Want to pull more weight and build lean muscle mass? Here’s how.
Now that we know how to pull, let’s break down a few exercises that will help improve your deadlift and make you even stronger. The big bang for your buck assistance exercises in this article will help you pull more than you ever thought to be humanly possible. Yeah… you can thank me later. To provide some structure I’ll break them down into upper body, lower body and a variation that should get you well on your way to competing in next year’s World’s Strongest Man. Enough talk, let’s get to it.
I can hear you now saying, “upper body, what?” Yup, and to be honest, this might be the most important one. Your upper back and your grip are going to be two huge limiting factors in how much you pull. Both your upper back and hands keep you from rounding over at the shoulders, so you need to get stronger in these two areas first. This brings me to a friend I’d like you to meet: rows. We’re going to look at two variations, the barbell row and high rep dumbbell rows.
The barbell row is a staple in every athlete workout program. Start with the same grip you would use for your deadlift. From here push your hips back and your chin forward to try to get your torso as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Once you hit this position I want you to pull your shoulder blades down and back, and try to pinch your elbows behind you. I realize that won’t happen without the bar tearing through your chest cavity, but that’s how you should think about it. This is an exercise that, if you can keep your body position, you can move some serious weight with. So, don’t turn it into a head-bobbing-chicken-dance-dry-hump. Hold your position and squeeze the muscles in your back hard. Thank you.
High rep dumbbell rows are in one word, awesome. It’s just the typical dumbbell row done with a knee on a bench, but you’re going to hit sets of 20. Yes, that is not a typo: 20. Stop crying, you haven’t done it yet, and even if you have, suck it up. Your hands and grip strength will thank you, later. Holding a heavy dumbbell for that long works your grip like no other, but be sure to squeeze as hard as you can the whole time. While trying to snap the dumbbell in your hand like it’s a Slim Jim, pinch your shoulder blade back and pull your elbow up as high as you can, bringing the weight somewhere between your hip and your knee. Big time exercise to build muscle and gain strength... that’s all I need to say.
There is one exercise (other than variations of Deadlifting) that comes to mind with helping your pull, and it’s the double Kettlebell swing. For this you will need two bells. You can follow Coach Hermann’s kettlebell advice here, but I want you to really think of one thing when you do these. For the descent, throw the bell at your zipper as hard as you can. Trust me, if you don’t react the right way, you’ll fix it pretty quickly. If not, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Remember this is a hip exercise, not a squatting exercise, so don’t squat down. Instead, push your butt back to avoid the agony that occurs when you don’t move fast enough to get out of an implement you just threw at yourself.
A Helpful Variation
Another great way to help your deadlift improve is to do towel pull ups. I’m not going to revisit how to do pull ups and all that but putting a towel around the bar and gripping it will light your hands up and build some serious grip strength to help you hold onto the bar while pulling. Check out this video and give it a shot.
There are other exercises that I’ve gone over that will help you on your way to pulling, you can find them here (SL RDL, Good Morning, GHR, Pull Up, Inverted Row, Back Extension), and so there’s no need to revisit what I’ve already told you. Get in the gym, add these moves to your training, and watch your deadlift improve. Just make sure you’re getting that grip right so you can hold the bar tight. Yup, I can rhyme better than you too, so stop reading and get your butt in the gym… NOW.
To maximize your athletic performance and strength on the deadlift, 1R would recommend the following supplements: