Horizontal pull exercises. Here. There. Everywhere.

Are you including horizontal pulls in your workouts?
Do you know what the different horizontal pull exercises are?

If not, you have come to right place. In this post I will show you what horizontal pulls are and why you must include them in your workouts. So you can confidently structure your workouts to build a body to die for.

Shall we jump right in?

Horizontal pull exercises

What are Horizontal Pull Exercises?

Horizontal pull exercises are exercises where you pull the weight towards your torso. These exercises are commonly known as rows.

Horizontal pull exercises are one of the 6 categories of exercises or movement patterns, that you need to include in your training routine. The others include:

Hip dominant

Knee dominant

Vertical push

Vertical pull

Horizontal push

When creating your training routine, you want to select an exercise from each category to ensure that your workout plan is well balanced. Only selecting exercises from one category means you will only be training certain muscle groups and neglecting others. This will lead to muscle imbalances which could cause painful injuries.

Why are Horizontal Pull Exercises Important?

Horizontal pull exercises are extremely important because they build your back muscles. Your back muscles need to be strong and well developed to improve your posture and to help stabilize and provide support when you are doing exercises such as squats. Horizontal pull exercises target your rhomboids, lats, traps and rear deltoids.

The Horizontal Pull Exercises

The Barbell Bent Over Row

Barbell bent over row

The barbell bent over row is one of the best exercises you can do for back development. This exercise works your biceps, traps, rhomboids and your abs.

The barbell bent over row is a compound movement which means it works multiple muscle groups at the same time. This exercise is ideal for building overall muscle of your back but also helps to burn calories because so many muscle groups are recruited.

It’s challenging but effective, so give it a try.

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

The dumbbell bent over row is a variation of the barbell bent over row, instead of a barbell you use dumbbells. With a dumbbell bent over row you have the option of pulling the dumbbells to your torso with your palms facing towards your body(overhand) or facing inwards to each other (neutral grip).

Using an overhand grip means you will target your upper and mid back more. This grip is ideal if you want to improve your posture since it works your upper back muscles. If you use a neutral grip it will target your lats more. So if you are looking to build a wider back to make your waist appear smaller then this is the grip to go for.

It’s best to do a combination of both grips to ensure that your back muscles benefit from the change in targeting different muscles.

Seated Row

Seated rows are usually performed with a cable machine but can be performed with a resistance band. This exercise works your upper back muscles and is a fantastic exercise to improve your posture.

Single Arm Row

Single Arm Row

Single arm rows are unilateral which means you are training one side at a time. Unilateral exercises are an effective way to fix any muscle imbalances. For example, if you find your one side is weaker than the other, you can perform 2 sets with the stronger side and 4 sets with the weaker side to help the weaker side catch up.

With the single arm row, you need to pull the dumbbell toward your hip instead of your stomach. An easy cue to make sure that you are targeting your lats correctly, is to pull with your elbow. This will ensure that you are working your lats instead of your biceps.

Horizontal Pulls: Muscles Worked

Horizontal pull exercises target your lats, traps, rear delts, rhomboids and even your erector spinae to an extent. These muscles all contribute to good posture and strengthening these muscles will help you perform better with other exercises.

Bodyweight Horizontal Pull Exercises

If you do not have access to a gym, there are two options.

The first is performing the exercises with a resistance band.
All the rows mentioned above can be performed with resistance bands. If you can get your hands on the resistance bands with the handles, even better.

The second option is bodyweight inverted rows. Position yourself under a sturdy table with your hands holding on either side of the table. Move your feet out in front of you with your knees bent and your heels touching the ground. Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Start rowing by pulling your torso to the table and back down again.

The inverted row will work your lats, rear deltoids, rhomboids and traps.
You can perform these with a towel as well. The steps are the same, the only difference is that you are holding onto the towel and not the table itself.

Don’t make it too complicated. Pick your favorites and add them to your upper body or full body workout. Once you’ve gained more experience with lifting you can start paying attention to different grips and selecting exercises based on the muscles they target.

Time to build a badass back.

Happy lifting!

Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC
Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC

Anna is a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and science junkie who has a passion for teaching women about weight training, nutrition, and wellness.