5 Awesome Pulling Exercises for Full-Body Strength

These pulling exercises prescribed by STACK Expert John Cissik develop total body strength and power.

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When working with athletes, a strength and conditioning coach does not have an unlimited amount of time. This is true whether the athletes are in high school or the pros. It means coaches must find exercises that get the most bang for their buck. This article shows you several pulling exercises to include in your program that will develop total body strength and power and make all those muscles grow.



For most athletes, the conventional Deadlift is ideal for transfer over to their sport. This version of the Deadlift is performed with the feet hip-width apart, which closely resembles jumping and the ready position of many sports. The exercise trains the entire lower body, the core, the trunk, the upper back and even the forearms and grip.

To perform, approach the bar with your feet hip-width apart.

  • Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out.
  • Maintaining this position, squat down until your hands can grip the bar.
  • Grip the bar with a mixed grip (one palm facing you, one facing away).
  • Keeping your arms straight, stand up with the bar in your hands. Your shoulders and hips should rise up at the same speed while you lift the bar.
  • From the standing position, lower the bar to the floor under control.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Note that technique is important or injury could result. The Deadlift is not an exercise meant for a high training volume. Normally, sets of two to six repetitions will be more than sufficient.

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

This exercise trains the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back in a way that forces the hamstrings to become stronger while in a lengthened position. This is critical to prevent injuries during sprinting and rapid changes of direction.

To perform, stand up with the barbell in your hands. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your hands should be shoulder-width apart.

  • Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out.
  • Unlock your knees slightly.
  • Lean forward while pushing your hips back. As you do this, allow the barbell to slide down your thighs.
  • Go down as far as you can while maintaining proper chest/shoulder position, then reverse directions.

This exercise can be performed for sets of eight to twelve repetitions. Normally, I like my athletes to perform Romanian Deadlifts with weight equivalent to their squat weight.

Snatch-Grip Pull


Like the Deadlift, the Snatch-Grip Pull works almost every muscle in the body. Unlike the Deadlift, the Snatch-Grip Pull involve picking heavy weights off the floor in an explosive manner, so in a sense it offers the best of both worlds—strength plus power. To perform this exercise:

  • Position your feet hip-width apart.
  • With your shoulders pulled back and your chest pushed out, squat down and grip the bar.
  • Grip the bar with your hands wide. It's normal to grip the outside rings for a Snatch.
  • Keeping your arms straight, stand up with the bar in your hands.
  • When the bar reaches mid-thigh level, do three things at the same time: extend your hips explosively, shrug your shoulders up and rise up onto your toes.
  • Lower the bar under control and repeat.

Because this is an explosive exercise, it should be performed in sets of no more than six reps. Focus on moving the bar explosively and with good technique.

Eccentric Lifts

Eccentric Lifts

For advanced athletes, eccentric lifts develop a tremendous amount of strength, but they are very strenuous. For the eccentric versions of any exercise, perform it as you would normally, but exaggerate the lowering phase. Take 10 slow seconds to perform the descent phase. For example, to perform an Eccentric Deadlift, grip the bar and stand up with it. Then take 10 slow seconds to lower the bar back to the ground before performing the next rep.

You don't see these exercises very often in the gym. Eccentric exercises are extremely tiring and painful! This means they should be performed for no more than six repetitions per set. A great deal of attention must be paid to maintaining correct form. They are typically done with weight at 50 percent of maximum. Any of the exercises described in this article can be done eccentrically.



With heavy chains added to each end of the barbell, as you pick up the barbell, more of the chain is lifted off the floor, making the bar heavier. The top of the lift is the heaviest. Chains are not a high volume tool, so perform sets of no more than six reps. Begin with chains at 50 percent of your max and progress slowly as you become more comfortable. Any of the exercises described in this article can be done with chains!