Rack pulls are an empowering exercise for women who want a simple way to burn fat, tone & strengthen their back and core, and tone their arms & legs.

Very few women do rack pulls. For some mysterious reason, the rack pull is a rare gem among the women, even though it’s one of the easiest exercises to perform.

I’m first going to give instructions (so easy!); then I will tell you why women should do rack pulls.

How to Do a Rack Pull

• At the “squat rack,” set a barbell on the support bars. The support bars should be inserted at the bottom hole, or second-last or third-last hole.

• Stand over the barbell, feet shoulder-width apart (or narrower or wider to your comfort).

Alternative to free-weight rack pulls is o use a tracked device (Smith machine). Everkinetic, CreativeCommons

• Lower as if doing a squat, but only enough so that your hands can reach the bar, arms straight as pins.

• Keep your back as upright as possible. Don’t let it round. Keep the lower part arched.

• Now straighten your legs, pulling the barbell off the support bars, straightening your back.

• Hold for one second, then lower WITH CONTROL. That completes one repetition.

Everkinetic, CreativeCommons

• There are several nuances with this exercise (coming up), but these are the basics.

• Think of the rack pull as a top deadlift. It’s actually a deadlift that begins higher up off the floor.

Benefits of the Rack Pull for Women

• As you just read, it’s really easy. There’s no balancing, no odd body positioning or jarring movements on the joints.

• It really hits the lower and middle back and the entire core.

• Though the arms are straight, they get worked. So do the shoulders and trapezius muscles.

• Strengthens the grip.

• Since the legs are bent and must straighten as the weight is lifted, the legs get worked—and thus become stronger and more toned.

• This movement has a serious carry-over to the lifting motions that are done in everyday life. It will improve a woman’s ability to lift things up like luggage and garbage.

• A good intense rack pull routine twice a week will burn way more fat than many other exercises that are far more popular with women such as inner-outer thigh movements on a machine, crunches, triceps kickbacks, dumbbell curls, endless aerobic pedaling and dance-type group fitness classes.

• But the secret is to apply progressive resistance; the heavier a woman can train with the rack pull, the more fat it will burn.

• In other words, a rack pull with just 65 pounds won’t burn much fat.

• Women who feel too fat to exercise will find that the rack pull comes as easily to them as it does to thin women.

• By the same token, women who feel like 90 pound weaklings can do the rack pull.

Will the rack pull give a woman big muscles?
No. I’ve done rack pulls of 265 pounds, and I couldn’t build big muscles with this exercise to save my life. However, my core, back, arms and grip are very strong.

Details on Performing the Rack Pull
• The rep range should be four to 10. I know that’s a lot to choose from, but it depends on your goals and your mood.

• The lower the rep range, the heavier the barbell should be.

• So if you can complete 10 repetitions, you should not stop at four or even eight. You should do as many reps as absolutely possible. But the range should be at least four, and there’s zero need for exceeding 10.

• Each time you lower the barbell to the support bars, do the “touch and go” method. Don’t flat-out lay the barbell down with a pause, but rather, tap the bars and rise up again.

• If you’re pushing to your max with very heavy weight, you will probably find it necessary to let the barbell loose before completely lowering back down.

It will hit the support bars hard. This is okay for the last rep, but don’t be doing this for all the preceding reps.

• As for which hole to insert the support bars, the lower the hole, the harder the exercise will be (and the lighter the weight you’ll need to use).

• The lower the hole, the more that your core, back, legs and arms will work.

• Performing rack pulls with straight legs will recruit more of the lower back and hamstrings.

• Do three or four sets with 60 seconds in between.

• If you’re gunning for being as strong as possible with the rack pull, rest two minutes in between sets, and set the weight for a four to five rep max for each set.

IMPORTANT: Use a mixed hand grip (one hand under, one hand over). Otherwise you’ll run into problems holding onto the barbell as it gets heavier.

Rack pulls should be a staple among women who strength train!

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.