Conventional deadlifts are performed with the bar starting on the floor. They work your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core muscles. You can change the emphasis of the exercise, though, and focus more on your lower and mid-back by doing your deadlifts from a power rack. Deadlifts from a rack are usually referred to as rack pulls. They can boost your regular deadlift and build muscle mass, but you need to get your setup and technique correct to get the benefits from them.
Set the safety pins on either side of the rack to the desired height. This should be somewhere between the middle of your shin and just below your knee. Pulling from below your mid-shin is the same height as a regular deadlift, while starting with the bar above your knees will have little benefit and no carryover to improving your normal deadlift, says strength coach and former world record holding powerlifter Andy Bolton.
Set the bar across the safety pins and stand with your feet directly underneath it. Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip and position your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees until your shins are lightly touching the bar, then lower your hips while lifting your head and chest until your back is completely flat.
Pull the bar up forcefully by pushing your hips forward and straightening your knees. Keep the bar close to your body at all times, and finish the lift by pushing your hips through at the top and pulling your shoulder blades back together. Pause for a second, then lower the bar under control until it rests on the pins. Avoid any hitching or jerking movements. If you notice your back start to round at any point, lower the weight and work on your technique.
Replace conventional deadlifts with rack pulls for four to six weeks. Perform them once a week as the first exercise in a full-body, lower-body or back workout. Begin your workout with a few light warm-up sets of 10 repetitions using just the bar. Gradually add weight every set until you get to a weight that feels tough but manageable and that allows you to perform 10 reps with perfect form. Do three to four sets of six to eight reps and aim to add a little weight or an extra rep each week.
- Check with your health-care provider before starting an exercise program.
- Ask a qualified trainer to assist you with your technique.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.