The Best Pull Exercises to Build Muscle

back view of a shirtless well-muscled man doing a lat pulldown exercise in a gym

Pull workouts and different pull exercises build strength in several ways. First, they build both stamina and the muscles needed to perform many other types of activities. Second, they are easy to do anywhere and they promote flexibility in your joints. Finally, pull workouts and exercises use your body weight as resistance so you don’t necessarily need weights. 

Adding pull exercises to your routine is essential to getting stronger with more defined muscles. Pull exercises are one of the best ways to build muscle mass. They target the rear deltoids, biceps, and back muscles. Pull workouts are effective because they simultaneously work multiple muscle groups and build muscle in various ways.

A pull-up can be used as part of your warm-up routine or as a standalone workout. When you regularly complete these movements, you can see dramatic improvements in how strong you feel overall in addition to how much weight you can lift with your body weight alone.

Pull workouts are an excellent complement to a regular upper body routine. Healthline states, “The [pullup] is one of the most effective exercises for strengthening the back muscles.”

These specific exercises target a specific muscle group and improve body aesthetics. The main advantages of pulls include strength, endurance, and a more excellent range of motion than pushes. With proper form, a pull workout can help you achieve your fitness goals and we recommend trying them today.

These workouts are great for toning your arms and back and developing strength. This article will look at a few pull exercises and their benefits. 

How Do Pull Exercises Build Strength?

You can perform pull exercises in almost any rep range. However, the best bodybuilders and strength athletes rarely work within a single rep range; they often use their entire rep range to build maximum strength. 

pull-up is a common example of a pull exercise that helps with muscle growth and mass and can be performed using the least amount of gym equipment. Correctrly performing pull-ups is an essential part of building muscle strength. We’ve got some tips to help you maximize the benefits of this basic exercise. 

Pull exercises include pulling a barbell or weight up from the floor to your chest (pull-ups), pulling a barbell off the barbell row and holding it in front of you (clean), and any other exercise where you pull against resistance. Pulling exercises can also be done with machines and cables.

A traditional pull exercise is the dumbbell pullover. It involves lifting the weights by pulling through the shoulders, keeping the back straight, and releasing the tension through the chest. Another example of a pull exercise is the barbell shrug, which targets the shoulders—another muscle that tends to be a push muscle. However, if you can’t lift the weights with free weights, you can do the exercise on a pull-down machine.

female athlete doing a pull-up in a gym

Why Is Strength Training Essential?

Pull exercises are the opposite of a push workout. Pull exercises require strength in the shoulder blade. They involve using the back, biceps, triceps, obliques, and trapezius muscles to pull an object towards the body.  

In addition to being a great way to improve the power of the muscles, strength training can also increase bone density. As the muscles get stronger, they can pull on the bones harder, signaling them to deposit more minerals and produce more bone cells.

A strong core helps prevent injury. For example, we don’t often think about our back when working out, but it’s an important muscle group that helps us move everything from our head to our hips. Pulls target this area of the body while also working other areas like your arms and chest simultaneously.

Increasing strength and muscle mass can increase athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury. Strength trainingimproves the coordination and strength of muscles, making them more potent in sports and daily life.

Pulling exercises will vary depending on your fitness level and goals. Pull-ups are an excellent exercise for beginners because they are easy to learn and can be performed anywhere with little or no equipment required. They are also a great way to incorporate pull workouts into your routine if you don’t have access to free weights or machines at the gym.

Strength training involves manipulating repetitions, sets, tempo, and force when performing pull exercises. For example, push-ups involve the elbow, wrist, shoulder, and chest joints. It allows the muscles to be worked to fatigue, building muscle mass. 

athletic Caucasian man performing renegade rows on an exercise mat at the beach

The Best Pull Exercises to Build Muscle

Deadlifts and sumo deadlifts are two of the best pull exercises for the upper body and the lower body. They target both the hamstring and hip muscles. Deadlifts are popular with bodybuilders because they develop bigger upper back muscles. They can be performed anywhere from a bench to an overhead bar. Listed below are the top pull exercises for each muscle group, including some tips for performing each exercise.


