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Designing Your Pull Day

Ready to upgrade your pull workout? Maybe you're just looking for some new ideas? Give this post a read!

The order in which we place exercises is crucial when constructing a work out plan. We're going to look at this Pull Day from the point of view of wanting to get as much out of each muscle as possible, by being cautious with our placement. I want to try and get each muscle as short as possible at the beginning of the workout, before fatigue kicks in and it becomes more difficult (a muscle is weaker the shorter it gets, this will then be made worse by fatigue).

There might be a time when it's appropriate to lay these exercises out in a slightly different order, or include completely different exercises. However, I feel this post lays out a solid pull day that will work for most individuals. Here's the basic map of the session:

- Pullover

- Pulldown

- Row - lat focused

- Rear Delt Row

- Biceps

- Biceps

Ready to learn more? Read on...


This exercise can be done really well, or really badly. How you set it up here is key. In an ideal world we'd all have access to something like the Nautilus Nitro Seated Machine Pullover, which does a great job at allowing you to set everything up to fit your structure, and keeps you stable. However, in the real world, we're not all going to be so lucky. The next best thing we can turn to is a cable machine.

Our first point of call is to make sure whatever attachment we use allows us to line up our shoulders with our hand placement. If this isn't possible using an attachment, you'll need to go single arm. For added stability we can also add in a bench for chest support.

Control is key here. You're in charge of the weight, don't let it take charge of you. Bring your elbow all the way down to your side, before slowly returning back to your starting position.


Those traditional cable lat pulldowns we've seen in the gyms for years should be done under the trades descriptions act. They're not lat focused, they're rear delt focused. The lats need to be trained with a shoulder width grip, and with an elbow that is adducted (close to your sides). If we abduct the elbows (bring them away from our sides) we lose efficiency of the lats, and turn the pulldown into a rear delt movement.

Again, this is where it's amazing to have access to a machine like the Nautilus Nitro pulldown, as we're in the perfect position already, without having to make any major changes. However, if you don't have access to one of these, no worries! We can create the same sort of lat based pulldown on a cable machine, just like the one below.

Row - Lat Focused

Again, in order to bias the lats, we're going to want to keep our arms abducted, with our palms facing each other. We have a huge range of options available to us when it comes to rows. We can opt for something that offers us a large amount of stability, like a machine or cable machine row, or go with something like a barbell or dumbbell row (with the barbell you're going to have to use a palms up grip) where moving a large amount of weight in a less stable environment is the task at hand.

For some people, it's appropriate to opt for something like a machine row (beginner, previous injury, etc.), where as other people will benefit from a combination of the two (use the machine row to get the lats nice and short, before going into a heavy free weight row to milk the last bits out of the lats).

The decision here is going to rest solely on you (and your coach if you have one). However, make sure you pick the right one for you, not your ego. Free weight rows are complex moves and, not only do you risk hurting yourself if you get it wrong, you'll also be wasting your time. You'll miss out on the rewards of picking the appropriate option for your skill and structure.

Rear Delt Row

Time to do some specific rear delt work. I should note, rear delts don't have to be trained on pull days. Yes, the action involved in training the rear delts is pulling but, ultimately, just like all exercise, it's about laying them out in a way that works for you. Maybe training them alongside your lateral and front delts on push days will be better for you, so have a play around!

The rear delts are tricky little swines and, unfortunately, I often see them being trained badly and with too much weight. Yes, we need to adduct our elbows, but bringing them all the way out to 90 degrees means we can't pull our elbows back as far, thus we can't shorten the rear delts as much. This is one of the problems with exercises such as the face pull and rear delt fly.

My personal favourite rear delt exercise is a chest supported dual cable rear delt row. It's wise to start out with around 45 degrees of elbow adduction, and adjust to match your structure from there.

We also have the option of using a standard cable row, but using a palms down grip, or using the traditional "lat pulldown" machine, but being smug and knowing that we're actually using it to train our rear delts.


Lastly, the arm segment (aka everybody's favourite). My preferred way to lay out my arm training is to place emphasise on the two different ranges our biceps go through, these are the long and the short. The long phase is when your bicep is longest, so when your elbow is extended. The short phase is when your bicep is at its shortest and your elbow is fully flexed.

For the short range I like to do some form of curl that has my shoulder in a flexed position, so my arm is out in front of me. My two favourites are cable machine preacher curls, and some machine preacher curls (I'm picky about my machines, you should no this by now). We can really emphasise that flexed elbow position by holding a pause in that range for 2 seconds.

For the lengthened range we need something that places our shoulders into extension, so our arms are behind us. For this I love to use a cable drag curl. Again, we can use a pause to emphasise our target range, this time holding it at the bottom of the curl for 2 seconds.

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