One of the best ways to increase your overall body strength is to perform the deadlift. There are many different variations you may try, but one of the best is the rack pull.
But, when it comes to rack pull vs deadlift, which is the best?
This article discusses which exercise is the best between deadlifts vs. rack pulls and shows you the pros and cons of each.
Table of Contents
- Rack Pull Vs Deadlift: Key Differences Explained
- Rack Pull Overview
- Pros And Cons Of Doing Rack Pulls
- Deadlift Overview
- Pros And Cons Of Doing Deadlifts
- Mistake To Avoid When Doing These Exercises
- Common Rack Pull & Deadlift Questions
Rack Pull Vs Deadlift: Key Differences Explained
When comparing deadlifts vs rack pulls, some differences should be considered when it comes to your experience and goal.
1. For Bodybuilding
The deadlift and rack pull are ideal exercises for bodybuilding as they stimulate huge amounts of muscle fibers, resulting in muscle growth. However, which exercise is better for bodybuilding, the deadlift or rack pull?
If you’re a bodybuilder looking to target your glutes and erector spinae, you should use the rack pull. This is because the rack pull moves the focus directly to your glutes which activate during the final stages of a hip hinge movement.
But, if you’re looking for overall muscle development, the traditional deadlift is the better exercise to choose. It has a larger range of motion, creating greater muscle stimulus, and promoting muscle growth.
In my opinion, both exercises can be successfully implemented into most workout routines and will provide you with excellent results. The deadlift and rack pull complement each other, ironing out the negatives each exercise can have.
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2. For Beginners
Are you a beginner looking to deadlift or rack pull? This section is for you. One of the first movements I teach my clients is the hip hinge. This is usually in the form of a Romanian deadlift, as it's one of the easiest deadlift variations for beginners to understand.
But, when it comes to the rack pull or deadlift, I believe that you would be far better off learning how to deadlift effectively before you attempt to rack pull.
If you learn the deadlift first, you’ll develop overall strength, which will help you with other lifts you’ll be performing in the gym, such as the squat. As a beginner, you want to develop your entire body and not focus on specific areas before you need to.
Regular deadlifts give you the most bang for your buck and are brilliant for beginners. Once you’ve mastered the deadlift, feel free to add the rack pulls to your training, they’ll help you develop your deadlift even further.
Read More - Romanian (RDL) Vs Conventional Deadlift
3. For Hypertrophy
When it comes to muscular hypertrophy, you want to perform exercises that will provide certain muscle groups with the stimulus they need to grow. The deadlift works pretty much the entire body as you lift the weight off the floor. It’s a tough lift to perform but is one of the best muscle developers around.
You’ll primarily work your hamstrings, glutes, quads, lats, traps, and rhomboids during the deadlift. Your core is also activated to help stabilize your body throughout the movement. Even though the deadlift promotes hypertrophy, the rack pull helps shift the movement’s focus to fewer muscles with more intensity.
While performing the rack pull overloads the glutes and upper back (usually with a larger than normal load); this helps increase hypertrophy in these areas more than the deadlift would.
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4. For Lockout Improvement
During the traditional deadlift, one of the most challenging parts is the lockout. One of the best ways to improve your lockout is to step away from the deadlift and use rack pulls.
Rack pulls are highly effective at improving your deadlift lockout, and they place huge amounts of stimulus on the glutes and hips, which are crucial for locking your body out at the top of the deadlift.
As rack pulls let you lift more weight than you would during the regular deadlift, they do let you overload your muscle groups, increasing power and strength. If you use rack pulls correctly, there’s no reason why they can’t help you improve the lockout of your deadlift.
Learn More - Romanian Deadlift Vs Stiff Leg Deadlift
5. For Grip Strength
One of the main reasons deadlifts fail is weak grip strength. If your grip is weak, you’ll hit a point where you can’t keep hold of the barbell any longer; this prevents you from progressing. A way around this problem is to perform heavy rack pulls.
Rack pulls are fantastic forearm and grip strength developers. The exercises allow you to overload your body with more weight than you usually lift during the deadlift.
Due to the increased load, your body is forced to adapt, stimulating muscle growth. I have used rack pulls many times to bypass deadlift sticking points, and when it’s done correctly, you’ll get excellent results.
6. For Back Strength & Thickness
As both the deadlift and rack pull are hip hinge movements with a significant focus on the back, they’ll both increase your back strength. However, strength is often relative to the number of reps you perform. So if you're looking to develop back strength, focus on performing lower reps with high weight.
Personally, if I wanted overall back strength, I’d focus on performing the deadlift over rack pulls. The deadlift is an excellent all-around back developer and works the muscles through an extensive range of motion. Yet, when it comes to back thickness, you want an exercise to work your upper back as much as possible.
Rack pulls are excellent for upper back development, targeting areas such as your traps and rhomboids. Working both of these muscles will improve your overall back thickness; this is something rack pulls are far superior at doing.
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7. Lifting Technique
As the deadlift and the rack pull are similar movements, great care is needed when it comes to your technique. If you fail to use the correct technique, you’re opening yourself up to injury, setting you back in your training.
