8 Best Vertical Pull Exercises – Beginners Guide To Building A Wider Back.

Human beings are movers, we always have been.

If we’re not moving around we’re moving things around.

Safe to say the human body is a pushing and pulling machine.

If we’re not pulling something, we’re probably pulling it.

And that’s how I break down my training programs with clients at their most simple level.

Push, pull, and legs.

We do some pushing exercises, some pulling exercises, and some leg exercises.

It breaks down even further than that, into the 8 basic movements, and that’s how we program for strength and conditioning.

And vertical pull exercises make up just one of the 8 categories of our basic movement patterns.

The muscles groups used in all pull exercises are as follows.

  1. Latissimus Dorsi 
  2. Trapezius
  3. Levator Scapulae 
  4. Rhomboids
  5. Rear Deltoids
  6. Biceps Brachii

Some of our vertical pull exercises include pull-ups, high pulls, and lat pulldowns but below you find my full list of the 8 best vertical pull exercises.

Some of the best vertical pulling exercises are actually bodyweight exercises.

That’s why when I meet calisthenics athletes I instantly think strong back.

The lat pulldown machine is another great way to work for your vertical pull muscle groups as well.

The vertical pull is 1 of 8 basic movements our body was built for.

And when you train with a functional purpose in mind you need to be testing your body’s capabilities in those 8 movements regularly.

So as you carry on in this article I’m going to show you everything you need to know to get your training right.

What are the basic movements of the body, And the exercises you need to do to hit all of them?

But first, let’s look at vertical pulls more.

What Muscles Do Pull Exercises Work?

As I mentioned above there are a few muscles responsible for pulling.

But the primary mover in most pulling exercises would be our Latissimus Dorsi.

Your lats are the big wing-like muscles that come from your armpit and connect up to your mid to lower back.

Now we could talk in all the medical sciencey terms but it gets confusing, so we won’t.

Your rhomboids, traps, and biceps are also key pulling muscles.

So by splitting your workouts up into push, pull, and legs you hit all your muscle groups.

Rather than doing arm day, chest day, leg day… and so on.

Let’s say you want to train 6 days a week and have one rest day.

With a push, pull, legs split you’ll hit all your muscles twice a week.

When you hit a standard bro split, arms, legs, chest, back, shoulders, and core.

You hit your muscle groups once per week.

So pull day is going to work your back muscles, rear delts, and your biceps.

What Are Vertical Pull Exercises?

Vertical pull exercises are any exercises where you pull through a vertical plane.

Pull-ups and chin-ups are the first that come to mind when I think of vertical pulls.

But there are multiple vertical pull exercises you can do that are going to target different muscles.

There is also breaking down the differences between pull-ups vs chin-ups that are going to target muscles differently.


The main difference with pull up and chin is your using an overhead grip and an underhand grip.

Both exercises look and feel very similar but bring different muscles into focus.

So rather than just doing pull-ups and calling it a day. It’s worth looking at a few of our different vertical pulls.

So I’ve compiled a list of the 8 best vertical pull exercises below.

Check this article giving you the difference between pull-ups and lat pull downs.

The 8 Best Vertical Pull Exercises

  1. Lat Pull Downs
  2. Pull-Ups
  3. Assisted Pull-Ups
  4. Single Arm Cable Pull Down
  5. Chin Ups
  6. Upright rows
  7. Banded Pulldowns
  8. Bicep Curls

Why Are Horizontal Pull Exercises Important?

A horizontal pulling exercise like a bent row is going to hit your muscles differently.

The seated row is another good example of a horizontal pull.

They both target the same muscles but one is done with free weights the other is done with cable machines.

But both can be replicated with resistance bands.

Deadlifts and body rows are other horizontal pull exercises you can do.

But you could also argue for deadlift being a vertical pull as well.

It’s important to be training your body in all its functional movements and any decent training program should include both pushing movements and pulling movements bother vertical and horizontal.

That’s how our body moves so we need to incorporate different exercises into our training to hit all our body parts how they need to be moved.

Below are is a list of all the basic movements our body does and a few exercises for each so you can see how your exercises routine should be looking.

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What Are The Other Basic Movements?

There are 8 basic movements we do with our bodies.

And each of those 8 movements has a wide variety of exercises you can do.

Below I’ve given you a list of all 8 with 2 or 3 exercises you can do.

That’s also giving you the blueprint to write your own full-body workouts.

Take one exercise from each category and do 2-3 sets of each.

Rep ranges will depend on your goals. But 8-12 reps per set is a pretty good starting point.

A 3-day workout routine where you hit your entire body each session is all you really need to be doing per week as far as your strength work going.

Getting in some cardio on the alternating days and you have yourself a great training routine.

  1. Vertical Push – Shoulder Press, Handstand Push-ups.
  2. Vertical Pull – Pull-ups, Lat pulls.
  3. Horizontal Push – Bench Press, Push-ups.
  4. Horizontal Pull – Bent Row, Seated Row.
  5. Squat – Bodyweight squats, Pistol Squats, Front Squats.
  6. Split Squat – Lunges, Split Squats.
  7. Hinge – Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing.
  8. Carry – Farmers Carry, Suitcase Carry

All of the above exercises are compound exercises.

Compound movements are the types of exercises you should be doing to hit all the muscles of the body.

When you train compound movements you are moving more muscles than in isolated exercises.

And when more muscles work, more calories are burned.

If you really want to target an individual muscle or weakness, that should be done once you’ve finished with your big compound exercises.

How Can I Do Vertical Pulls At Home?

Vertical pulls at home can be tricky to do.

Without a pull-up bar or cable machine, it can seem impossible.

Until I bought myself a basebar by base blocks which is a very easy to set up home pull bar.

I posted a review of it on youtube which you can see below.

But in this video, I show you one of the ways I was getting my vertical pulls in a home with a resistance band.

A resistance band offers you a great substitute for single-arm cable pull-downs at home.

You just need to tie the band around a post up as high as you can get it.

From there you bend over so you can pull the band down towards yourself to replicate a vertical pull.

I do this single-arm normally but you can do these easily enough with both hands as well.

Resistance bands have made it so easy for me to replace cable machines, and if you haven’t got a copy yet click here for my FREE Ebook, Train wherever the f*ck you want.

It really is more than just a book about resistance bands. I break down training splits for you and give you a sample program to follow.

Another way is to take a sock and a beer can like you see in this next video so you can attach a band to a closed door and perform lat pulldowns from there.

You can sit down with you back to the door do lat pulldowns at home that way.


Benefits Of Push Pull Super Sets.

Performing push-pull supersets is one of the best ways to get more out of an upper-body session.

By working opposing muscles group back to back you give one group time to rest while going straight into pushing the other muscle group.

When you do this you are working in a short space of time.

Bouncing between pull-ups and handstand push-ups is a calisthenic superset that’s going to push you to the limit.

You can then go to body rows and push-ups to get an upper-body workout all down to 6 or so sets. But let’s say you want o do this with a barbell.

So try supersets of bench press and bent-over row followed by supersets of shoulder press and pull-ups.

In under 30 minutes you’ve smashed your upper body so why not finish off with supersets of squats and deadlifts.

There you have a crazy full-body workout done in under 45 minutes.

And if you really want to you can knock out a few core exercises as well.

You can do the same thing with bodyweight exercises as well.

Take the first to calisthenics super sets I gave you and finish off with supersets of pistol squats and nordic curls and you’ve just done a full-body workout with the best exercises you can do without equipment.