T Nation

High Pulls as Assistance

Anyone does them or tried?
I wanted to give them a go and treat them like one of the bigger assistance exercises (chins, rows).
They’d be done mostly for volume and size, so I was thinking about sets of 8-10 reps, while I only do power cleans, I seem to understand that snatch grip high pulls from either blocks or hang are the most suited for this goal.
The only thing I’m unsure about is the load, while it obviously needs to be relatively light, I want to have some kind of progression like with rows and I’m unsure where to start from - maybe base it on a % of my power clean numbers?

Hmm. Dunno about 8-10 maane. 10 reps is a long time to keep being explosive. Just equate volume so instead of 3x10 do 10x3 or whatever.

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Like khangles said, keep the reps low and the sets high. Also, keep you rest short. I usually do them for triples EMOM. I progress with them by feel. Technique and bar speed. If you are having trouble getting them up past your sternum, you are probably going too heavy for assistance.


I’ve done them in the past.
I would replace power cleans with high pulls.
Low reps.
I always used straps.
We would put a dowel in the rack and try to hit the dowel on each rep.
Done properly they are not so easy.
I would determine near a TM not just go off a percentage of another lift
Good luck, it’s a good lift.

Just do them light weight and not worry about the percentages of anything. Shot for 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps. Treat them for what they are. Assistance. Snatch grip works well, but I would just do them at different grips since you’re treating them like another big pull movement. Like with all assistance, make sure you chose this assistance for a purpose - just don’t do them to do them.

I like the idea of EMOM, 25-30 total reps is what I had in mind so 10 sets of triples EMOM sounds interesting. It would also leave room for some reps in a smaller exercise like face pulls

Thanks for the inputs, I think this approach would turn it too much into a main/supplemental lift and it’s not something I can fit into the program right now, but might happen in the near future (fingers crossed)

The reason behind is probably a bit dumb.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been front squatting and cleaning much more frequently and noticed my posture improved quite a bit, as in I’m more upright. I already wanted to give an extra push to my upper back but I also want to see if adding high pulls furtherly improves my posture (which isn’t bad to start with, as I’ve always done pull aparts and mobility work almost daily).
I’ve heard and read a lot of good opinions on the high pulls so I figured throwing them in for a few cycles couldn’t hurt me

I’d say a better assistance exercise for the upper back include face pulls, band pull aparts, and dumbbell squats. Look for training economy and make sure what assistance you chose has a purpose. The dumbbell squat kills two birds, maybe even three with one stone - it’s a great upper back developer as well as quads and core (think single leg/core assistance).

I know thib did an article on how the high pull will get you jacked, but with no eccentric portion to the lift I really don’t see how.

My 2 cents
It’s assistance and you want to do them as assistance.
EMOM’s sounds great.
Do them for 1 or 2 cycles maybe even twice a week.
After that make a statement here on the forum.
Many people ask what to do for assistance, they get a lot of answers.
But rarely people give feedback.
High pulls are great, so come back tell us what was good and what wasn’t.


Face pulls and pull aparts have been a staple in my routines for about an year now, I stick to them religiously.
“Funny” anecdote: when I began training, almost two years ago, I could barely bench 70 pounds for reps. Every single rep would give me a sharp pain in the right shoulder, radiating on the back towards the scapula and on the front towards the sternum.
Obviously my right shoulder was cranky and now shoulder health is probably the first thing I consider when I decide to do any exercise, which is why I’ll never drop pull aparts and face pulls.

Now, goblet squats, they’re great. I’ve done them in the past and agree they work all three areas you mention, only gripe they gave me is some discomfort in my lower back.
But the catch here is that I’m doing full body routines and squatting 3 times a week. The next two cycles I planned are even more intensive in the squat (full body 7 and 12), so I have to hold back on leg stuff.
I could add them after these two cycles when I’ll be doing full body 16, which is lighter on the squats.

As mortdk said, this would allow me to test high pulls for a pair of cycles, then also do goblet squats and evaluate better on the subject. I think I’ll go with 10 sets of 3, EMOM, using different grips width

Unsure, maybe being a more explosive lift it taps into a different stimulus than what most people are used to, and teh gainzzz follow.
Gotta say, my shoulders/traps and back are decent compared to the rest. The whole area seems to grow at a quicker rate than the rest, not expecting high pulls to make any kind of miracle change overnight, but I added cable laterals and overhead shrugs in the last few weeks and both gave results very quickly

Because, type II fibers have a greater potential to hypertrophy, than slow twitch fibers. There is an eccentric as well, unless you are just dropping the bar onto the blocks. Especially, with heavier weights it’s easy to notice yourself actively braking to decelerate the bar so as to not absorb all the impact on your joints and tendons. I also wouldn’t classify stuff like facepulls, band pull a parts, etc as assistance. It’s just prehab that you should be doing anyways and takes zero out of you.

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I don’t really believe in magic bullet movements, but the snatch grip high pull is one of the few that kind of shocked me as to how fast I responded to so quickly. Any kind of explosive movements or doing the power lifts much like westside dynamic effort days, no matter the intensity. I’ll obviously take a little more rest the heavier I go, but for singles, doubles and triples. The best thing I have ever done in regards to training is stumbling onto an article by Fred Hatfield about figuring out whether you are an easy/average/hard gainer and applying it.

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I do have to say. This programmed heavy like a 5x3 twice a week built a yoke better than anything else I’d ever tried. I’ve done it with 531 and used the rule for adding cleans. 531 progression and did them before DL and Squat

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Try a Snatch grip high pull and superset it with a cable rope upright row… Damn

Can you share more?
How did you program them, what template were your running, if/how you based the weight on a %/RM or if you went by feel etc

When I first plugged them in I wasn’t doing 531. I used double progression. But the times it’s been in 531 I used the same recommendation Jim gives in the book (don’t remember, I think beyond) about how to add power cleans. Use 531 progression, place before either your deadlift or squat. I don’t remember the program but it should be fine as long as what you’re currently doing doesn’t have a recovery problem. My memory fails me but it was likely a simple template like OG 531 or FSL. But do whatever program fits your goals and add them in, see how it goes. If recovery isn’t an issue, sweet. If so, take em out and try something else when the cycle is done. But pick a template that is aligned with your goals, not for the sake of programming highpull. You can certainly have your cake and eat it too. Something like that. All my lifts I use 85% except the highpull I use 90 because it’s about power and explosion not strength.
Just an FYI don’t do them after Deadlifts! Haha. To be honest I personally think it’s fine but after heavy deads I did my first set of the HP and blasted my chin cuz it felt like a damn feather… Take that for what it’s worth lol

Hey mate, sorry for the delay, forgot to reply.
It’s good advice and I’ll re-read Beyond to see how cleans are added, only thing, it’s better suited with the 4 days upper-lower programs. Right now it would be too much to add in full body routines, they’re already fairly busy. But I’ll definitely do it once I switch back to upper lower templates in a pair of cycles.

As a side note, I tried them yesterday, I was in a hurry and the gym was getting crowded.
I did:
-Front Squats 5x5 SSL superset with band pull aparts
-Weighted Chins 25 reps
-Press 5’s Pro superset with face pulls
-High Pulls 10x3 EMOM
-Tricep pushdowns about 50 reps

I did high pulls from the blocks with 110lbs. Expected them to be easier but starting from a dead stop each time is challenging - I’m unsure about the height I reached but it seemed most of the times I was going about at nipples level. Technique definitely needs improvement.
By the way, a couple hours after the workout I was already feeling some doms in my traps. Today, I really really feel the doms. Just a quick first impression, I’ll start next cycle putting them twice a week in the schedule