Rack Pulls Or Deadlifts For A Thicker Back?

When it comes to lifting big, we all know what we need to do. Grab the bar and lift that massive weight as we seek to progress in our fitness and our monster goals. Between deadlifts and rack pulls, we can see a huge difference in our strength and size, but also our ability to promote better support and stability to aid in other big lifts of ours. While both are essential and can prove to be more than worthwhile for our gains, it is important to know the difference so we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into. We’ll dive into both of these big lifts and see which one is better for promoting gains. You won’t be disappointed by the results of these seriously massive lifts.

Rack Pulls Vs. Deadlift: Which exercise will give you the best back gains?

It’s long been proven that the deadlift is one of the greatest exercises you can perform for a bunch of different reasons. First off, it’s a great back and core routine that can get your back thicker and stronger. It also has the major benefit of offering the lifter some functional strength. It’s the reason the lift is incorporated in so many strength and conditioning programs. Hell, Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman is pretty damn obsessed with them. But say you want to find another exercise for back gains, one that requires a bit less effort and much of the same results. Just what other exercise could you do?

If you haven’t guessed rack pulls by now then shame on you (it’s in the title for God’s sake). Rack pulls for all intents in purposes is essential the cousin of deadlifting. It requires much of the same motion and can be great for building up the back. But there are two schools of thoughts when it comes to this exercise. One group thinks that it’s a great replacement for deadlifts while the other, you guessed it, believes that there is no replacing the deadlift for back gains. So which is the way to go?

The difference between Rack Pulls & Deadlifts

Deadlifts and Rack Pulls essentially have the same motion, at least at the tail end of each exercise. The deadlift is a lift that is seen in competitive powerlifting competitions, the rack pull is not. The deadlift also has a greater range of motion, from the floor and lifted up off the ground until the lifter locks out their hips with the motion. Rather than lifting from the floor, the rack pull is simply lifted up from the rack, locked out like a typical deadlift and back onto the rack for a shorter range of motion. This can help by still allowing growth to happen without the risk of unwanted pain or injury that can keep you from the gym. Rack pulls are a nice alternative to the deadlift for this very reason and will slide into your routine nicely.

Heavy Lifting

So why do the rack pull if you’re not going to get the full range of motion as you would from the deadlift? Simple. You can actually haul more weight with the rack pull seeing as how you start the lift from the rack itself. That means you’re more likely to pack on the weight for a heavier lift. This will help with the lifters lock out when performing the deadlift and fix any possible mistakes.

Rack Pulls Benefits

So since you can lift heavier straight from the rack, does that mean the rack pulls will give you a thicker back? There’s the rub. You can certainly get a thicker back from doing rack pulls, but you won’t get as much functional strength as you would from deadlifts. The good news is that if you’re looking to work the back for aggressive gains then the rack pull could be the way to go. It’s shorter range of motion means less stress on the central nervous system and therefore can allow you to throw in more sets of rack pulls into your back routine without the same fatigue as doing deadlifts. You don’t sacrifice any gains doing these and will only work to protect yourself.

And the verdict is on Rack Pulls Vs. Deadlifts is…

The best part of working out is that there are so man different options out there to choose from. These two lifts are a great example of exercises that may seem the same but offers different benefits. But which one is truly better for back gains? Simple answer is that both should be in your rotation. Deadlifts are a classic and essential lift that will offer not only a bigger back but some serious strength as well. It’s the exercise that turned Franco Columbu into a car lifting machine. But on those days where you want to get your back to grow without having to put your body through as much stress, it’s a great idea to throw some rack pulls in the mix.

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Evan Centopani performing a rack pull.

Supplements For Huge Lifts Like Rack Pulls

When it comes to these big lifts, it is important to have a solid supplementation routine in place to maximize all of those gains. For many, protein supplements and pre-workouts are go-to’s and for good reason. But testosterone boosters should not be overlooked, especially for those suffering from low T levels. What a good testosterone booster can do is elevate those gains to new heights and aid in growth and vitality, things essential for getting the most out of massive lifts. Don’t sell yourself short and look into a good T booster today!


Check out our list of the Best Testosterone Boosters for some seriously effective supplements!


So what do you think? Are rack pulls the way to go or are deadlifts all you need? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook and Twitter.

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Jonathan Salmon
Managing editor of Generation Iron, Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. He has been writing about bodybuilding, combat sports, and strength sports for over 8 years. Check out his YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Sound Cloud for in-depth MMA analysis.