You need to move the barbell through a more extensive range of motion during the deadlift. This requires mobility in your hips to assume the correct position, which is sometimes tricky if you have longer limbs.
The rack pull, on the other hand, moves through less range of motion and requires less mobility, but still requires good form. During the rack pull movement, you’ll be lifting increased loads, so you must avoid lifting heavier than you can handle.
Neither rack pull nor deadlift form should be taken for granted; you should aim to perform each rep with the best lifting technique.
8. Ease of Execution
If you’re wondering what’s easier to perform, the deadlift or rack pull... it depends. Usually, the rack pull is performed with a much heavier weight than the deadlift, so I’d be cautious not to overload the barbell during this movement, making it more difficult than it needs to be.
However, I do think the reduced range of motion during the rack pull makes it slightly easier to perform, especially if you lack the mobility to do the traditional deadlift. The key here is having the barbell heavy enough to stimulate your muscle fibers but not having the barbell so heavy that it affects your form.
If you’re a newbie, I’d always recommend learning to deadlift first, as the rack pull is a deadlift variation, so learning the base movement is a must. But, if you’re determined to perform the rack pull, so long as you use excellent form, you won’t have a problem with it.
Rack Pull Overview
The rack pull is a partial deadlift variation that removes most of the knee extension from the traditional deadlift. Rather than starting from floor height, the rack pull begins just below the knee.
As with the deadlift, the rack pull is a hip dominant exercise that primarily works your glutes, hamstrings, and back. During the rack pull movement, your spinal erectors are activated, making it a brilliant back strengthening exercise.
Generally, during the rack pull, you can lift heavier loads than you would during the regular deadlift. This is mainly because of the reduced range of motion from the rack pull.
While most gym-goers will benefit from the rack pull, I think it’s best suited for those of you who’re intermediate or advanced. Beginners would be best spending time learning how to deadlift before starting to increase loads and performing rack pulls.
You can use the rack pull to improve your deadlift lockout ability and increase your overall strength. To perform the rack pull, you need an Olympic bar, weighted Olympic plates, and a squat rack. If you don’t have a squat rack, you may elevate the barbell off the floor using weight plates, but this isn’t ideal, especially when you start increasing the weight.
Read More - How Many Weight Plates Do I Need?
Pros And Cons Of Doing Rack Pulls
What We Like
Things We Don’t
The deadlift is one of the big three lifts that you’ll see performed in weight lifting competitions and inside most gyms. It’s a hip dominant full-body exercise that primarily builds your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. During the deadlift, huge amounts of muscle fibers are recruited to help you lift the weight, and it’s an excellent exercise for overall muscle development.
I’m a big believer in performing the deadlift at least once per week as it improves your posterior chain health, reducing your risk of injuries. Most gym-goers will benefit from performing this movement, whether your goal is to increase muscle mass or to remain healthy.
But, as the movement is complex, you should take plenty of time to learn the correct form before increasing the weight you’re using. Using incorrect form could spell disaster and leave you with injuries. To perform the deadlift, you don’t need much equipment; all you need is a barbell and Olympic weighted plates, making it a brilliant exercise for most home gyms.
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Pros And Cons Of Doing Deadlifts
What We Like
Things We Don’t
Mistake To Avoid When Doing These Exercises
Whether you choose to perform the deadlift or rack pull, there are several mistakes you should avoid making.
Common Rack Pull & Deadlift Questions
Should you rack pull more than you deadlift?
As the rack pull only works part of the deadlift, you have a lower range of motion to move the weight through. The lower range of motion means you should be able to lift more weight during the rack pull than you would during the deadlift.
How heavy should rack pulls be?
It depends; on average, you should expect to rack pull 30% more weight than you would do during the deadlift. This is an estimate and will differ between individuals. Be sure to always use a weight you can lift with excellent form.
How often should I do deadlifts?
Once or twice a week is plenty for most gym-goers. The deadlift is a highly taxing exercise that works your entire body. It takes several days for your muscles and CNS (Central Nervous System) to fully recover, so you mustn’t overdo it. Performing deadlifts too many times a week will hinder your progress.
Is a rack pull and deadlift the same?
Rack pulls are classed as a partial deadlift, and while the exercises are pretty similar, there is a difference. A rack pull has a smaller range of motion than the deadlift, and it’s often used to improve your deadlift performance.
Can you do rack pulls instead of deadlifts?
You can do rack pulls instead of deadlifts if you want to focus more on your glute and back extensor activation. But, your program would yield better results if you combined deadlifts and rack pulls to offset each exercise’s pros and cons.
If you’ve been looking to increase your overall strength & muscle mass, the deadlift and rack pull are excellent exercises for you to use. Neither exercise is better than the other; it all depends on your training goals.
The deadlift is a brilliant all-around exercise, while the rack pull helps improve your lockout strength (which will improve your deadlift). Try adding the two exercises to your workout program and watch how each exercise complements the other.
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Last Updated on December 18, 2022