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.

A lot of popular training programs, like CrossFit, focus on vertical pulling and horizontal pressing.

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:

1. 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.[1]

Performing a horizontal pulling exercise routine will improve your overall strength and give you much more visible gains compared to vertical pulling exercises.

2. 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.[2]

3. Versatility

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.

4. Shoulder health

People place a large emphasis on horizontal pushing exercises, such as dips, bench press, push ups and plenty of vertical pulling like pull-ups.

By increasing horizontal pulling exercises, they provide more well-rounded upper body strength and shoulder health.

Vertical pulling and horizontal pushing exercises use muscles that create internal rotation of the shoulder joint.

You want to offset too much internal rotation by including exercises that allow the shoulder joint to move in external rotation, which horizontal pulling promotes.

5. improves compound lifts

Horizontal pulling is not only important for muscular development, posture and keeping the shoulders healthy, it's also vital to support big compound lifts in the gym such as deadlifts and squats.

If you want to keep building strength in these key lifts, incorporate lots of horizontal pulling exercises into your program to see improvements. 

bodybuilder flexing back muscles

10 Best Horizontal Pulling Exercises

Your workout routine should contain a variety of pulling and pushing from a variety of angles. Horizontal pulling is important for balanced upper body strength and healthy shoulders.

Horizontal pulling exercises are not critical for upper body muscular development, so make sure you balance your horizontal pushing with horizontal pushing.

If you need some inspiration, here are my top 10 horizontal pulling exercises for you to include in your training routine.

1. Horizontal Cable Row

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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Core


  • Safe exercise to build upper back strength and reduce chance of injuries.
  • Improves posture and reduces shoulders rolling forwards.
  • Helps provide stability in the shoulders. 

How to Do It:

  1. Sit down at the seated row station or low row machine.
  2. Reach forward and grab the handles. Keep your torso upright and your hands in line with your belly button.
  3. Extend forward to stretch your back, and then pull the handles backwards towards you.
  4. When your hands reach your body, slowly go back to the start.
  5. Repeat for 8-10 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Squeeze your shoulder blades together as the handles reach your body to help help with building muscle mass across your back.

Keep your knees bent a little throughout the movement. 

2. T-Bar Row

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.

However, if you can't perform this exercise, you can try out T bar row alternatives.

This makes it better suited for more advanced lifters.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Posterior Deltoids, Rhomboids, Traps, Biceps, Core


  • Very effectively builds a strong and more muscular back.
  • Easier exercise to use heavier loads as you're not limited by how much you can support your own bodyweight. 
  • Having your chest supported makes it hard to cheat and promotes better form.

How to Do It:

  1. Stand with one foot on either side of the T bar row.
  2. With your knees slightly bent, reach down and grab the bar with a neutral grip.
  3. Pull the loaded bar towards you until it reaches your chest.
  4. Slowly lower it down to the ground.
  5. Repeat for 8-10 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't arch up as you pull, and keep the strain on your upper back muscles.

Focus on your form because it’s easy for this to turn into a vertical pulling exercise if you don’t lean over the bar properly. 

3. Single Arm Cable Rows

Standing Single Arm Cable Rows (Low)

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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Rear deltoids


  • Trains one side at a time and reduces muscular imbalances.
  • Enhances core stabalization.
  • Improves upper back weaknesses. 

How to Do It:

  1. Set your low row machine to a medium/low height, so it's about level with your chest when you sit on a bench.
  2. Grip the handle, and pull it horizontally towards you.
  3. When the handle reaches your torso, pause, and then slowly lower back to starting position.
  4. Repeat for 10-14 reps on each side.

Tips From A Trainer!

Twist your torso away slightly as the handle reaches your body. This will give you a greater range of motion and help to engage your back muscles even more.

Keep your shoulder down and back throughout the movement to ensure your lats and upper back are doing all the work. 

Also Check Out - Best Cable Back Exercises

4. Single-Arm Dumbbell / Kettlebell Rows

Single-Arm Dumbbell

Single arm dumbbell or 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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Rear deltoids


  • Improves focus and activation on the lats.
  • Better core stability.
  • Improves definition and strength of your back.

How to Do It:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in one hand and lean your other hand on an incline bench or regular bench for support.
  2. Lean your torso forward to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Row the dumbbell upwards until it reaches your ribcage.
  4. Pause at the top, and slowly lower back down.
  5. Repeat for 12-15 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

A single arm row is great for targetting one side at a time, but make sure you bend your torso right over. This will keep the movement horizontal and maximize the benefits. 

