You might have seen people doing deadlifts by acing the bar on the rack. It limits the range of motion compared to the regular deadlift. But it is good for those who want to focus on their back without too much engagement of legs. I am talking here about the rack pulls

Rack pulls are generally done by bodybuilders and people who have difficulty in doing deadlifts. It is a great exercise for your back.

However, there are even better alternatives to rack pulls. Rack pulls have a limited range of motion compared to deadlifts and you can’t engage your back as better as other back exercises. It might be good for the person who is beginning to learn deadlifts or for someone who is an experienced lifter and wants to specifically target their back.

Usually, if you are experienced, then it becomes easy to engage your back during rack pulls as compared to a new person or in an intermediate stage.

In this article, I have shared some of the best racks pull alternatives exercises that could be a better option for you. Some of these exercises are basic and popular back exercises and some might be unique for you. Most of these exercises will require you to have dumbbells, barbells, and a landmine setup.

But before talking about the alternatives, let’s first see which muscles are worked during rack pull.

Muscles Worked During Rack Pull

The rack pull is a full-body compound exercise that activated many major muscles simultaneously. Some of the muscles are lats, erector spinae, traps, glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back, and forearm muscles.

Rack pull engages the leg muscles like quads, hamstrings, and glutes but not as effectively as deadlift due to limited range of motion.

Now let’s discuss the alternatives below.

Rack Pull Alternatives

1. Bent Over Row

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Bent over row is one of the best alternatives to rack pulls. Bent over row is a compound movement that will help you in building a bigger and stronger back.

You can do this exercise either with a barbell or with dumbbells. Both are great. But dumbbells will allow you to move in a more full range of motion.

Targeted muscles – lats, rhomboids, teres major, traps, abs, and biceps

How to do

1. Place your feet under the barbell. Bend down by moving your hips back and then lift the bar with your arms.

2. Now bend again by taking your hips back and stopping when the barbell reaches the knee level. Keep your chest up, this will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by pulling the weights up towards your stomach while keeping your chest up and shoulders retracted. Your lower back should not round during the movement.

4. Gradually lower the bar back to the starting position and then repeat.

Recommended reps- 10-12

As you go down to lift the barbell, Your hips should go back as if there is a chair behind you and you have to sit. Your chest should also be up as you go down. This keeps your back flat allowing you to be in the right position to perform the exercise.

2. Deadlift

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The deadlift is the godfather of every lift. It activates almost all muscles of your body. The rack pull is just one part of the deadlift.

When you do rack pulls, you are just performing a top half movement of the deadlift, which is good if you want to target your back. However, when you do the regular deadlift, it activates the back, traps glutes, hamstrings, quads, and many other muscles. So there is no better alternative than the regular deadlift.

Targeted muscles – lats, rhomboids, teres major, traps, abs, and biceps

How to do

1. Stand with both feet at about hip-width apart. Both feet should be under the bar.

2. Go down by moving your hips back and keeping your chest up. Grab the bar with an overhand or mixed grip. Look straight and be upright. This is your starting position.

3. Now lift the barbell by pushing with your legs to the ground. Pull with your back and push to the ground simultaneously. Keep your chest up as you move.

4. Extend your hips and legs at the top and stand straight while holding the bar.

5. Bring the bar down in the same way you did before and then repeat the exercise.

The deadlift is all about form and technique. If your form is wrong, then there are higher chances of injuries. Many people do deadlifts with a rounded back and lift heavier weights. You should never do that. If your back is rounding, then reduce the weights and do it again.

Most of the time, people learn the wrong technique of doing a deadlift right from the beginning and it becomes difficult to correct later. So make sure that you learn the technique first before going heavy.

3. T Bar Row

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This is another compound movement that will increase the strength of your back and will give you thickness and size to your back. If you don’t want to do rack pulls, then you can do T bar rows.

Targeted muscles- Latissimus dorsi, traps, teres major, biceps

How to do

1. Take one barbell and place the one end of it at the corner of the floor or fix it inside a landmine base. Add the weights on the other side of the barbell.