The deadlift is one of the most versatile and practical strength-training exercises. This exercise activates hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps, which are crucial for sports requiring leg strength. It also boosts your confidence, challenges your core strength, and improves your overall posture. Beginners should start with light weights and gradually increase the weight once they are confident and have perfected the technique.

Deadlifts are an excellent exercise for building core strength, especially in your lower back. They also work your legs and arms from pushing weight off the floor. If done correctly with proper form, deadlifts can help you gain muscle mass throughout your entire body.

The rack pull is a type of deadlift performed from low blocks. The rack pull is a crucial component of deadlifting because of its adjustable range of motion, allowing you to lift more weight and improve your lockout. In addition, this movement benefits your lower back by requiring a perfect form to lift heavy weights.

muscular black woman performing a deadlift in a gym

Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are one of the most popular upper body exercises. They can be performed in many variations and are highly effective. The lat pulldown strengthens the latissimus dorsi, a broad muscle that runs across the back of the torso under the arms. It helps with posture and breathing and helps to stabilize the shoulder joint. This exercise also works the smaller muscles in the shoulders, such as the biceps and triceps. In addition, it strengthens the forearms and triceps. 

When performing lat pulldowns, maintain a prolonged, neutral back posture. You want to reach a stretch in the lat musclegroup during the eccentric phase, which means pulling the shoulders together with your arms. You also want to maintain a neutral neck and head position throughout the exercise. It is essential to maintain this posture as you increase the intensity of the lat pulldown. In addition, it helps if you remember to keep your chin tucked throughout the movement.

Bicep Curls

Bicep curl exercises help you achieve a larger pump than other exercises and involve curling a weight by bending your arm. The first rep of this exercise targets the long head of the bicep. The goal is to keep the elbows far from the body while simultaneously twisting your forearm as you bend your arm. It would be best if you began in the same position as the barbel cheat curl, with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your arms straight once you have performed your first rep; repeat by doing three sets of 12 reps of the exercise. You can increase the number of weights and sets as you get stronger.

male bodybuilder doing an isolate biceps curl on a bench


Pull-ups involve hanging on a bar and pulling your body weight up with your arms. Pull-up variations should vary based on the goals of your training program. In addition to increasing total reps, various pull-up variations should improve specific adaptations. Begin by holding the bar with your shoulder blades and stop before your elbow bends. Then, drag the bar towards your chest or back pocket. As you go, ensure that your elbows are straight and your chest is over the bar.

While pull-ups are very effective when performed with your bodyweight alone, you can increase the challenge by adding weight. For example, you can attach a weight belt or a dumbbell between your legs. A heavy backpack is also an excellent addition to challenge yourself. As you practice pull-ups, keep a record of how many reps you do for each variety. You will soon notice an improvement in your pull-up performance if you practice daily.

Dumbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover involves you laying on your back and extending your arms over your head. Then, move your arms toward the ceiling, over your chest. Your palms face each other, and your elbows bend slightly as you move the weight back and over your head. This exercise works your lats and pecs and exercises your upper back and serratus muscles. Dumbbell pullovers are excellent for strengthening the pecs and lats.

To perform a dumbbell pullover properly, you must be in the proper overhead position. Your back should not arch. Keep your rib cage straight during the lift, and use your lat muscles to pull your arms back. Try to maintain a slight bend in your elbows throughout the lift. When performing a dumbbell pullover, the goal is to feel a stretch on your chest and back muscles.

The dumbbells should be close to the body but not too tight. Hold the position for a second and then slowly return to the original position. Repeat until you have achieved the desired number of repetitions. You can substitute a soccer ball for a dumbbell for more advanced workouts. However, for beginners, it is best to use a dumbbell.

vector drawing of woman performing a dumbbell pullover while lying on the floor

Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Do you want to improve your lats? Single-arm dumbell rows are a great choice! They work all of the major muscles of the upper arms and biceps. Performing a single-arm row requires good form and balance, a firm core, and a straight back. Fortunately, you can perform this exercise on various surfaces, including a bench or machine.

