Pull Day Exercises

The Ultimate Exercise List for Upper & Lower Body Pull Days

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: March 27, 2024

It’s pull day! You’ve taken your pre-workout, and you’re pumped up to hit the gym. But you don’t have a plan for which exercises you want to do.

This article will provide the most comprehensive list of pull day exercises based on different muscle groups. So you can design your optimal pull day workout in a few minutes.

I’ve also included short (60 seconds or less) videos so you can see how to do each exercise correctly.

Pull Day Exercises

What Is Pull Day?

Let’s begin with a brief introduction to pull day definitions and terminology to ensure we’re all on the same page.

First, your body can be divided front to back, left to right, and top to bottom. These segments are called the coronal (frontal), sagittal, and transverse planes in exercise physiology.

Furthermore, we can categorize movements within these two-dimensional planes based on the direction of movement. For example, pulling exercises generally involve the weight moving back, down, to the center, or a combination thereof.

Pull Day Exercises Movement Planes

Dividing Pull Day Exercises by Muscle Group

Pulling exercises can work muscles from head to toe on the back and front of your body. So it’s helpful to group pull day exercises into a few buckets when designing your workout.

An upper body pull day consists of exercises that work the muscles of your upper back, rear shoulders, and biceps, such as pulldowns, rows, or bicep curls.

A lower body pull day includes exercises that work the muscles of your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, such as deadlifts and hamstring curls.

You can also combine upper and lower body exercises for a total body pull day workout.

Designing a Push/Pull Workout Split

Pull day workouts are part of a push/pull or push/pull/legs training split. The advantage of push/pull splits is they are relatively easy to program, and you can train each muscle group twice each week if you want.

Each push/pull split variation has pros and cons. So which one you use depends on your schedule, experience level, and fitness goals.

For example, the basic push/pull split includes upper-body and lower-body movements in every workout. This split allows you to train your whole body in fewer days per week. However, each muscle group gets less individual attention.

By comparison, a push/pull/legs split involves only upper body push days and pull days, while the leg day includes both push and pull movements for the lower body. Therefore, this split allows more training volume for the upper body.

Example: Chris Bumstead’s Push Pull Legs Routine

Next, let’s dive into the complete list of pull day exercises. I’ve segmented the list into different upper and lower body muscle groups to make it easier to find specific exercises.

Upper Body Pull Day Exercises

Upper body pull day exercises include movements targeting the back, rear delts, traps, and biceps. And this section includes exercises you can use to work those muscle groups.

Pull Day Exercises for Back

The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are the largest muscles on your back, and they are involved in several types of pulldown and rowing movements. These exercises also work some of the smaller muscles of the upper back.

Here are the top pull day exercises for lats and upper back.

1. Pull Up

Pull-ups are an underrated and underused back exercise. And many people replace them with lat pulldowns in their pull day workouts.

However, unlike pulldowns, pull-ups are a closed-chain exercise, meaning your body moves instead of the weight. In other words, pull ups are like squats, while pulldowns are like the leg press.

Both exercise types have merits, but pull-ups are excellent for building functional upper-body strength. If you can’t do pull-ups, start with an assisted version. And if you can do a lot of pull-ups, try adding some resistance.

Related: Calculate How Many Pull-Ups You Should Be Able To Do

2. Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns

Wide grip lat pulldowns are like the machine version of pull ups. One of the biggest advantages is the weight stack, which allows you to adjust the resistance for your strength level and desired number of repetitions.

In addition, this open chain movement keeps your body relatively fixed, making it more difficult to cheat using body momentum like you can with a pull-up. However, people still make a few big mistakes on the wide-grip lat pulldown.

Here’s a short video showing wide-grip lat pulldown mistakes and how to correct them.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

3. Close Grip Lat Pulldown

The close grip lat pulldown works the lats similarly to the wide grip version. However, the close and neutral hand position changes the exercise mechanics and how the muscles get worked.

In addition, studies suggest that most people can lift heavier weights with a close grip than a wide grip. So it can be a good way to mix things up or shock your lats into growth.

Keep Reading: More Differences Between Wide Grip vs Close Grip Lat Pulldown

4. Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is another forgotten old-school pull day exercise. Many golden-era bodybuilders, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, used this exercise to build wide lats while chiseling out the serratus muscles.

However, you must perform this exercise using a specific technique to target your lats more than your chest. So watch the short video below to see how to do dumbbell pullovers for lats.

5. Machine High Row

The machine high row is like a hybrid between a lat pulldown and a row. Therefore, it can help you target multiple areas of your back in one movement.

The downside of this exercise it that you need a specific machine, and not every gym has one. In the video below, I show you how to do the high row exercise on a Hammer Strength weight stack machine.