2. Stand at a shoulder-width stance and grab the barbell. You can also use a close grip bar which is used to perform seated cable rows. This will increase the range of motion.

3. With your shoulders back, start lifting the barbell and take it to your waist. Don’t bend your lower back during the movement.

4. Return back to the starting position slowly and then repeat the movement.

Recommended reps- 10-12

Go heavy on this. Make sure to keep your back straight during each rep. You can do this exercise at the beginning stage of your workout as it is a heavy compound exercise.

If you find T-bat row difficult or want to try some other alternatives then check this article on T bar row alternatives.

4. Landmine Row

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This exercise is another different way to train the lats. Here, you need a landmine setup. This is a unilateral exercise where you can focus on each side separately. If you have one side weaker than the other, then you should do this exercise. It is a compound movement and will target the same muscles. So another alternative option for you!

Targeted muscles – Lats, rhomboids, traps, teres major

How to do

1. Set a barbell in the landmine setup and stand just beside the bar.

2. Now bend down by taking your hips back and grabbing at the end part of a barbell from one hand. Your hips should be back and your chest should be up. This will be your starting position.

3. Start lifting the barbell up by flexing your lats. Your elbow should be in to make it an exact alternative for T bar row. You can also do it with your elbows out as shown in the video.

4. Return to the starting position and do subsequent reps in a controlled way.

Recommended reps- 10-12

Make sure to keep your back flat and do this exercise with proper form and technique. You should engage your lats as you pull the bar up.

5. Dead Row

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The dead row is another great compound exercise that you can do instead of rack pulls. A dead row is a combination of a deadlift and a row. This exercise will work the entire back muscle. So if you haven’t done this before, then you should try it.

Targeted muscles- lats, rhomboids, abs, and lower back

How to do

1. Stand under the bar with both feet at about shoulder-width apart. Go down by moving your hips back and keeping your chest up.

2. Grab a bar at about shoulder-width apart. Look straight while keeping your back flat. This will be your starting position.

3. Lift the bar by pushing your feet to the ground. Bring it towards the knee level.

4. From the knee level, start pulling the bar towards the abdomen. Squeeze your lats as you pull.

5. Bring the bar back to the knee level and then descend. Return to the starting position and then repeat.

Recommended reps – 8-10

You can go heavy on this but make sure that your lower back doesn’t arch. You should not feel too much stress on the lower back during this exercise.

6. One Arm Row

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One arm row is another great alternative exercise you can add in place of the rack pulls. One arm row is much easier and is an amazing exercise for your back.

This exercise is good at focusing on each side of your back separately. Whenever you do any unilateral movements like this, you can get rid of the muscular imbalances. So if one side of your back is weaker than the other, then consider doing this exercise.

How to do

1. Grab a dumbbell and place one hand on the bench while holding a dumbbell in other hand. Now keep one leg on the bench and the other leg on the floor at a side.

2. Roll your hips up and keep your shoulders retracted. This will make your back neutral. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by rowing the dumbbells up while keeping your elbows in. Your elbow should be at a 90°angle as you move the dumbbell up.

4. Stop at the top and squeeze your lats. Then slowly return to the starting position and then repeat.

Make sure to fully stretch your back at the bottom. This will increase the range of motion and will be more effective for growth.

You can do this exercise with heavy dumbbells but make sure that you don’t round your back during the movement.

7. Incline Dumbbell Row

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Another great alternative to rack pull. Here, you cannot use too much momentum, which will put all the tension on your lats. So if you want to develop a good mind and muscle connection, then this is the best exercise to do.

If you can’t feel the tension on the lats during the one-arm row, then try this exercise. Here, you can build an amazing mind and muscle connection.

Targeted muscles- latissimus dorsi, traps, rhomboids, teres major, erector spinae.

How to do

1. Grab two pairs of dumbbells on both hands. Lay down on an incline bench with both feet supported down the bench.

2. From this position, roll your shoulders back and start lifting the dumbbells up towards your mid stomach. Your elbows should be in to focus more on lat muscles.

