Why You Should Add Pull-Throughs to Your Workouts
Recently we've noticed that the Pull-Through is gaining popularity among experts and finding its way into more workouts—e.g., as in STACK's 2014 Summer Training Guide. Why? We asked three strength and conditioning experts to find out.
What is the Pull-Through?
The Pull-Through is a lower-body exercise that develops the muscles on the backside of the body—e.g, the glutes and hamstrings. But instead of holding a barbell or dumbbell, you pull a cable rope attachment through your legs. Here's how to do it:
- With your back to a cable machine, stand with your feet hip-width part.
- Hold the rope attachment in front of your hips with the cable traveling through your legs.
- Bend at the waist and sit your hips back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle.
- Explosively extend your hips to stand up to the starting position.
Why Should You Perform the Pull-Through?
It Works Your 'Go' Muscles
The Pull-Through offers many of the same benefits as the Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing and other hip-dominant exercises. "The Pull-Through is one of the most underrated exercises out there," says Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Performance (Hudson, Massachusetts). "It's a great exercise to build posterior chain strength, which is imperative for sports performance."
Alex Rosencutter, owner of Rosencutter Ultra Fitness and Performance (Wauwatosa, Wisconsin), adds, "It directly carries over to the field by teaching you to use your glutes and hamstrings to produce hip extension for running and jumping."
It Increases Your Athleticism
To perform a Pull-Through, you need to hinge your hips—a fundamental athletic movement. "It teaches athletes to separate their hips from their lower back," says Rosencutter. "Many athletes use their lower backs to produce movement, setting themselves up for an injury."
It also strengthens your hip hinge through a full range of motion. "Sometimes with a Kettlebell Swing or a Deadlift, it's easy to get lazy when lowering the weight," adds Tony Bonvechio, owner of Bonvec Strength. "The Pull-Through does a nice job teaching you to maintain full-body tension through the entire hip hinge motion."
It's Easy on Your Back
The Squat and Deadlift can be hard on your back if you lack foundational strength or have poor form (more on that next). But according to Gentilcore, the Pull-Through places little to no load on the spine. "This is an excellent option if someone has back issues," he says.
It Teaches Deadlift Technique
The Pull-Through has a short learning curve compared to the Deadlift. "The rope attachment almost does all the work for you so you don't have to think about the movement too much," says Rosencutter.
But, it still works the same movement pattern and muscles. So, when you attempt to perform a Deadlift, you'll be stronger and more proficient in using your hips to bring the bar off the ground.
Should I Do It Instead the Deadlift?
Yes, in some circumstances. If you have back problems, use the Pull-Through to work your posterior chain. Also, if you are new to training and haven't developed a foundation of strength, it's a good option to work your hamstrings and glutes.
If you already perform a Deadlift variation, continue doing so; but add the Pull-Through to your workouts as an accessory movement.