Build Max Power With These Pulling Exercises

STACK Expert John Cissik offers four pulling exercises—alternatives to Olympic lifts—that can improve your power.

Pulling exercises are a great way to improve your power. In many strength and conditioning programs, Olympic lifts form the backbone of power training. These include variations of the Snatch, Clean and Jerk. These lifts, when properly executed, teach you how to express strength quickly.

The challenge with the Olympic lifts is that they demand proper technique and require special equipment. If you lack access to either, they aren't real safe, especially if you are trying to teach yourself or you're not using the right equipment. Also, they're not as effective if they're done improperly.

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Pulling exercises are a great way to improve your power. In many strength and conditioning programs, Olympic lifts form the backbone of power training. These include variations of the Snatch, Clean and Jerk. These lifts, when properly executed, teach you how to express strength quickly.

The challenge with the Olympic lifts is that they demand proper technique and require special equipment. If you lack access to either, they aren't real safe, especially if you are trying to teach yourself or you're not using the right equipment. Also, they're not as effective if they're done improperly.

With that in mind, here are four exercise variations of Olympic lifts, which do not require as much technique or special equipment.

Clean Pull

This exercise is the explosive part of the Clean. You don't have to get under the bar. You get all the benefits of the exercise without all the technical requirements.

  • Stand up with a shoulder-width grip on the bar, palms facing you.
  • Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out.
  • Push your hips back and allow the bar to slide down your thighs. Do this until the bar is touching your thighs midway between your knees and your hips. Keep your knees soft.
  • Extend your hips explosively and simultaneously shrug your shoulders up and rise up on your toes.
  • Allow the bar to move up along your body.
  • Lower, reset yourself and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3-5x3-6

RELATED: How to Perform Olympic Lifts, Part 3: Clean More Weight

Snatch High Pull

This exercise isn't done much anymore, which is a shame because it's a good one.

  • Stand up with a wide grip on the bar—a good guideline is to touch the rings—with your palms facing you.
  • Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out.
  • Push your hips back and allow the bar to slide down your body. Do this until the bar touches your body at hip level. Keep your knees soft.
  • Extend your hips explosively and simultaneously shrug your shoulders up and rise up on your toes.
  • Allow the bar to move up along your body and relax your arms. If you do this correctly, the bar will move up to between your stomach and your chest.
  • Note that you are not pulling with your arms, you are just relaxing them, so if your biceps hurt,you're doing something wrong.

Sets/Reps: 3-5x3-6

Dumbbell Pull

The pull exercise can be done with dumbbells.

  • Stand up holding a dumbbell in each hand so they rest against your thighs, palms facing you.
  • Stick your chest out and pull your shoulders back.
  • Push your hips back and allow the dumbbells to slide down your thighs until they are midway between your knees and your hips.
  • Extend your hips explosively and simultaneously shrug your shoulders up and rise up on your toes.
  • Allow the dumbbells to move up along your body.
  • Lower, reset yourself and  repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3-5x3-6

Kettlebell High Pull

  • Stand up holding a kettlebell in each hand so they rest against your thighs, palms facing you.
  • Stick your chest out and pull your shoulders back.
  • Push your hips back and allow the kettlebells to slide down your thighs until they are midway between your knees and your hips.
  • Extend your hips explosively and simultaneously shrug your shoulders up and rise up on your toes.
  • Allow the kettlebells to move up along your body and relax your arms. Like with the High Pull exercise, if this is done properly, the kettlebells will move up to between your stomach and your chest.
  • Lower, reset yourself and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3-5x3-6

Because their aim is to develop power, use enough weight to make the exercises challenging but not so much that you pull slowly or with bad technique.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CHEST | OLYMPIC LIFTS | POWER | EXERCISE | CLEAN | DUMBBELLS | LIFTS | EQUIPMENT | STOMACH | SNATCH | KETTLEBELL | SHRUG