Aditya Sahu ‧ CPT & Head Coach
Aditya is an ACSM certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist with more than 7 years training various people and transforming people's lives. He has written various publications for various sports and fitness magazines.
Staying fit in today’s world is a challenge. While there is much research that supports the idea of regular exercise, only a few people adopt it genuinely. However, if you want a toned body and stronger muscles, there is no way around frequent training.
Including a variety of isolation exercises is one way of focusing muscle growth throughout your body. But since these exercises only target specific muscle groups, you must combine numerous exercises for desired results.
Luckily, a better way to achieve your fitness goals is to pull workouts. Almost every strength training workout includes pulling exercises since they simultaneously engage multiple body muscles. Plus, they activate all your large muscle groups, such as the core, shoulders, biceps, and back, thus enhancing the quality of your workout.
So we asked all our trainers team to prepare list of best 13 pull up exercises which can also act as compound exercises and train most of the muscles. And here is the top 13 we came up with.
To help you get the perfect summer body that you are looking for, here are some of the best pull workouts.
The Best Pull Workouts To Train All Major Muscle Groups
Developing multiple muscle groups simultaneously demands a versatile workout paired with a regular training frequency. Developing your body muscles and stimulating their growth requires adequate planning and guidance. Therefore, to ensure that you include the best push-pull workouts in your routine, we have come up with some practical workout ideas.
1. Pull Up
Pull-ups are amongst the most challenging bodyweight exercises. However, most fitness experts recommend adding it to your workout routine if you wish to strengthen your upper body.
Being a compound exercise, the pull-ups activate your numerous muscle groups simultaneously. It involves lifting your body on a pull-up bar using your hands. Most people confuse pull-ups with chin-ups. But the truth is that pull-ups require an overhand grip while the latter uses an underhand grip.
Primarily, the pull-up exercise engages your biceps and lats while you work to hoist your body upwards. But in doing so, it also utilizes other muscle groups such as abdominal, deltoids, and chest muscles. The pull-ups are an excellent functional bodyweight exercise for developing a strong upper body.
Regardless of the misconceptions associated with pull-ups, anyone can perform this exercise. By understanding how to start, following the correct form, and investing time and energy, you can eventually master it.
Here is how you can perform this exercise with the correct form:
- Position yourself right below a pull-up bar.
- Grip the bar with an overhand grip while ensuring your hands are slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- If you find it difficult to reach the bar when standing upright, you can position a stable platform underneath you and stand on it.
- With your hands gripping the pull-up bar, this is your starting position.
- Hoist your body upwards by pulling it using your hands. Ensure you pull your belly inwards and shoulder blades back and down while performing this movement.
- Using your arm and back muscles, lift your upper body such that your chin crosses the bar. Also, keep your elbows slightly bent.
- Inhale as you reach the final position and slowly lower your body back to the initial position.
- Perform multiple repetitions of this movement.
2. Chin Up
Almost every strength training program would include chin-ups for a good reason. Whether you are an athlete, beginner lifter, or bodybuilder, this is one of the best pull exercises to keep your overall body in shape.
Belonging to the compound exercise category, this exercise utilizes your multiple body muscle groups at once. Typically, its standard variation involves grabbing a chin-up bar with an underhand grip and hoisting your body upwards until your chin is above the bar.
This exercise is an excellent bodyweight exercise that you can include in your push-pull workouts. It promises multiple benefits, such as working your upper body. They also help in developing biceps while enhancing your grip strength.
Consequently, it will help you effectively perform other exercises such as overhead press, lat pull downs, dumbbell lateral raise, and barbell curls.
To perform this exercise correctly, this is how you perform it:
- Position yourself directly underneath a chin-up bar.
- With your hands shoulder-width apart, grip the bar with your palms facing toward your body.
- Use a plyometric box if you cannot reach the bar in a standing position.
- Allow your legs to hang, and keep your elbows slightly bent.
- Lift your body upwards using your hands so your shoulder blades aren’t shrugged and your core tight.
- Continue hoisting your body until your chin crosses the chin-up bar.
- Slowly lower your body back to the starting position with a slight pause. Ensure that your arms straighten while your shoulder blades rotate downwards simultaneously with this movement.
- Repeat the movement several times.
3. Barbell Row
The barbell row, also known as the bent-over row, is a popular compound exercise that most fitness experts recommend including in your push-pull workout routine. It is a great way to train your glutes and leg muscles. It also works your lats, traps, and shoulder muscles, especially your rear delts.
Be mindful that correct form is crucial while performing the bent-over row exercise. Therefore, always choose a suitable weight and ensure that your movements are slow and controlled during this exercise.
