T Nation

For Back Size: Full Deadlift or Rack Pull?


Been doing ME and DE days on deadlift and in some cases I have been going 2 weeks between ME days depending on recovery. I have been doing conventional as well as rack pulls. The first foot for me pulling from the floor is very hard (6' 2"). When I pull from the rack I am pulling from mid shin with no problems and about 100lbs more.

If I am using the deadlift exercise as a back builder will I suffer or lose anything from going to strictly rack pulls? Is that extra foot of pull going to make that much difference in my back or is that where I will sacrifice the legs part of the exercise?


If you are interested in adding size, then why are you doing maximal effort deadlifting, which by definition is above 90% of your 1rm. Maximal doubles, triples, and singles are not going to be the most conducive to size gains as the fatigue is too great and the volume too low.

I do full ROM deadlifts and my back is just fine. Some people prefer rack pulls and their backs are just fine. It's up to you, just do them and get strong as fuck on them.


Regardless which of the 2 you decide to go with, I hope you're doing other things for your back other than just deadlifts or rack pulls.


Definately! Was just curious about this one exercise. I generally rotate between 6-8 different exercises to target lower, middle and upper back. Sometimes they get their own day and sometimes I use them as an antagonistic exercise with chest.


Personally, If back were my number one focus when deadlifting, I would perform rack pulls.


Well if that is you in your avatar I would like to know what you are doing for back. Whatever it is it appears to be working....Nice!


If your doing 6-8 other exercises a week for back, switching between rack pulls and deadlifts on ME days is not going to effect the size of your back. The only thing switching might do is effect your Maximum strength on whichever lift you decide not to do, if you lay off the lift for too long.


Taking away the ME day and going for reps with the rack pulls should suffice then. Would you agree?


Relaxed back shot...

I built my back using primarily these lifts:

1 Arm DB Rows
Oldschool T-bar Rows
V-grip Seated Cable Rows
Wide-grip Lat Pulldowns
Wide-grip Rack Chins

Occasionally Rack Pulls and Weighted Chins make their way in, but the ones listed above are what built my back and continue to do so. As much as I like Rack Pulling heavy weight because its cool - I've never felt it builds the back as well as actually ROWING weight, heavy T-bars are the shit.


For max effort and back development specifically, I would do the rack pulls and do 8-10 sets of 3 at around 90% of your 1RM. If you haven't done this sort of approach before (triples for 8-10 sets) you will get some nice new thickness out of it.

Just my $0.02.


Let fatigue be your guide.

I know when I do rack pulls I can feel it much more in my traps/mid-upper back vs a regular deadlift (more hips/hamstrings/low back). The first time I did rack pulls my traps were sore for days.

Granted, I have the physique of a bloated female figure athlete, but still...gains are gains.



I incorporate all the exercises you mentioned except for the t-bar. My gym has every machine, rack, mechanism under the sun except a t-bar row. Will a seated row suffice as a replacement? If not, then what....


Put a barbell in the corner?


'Old School' T-bars are done with a regular BB in the corner. Regular T-bars refer to the actual machine.

You can do the old school type either with both hands using a v-handle or with just one arm, similar to a DB row. Put a heavy-ish DB on the end of the BB in the corner to prevent the BB from popping out of place.

here's a great vid showing 1-arm t-bars:


We do have 2 of these and I use them every once in a while. I tend to do bent over rows instead though.


I'd have to disagree with the first point. I think if there is one exercise that should be done as heavy as possible, it's the deadlift, imo. That being said, I might bump the reps slightly, at a certain point. But if you're doing 3 sets of 6 with 300lbs, I believe your time would be better spent doing doubles and triples with 50+lbs added to the bar.


You said anything about three sets of 6?

A set to (near) failure at 6-8 reps is going to do a lot more for growth than hitting a max single every week.


I never mentioned rep range but I have been doing 4 sets of around 8 on the rack pulls. The ME days were generally the conventional lift at doubles or singles. When I am doing the rack pulls in the 8-10 rep range I pull from the bottom pin and then never touch the pin again til the set is over. Still dropping the bar about 4-6 inches below my knee with an explosive pull. When I up the weight into the 4-6 rep range I will re-pull each rep off the pins.


Just got back from the gym. The one arm rows are pretty good. Really targets the muscle well. Thanks.


I love working my back. My favorite exercises are heavy barbell rows, heavy pull-ups, deadlifts. Pretty straight forward. I like hammer strength rowing machines, they are cool lol, but those are probably the exercises that did the most in building my back.