Rack Pulls or Deadlifts? A Detailed Comparison of Strength Exercises

Rack Pulls or Deadlifts? It has been a long and ongoing debate as to what workout works best. Although they share one common goal, that is to strengthen the back muscles. However, ideas and perspectives have collided and caused a slight argument as to the effectiveness of these exercises. The question remains, which is best? After reading this article, you will already have the answer to that mind-bugging question.

First and foremost, before we try and dig for the answers about rack pull or deadlifts, let us first get one thing straight. Our backs!

Our back muscles are considered to be one of the largest muscle groups in a human body. However, people have commonly underestimated its importance in our every day activities. It may be located at the back part and may seem unrecognizable. But, the back is like an underdog which hides its own powers and strengths.  So, the question enters, why is there a need to strengthen our back muscles? How important is the back muscles to our day-to-day activities?


People, especially bodybuilders, have spent a huge percent of their attention to the chest, abs, arms and legs that they overlooked the importance of the back muscle. The tendency when it comes to going to the gym is that we target all other parts except the back.

Well, the following list you will find below might just change your perspective and thinking about the back muscles. Here is a list of why it is important to strengthen our backs.

1. It is the Support System for all Other Parts

Whenever you are doing your regular chest exercise, without you knowing your back plays a major role in helping you execute those exercises. Not only for chest workouts, but for other parts of the body as well. You can not expect to have a strong chest without having a strong back support. Furthermore, your back helps you assist in most of your weightlifting activities. Even if it is as simple as doing your regular leg exercises. Your upper and lower body relies majorly on how your back is conditioned and if it is as strong as it should be or not. Basically, every other part is somewhat interdependent on the back area.

2. Significantly Improves Posture

Enabling yourself to undergo back strengthening also means ensuring yourself a proper posture. Having a strong back means you are exercising every bit of its maximum potentials. Which means, you are reaching its highest capacity which is for it to be strengthened, healthy and properly aligned. Thus, all of these automatically results to a proper posture.

Studies have even shown that people who do not undergo back training are more likely to suffer from back pains and injuries over the years.

3. Ensures Overall Fitness

If you are able to train sufficiently and strengthen your back, you are actually reducing the risks of injuries and illnesses. Having a strong back means you are capable of performing strenuous activities. Because, a strong back is very crucial when it comes to executing power and lifting even during our day-to-day life activities.

Furthermore, strengthening your back lowers the risk for developing muscular disorders in the back area.

Now that we have fueled our knowledge regarding the importance of our back area, let us now weigh in the importance of either rack pulls or deadlifts.


Both exercises target the back area. However, they work in different ways that sometimes can be overlooked as not effective or helpful for back training. Either, the rack pulls or deadlifts has been the two top go-to choice for back strengthening exercises. Nonetheless, both of these exercises have received a fair amount of positive feedback. So, it is slightly confusing to choose whether which exercise outweighs the other. Will it be rack pulls or deadlifts?

Rack Pulls

Bodybuilders might attest to this statement that rack pulls are like the first cousins of deadlifts. It is somewhat considered as the base foundation for a more improved deadlifting performance.

This particular strength building exercise is responsible for the back and hip extension. Since, it targets the back chain muscles. Bodybuilders, over the years, have engaged themselves in rack pulls in order to enhance the muscularity and thickness of the back area.

Rack Pulls are done with the use of heavy weights and executed in low repetitions. This exercise is not recommended as suitable for amateurs or beginners.

How do you Perform Rack Pull?

  • The first thing that you have to do is to position a loaded barbell in a squat rack.
  • The height should just be leveled as the same height of your knees.
  • Use a shoulder-width grip or a mixed frip as your position yourself to grab and lift the barbell. As you reach for the barbell your knees should be slightly bent too.
  • Your feet should be at hip-width position and should be located directly below the barbell. Also, your back should be slightly leaning forward and your hips are slightly pushed backwards to engage your hamstrings.
  • Then, slowly lift your chess as you contract your muscles going to a stand up position. Make sure that your arms are straightened and fully extended and your shoulders should be locked all the way. Hold this position for about a second or two and go back to your previous position.
  • Repeat for desired or prescribed amount of sets and repetitions.