The barbell row should be your go-to option if you dream of having a back with an aesthetic shape. Training back muscles can be challenging unless you push-pull workouts using the correct form and technique.
To perform the barbell row exercise, you must have an arched back while your body remains stationary. With weights hanging on your sides, you must perform vertical pulling movements without haste.
For people obsessed with bench press, the barbell row is a perfect addition to their push-pull routine. It adds versatility to your workouts and helps improve your posture while minimizing back pain.
Here are some steps you can adopt to ensure you perform the barbell row exercise correctly:
- Load the barbell and stand up with your feet hip-width apart.
- Slowly bend your knee joints and lean forward such that your back and neck align with your backbone.
- Hold the barbell with your hands using a wide grip that hangs parallel to the floor.
- Ensure that you can easily maintain stability in this position.
- With your core tight and shoulders squeezed, pull the weight upwards until it reaches your chest bone.
- While ensuring your back is straight, slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement several times.
Fitness experts regard deadlifts as the king of lifts, and for a good reason. It’s a super-effective exercise to add to your push-pull workout routine to grow big muscles, build strength, and improve your health.
By following the correct form, deadlifts can make your bones strong. Since all muscles from your neck to heels are heavily involved, bodybuilders and professional athletes love to perform this exercise regularly.
Deadlifts can be a challenging addition to your push-pull routines as they test your grip strength and core stability. As a beginner, it is recommended to use a lightweight and increase it gradually as your technique becomes flawless.
The good news is that deadlifts have many variations that you can perform to target multiple muscle groups while also inducing muscle growth. For instance, the Romanian deadlift is quite popular among fitness lovers due to its phenomenal strength-building potential.
In addition, deadlifts activate your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes, thus significantly increasing your leg strength. So, rather than adopting isolation exercises such as leg curl or leg press that only train a single muscle group, you can replace them with deadlifts.
To perform deadlifts correctly:
- Position yourself in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Now, with an overhand grip, grab the bar using your hands with a wide grip slightly broader than your legs.
- Ensure that your body position is stable and your grip is firm.
- Also, your hands must be equally distanced on the barbell to ensure maximum stability.
- Hoist the barbell upwards such that you are standing in an upright position.
- Ensure that you drive your hips forward and your back is flat during this movement.
- With a slight pause, slowly lower the barbell back to the ground.
- Perform repeated reps of this exercise.
5. T Bar Row
The T bar row is one of the best exercises to include in your push-pull workout. Many people believe that anyone looking for a muscular back should perform more rows, and rightly so.
While fitness lovers spend a lot of time and energy building upper back muscles through countless pull-downs, professional lifters dedicate themselves to rowing exercises. Pull downs and pull-ups are an excellent choice for a wider back, but the rowing exercises help with a thicker back.
Categorized as a compound exercise, the T bar row is an excellent choice to train your large muscle groups. These include rear delts, quadriceps, glutes, pectorals, traps, rhomboids, biceps, hamstrings, and latissimus dorsi muscles.
You can find various rowing exercises to train your back muscles. However, the T bar row is considered the best of the lot.
Executing the T bar row exercise using the correct form is essential if you want to avoid any injuries. Since this exercise involves unsupported forward movement, it can heavily strain your back muscles.
Here are some steps to execute this exercise the right way:
- Position yourself on the T-bar row platform with your feet on either side of the bar.
- With your feet slightly wider and knees bent, lean forward while arching your back.
- Adjust the weights on the bar. Ensure that it's neither too much nor too less for the exercise to be effective.
- Grab the handles of the T bar with both your hands. This is your starting position.
- Now, without bending your arms, lift the weight upwards without bending your arms so that your torso makes a 45-degree angle or higher with the floor.
- With your arms bent, pull the handle towards your upper chest. In doing so, ensure that your elbows and wrists are straight.
- Exhale and lower slowly to your starting position while keeping your arms extended.
- Repeat this movement multiple times.
6. Pendlay Row
If you wish your pull-day workout yields faster results, try adding the pendlay row exercise to your push-pull workout plan. Named after a famous weightlifting coach and expert, Glenn Pendlay, this is a great all-around exercise.
Pendlay believed that the pendlay row was the best way to execute the barbell. Rather than targeting a single muscle group, it engages multiple muscles, such as lats, along with several upper and lower back muscles.
Moreover, recent studies suggest that rowing exercises are great for developing back muscles while correcting your posture. Anyone looking to strengthen their upper body should focus on including the pendlay row exercise in their push-pull workout.
This exercise will test you if the standard barbell rows don’t offer a challenge. The reason is that you must hoist the bar from the floor every time.
