and you can keep upping the weight to continuously challenge your body.
- 1Have your barbell or dumbbells on the floor in front of you and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- 2Keep your back relaxed and lean your torso horizontally and reach down to grip the back.
- 3Keep your knees slightly bent and your torso at a 30-degree angle.
- 4Row the back up to the bottom of your rib cage.
- 5Pause for a second, and then lower slowly back to starting position.
- 6Repeat for 8-12 reps.
Related Article - Bent Over Barbell Row Vs Dumbbell Row
9. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Rows
Chest supported dumbbell row movements are stricter and more controlled than your standard bent over row.
They take the front part of your body out of the equation and help you to isolate your upper back and lats. This really focuses the movement and can help you develop lean muscle quickly.
Chest supported dumbbell rows are easier than T bar rows or other horizontal movement patterns and are great for beginners.
- 1Set your incline bench to a 45-degree angle and lie face down, resting on the chest pad.
- 2Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang down in front of you.
- 3Pull the dumbbells up as high as you can and pause at the top.
- 4Squeeze your shoulder blades to really engage your upper back.
- 5Lower the dumbbells back down to starting position.
- 6Repeat for 6-12 reps.
10. Inverted Rows
The inverted row is quite different from other horizontal pull row exercises, and it's sort of like a reverse bench press. It engages your back muscles in a different way.
It requires you to lower your body weight up and down using your lats and back, so it can help you build a strong and functional upper body.
Inverted rows are great for those with experience in resistance training, but you will need a barbell and rack, so it might not be suitable for every home gym.
- 1Start by setting a barbell in a rack at about knee height.
- 2Lie down under the barbell with your back on the ground.
- 3Reach up and grip the bar with both hands using an overhand grip.
- 4Raise your entire body slightly off the ground by bending your elbows and engaging your back muscles.
- 5Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
See Also - Best Rhomboid Exercises
Why Pull Horizontally: Benefits Explained
A lot of popular training programs, like CrossFit, focus on vertical lifting.
This is a good way to challenge your body and develop your physique, but by totally removing horizontal pulls, you're missing out on some key benefits:
Builds Muscle Mass
The main benefit of horizontal pulling exercises is that they really help you pack on lean muscle (as shown in a push-up study).
Not only does this increase your strength, but you'll also see noticeable gains in areas like your lats and pectorals, which will make your whole body seem bigger.
Performing a horizontal pulling exercise routine will improve your overall strength and give you much more visible gains compared to vertical pulling exercises.
Improves Posture And Balance
Horizontal pulling engages your back and upper body muscles but also has a benefit across your whole body.
It will help you to build functional strength and improve the muscles which impact your posture.
By building a solid core and a good posture with horizontal pulling exercises, you'll also help to improve your balance.
This can support your training by making it easier to perform compound vertical exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups.
This will lead to more well-rounded workouts and an all-around better physique.
One of the best aspects of horizontal pulling exercises is that they're really versatile.
While the majority of them do engage your upper back and shoulder muscles, you can mix up your routine and technique to isolate different parts of your body.
This can lead to better gains in specific areas and more targeted workouts.
Horizontal pull exercises are also great for beginners at home.
Sometimes vertical compound exercises, particularly bodyweight exercises, can be too challenging, which can mean you aren't properly training your whole body.
Horizontal pull exercises target specific areas, so they're great for beginners or advanced lifters.
Horizontal Pull Workout Questions
What is the main difference between vertical push and horizontal pull?
A vertical pushing exercise involves moving a weight (or some resistance) up and away from your body - think of a shoulder press movement.
A horizontal pull is any exercise where you are pulling a weight towards you - like a row movement.
The main difference is that the vertical pushing movement works your triceps, rotator cuff, and deltoids (shoulders), whereas horizontal pull exercises work your entire upper back, lats, chest, and biceps. This means you get the benefits of a pull-up and bench press all in one.
Is pull more important than push?
Pull exercises tend to engage more visible muscle groups and make your body seem thicker.
This is preferred by some people, but having a balance of horizontal pushing exercises (like push-ups) and horizontal pull exercises is best for upper body development.
Is a face pull a horizontal pull?
Yes, a face pull involves horizontally pulling a cable or handle towards your face and can help you build your upper back and shoulder muscles.
How many pulls should I do a day?
Performing pull-ups every day isn't recommended because it's best to let your muscles rest and recover, but if you can perform 15 pull-ups in a single set, then you should be able to do sets of 10-12 pull-ups a day without any risk of injury.
Can I do push day after pull day?
Every personal trainer and lifter has a slightly different routine, but many trainers recommend doing a pull day, push day, leg day, and then resting on the next day to maximize gains.
This means you can do a horizontal pushing exercise routine the day after a pull routine.
Related Article - Push Pull Legs 5 Day Split Routine
Are deadlifts considered horizontal pulls?
Deadlifts are a bit confusing because, technically, they are a vertical pull, but they're considered a horizontal pull for your lower body.
Horizontal pulling can help you build a broad upper body with a thick chest and well-developed lats.
They can also help you to isolate specific muscle groups and build functional strength in some smaller muscles which you can't target with compound movements.
The best workout routines combine push and pull exercises, but hopefully, this guide has given you some useful horizontal pull ideas to try in your next training session.
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Last Updated on November 10, 2022