The deadlift is a compound weight training exercise that makes use of a barbell as its main equipment. The barbell intensifies the exercise by letting the bodybuilder exert an extraordinary amount of effort, power and strength. Hence, further improving the muscular build-up one the body. Particularly, on the back area of the person.

Yet, as a matter of fact, deadlifts can also be performed using kettlebells and dumbbells. Either using one hand or both hands or even standing on a single leg or both legs. What is fun about the deadlift is that its variations are limited depending on the person’s imagination.

Deadlift is derived from the notion of lifting of dead weight. Which means, executing the exercises without using any momentum in the beginning. That is the reason why in doing deadlifts, the barbell starts on the floor. This is to put emphasis on the root word “dead” on the word deadlift, which means “dead weight”.

This particular exercise is classified in to two: the conventional deadlift and the sumo-deadlift. The deadlifts, joining in together with the squats and bench press, belongs to the top three powerlifting exercises ever known.

How do you Perform the Deadlifts?

  • Start off with the barbell placed on the floor.
  • Next, place your feet directly below the barbell at a hip-width stance.
  • Slowly bend down as you grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. In this motion, both your legs are maintained straight, if not possible, slightly arched.
  • Now, bend your knees forward as you push your hip backwards. Your guide here to know if how low you should bend is your shins. Your shins should touch the bar.
  • Next, as you are about to lift the barbell up, contract your core muscles and lift your chest up. Ensure that your back is straight as you begin to lift the barbell off from the ground.
    • Tip: When lifting the barbell do not move the bar. As well as, your hips should not drop. In short, there should not be any momentum in every movement.
  • Finish off with a standing position with your back fully straightened and arms extended on your sides. Make sure that both your hips and knees are locked to know that you have reached the accurate end position.
  • Return the barbell slowly with pushing your hips back first. Basically, you return to the starting position doing the reverse motion of what you had just did.

How do both exercises Differ?

If you understood it closely, these two exercises are not that far off different from each other. Where in fact, they are relatively similar in terms of performance and execution. One visible, yet slight difference, is the placement of the weights or the barbell. For the rack pulls, the barbell is placed on a power rack ensured with safety pins. While on the other hand, the deadlifts are basically rack pulls which starts off from the bare ground.

Another difference of both of these exercises is that level of intensity it requires. As for the rack pulls, since it is elevated at knee level, the range of motion and intensity is lesser. While, the deadlifts are more challenging and intense because you start from the ground. So, there is more power, effort, energy and strength required.

However, there is a slight mind-bottling mystery when it comes to the rack pulls. For the reason that since it requires shorter range in motion, the lesser the stress you feel on other parts of your body. Thus, you can increase the heaviness of the weights which would result to added intensity. It gives you more time and ways to focus on strengthening your back and your shoulder blades because of the reduced stresses on the glutes, legs and lower back.

The Verdict: Which is Better? Rack Pulls or Deadlifts?

It would be difficult to weigh in both exercises and just choose one. Since, both strengthening exercises promise intense results on the back area of a person.

As mentioned above, you can go all out if you opt to execute rack pulls. Since, the advantage of this exercise is you can focus more on strengthening your back and shoulder blades. Given that, the stress that occurs on the glutes, legs and lower back are significantly alleviated.

But then again, you can still achieve the same results as rack pulls when doing dead lifts. On the condition that, you give in your all and perform at your maximum potential and strength. Which is the slightest of problem that are experienced by body builders. Since, it is hard to parallel the level of strength and power you get to do while doing your rack pulls than that of the dead lifts because of the additional stress. Irregardless, the advantage of deadlifts is that you do not only strengthen your back but you get to also develop your leg, glutes and lower back muscles.

As far as this has gotten, it is still a little shady as to which is which.

But, for the sake of answers and for peace of mind, here is what this article thinks. It all depends on the person. If you are still an amateur or beginner, it would be best to start of with rack pulls. Because, with rack pulls you get to learn the basic and correct form of lifting. Which would be highly helpful when you now move to trying deadlifts.


Both can be beneficial if you choose to make them beneficial. Each exercise has their pros and cons. Moreover, not everyone is the same. The deadlifts might work best for a friend and it may not turn out as great for you. It all depends on how you perform inside the gym and make the most out of the exercise.