5. Resistance Band Rows

Standing 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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Deltoids, Biceps


  • Perfect for beginners or anyone recovering from injury.
  • Easily done at home, can be done daily especially if you work at a desk.
  • Keeps tension on the muscles throughout the exercise.

How to Do It:

  1. Secure the resistance band under your feet, or anchor it to the floor.
  2. Grab the band handles and hold it around waist height.
  3. Lean your torso forward, so you're at about 45 degrees, and extend your arms backwards.
  4. When your arms are fully extended backwards, pause, and then return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 15-18 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep a neutral back throughout the movement to prevent any strain or injury. 

6. Standing Cable Rows

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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Deltoids, Biceps, Triceps, Core


  • Promotes core strength and stability.
  • Builds strength in several muscles at one, making it a time-efficient exercise.

How to Do It:

  1. Set the cable machine to about chest height and grip the handle in both hands.
  2. Pull the handles towards you in a straight line and pull your shoulder blades together.
  3. Pause when your hands reach your body, and slowly extend your arms again until you’re back where you started.
  4. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep the weight straight in front of your chest during this pull movement, and keep your arms close to your body. This will ensure you're working your back and not your chest or arms. 

7. TRX Rows

TRX Or Strap 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.

Muscles Worked: Deltoids, Lats, Rhomboids, Traps, Core


  • Very effective exercise for building upper body strength without the need for any bulky equipment.
  • You can take TRX cables with you when traveling or to train outdoors.
  • Activates stabalizer muscles around the shoulder which helps promote shoulder health.

How to Do It:

  1. Anchor your suspension band securely overhead and grab the strap attachment in each hand.
  2. Lean your body backwards until you're at a 45-degree angle until your upper arms are fully extended.
  3. Pull your body back, so you're in an upright position, pause, and lower slowly back down.
  4. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

This exercise is great for maximizing the range of motion, so lower yourself down lower to make it more challenging and improve your gains.

Keep your core right throughout, and ensure you aren't using one arm more than the other. 

Suggested Equipment - Best Suspension Trainers 

8. Bent Over Barbell/Dumbbell Rows

Barbell Overhand Bent Over Row

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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Deltoids, Biceps


  • Effectively strengthens lower back and core.
  • Due to the hinge position, this exercise will promote a stronger deadlift.
  • Promotes control and awareness of the body to resist spinal flexion (rounding forwards). 

How to Do It:

  1. Have your barbell or dumbbells on the floor in front of you and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your back relaxed and lean your torso horizontally and reach down to grip the back.
  3. Keep your knees slightly bent and your torso at a 30-degree angle.
  4. Row the back up to the bottom of your rib cage.
  5. Pause for a second, and then lower slowly back to starting position.
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

The key to this exercise is using heavy weights and controlling the movement. Use your back muscles to lift the weight and squeeze your shoulder blades at the top to maximize the benefits.

Increase the weight every time you can do 15 reps without stopping. 

9. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Rows

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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids


  • Reduces momentum of the upper body and increases muscle activation.
  • Good exercise for those who have a weak posterior chain.
  • Improves posture and pulls the shoulders back.

How to Do It:

  1. Set your incline bench to a 45-degree angle and lie face down, resting on the chest pad.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang down in front of you.
  3. Pull the dumbbells up as high as you can and pause at the top.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades to really engage your upper back.
  5. Lower the dumbbells back down to starting position.
  6. Repeat for 6-12 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your torso on the inclined bench throughout the movement, and keep your feet flat on the floor. This will help ensure you only engage your back muscles for the lift. 

10. Inverted Rows

Wide Grip 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.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Biceps, Deltoids, Shoulder girdle


  • Great exercise to work towards more challenging exercises such as pull-ups.
  • Improves forearm and grip strength.
  • Improves scapular retraction and depression, which is key for shoulder health.

How to Do It:

  1. Start by setting a barbell in a rack at about knee height.
  2. Lie down under the barbell with your back on the ground.
  3. Reach up and grip the bar with both hands using an overhand grip.
  4. Raise your entire body slightly off the ground by bending your elbows and engaging your back muscles.
  5. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your arms close to your body and your body in a straight line to control the movement and engage your back.

If you don't have a bar, you can use a table for this horizontal push exercise. Just make sure it's strong enough to support your weight.

If you want to take this to the next level, you can perform this exercise with a pull-up bar, but you will need enough strength to hold your body weight. 

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.

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.


Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website