To perform single-arm dumbbell rows, you should bend your waist and place your right knee on the bench. Keep your back straight and your eyes pointing upward. The goal of a single-arm dumbbell row is to pull a dumbbell up to your lower rib cage. Keep your elbow pointed upward and your working scapula retractable. Remember to maintain your form throughout the movement so that you don’t take tension off your musculature. 

The most common mistake people make when performing single-arm dumbell rows is pulling the dumbbell with their shoulders. To prevent this mistake, keep your elbow straight and maintain a flat back. Once your shoulder blades have contracted and your back is straight, pull the dumbbell as far up as possible without bending your elbow. Then, reverse the motion and squeeze your shoulder blades, returning to the start position.

As with most dumbbell exercises, you should begin with lighter weights and move on to heavier ones. If you’re looking to work your back, you’ll also find it practical to perform single-arm dumbbell rows to increase the size and strength of your pectorals. When executed correctly, single-arm dumbbell rows will build your arms while keeping your back stable and robust. Single-arm dumbbell rows are a great choice if you want to target all your major muscle groups, but if you’re not a beginner, you can start small.

Kettlebell Renegade Row

There are two basic ways to perform kettlebell renegade row pull exercises. One method involves holding a plank position while alternately using one arm to row dumbbells. The other method consists of holding a plank position using only one arm. In either case, you should be able to perform a renegade row once you’ve achieved this level of strength.

You need to keep your body straight and stable during the renegade row. You can support your upper body with the handles of the kettlebell, but you may need to place your feet apart. Also, keeping your shoulder blades close together would be best, so you don’t slouch during the exercise. After the reps, switch hands and repeat. Then, perform ten more reps while holding the alternating position.

The renegade row is also an excellent exercise for developing core stability. Of course, the twisting motion in the row requires a lot of work from the abs, obliques, and core muscles. But, creating core stability is also associated with improved posture and balance. 

The right kettlebells will help you develop a strong, toned upper body. In addition to being a good workout, renegade row pulls are a great way to help with other pull exercises. The best kettlebells for this exercise also work your abs and core.

Cable Face Pulls

To do cable face pulls, begin by setting the weight for the first set to a comfortable amount for good technique. Set up the cable machine with the pulley at the highest height setting. Hold the rope in front of you with your hands slightly bent and your elbows under your shoulder. Try using two rope handles to increase your external rotation to get more benefits. In addition, if possible, use a band anchor or band for home use.

While cable face pull exercises are best done with a cable machine, you can do them with a resistance band or a rope over your head. When choosing a weight for your face pull, choose one that provides resistance but does not pull you forward. Depending on your preference, you can also use a weighted band or a rope. For example, a resistance band can be attached to a sturdy anchor, looped around a stair rail, closed in a door, or tied in the center.

A cable face pull exercises target the rear deltoids, a muscle group many people neglect. While this muscle group is commonly overlooked, weak rear delts can result in sagging shoulders and hunched posture. To maximize the benefits of a face pull, perform the exercise in a split stance with a firm overhand grip. Make sure to maintain a controlled tempo throughout the entire eccentric phase. As with any other activity, practicing proper technique is critical to avoid injuries.

vector drawing of woman performing a high cable pull to face exercise

Final Thoughts on Pull Exercises

The best pull exercises to build muscle are the ones that work your back, lats, and biceps. There are many reasons to regularly train your back and core, but the most significant benefit is that this helps you achieve your ultimate strength goals. Pulling exercises are essential for developing a well-rounded physique, but have many other benefits. 

A strong back provides a firm base for the bench press—the prime mover in the deadlift—and the prime mover in the squat. That is why developing an excellent pull day workout routine in conjunction with a push day workout is critical. These exercises can help you build lean, solid shoulders and even improve posture. They also balance a push exercise and promote better shoulder health.

It may feel daunting to integrate these exercises into your current workout routine, but trust us: The results are worth the work. 

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