6. Machine Low Row

The machine low row also requires a specific piece of equipment. But this time, you pull the handles towards your hips at a low angle using an underhand grip.

Each of these exercise factors is designed to help you target your lower lats more than your upper back muscles.

Click here to see the best lower lat exercises.

7. Bent Over Barbell Row

The bent-over barbell row should be a staple exercise in any back day or pull day workout. And unlike other pulling movements, you don’t need a cable apparatus or machine.

This free-weight exercise is ideal for pulling heavy loads to maximize back strength and size gains. Watch the short video below to see how to do bent-over rows correctly.

8. Underhand Barbell Row

Typically, you perform bent-over rows using an overhand or pronated grip. But you can also do this exercise with an underhand or supinated grip.

Underhand barbell rows are excellent for working the meaty part of your lower lats. In addition, this grip puts your biceps in a stronger position for heavier weights.

9. Pendlay Row

The Pendlay row is a specialized variation of the barbell bent-over row developed by an Olympic strength coach to increase explosive power on other Olympic lifts.

First, the biggest difference between a Pendlay row and a regular barbell row is the starting position. Pendlay rows start each rep with the barbell on the floor.

Second, you keep your back almost parallel to the floor throughout the entire exercise. This changes the arm position and pulling angles to target your upper back and lats.

10. Dumbbell Row

Dumbbell rows are another classic pull day exercise for building your lats. Most often, this exercise is performed with one arm at a time.

This unilateral movement allows you to focus more on the mind-muscle connection to really activate your lats. In addition, you inherently do double the number of reps, which is an easy way to burn more calories and fat.

11. Cable Row

The cable row is a back exercise performed using a low pulley cable station, typically in a seated position. One benefit of this exercise over free weight variations is the constant tension on the lats.

In addition, you can adjust your body position and grip width to target specific parts of your back.

Pull Day Exercises Cable Row

12. Landmine Row

A landmine is a barbell attachment that turns an ordinary bar into a lever for various exercises. One such exercise is the landmine row, a variation of the standard barbell row.

However, the grip and pulling angles are different when using the landmine. So the landmine row is a great barbell variation to change up the movement and stimulate new gains.

workouts mobile

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

Get a personalized meal plan built to fit your body and lifestyle. Including a custom workout routine designed around your fitness goals.

With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $19.99!

Click here to choose your plan.

Pull Day Exercises for Shoulders

Next, let’s move on to the best pull day exercises for working your rear delts and upper traps. The rear delts are the small muscle segment on the back of your shoulders. And the upper traps run from your rear delts to the back of your neck.

13. Barbell Upright Row

The barbell upright row is a misunderstood exercise that some people avoid out of fear of injuring their shoulders. However, upright rows are perfectly safe and very effective when done correctly.

The key to doing upright rows safely is using a weight you can control and keeping the bar close to your body throughout the movement. Use a slow movement tempo and squeeze your rear delts at the top.

14. Smith Machine Upright Row

Another option for upright rows is doing them on the Smith machine. This machine has a barbell with a fixed movement path that reduces the need to stabilize the weight.

Therefore, Smith machine upright rows are an excellent way to ensure you keep the bar vertically aligned with your body. But you should still start with a manageable weight and work up carefully.

15. Cable Upright Row

The cable upright row is another popular variation where you use a low pulley station to perform this rear delt exercise. As with other cable shoulder exercises, the cable upright row helps keep constant tension on your rear delts.

However, setting up the cable upright row can be confusing because there are a few different ways you can do it. The video below shows three cable upright row variations and which is best.

16. Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

The rear delt fly is really the only exercise you can do to isolate the rear delt. And dumbbells are the most common form of resistance.

Still, it can be tricky to feel your rear delts working during the bent-over fly. So the video below shows 5 form tips you can use to make rear delt flies more effective.

17. Machine Rear Delt Fly

The machine rear delt fly is a good alternative to dumbbells because the movement path is defined for you. So all you have to do is think about squeezing your rear delts.

However, it’s still essential to set the seat at the right height and hold the handles properly to isolate your rear delts.

18. Barbell Shrug

The barbell shrug is an excellent exercise for building upper trap size and strength. And you’ll often see big bodybuilders and powerlifters using this exercise at the gym.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to cheat by bouncing the bar and using momentum to move the weight. The video below shows you how to do barbell shrugs to target your traps.

19. Smith Machine Shrug

Again, the Smith machine offers an exercise variation that can help you target a specific muscle more effectively.

For example, you don’t have to balance the bar front to back with Smith machine shrugs. So you can focus more on the vertical pulling motion using your traps.

Pull Day Exercises for Biceps

Lastly, we have upper body pull day exercise for the biceps. But just because this section is last on the list doesn’t mean it’s less important!