This is how you should perform the pendlay row exercise correctly:
- Lean forward while bending your back from the waist to be parallel to the floor.
- With your hands shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, grip the bar using an overhand grip.
- Check if you have added a suitable weight by slightly lifting the bar.
- With your feet flat on the floor, this is your starting position.
- Tighten your core and hoist the weight upwards towards your abdomen.
- Ensure that you squeeze your shoulder blades while executing this movement.
- Then, lower slowly back to the floor.
- Remember to keep your back parallel to the ground through this entire movement.
- Repeat this exercise.
7. Lat Pull Down
The lat pull down is considered one of the best exercises to develop upper body pushing muscles such as lats. It also targets your shoulder muscles and has many variations to suit the needs of everyone.
Generally, a standard lat pull-down exercise involves pulling the bar that is often set on a cable pulley machine. The idea is to pull the bar downwards to your chin level and then release with control.
This exercise is super-effective for muscle growth across your shoulders and back. Since it works your back muscles, it also improves your posture while also enhancing your performance during other workouts.
You can decide which lat pull-down variation you want to add to your workout program. The straight arm, wide grip, and lat pull down with dumbbells are some of its most popular variations.
Be mindful of adopting the proper form before performing this exercise. If you are a beginner, here are some steps that you can follow:
- Hold the bar using an overhand grip and sit on the lat pull-down machine. Ensure that your grip is a bit wider than your shoulder width.
- Keep your shoulders in a protracted position while your elbows must be slightly bent and your arms straight.
- Your neck and head must be positioned directly over your hips.
- Also, your chin should be tucked inwards towards your chest.
- Begin the movement by pulling the bar downwards towards your collar bone.
- Squeeze your back while pulling your shoulders towards your backbone throughout this downward movement.
- Pause for a moment once you have pulled the bar parallel to your collarbone.
- Slowly control the bar as it pulls back to its starting position.
8. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
The single-arm dumbbell row could be a great addition to your push-pull workout. It helps you develop a more muscular back, especially with its multiple variations.
When compared to the barbell row, the single-arm dumbbell row has more to offer for your back. The single-arm dumbbell row enables you to focus all your energy on your traps and back muscles.
Another benefit of this exercise is that it minimizes any strength imbalances you must cater to. Not to mention its wide range of motion.
As the name suggests, you only use a single arm to perform this exercise. You can choose to use your right and left arm alternatively to counter any existing strength disparities.
The single-arm dumbbell requires you to position one knee and palm on a flat bench while you lift the dumbbell using the other hand. You must ensure that you lean forward during the entire movement.
To execute correctly:
- Lean on a flat bench holding the dumbbell in one hand while using the other to stabilize on the bench.
- Ensure that your one leg rests on the bench. Keep your back straight and parallel to the floor.
- With your arms stretched, ensure that you hold the dumbbell with a neutral grip.
- To begin the exercise, start pulling the dumbbell up towards your upper chest. Ensure that your upper chest is in a stationary position as you hoist it upwards.
- Focus on hoisting the dumbbell using your shoulder and back muscles rather than your arms.
- On top of the movement, contract your shoulders and traps.
- Lower the dumbbell back slowly until you reach the starting position. Repeat.
9. Stiff Leg Deadlift
The stiff leg deadlifts are a fantastic leg workout that you can include in your push-pull workout for versatility. It is an excellent exercise, especially for those who indulge in sports activities such as running.
Because this exercise engages your hamstrings and glutes, it helps build muscle while destroying the fat resting in your legs. Although the stiff leg deadlift resembles standard deadlifts, it primarily activates your leg muscles.
The leg training days can be challenging and if you are up for some challenge, include this exercise in your workout splits. As the name suggests, you are bound to keep your legs stiff as you raise and lower the barbell in a standing position. This helps focus on your hamstrings, increasing their strength and endurance.
For correct execution, here are some steps that you can follow:
- Adopt a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the barbell in your palms using an overhand grip.
- While keeping your knees slightly bent, ensure your body is entirely stable.
- Slowly bend at your waist and lower the bar with a straight back.
- Keep lowering the barbell until your hamstrings and glutes are extended.
- Raise the bar upwards back to the starting position. Ensure that the bar remains close to your body during this movement.
- Repeat the above movements slowly and in a controlled manner.
10. Cable Face Pull
If you want to take your pull workout to the next level, consider adding the cable face pull. Face pulls greatly activate your posterior deltoids, traps, and upper back muscles for a toned body.
In addition, face pull also assists you in building a thick upper back and stronger shoulders. As a result, lifting weights and enhancing your performance in exercises such as lateral raises would become easier.
