Rack Pull vs Romanian Deadlift – [What Is Better and Why]

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Written By Philethia Thomas

No doubt that every exercise enthusiast is looking to improve performance one way or the other. Because let us face it adaptive resistance can stop your growth. Because your body becomes used to exercise and now it won’t respond at all. 

This is the reason that variations in exercise are important. No one wants to tear the same muscle for a prolonged period of time to the point of injury. Variation creates more stimulus giving you more progress over time. 

Variations are not just important for growth and performance but also reduce the risk of an injury. Rack pull and Romanian deadlift are basically both variations of deadlift. 

So, if the choice is rack pull vs Romanian deadlift, what is better and different?

Rack pulls target and train erector strength and emphasizes on the back. Rack pull builds up lockout strength because it eliminates legs and focuses on your back. On the other hand, RDL focuses on your glutes and hamstrings. Rack pulls allow you to lift heavier as compared to Romanian deadlifts. 

So, we are going to cover both of these exercises in detail. By the end of the article, you will know the major differences between the two. And also which one to choose over the other and why to choose that one. 

But before that, let us have a quick look at their major differences listed side by side.

Rack Pull VS Romanian Deadlift-[Comparison Side by Side]

Rack PullsRomanian Deadlifts
Heavier LoadsCan lift lesser loads than rack pulls.
Deadlift variationDeadlift variation
Starting point is below or slightly above the kneeHip Area
Glutes, Erector, Inner Thighs, Hip jointsHamstring, Erector spinae, Core, lower back and upper back

Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are basically deadlift variations and pretty similar to block deadlift. This primarily focuses on top-end ROM because barbells are set up inside the squat cage on the safety pins. It won’t be incorrect if we say that the rack pull’s range of motion is partial. 

Furthermore, in partial ROM the priority is to focus the load over the ROM. This is why one can lift heavier and greater loads which otherwise won’t be possible from the floor. The starting point for the rack pulls for most lifters is slightly above or below the knee. 

Also, rack pulls are used to train proper form, pulling strength, and building muscular strength. Newbies perform rack pulls to learn how to deadlift while strengthening their hips along the way. Others would use it to strengthen their back extensors such as glutes and erectors. 

Let us see how to do rack pulls properly. 

How To Do-[Rack Pulls]

You will do rack pulls in a squat cage with safety pins or a power rack. Because you have to keep the barbells about a knee height. It has partial ROM, so you basically lift from above or below the knee and then lockout. 

Let us see in three steps how to do rack pulls properly.

Step 1-[Set the Rack]

This is the first step where you decide the sticking point from which you would pull up. And according to that sticking point, you would set the height of your rack. Some start it from below the knee and others from slightly above the knee. 

The rock’s physical height does not increase when you increase the load. Now moving to the second step.

Step 2-[Lift]

In this step you pull the barbell from the sticking point to the hip height. In order to grip the floor, you might wanna turn your toes slightly outward. And don’t forget to push your hips forward while pulling the barbell. 

Not to mention bracing your back when pulling it close to your body. And don’t flex your knees outward, instead, just twist them outward. That way you will engage your hamstring and glutes more. 

Step 3-[Hold The Bar]

Pull the bar all the way to the hip height and have your back set and extended hips. This is the point where you hold the bar at the top for a second or two while contracting the lats. This gives you a stronger firm as well as your body getting used to lifting heavier loads. 

If your goal is to firm your grip then at the top hold the bar for as much time as you can.

Common Mistakes During Rack Pull

Rack pull is pretty similar to a deadlift. You might be a gym rat so you may think you know what could go wrong. But the reality is that even experienced lifters make common mistakes. 

Let us see these rack pull mistakes.

Going Heavy

The major benefit of doing rack pull is that you can load heavier loads. Because the range of motion in rack pull exercise is shorter. But if a heavier load doesn’t allow you to maintain your form then it is of no use.

So try with weights you are comfortable with and that allow you to lift in proper form. And then progress gradually. Otherwise, you may injure yourself or lose rack pulls major benefits.

Starting Position

Starting from too low might not give any noticeable benefits. Similarly starting too high is also not a good idea. The best place to start to gain any noticeable change is slightly below the knee. 

Other major mistakes are listed below.

  • Don’t let the barbell come off your body.
  • Don’t bounce the barbell off the pins to gain momentum instead lift from a dead stop.
  • Don’t lean back beyond the vertical plane to avoid low back stress.

What Muscles Rack Pulls Work?

