Build Massive Traps & Back Strength with Chain Resisted Rack Pulls
DR. JOEL SEEDMAN, PH.D.
The rack pull is one of the most simple yet effective movements for crushing the entire upper back and traps. Although the movement is produced through the hips, the upper back must remain incredibly tense throughout in order to support the heavy load. The combination of tension and stretch make it highly effective for inducing muscle growth in the trapezius and upper back muscles.
To perform this movement set the barbell in a power rack anywhere several inches above or below the level of the knees. While keeping the hips set back and the spine neutrally arched throughout, grip the barbell tightly, and initiate the movement by driving the hips forward and standing with the barbell.
The lower the starting position is the more the low back, glutes, and hamstrings are targeted although it also reduces the total load you can handle thereby minimizing the stimulus to the upper back. The higher position invovles less lower body and low back involvement but instead overloads the upper body moreso.
In this specific video, one of my incredibly strong bodybuilding athletes Ben Lai is demonstrating a very upper back and trap dominant version of the rack pull as we made four slight modifications. First, we set the pins slightly higher than normal. This helps reduce involvement of the hips and low back and allows heavier loads thereby crushing the upper traps and upper back.
We also used accomodating resistance in the form of chains. This allows for relatively lighter loads in the bottom position while overloading the stronger top position.
Third, Ben used a controlled eccentric lowering phase to keep constant tension on the muscles rather than the free-fall technique commonly used. If you have proper postural control and body mechanics you should have the ability to control the eccentric phase on any lift including heavy deadlifts and rack pulls. However if you're body mechanics are poor then yes you're better off using the free-fall technique.
Finally, rather than simply bringing the weight back to the pins immediately after lifting it, I had Ben hold an isometric in the top position for several seconds while feeling the load literally pulling and creating micro trauma throughout the entire musculature of your upper back and traps. In fact the total load at the top was well over 600 pounds.
Band Resisted Rack Pulls
The same concept can also be applied to rack pulls using bands.
Here I'm using 365 pounds of free weights with an additional 150-200 pounds of band tension. Notice the semi-controlled eccentric phase (rather than the common free-fall) which also promotes additional functional mass and strength via muscle damage through eccentric overload.
Regardless of whether you choose bands or chains or a combination of both, these provide a brutal combination for devastating the entire upper back and building a monster yoke as you’re taking advantage of all three mechanics of muscle hypertrophy namely muscle damage, mechanical tension, and metabolic stress (resulting from the isometric holds at the top).
I recommend performing several sets (3-4) of lower reps (2-6) with heavier loads is ideal before finishing with a higher rep set of 10-12 repetitions with a substantially lighter load.
Not sure how to program rack pulls into your training program? Read More HERE