On the contrary, building bigger arms is a top priority for many bodybuilders. So here are the best pull day exercises for strengthening your biceps.

20. Barbell Bicep Curl

The traditional bicep curl is a go-to move for any arm day or pull day workout because it’s simple yet effective.

Start with a  shoulder-width grip and focus on curling the bar while keeping your elbows almost pinned at your sides. This technique reduces help from other muscle groups like the shoulders and puts more emphasis on the biceps.

21. Dumbbell Curl

Dumbbell curls are another effective exercise for training your biceps. And unlike the barbell, dumbbells allow you to rotate your wrist during the exercise, which further targets the bicep.

In addition, you can perform dumbbell curls with both arms or alternate arms with each rep. Again, alternating arms is a good way to improve concentration.

Pull Day Exercises Dumbbell Curl

22. Hammer Curl

Hammer curls are a dumbbell curl variation where you maintain a neutral grip throughout the exercise. As a result, the dumbbell looks like the head of a swinging hammer.

Moreover, the hammer curl hand position helps to specifically target the long head on the outer part of your bicep. And this exercise is excellent for building bicep peak.

23. Incline Hammer Curl

Incline hammer curls are performed while sitting on a bench and leaning back at a 60-75 degree angle. With this body positioning, your upper arm is angled behind your torso, further isolating the outer bicep.

In addition, the seated position reduces body momentum and makes it more difficult to cheat.

24. Incline Dumbbell Curl

You can also do incline dumbbell curls with an underhand or supinated grip. This hand position brings the inner bicep back into the mix, making it a more well-rounded arm exercise.

Also, you can perform these curls with both arms simultaneously or one arm at a time.

25. Preacher Curl

The preacher curl is a bicep exercise where your upper arms rest on an angled pad and are held in place during the exercise.

One benefit of preacher curls is that it’s virtually impossible to cheat. And that ensures that your biceps do all the work during the exercise.

In addition, the forward arm position is excellent for working the short head of your inner bicep, helping you build wider biceps.

26. Spider Curl

Spider curls are another bicep exercise where your upper arms are angled in front of your body. So this variation also works best for targeting the short head.

On top of that, the arm and body angle put more loading on your biceps at the top of the range of motion in the contracted position.

27. Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl is a specialized bicep exercise in which you rotate your wrist during the movement. Basically, you use an overhand grip and an underhand grip in the same rep.

For example, you can curl the weight up using an underhand grip. Then rotate your wrists at the top and lower it down using an overhand grip.

You can also perform the exercise in the opposite order. In this way, the Zottman curl effectively works both the long and short heads of the bicep.

Lower Body Pull Day Exercises

Here are some of the best pull day exercises for your lower body. Again, I’ve segmented the list into different muscle groups.

First, posterior chain exercises work several muscle groups in the lower body and lower back. Then we have hamstring and glute-focused exercises. And finally, pulling ab exercises.

Posterior Chain Pull Day Exercises

Posterior chain exercises include hip hinge movements that target all the major muscle groups on the back side of your body. The most common example of which is the deadlift.

28. Conventional Deadlift

The conventional deadlift is the king of pull day exercises because it hits almost every pulling muscle group, including the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and even the lats.

In addition, deadlifts are one of the best exercises for building overall body strength. However, doing deadlifts properly is essential to avoid pain or injury.

In the video below, I show you how to do a deadlift with proper form.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

29. Hex Bar Deadlift

The trap bar or hex bar deadlift is another popular variation of this pulling movement that involves a specialized hexagonal-shaped bar.

One of the biggest differences between hex bar and traditional deadlifts is the grip. But it also differs significantly in terms of body mechanics.

A hex bar involves a neutral or palms-in grip instead of the overhand or mixed grip used for barbell deadlifts. In addition, you stand inside the bar instead of behind it.

As a result, hex bar deadlifts result in a more upright posture and involve some pushing from the quads. Therefore, it’s not as good for pull days as conventional deadlifts.

Learn More: Hex Bar vs Barbell Deadlift Comparison

30. Rack Pull

Rack pulls are like a deadlift where you start with the barbell raised off the floor on a power rack or blocks. From the elevated starting position, rack pulls are basically a partial range of motion deadlift.

Therefore, rack pulls use less glutes and hamstrings and more lower back and lats. And you can generally pull significantly heavier weights with the reduced ROM.

Hamstring/Glute Pull Day Exercises

Next, let’s change gears and look at some pull day exercises for working your hamstrings and glutes.

31. Barbell Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is a classic hip hinge exercise that targets the hamstrings and glutes. And the barbell is the most popular method for adding resistance.

One key to doing barbell Romanian deadlifts correctly is keeping the bar as close to your thighs and shins as possible during the movement because this helps reduce strain on your lower back.

