Barbell RDL vs Barbell Rack Pull

Barbell RDL vs Barbell Rack Pull


Execution Cues:

Barbell RDLs:
- Ideally, the movement will be started from a rack or elevated height to save energy. In this case, setup a bar in J hooks roughly mid thigh or just about ~2-3 inches beneath your fully extended arms when standing tall. Grip should be just outside the thighs. Make sure to wear wrist straps for grip if available.
- Initiate the set by "scooping" under the bar; keep an upright torso, bend the knees and unrack the bar by using quads and glutes rather than hinging. Once standing upright with knees and hips extended, take 2-3 small steps to fully clear the bar of the J hooks.
- Before beginning the actual RDL, take inventory of positioning and ensure balanced distribution of load as well as proper pelvic/spinal alignment. Think about neutrality!
- As the rep begins, hips should push back and the bar should stay tight to the thighs. Keep lats tight. Cervical and lumbar spine should remain neutral (i.e. avoid craning the neck and overarching the low back).
- This is meant to be a "partial" deadlift so the eccentric action should be terminated once the hips can no longer go back any further. Typically, this will be with the bar just below the knee caps or, for those with longer arms, the tops of the shins.
- Because there is no tangible end point to the ROM, deceleration and reversal of direction will be a key feature of the RDL that differs from traditional deadlifts. This will require substantially more eccentric control and full-body rigidity.
- Once reaching this terminal end point and safely decelerating, shift back into the concentric, slowly at first and then increasing power through lockout.
- It's important to note that the shins should ALWAYS be vertical during an RDL. Likewise, there should be no extraneous movement through the trunk or spine.
- After the set is over, carefully walk the load back into the J hooks and replace it the same way it was taken out; by "reverse scooping" and maintaining an upright torso.

Barbell Rack Pulls:
- In a power rack, set up spotter arms/cross-bars that are roughly at your mid shin. After double checking to make sure they're even, place a straight barbell across the arms. The barbell should be level and aligned with your tibial tuberosity. (Note that the bar height can be adjusted based on your specific goals for the movement).
- Step up to the barbell. Assume a shoulder-width stance with your shins half-an-inch from contacting the barbell. Hinge at the hips and grip the bar just outside your shins. (Note that it is recommended to use a double-overhand grip with lifting straps unless grip strength is an implicit goal of the movement. In that case, a double-overhand, hook, or mixed grip can be used).
- Once your grip is locked in, begin preparations for the rep by flattening your back (think neutral from head to hips!), shifting your weight back into your glutes, depressing your scaps to tighten your lats, and taking in a diaphragmatic breath to brace. Ensure your arms and shins form a straight, perpendicular line to the floor. 
- Initiate the concentric by driving your hips and knees into extension. Be patient as the bar breaks the spotter arms and begins to move upward.  Keep the bar tight to your legs by engaging your lats. Think of the glutes being the primary movers here rather than the erectors (though, the erectors will obviously be working hard as well). 
- As the bar continues to rise, keep your weight balanced and avoid "scooping" your knees under. The hips and knees should be extending in sequence until they're both fully locked out and you are standing upright to finish the concentric. 
- From here, exhale and reset your brace (or you can keep your same breath but please don't pass out) before reversing the motion into the eccentric. It is crucial to exert as much control and focus through the descent as possible due to the high forces present. Keep the bar tight to your legs the whole return trip. Ideally, the bar will touch back down softly on the spotter arms in the exact position that you started from. 
- If the set is to be continued, all reps should be performed from a dead-stop. The load should completely settle on the spotter arms before initiating the concentric. Touch-and-go reps are not advised.

Key Similarities: 
- Hip hinge pattern
- Primarily target the glutes, hamstrings and erectors
- Both train the top portion of the conventional deadlift (similar ROMs)
- Similar prerequisites (ability to brace, high proprioception, sound technique with high loads, etc)
- Similar non-intended failure points (grip, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, etc)
- High levels of axial loading and systemic fatigue generation
- Both can be used to effectively increase deadlift (pattern-specific) and posterior-chain strength
- Both are most effective with higher relative loads and moderate/low volumes
- Straight sets tend to be best with each (versus intensity techniques)
- Consistently pushing either movement beyond ~2RIR with volume is poor risk:reward even in advanced athletes
- Both should be used exclusively for overloading and NOT metabolic work

Key Differences: 
- Rack pulls have a tangible end point to the ROM whereas RDLs do not.
- RDLs should be initiated with the eccentric first. Rack pulls will begin with the concentric.
- RDLs are consistent tension/load-bearing. Rack pulls should be segmented by deadstops between each rep. 
- Rack pulls will place higher demands on the erectors due to the aforementioned deadstops. RDLs tend to hit the hamstrings harder due to the undefined end ROM. 
- Rack pulls are also better suited for lower rep ranges (i.e. 1-5) while RDLs should generally be between 6-12 reps. 
- Neither movement is a great candidate for intensity techniques due to the risks/complexity involved, but cluster sets can be used effectively with Rack pulls as a way to build volume with high intensities without form breaks. 
- Rack pulls are also much more logistically compliant with banding and reverse banding. 
- Rack pulls require more equipment to set up (though block pulls are a valid substitute).
- RDLs tend to have a shorter learning curve. 

Primary Use Case for Barbell RDLs:
- Hypertrophy of the Glutes and Hams
- Increase Hip Hinge Strength 

Primary Use Case for Barbell Rack Pulls:
- Hypertrophy of the Erectors, Glutes and Hams
- Increase Hip Hinge Strength

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