3. Maintain a 90° angle between the elbow. Otherwise, your biceps will start dominating the exercise.

4. Pause at the top and then go down slow and stretch your back at the bottom.

5. Your shoulders should go back before you move the weights up. This is key to targeting your back.

Recommended reps- 10-12


You can also do the same exercise with a barbell. Chest supported barbell row. Your range of motion will be reduced when performing with a barbell instead of dumbbells as the bar will touch the bench at the end.

But you should add some variations and changes to your workout program to get continuous results. So try some new exercises sometimes.

Form- The form and technique of the barbell chest supported row is similar to the incline dumbbell row. Just remember to hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip and everything else is the same.

If you don’ have a bench, then you can try other alternatives to incline dumbbell row

8. Wide Grip Incline Cable Rows

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This is a different way of training your lats. A wide grip incline row is a great exercise you can do with cables. This will target the mid part of the back and is a great variation you should try.

Targeted muscles- latissimus dorsi, teres major, rhomboids ( mostly upper back)

How to do

1. Place an incline bench in front of a cable machine and attach a wide bar at the cable machine.

2. Lie prone on an incline bench. Bar placement should be down so that you can pull it up toward your abdomen.

3. Hold the bar with a grip than shoulder and bring the bar towards the abdomen.

4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Recommended Reps- 14-15

You don’t have to go heavy on this. It’s very important to have a good mind and muscle connection during these kinds of exercises. Otherwise, you will not get the best results.

You should do the exercise slowly because the positioning of this exercise makes it difficult to generate more power. So it’s basically to create a new stimulus to your lat muscles for growth.

It’s a little advanced exercise so do it properly with the right form and technique.

9. Reverse Grip Cable Rows

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This is good to build the thickness of your back. With the reverse grip, you will get a much better contraction. So try this one out.

With the reverse grip, your shoulder will be in a much safer position and you can feel more on your mid-back. Make sure that you are not rounding your lower back when you go forward. The neck and back should be straight.

Targeted Muscles- lats, rhomboids, teres major

How to do

1. Sit on the bench with both feet on the ground or place a stepper just behind the cable machine to place the leg over it. Attach a pulley at the lower part of the machine.

2. Grab both ends of the straight bar with an underhand grip and sit straight. Keep your back tight and chest up. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by pulling the weights towards the upper abdominal region and squeeze your lats at the end. Breath out as you pull.

4. Slowly bring your arms back to the starting position and then repeat.

Recommended Reps- 12-15

Try to bring the bar towards the mid stomach and squeeze the muscles harder at the end. Always perform the exercise with full concentration as there is no reason to perform any exercise if you cannot use the right muscles.

10. Standing Lat Pushdown

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Standing lat pushdown is a type of corrective exercise that will improve your stability and performance. This exercise is good for your lats and helps you in improving the range of motion.

Targeted Muscles- lats and teres major

How to do

1. Attach a pulley at the upper end of the cable machine and hold the straight bar with a shoulder-width grip.

2. Start the exercise by pulling the bar while keeping your elbows extended and bring the weight down to the bottom.

3. Squeeze your lats at the bottom and then slowly return to the starting position.

Recommended Reps – 12-15

Don’t bend your neck and stay upright. Shoulders always back as obvious. Go slow on this and make sure you are fully focused while performing this exercise.

Many times people use their triceps rather than their back. This happens because of a poor mind and muscle connection. That’s why do it slowly and feel the contraction on the right muscle.

Final Review

As you can see that there are so many alternative options available for rack pulls. Just like this, each exercise has its alternatives and you should never stop your workout if you can’t do anyone exercise. Don’t stop if the gym is crowded or the machines are not available. You can continue with other alternatives.

If you do your workout at home and you have some basic equipment like dumbbells or barbells, then you can do so many of these exercises discussed above.

If you found this blog helpful, then do share it with your friends or share it on social media so that we can reach more people and can grow our website. Also, if you know of any other alternative exercises, then do share that with us in the comment section below.

Also Read

  1. 14 Best Stiff Leg Deadlift Alternatives (Easier and Effective)
  2. 10 Best One Arm Row Alternatives (That Works Same Muscles)
  3. 11 Best Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown Alternatives
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