July 29, 2021 10 min read

Have you ever heard of the push/pull workout method? It's a strength-training method that splits your workout sessions into pushing or pulling exercises.

Splitting up your workout routine in this way helps you achieve maximum hypertrophy.If you want to work out like some of the world's top bodybuilders, then you should give the push/pull method a try!

To help you get started, we're sharing our ten favorite pulling exercises for muscle and body strength growth. Each exercise is a pulling movement initiated from one of your pulling muscles, including the biceps, back, and forearms.

Get working on our ten best pull exercises to kick start massive muscle growth today!

1. Deadlifts

First up, the king of all exercises, the deadlift. We cannot say enough good things about the deadlift. Not only is it one of the best pull exercises, but it's one of the best exercises in general. It has several benefits, including:

  • Building muscular mass
  • Building muscular power
  • Boosting heart rate

Strong Muscular Men Performing Heavy Deadlift Exercise With Barbells

Additionally, the deadlift works almost all lower and upper body muscles in the posterior chain, including the:

  • Upper back muscles
  • Shoulder muscles
  • Glutes
  • ​Hamstring
  • Calves

Moreover, if you want to build muscle like the top bodybuilders, you must do deadlifts!

Here is how to do deadlifts with proper form:

  1. Place your weighted barbell on the floor in front of you.
  1. Approach the bar and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand with the middle of your feet directly under the bar.
  1. Send your hips backward and slightly bend your knees so that your upper body hinges forward. Grip the bar overhand with both hands. Check to make sure that your back is flat and not arching.
  1. When you're ready, exhale and power your hips forward, so you stand up straight and pull the bar up towards the hips.
  1. Squeeze the muscles on the backside of your body, then inhale and slowly release the barbell back to starting position.
  1. Repeat! Keep the exercise fluid and move right into the next rep. Do two to three sets of six to ten reps.

2. Lat Pulldowns

Next up, fire up your shoulder and back muscles with lat pulldowns! This classic cable exercise is one of the best exercises for the latissimus dorsi, also known as the lats.

The lats are the largest muscles in the back. They span almost the entire middle and lower back. Therefore, if you want an overall powerful back, the lats should be your top priority.

Before getting started, you need to set up the pulldown machine. First, sit on the seat and reach up to grab the handlebar. You want to be able to reach up and grab it overhand with almost straight arms while sitting flat on the seat.

Adjust the length of the cable to get the bar in the correct position. Second, sit back on the seat and adjust the thigh pad. You want it to lock your legs to the seat. Once you have those done, you're ready to get started!

Here is how to do lat pulldowns with proper form:

  1. Sit on the seat, lock your thighs under the thigh pad, and reach up to grab the pulldown bar.
  1. When you're ready, exhale and squeeze your shoulder blades together to pull the bar down to your chin or until your elbows can't go down any further.
  1. Squeeze your back muscles at the bottom, then slowly release and allow the bar to return to starting position.

The pulldown is a simple exercise, but keep in mind these form tips while doing it:

  • Keep your back straight as you pull the bar down; do not lean back
  • Lead the pull with your elbows
  • Do not use momentum to yank the bar up and down

3. Bent-Over Rows

Bent-over rows are a variation of the traditional standing barbell row exercise. It has the double benefit of working both the lats and the biceps. If your goal is to build more pulling power, then consider this exercise your new best friend.

You can do bent-over rows with either a barbell or dumbbells. For this example, we will stick with the barbell.

Here is how to do bent-over rows with proper form:

  1. Place a weighted barbell on the floor in front of you. Approach the barbell and place your feet underneath it.
  1. Send your hips backward and slightly bend your knees so that your upper body comes close to parallel with the floor.
  1. Grip the barbell with an overhand grip and your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  1. When you're ready, exhale and pull the barbell towards your lower chest by pulling your elbows directly backward and squeezing your shoulder blades together.

