T Nation

Pullups + DL-- What Else?


Doing dead lifts and pullups for back--2X per week. I've noticed many people mention rows also. As a beginner/intermediate lifter should I add barbell rows to my routine or should the DLs and pullups suffice?

Goal is to gain strength.

T-Nation is an incredible site.
Wish Biotest would do an IPO


DLs plus pull-ups plus bent-over rows AND shrugs, and you will have a bad-ass back, dude.


To add to what Deano said, I'd say that if you're doing heavy deads and rows, the shrugs are just gravy. That is, you could probably do without them, as long as you hit the other 3 movements seriously enough.


I do pullups, deadlifts, and bent-over rows. Between those three exercises, you will have an AWESOME back.

Yeah, DLs help with the traps, but shurgs make them the biggest, because you can do a lot more weight with shrugs than with deadlifts. I'm willing to bet that as a beginner, deadlifting little poundage won't even hit the traps very hard (although with me, it certainly did, maybe my traps were just very weak).

Anyways, I don't see why you shouldn't do rows along with pullups and dls. Furthermore, bent-over rows are the antagonist to the bench press, and antagonistic exercises are always great (and it's not as if you're not benching).


In the new article, Arizona Training, they have a good list of what fundamental exercises should be done. Id say learn them all..or try to at least.


Gonna do the same myself.


Definitely do some horizontal pulling. Lats are an internal rotator too, so pull ups alone won't do enough to balance the horizontal pushing I'm assuming you do.


I know it's a beginners thread. I know not every gym has the available space.

Ditch the shrugs (though they have their place) and get the double/triple whammy doing the farmers walk. No gym space--then figure a way to incorporate these at home or somewhere if you can.

The back ex. listed above plus the incredible trap work+gpp/cardio benefits of the farmers walk make it--to me-one of the most underrated lifts of all time. Your traps should just pop if you're doing deads,cleans and farmers.


Thanks all for the good advice. What is a farmer's walk? Is that holding 2 dumbbells and walking around on your toes for a few minutes?


In response to the farmer's walk question, yes it is basically picking up a weight and walking with it (not necessarily on your toes) for distance. Try to keep your palms on the weight for as long as you can, not just letting them slip to the ends of your fingers.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I am almost done with my graduate work in physical therapy. I am saying these things in the hopes of keeping you out of a sports medicine clinic.

On the concept of rows, listen to this, please! STRONGLY contract your scapular retractors during rows. Don't concentrate on your upper traps as much as your lats and lower traps / rhomboids / mid. traps. Why do I say this? It is because there are so many people with these imbalances that I see everyday. I don't care how many people I see at the clinic who say they do rows, they end up over utilizing larger muscle groups while neglecting the smaller, extremely important muscle groups that will help keep their shoulders safe. I have also suffered from this personally, and I am no neophyte. (I have a back pic on the site somewhere if you don't believe me)

How does one incorporate this into a workout routine? Simple: On back day, start off with some smaller exercise (using a theraband for example) to activate the scapular retractors. Don't fatigue them with a heavy weight, just give them a slight pump so you are able to feel them. Next, perform your row exercise while really contracting the muscles you feel a pump in (and not contracting the upper traps).

Also, however many rows you are doing, double them. Don't concentrate on the weight! Strengthen the retractors by the level of contraction they are able to perform at first, then progress with heavier weight basing increases on the ability of your retractors. I wish someone had made this exact point to me when I was starting out, but such is life.....

(You sound like a bit of a beginner, so even if you do deadlifts on back day, you should perform this type of pumping movement first. I say that because that you might alter you form if you were in the elite levels, but you can only benefit from this advice at your current training level)


Will definitely try what you said. Having never done rows I planned to start very light anyways.
Two other questions:

(1) I've seen 2 different ways of doing rows: (a) leaning forward at about a 45-degree angle and using a palms-up grip and (b) leaning forward at a 90-degree angle--chest parrallel to floor and using a palms down grip. Which is better and why?

(2) Should the farmer's walk be done at the end of the workout or perhaps saved for cardio days? How long should I walk? 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes?



i do dealifts on a single day and train the rest of my back on another day. works good for me.


Rows are a horizontal pulling movement, antagonistic to the horizantal push of the bench press. So the closer you can go to parallel the better. 45 degrees is fine, I like to go somewhere around 30. As far as grip, as I said, it's the antagonistic exercise to the bench press, so the same overhand grip is best.

I keep talking about rows vs. bench press as if they're equal but opposite, but also keep in mind that the bench press is supported, whereas bent-over rows aren't, so the weight wno't be the same, etc.


All four are all you need. I throw in Dumbell Rows once in awhile for a good shock also.


I'd say if you're doing farmer's walk for more than 2 minutes, the weights are WAY too light. I usually go across my gym once or twice, depending on how much I'm holding. If you have a trap bar or farmer's implements, you can hold much more weight than with dumbells. These should be heavy weights, not the pink dumbells that you see overweight women (or men) "speed walking" with through your neighborhood.


I don't do alot of regular bent over rows and I don't think they're a particularly good exercise for beginners. I think Eric Cressey has said something to that effect as well.

Rows are one of the few exercises I will use machines for some of the time. I also use cables quite a bit, and recently I've been doing these by laying face down on a bench with dumbells. The range of motion is somewhat abbreviated if you have a short bench, but concentrate on fulling depressing and retracting the scapula. Try holding the top position like that for a second on each rep.

Also, throw in some face pulls and scapular wall slides.

Here's a good article:


Have fun.



I like what you are doing. My only suggestion would be to change the routine after 8 weeks. Maybe it could look like this:

Currently: Deads -Pull-ups

Next: Barbell Rows - Chin-ups

Third 8 week period: T-Bar Rows- Seated Pully Rows.

Naturally, if you are training for a Deadlift contest you would want to always keep the Deads in your routine. However, If you are training for other reasons the above (or a variation of another sort) might just work out for you.