Rack Pulls vs. Deadlifts. Pros & Cons Of Each

In my Women Who Lift Weights Online Community Group I was asked this question.

“Robert King…thoughts on rack pulls vs deadlifts. Pros? Cons? I have put the safety bar on the lowest setting, so not far off the floor. It is below my knees. (I am barely over 5′ tall). I feel a little more stability with my lower back this way and can lift heavier. I do lift other times with the trap bar.”

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Here was my reply:

My thoughts are both have their benefits depending on the goal of why you are doing them.

Rack pulls are great at overloading the weight. Most people can handle more weight on rack pulls. Oddly enough I have seen some people not be as strong from rack pulls, but 90% of people can handle more weight. In an overload perspective, it seems great. You will build more muscle, jack you CNS and also improve your grip if not using straps.

Pulling from blocks/rack is suppose to be a bit easier overall on the body as compared to pulling from the floor. I know some powerlifting methods don’t do a lot of pulls from the floor.

As well, I have pulled big weight in rack pulls myself, and seen my athletes pull big weight and then miss a lift at that same height when pulling from the floor. So not sure how much carry over there is from blocks when you go back to the floor.

I think it can be a great tool for some athletes depending.

In your situation, where you feel your lower back when pulling from the floor it’s fine to use blocks/rack pulls.

If you are having trouble pulling from the floor it could be a couple of things. Mobility being one of them.

It seems for the most part that IF you are a conventional puller you are somewhat always going to feel it a bit in your lower back when pulling from the floor.

The same way that sumo will always tax the hips a little bit. Conventional is always somewhat taxing on the lower back.

If you are not a powerlifter and you find these more joint friendly and less taxing on the back it’s fine. However if you are a powerlifter, you need to pull from the floor at some point so you somewhat have to get used to it.

I hope this helps!

Rob

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