In addition, it’s essential to focus on pushing your hips back while bending your knees slightly to get maximum hamstring activation.

32. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Dumbbells offer a unique way to perform the Romanian deadlift exercise because they require more balance and side-to-side stabilization.

As a result, you may feel the dumbbell Romanian deadlift more in your hamstrings. And you can even try elevating your toes to get a deeper hamstring stretch.

33. Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift

The Smith machine Romanian deadlift is another variation where the movement path is fixed so you can focus on squeezing the target muscles.

However, the fixed movement path isn’t as natural, and it can be trickier to keep the bar close to your thighs, especially without an angled Smith machine.

34. Landmine RDL

A final Romanian deadlift variation uses the landmine attachment, and you stand with the barbell between your legs instead of in front of your thighs. It also helps to have a handle for holding the barbell shaft.

The landmine results in a somewhat fixed movement path like the Smith machine. But you still have to balance the weight side to side.

In addition, you can perform the landmine RDL as shown in the video below. Or turn around and face the landmine so you’re holding the barbell sleeve.

35. Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift is like a Romanian deadlift with little to no knee bend. And this small change in exercise form results in different mechanics and muscle activation.

For example, studies suggest that the stiff leg deadlift results in slightly better glute activation compared to RDLs.

Comparison: Stiff Leg Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift

36. Good Morning

The good morning exercise is also like a Romanian deadlift, except you hold the barbell across your shoulders as you would during a back squat.

While the movement path and range of motion is virtually identical to RDLs, good mornings feel different due to the barbell placement.

As you bend down, your center of gravity moves farther forward during the good morning. So you can use less weight to get the same level of muscle activation in the RDL.

37. Smith Machine Good Morning

If you’re not comfortable trying good mornings with a free-weight barbell, you can also try them on the Smith machine. The movement is the same, but the guide rails and safety stops make it more user-friendly.

Click here for a more detailed guide to the Smith Machine good morning.

38. Seated Hamstring Curl

Hamstring curls are an isolation exercise involving flexion of the knee joint. And some gyms have a special machine for doing seated leg curls.

In this machine, you sit upright with your legs straight out in front. Then curl your lower legs down using your hamstrings.

39. Prone Hamstring Curl

You might also see a lying leg curl machine in your gym. This is where you lay face down and curl your legs up toward your back.

The prone position results in a slightly different loading compared to the seated position.

40. Nordic Hamstring Curl

Nordic hamstring curls are a bodyweight exercise for strengthening the hamstrings and knee joints. And there are a few different ways to perform it.

The most common way to do Nordic curls is to kneel down and hook your heels under a sturdy object. Then you slowly lower your body forward while keeping your hips straight.

Another variation involves kneeling on a lat pulldown seat and hooking your feet under the knee pads. Whichever variation you use, it can take a while to progress from beginner to advanced on this exercise.

41. Hip Thrusts

Hip thrusts are the best exercise for targeting your glutes. The most common way to perform hip thrusts is lying across a bench and your feet planted firmly on the floor off to the side of the bench.

Then you place a barbell across your lap with your hips down and your body making a capital “N” shape. From here, you thrust upward by extending your hips and squeezing your glutes.

Related: 14 Hip Thrust Alternative Exercises

Abs Pull Day Exercises

Last but not least are some pull day exercises for working your abdominals.

42. Rope Crunch

Rope crunches are a great way to add resistance to your ab workout and make it more challenging. This exercise involves a high pulley with a rope attachment, but you can also use a different handle if you want.

You then kneel down in front of the cable and pull the weight down by crunching your abs.

43. Decline Crunch

Decline crunches are another ab exercise that adds resistance to make it more challenging. This time, the angle of the bench uses gravity to add resistance.

But you can also hold a dumbbell or weight plate to provide even more resistance if necessary.

More Exercises & Workouts

Pull day exercises are vital to any successful push/pull workout split. And you should consider including some of the upper-body and lower-body exercises from this list in your next pull day workout.

But if you have a different workout split or specific gym equipment, you might still need more exercise ideas. So here are some additional exercise and workout articles I know you’ll find helpful.

11 Essential Barbell Lower Back Exercises

Top Barbell Hamstring Exercises

9 Best Barbell Bicep Exercises

Cable Shoulder Exercises for Chiseled Delts

Landmine Leg Exercises & Workout

Landmine Shoulder Exercises

Dumbbell Trap Exercises for a Strong Neck

19 Unique Cable Back Exercises

Complete Dumbbell Back & Bicep Workout

List of 40 Push Day Exercises for Upper & Lower Body

With this information, you’re well on your way to your ultimate pull day workout routine. And if you found this article helpful, take a look at some of my other great content below!

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

Go to Top