Rack pulls primarily work muscles around the hips joints and remove the knee extension. The activation of erectors depends upon your torso angle. And the hamstrings are only activated if your hip extensors are getting tired. 

Below is the list of muscles that rack pulls work.

  • Glutes
  • Inner thighs
  • Erectors
  • Lats
  • Traps
  • Rhomboids
  • Hands
  • Forearms

Benefits of Rack Pulls

Check out the major benefits of doing rack pulls. 

  • Increase strength
  • Hit weak areas in the top end of the deadlift
  • Prevent adaptation
  • Provide different stimulus
  • Best for grips and forearms

Cons of Rack Pulls

Below is the list of rack pulls major drawbacks.

  • Without knowing the proper technique there is a potential risk of injury with heavier loads.
  • Doing too much can lead to a lack of recovery.
  • Requires squat rack to perform.
Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift is the variation of the conventional deadlift primarily used to develop hamstrings and glutes. Basically, a Romanian deadlift targets your posterior chain. Posterior chains are the powerhouse of the movement mainly consisting of the following.

  • Butt
  • Hamstring
  • Calves
  • Back

So this means that Romanian deadlift target muscles mainly located on the back side of the body. This exercise targets your hip’s movement and glutes allowing you to perform better in bending down activities. 

Let us have a look at how to do Romanian deadlifts properly.

How To Do Romanian Deadlifts Properly?

Below is the step-by-step guide on how to do a Romanian deadlift.

  • First of all to avoid pressure on your back, place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Look down and position your barbells over the shoelaces.
  • Make sure that your torso should be upright.
  • Keep your arms straight and shoulder blades dropped down.
  • Now bend down and hold the bar.
  • Grip should be a little bit wider than the shoulder’s width.
  • Don’t forget to keep your back straight and flat at this point.
  • And then stand up.
  • Push your hips back the way you would open a door with your butt.
  • While pushing your hips back, bring the dumbbell down your legs.
  • Keep your back flat at this point.
  • Dumbbell would be at shin level and your back would be parallel to the ground.
  • Now imagine an electric shock through your butt.
  • So snap back up.

If you did it correctly, you would feel tension developing in your hamstring. Also lower and middle back and the area around the shoulder blades engaging. Not to forget that the Romanian deadlift may help with your weak squat.

What Muscle Romanian Deadlift Work?

Below is the list of major muscles that the Romanian deadlift works.

  • Erector spinae (Lower Back)
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstring
  • Adductors
  • Middle and upper back
  • Trapezius
  • Forearms

What Are the Benefits of Romanian Pulls?

Below is the list of major benefits of Romanian pulls.

  • Strengthen core as well as lower body with just one move.
  • Strengthen the posterior chain.
  • Teaches proper movement.
  • Movement skills and body awareness.
  • Increase pulling strength.
  • Develop hamstring mass.
  • Dissociation of hip movement from lumbar movement.
  • Teach proper hip mechanics.
  • Movement of hip flexion and stability.
  • Endurance strength.
  • Strengthen core stabilizer responsible for managing spine position.
  • Strengthen forearm flexors.
  • Strengthen grip.

Common Mistakes While Doing Romanian Pulls

Below is the list of common mistakes that one may commit during the exercise. Avoiding these mistakes will allow you to reap full benefits from the exercise. 

  • Avoid round the back when attempting to go lower.
  • Never let the bar drift away from your body.
  • Avoid too much knee flexion.

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Final Verdict

Both the exercises, rack pulls and Romanian deadlifts are deadlift variations. Rack pulls allow you to lift a slightly heavier load and primarily target your abs, glutes, and lower body. 

On the other hand, the Romanian deadlift allows lifting slightly less load and targets the core, erector, and back. Another major difference is their starting point.

FAQs

What is better, rack pulls or deadlift?

Deadlifts are targeted to build overall strength, power, and endurance. It is a bit advanced for newbie gymgoers. On the other hand rack pull is the variation of deadlift but with shorter ROM. Rack pulls are best for newbies to get used to lifting heavy loads with proper form.

Does rack pulls give your back thickness?

Yes, it is true that rack pulls certainly give your thicker back but not that much strength. It is just that rack pulls are like warm-up exercises for those who are aiming for aggressive gains with the deadlift. 

Conclusion

So, now if you face the choice, rack pulls vs Romanian deadlifts, you know what to choose. Rack pulls and Romanian deadlifts both are best suited for newbies and the elderly.

Furthermore, both of these exercises may not give you real strength and gain. But they certainly will train newbies for the activity that gives them the real power, aka deadlifts.

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