  2. Squeeze your muscles at the top, then slowly release your elbow bend to straighten your arms.
  1. Repeat! You don't need to drop the barbell back to the ground for each rep. Instead, straighten your arms so that the barbell comes by your shins, and repeat!

4. Bicep Curls

Want to grow the best biceps ever?

If so, then bicep curls are for you. They're one of the best if not the best exercise for building better biceps. Not only do bicep curls work the biceps, but they also target the brachialis and brachioradialis.

The brachialis and brachioradialis are two muscles in the forearm. There are few exercises other than bicep curls that fire them up.

Here is how to do bicep curls with proper form:

  1. Hold one dumbbell in each of your hands, face your palms forward, and stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Allow your arms to dead hang, but do not allow your shoulders to roll forward.
  1. When you're ready, exhale and cur; the dumbbells up by your shoulders. Keep your elbows locked on the sides of your body the entire time!
  1. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the curl, then slowly release them to starting position.
  1. Repeat! Do six to ten reps for two to three sets.

The most important bicep curl form tip is to keep your elbows locked at your sides the entire time! Popping your elbows out will take some of the work off of your biceps and put it on another muscle that it shouldn't be on.

5. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are one of the best and most popular bodyweight exercises. And, this is for many good reasons.

Pull-ups work the several major muscles, including the:

  • Lats
  • Biceps
  • Deltoids
  • Rhomboids

Do not confuse pull-ups with chin-ups. Chin-ups use an underhand grip and put more of an emphasis on the biceps. We are not saying not to do chin-ups, but pull-ups are more challenging and work larger muscles than chin-ups do!

Here is how to do pull-ups with proper form:

  1. Stand directly underneath a pull-up bar, then jump up and grip it with an overhand, wide grip. By wide grip, your hands should be further than shoulder-width apart.
  1. When you're ready, exhale and pull your shoulders back and down to lift your chin over the bar. Your elbows should drop down to hoist your upper body up.
  1. Squeeze your muscles at the top, then slowly release and drop back to a dead hang.
  1. Repeat! Do two to three sets with six to ten reps each!

6. Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is a unique pull exercise because it is only one of a few pull exercises that target the chest muscles. Specifically, they target the pecs.Another great thing about the pullover is that it is a perfect exercise for improving posture.

It pulls the arms overhead to stretch the spine. With a longer and more stretched-out spine, you naturally stand up taller. And, even better, having good posture helps prevent potentially debilitating back injuries.

Here is how to do the dumbbell pullover with proper form:

  1. Sit up tall on a flat bench and hold one dumbbell in each of your hands.
  1. Slowly lay back on the bench and hold each dumbbell straight over your chest. Your back should be neutral, and there should be only a slight bend in your elbows.
  1. When you're ready, exhale and slowly lift the dumbbells above your head while keeping your arms straight.
  1. Squeeze your chest and back muscles at the top of the lift.  Then, inhale and slowly bring the dumbbells from overhead to over your chest.
  1. Repeat! Try to do ten to twelve reps per set, or as many as you can with good form.

The dumbbell pullover is, for the most part, a simple exercise. However, be sure to keep your lower back pressed into the flat bench as you lift your arms overhead. Do not arch your back, as this could cause serious back injuries.

7. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Single-arm dumbbell rows are one of the best exercises for working your entire back.

That includes the:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Teres major and teres minor

Here is how to do the single-arm dumbbell row with proper form:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your left knee on a flat bench.
  1. Bend your upper body forward to place your left palm flat on the flat bench. Make sure that your hand is directly under your left shoulder.
  1. When you're ready, exhale, draw your shoulders down and back, and pull your right elbow backward. The dumbbell should come up by your chest. Do not rotate your upper body as you pull the dumbbell up.
  1. Squeeze your back muscles at the top of the pull, then slowly release your arm back to starting position.
  1. Repeat! Do nine or eleven more reps. Or, for as long as you can keep good form!

8. Kettlebell Renegade Row

If you are getting tired of the run-of-the-mill exercises, then try the kettlebell renegade row. It is a hybrid of a plank and row.Because it is a combination of two exercises, it works two distinct muscle groups.

The plank targets the abs, core, and lower body, while the row works the back and shoulders. Moreover, it is a perfect exercise for a full-body workout!

If you are trying to shake things up a bit, here is how to do the kettlebell renegade row:

  1. Grab two of the same-sized kettlebells.
  1. Get on your knees and place the kettlebells right in front of you. Grip both kettlebells overhand. The kettlebells should be directly underneath your shoulders.
  1. Press yourself up into a plank position while still holding on to the kettlebell handles.
  1. When you're ready, press your weight into your left palm, brace your core, and pull your right elbow back to lift the kettlebell off the floor. Try to get the kettlebell as close to your chest as you can to simulate a row.
  1. Squeeze your back and core, then slowly release your elbow and drop the kettlebell back to starting position.

Make sure to keep your back in a straight line as you lift the kettlebell!  Your upper body may slightly twist, but it shouldn't open up or drop.

9. Barbell Shrugs

Like the dumbbell pullover, barbell shrugs are a unique pull exercise because they target the shoulders.  And, as you already know, the shoulders tend to be a push muscle rather than a pull muscle.

Shrugs with barbell

Barbell shrugs are a tiny movement that can make a big impact on your upper back and stabilizer muscles. While they look simple, they require a lot of core stabilization. Therefore, you get the double benefit of building broad shoulders and a solid core.

Here is how to do barbell shrugs with proper form:

  1. Place a barbell on the floor in front of you. Approach the bar and stand with the middle of your feet underneath the bar.
  1. Send your hips backward and bend your knees slightly so that your upper body hinges forward. Reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be outside of your knees.
  1. Drive your hips forward to stand up straight (like a deadlift) and allow your arms to hang straight down. Do not allow the weight of the barbell to hunch your shoulders forward!
  1. When you're ready, exhale and lift your shoulder blades up for one or two seconds.
  1. Inhale and drop your shoulder blades back to starting position. Make sure that your back is straight!
  1. Repeat! Do six to ten more reps to complete the set.

10. Cable Face Pulls

Finish your pull workout off with cable face pulls! Another classic cable exercise, face pulls are a solid substitute for push exercises that target the upper body. For example, the cable face pull works almost all of the same muscles as the bench press. 

Therefore, if you want a broader chest and shoulders, add the cable face pull to your workout routine!Before getting started, you need to set up your cable machine. 

Hook up the double-ended rope attachment to the cable. Then, set the height of the pulley to the highest spot on the cable machine.If you are doing a home workout and don't have a machine, you can get creative with a resistance band!

Here is how to do cable face pulls with proper form:

  1. Hold one end of the rope in each hand and take a few steps backward from the cable machine so that your arms straighten and there is tension in the cable. Keep your shoulders back, do not roll them forward!
  1. When you're ready, exhale and pull the ends of the rope straight to your forehead by engaging the deltoids. Your elbows should flare out, and palms face forward.
  1. Squeeze your muscles, then slowly release and extend your arms back to straight without rolling your shoulders forward.

Balance Pull Day With These Top Push Exercises

Whether you want to follow the push/pull workout method or not, you should balance these top pull exercises with push exercises. If you only do pull exercises, then you will leave your push muscle group behind. 

Moreover, you would neglect your triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles. Here are some of our favorite push exercises that you should balance with your pull day exercises:

  • Chest press
  • Push-ups
  • Bench press
  • Rear delt raise
  • Lateral raise
  • Overhead shoulder press

Also, be sure to balance out your pulling exercises by hitting leg day! Lunges, squats, and leg raises work the primary leg muscles, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to try the push/pull training method or simply want to build more muscle and strength, give these pull exercises a try!

Each one of them is designed to initiate hypertrophy in each of your pulling muscles. Start building stronger, broader muscles today with our top ten pull exercises!

Bonus tip: Want to add more dimension to your lifting sessions? Follow our guide to the best full-body workout!


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