Be mindful that you would need a cable machine to perform this exercise. A standard face pull requires you to pull the double-rope attachment towards your face.
One thing to note is that most people often overdo the weight while performing this exercise. In doing so, your back muscles get involved, thus decreasing the focus off your shoulders.
Here is how you can execute the cable face pulls with proper form:
- Set up the cable machine by fixing a double-rope attachment to a high pulley.
- Grip the rope handles using an overhand grip while your arms are fully stretched in front.
- Ensure that you lean backward such that your body forms a 20-degree angle with the cable machine.
- Pull the rope handles in your direction while keeping your elbows slightly higher than your wrists.
- Continue pulling until the rope handles are stretched to either side of your face.
- Now, allow the cable to return to the initial position while maintaining the tension.
- Execute the desired number of reps.
11. Dumbbell Biceps Curl
The biceps curl is a must if you want to include a strength training exercise in your workouts. It is a versatile exercise since you can perform it using dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or a cable machine.
The biceps curl is an isolation exercise known to develop strength in your upper arms. Although it focuses on developing your biceps, it offers multiple benefits.
A stronger bicep means your performance will improve considerably in pulling exercises. You can lift more weights while your grip strength also increases significantly.
With so many biceps curl variations available, we would highly recommend you go for the standing dumbbell biceps curls as a beginner.
We have enlisted some steps to help you correctly execute the dumbbell biceps curls:
- Bend your knees slightly and maintain a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides with your palms facing forward.
- Ensure that you tuck your elbows to your sides during the entire exercise.
- Keep your chest and head high while your back remains straight.
- Start bending your elbows to lift the dumbbells to your shoulder height.
- Squeeze your biceps on top of the movement.
- Start lowering the dumbbell and squeeze your triceps as you reach the starting position.
- Execute this movement several times.
12. TRX W Raise
The TRX W raise is an ideal workout to build muscle. It is a compound exercise that targets your upper back, biceps, shoulders, and abdominal muscles.
Most fitness trainers recommend people to include this exercise in their workout since it can be modified depending on their strength. The TRX W targets all your major muscle groups, making it a great exercise to maintain overall health.
To perform the TRX W raise, you would need a TRX suspension trainer. All you have to do is hang from the suspension trainer’s handles while your arms and feet support your body. Don’t forget to pull your chest upwards as if rowing in a boat.
If you want to include the TRX W raise in your strength training workout, here is a list of steps to go by:
- Grab the suspension trainer's handles and move backward so that your arms are fully stretched.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with squeezed shoulders to form an erected posture.
- Ensure that your elbows are fully stretched out and your arms extend in line with your chest.
- Start leaning backward and shift your weight from your feet to your heels such that your arms prevent you from falling.
- Use your arms, back, and shoulders to pull the handles towards yourself. Don’t forget to squeeze your shoulder blades during this movement.
- Wait for a second and slowly move back to your starting position.
- Do several reps of this exercise daily for desired results.
Apart from engaging your front deltoid, shrugs also activate your traps. It also engages your upper body pulling muscles, thanks to the pulling movements involved in this exercise. If you are looking for an aesthetic upper body with broad shoulders, this is the exercise for you.
Typically, a standard barbell shrug involves pulling the barbell upwards in an upright position. However, in this case, your shoulders and arms will perform all the hard work while your body posture will remain stationary. Some studies have even shown that contracting your shoulders 30 degrees during this movement induces higher muscle engagement.
Although this exercise has several variations, such as the dumbbell shrugs, the barbell shrugs are very popular. Besides, this exercise is ideal for building muscle mass and stimulating muscle growth in smaller muscle groups such as upper and lower trapezius muscles.
Here are the stepwise instructions on how to perform barbell shrugs the right way.
- With an overhand grip, hold the bar right above your knee height. You must grip the bar firmly in your palms to minimize finger fatigue.
- Ensure that your feet are stationed flat on the floor while adopting an erect posture. Keep your feet hip-width apart.
- You can move backward if you feel you are cramped for space.
- Keep your shoulder blades neutral while bending your hips in a forward direction.
- Now raise your shoulders by pulling them upwards, ensuring that your trapezius muscles are fully contracted.
- At the top of the movement, pause for a moment and then allow the bar to move back to its initial position.
- Implement these fundamental movements repeatedly.
Diversifying your workout exercises is the secret to attaining a toned and aesthetic body. While there are many workouts to choose from, the pull and push exercises are ideal for developing your upper body. They help you activate multiple muscle groups simultaneously to strengthen your overall body muscles. We hope that our enlisted exercises help you find your way towards a healthier lifestyle.