Pull-Throughs (Hip Pulls) Exercise

Posted on 26 Mar 2010 15:23

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By Ground Up Strength, Eric Troy

The benefits of pull-throughs, sometimes called 'hip pulls', are many. One of the exercise's main advantages is that it allows one to train the posterior chain, the glutes, hamstrings and hip adductors without the lower back having to support a big external load. This is one of the main advantages the cable pull through versus deadlifts.

Taking the load off the back is great if you have a lumbar injury and also makes pull-throughs a good teaching tool. You are able to focus on hip drive and not get the hips mixed up with the lower back which is a very common problem1. There may not be another "glute" movement as good as a pull-through and it's value in teaching hip drive is unparalleled. Romanian deadlifts are good for this purpose but they don't have the advantage of removing the load from the back.

Pull-throughs being more a hip "isolator" makes them valuable as a secondary or finishing movement. A scenario that would make Romanian deadlifts unproductive could be a perfect fit for the cable hip pull through.. Low back fatigue is not as much a factor so the hips can be worked harder and longer.

However, as one maintains a good arched lumbar throughout the movement, local muscular endurance of the lower back is also trained.

If you do not want to deadlift but would like the benefits of a pull such as this the pull-through will do you right. As a supplemental exercise for ALL lifters, if you haven't included this movement in your training regimen yet then start giving it some time now.

Yes, it looks funny to some people since you have to reach between your legs and then pull a cable handle up toward your groin. I'd say get over it. People may look at you funny while you're doing it so what you can do when your done is the old camera mime move. Or maybe the cartoon googley eyes thing…

Equipment Needed

Pull-throughs are done with a cable pulley apparatus with the cable set in the bottom position, such as you would use to do a low pulley row.

A rope handle (sometimes called a triceps rope) is usually used. However, a V-handle may suffice for some trainees. I (Eric) actually prefer a V-handle but most trainees seem to prefer the rope.

Pull-through Setup

1. With the cable handle end lying on the floor back up to it so that you can reach down between your legs and grasp it.

2. Walk out several paces until the slack is taken up on the cable and the weight is beginning to pull you back.

3. Take a wide enough stance to allow free movement (slightly wider than shoulder width or more). Set the shoulders back and the chest out.

Pull-through Execution:

1. Keep the chest high, the lumbar neutral (in its natural arch) and allow the weight to pull you back so that your hips come back. Allow the knees to bend slightly to about 20 to 30 degrees. Don't think of going down but rather going back. Keep your hands in the same position. They are just there to hold onto the cable.

2. Stop when you reach your end range of motion. This is the point where you can travel back no further without your lumbar (and thoracic) beginning to round.

3. Return to the starting position by a powerful hip extension only. You should feel the contraction mainly in your glutes and second in your hamstrings. Remember that the hips do all the work. The hand do nothing but hold on.

4. Come all the way back up to the starting position and squeeze the glutes to ensure full lockout.

The following video is Craig Ballantyne performing the pull-through:

Possible Mistakes

1. Going back too far and allowing the lumbar to round before initiating the movement. Don't worry about range of motion. Go as far as you can. If your hamstrings don't allow you to go as far as you'd like, keep in mind that you will gain range of motion naturally just by doing the movement.

2. Bending the knees too much. Similar to the Romanian deadlift, the knees are allowed to bend slightly as the movement is initiated. There is nothing harmful or wrong with bending the knees more it simply turns the exercise into more of a cable squat making it more knee dominant than hip dominant. This should be focused on the posterior chain. The quadriceps should not be a big focus. If you have trouble bending your knees the right amount you can bend them to around 20 to 30 degrees before you actually begin to bring your hips back, keeping the knees fairly static for the performance of the exercise. This is less complicated than allowing the knees to bend slightly as you begin the movement but then not allowing them to bend past a certain point. Once you are used to what your knees are supposed to be doing and the 'feel' of the movement becomes natural to you won't have to think about it as much. When you feel like the glutes are being worked very heavily you'll know you're getting it right.

3. Allowing too much slack in the cable. The set up can be tricky. It's necessary to experiment with it to get it just right for you. The weight stack must be actively pulling you back. Not only must you take up any initial slack you also have to walk forward a bit more until you feel the weight stack engage you. A key teaching point for pull-throughs is that you allow the resistance to pull you back and you simply control the movement. Obviously the resistance must be there in the first place.

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