How to do Cable Pull-Throughs Correctly & Safely [Video + FAQ]

THE CABLE PULL-THROUGH TUTORIAL: A GREAT EXERCISE FOR GLUTE & HAMSTRING DEVELOPMENT

The cable pull-through is a great compound exercise that trains the powerful muscles of the posterior chain.

These include the hamstrings, the glutes, and the low back.

It is considered to be a great introductory variation to the deadlift, and one of the best exercises to learn glute activation.

In order to perform the cable pull-through, you will need a cable machine (aka cable pulley machine) that has an adjustable height.

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CABLE PULL-THROUGH FORM

CABLE PULL-THROUGH BENEFITS

  • Strengthens and tones the leg muscles, especially the hamstrings and glute muscles
  • Teaches the appropriate mechanics for bending at the waist (aka the hip hinge)
  • Strengthens the back muscles without providing any compressive axial loading

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE PULL-THROUGH

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes (especially the gluteus maximus)
  • Low Back
  • Core
  • Upper Back (Isometrically)

HOW TO PERFORM THE PULL-THROUGH WITH PROPER TECHNIQUE

  • Approach a cable pulley machine and attach the rope handle or another similar attachment to the machine. Order one here if you need.
  • Lower the pulley apparatus to the lowest setting

  • Pick the desired weight on the machine (remember to always start out light when learning a new movement)
  • Face away from the machine and grab the rope attachment with your palms facing each other in between your legs

  • Ideally, you should use flat sole shoes such as Converse Chuck Taylors, Nike Metcons, or Rebook Crossfit Nanos, to maintain a stable foot position. Any shoe with a squishy sole will not allow you to transfer force adequately from your feet to your hips.
  • Take a few steps away from the machine so that the pulley begins to lift the weight off the rack. Ensure that you are far enough so that the weight lifted does not come back in contact with the weight stack

  • Assume a stance that is wider than shoulder-width with your feet straight, or pointed out no more than 15-30 degrees
  • This is the starting position
cable-pull-through-exercise-starting-position with the rope in between brittanys legs and facing away from the weight stack
  • Begin the movement by bending at the waist and pushing your hips back towards the machine.

  • Do not allow your spinal alignment to change, keep a neutral spine throughout the entire movement

  • Keep pushing your hips back until you feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings

  • It is okay to have a slight bend at the knee
cable-pull-through-exercise-bottom-position, rope between legs and brittany bent over with back flat
  • Pause for a second and reverse the movement by extending at the hips

  • Ensure that you squeeze and activate your glutes at the top of the movement

  • Repeat for the desired number of reps


By The Way, If You’re Looking For Other Great Exercises To Build Strength…

Check out our E-book that goes over all of the best compound exercises for your entire body!


COMMON PULL-THROUGH MISTAKES

BENDING AT THE SPINE

  • Do not allow any motion to come from your spine.
  • Focus on moving ONLY at the hips. Practice by standing 12 inches away from a wall, and try to make your butt come in contact with the wall. This can only be achieved through hip flexion


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I Do Cable Pull-Through With A Band?

Yes, the pull-through can be performed with a band. Just tie a resistance band to a sturdy structure and perform the exercise the same way as described above. The band will accommodate the resistance throughout the movement; i.e, there will be less stretch on the band at the bottom of the exercise, and more at the top.

You can see a demonstration in our post – 20 Full Body Resistance Band Exercises.

Try and get different-sized bands, as they all provide different amounts of resistance. This set on Amazon is amazing.

Can I Do Cable Pull-Throughs Without The Machine?

Yes, you can do this exercise with a band as described above.

Or you can select one of the alternative exercises listed below.

They will all train the same hip hinge pattern through hip extension.

Which Exercise is Better? The Cable Pull Through Vs. Hip Thrust?

Both exercises are great for glute development, however, the hip thrust targets the hamstring muscles more.

With that said, you will be able to lift a lot more weight with the hip thrust. Bret Contreras has popularized the barbell hip thrust exercise.

The Cable Pull-Through Hurts My Lower Back. What Do I Do?

This is likely due to improper technique. You must focus on bending at the waist and not at the spine. Your spine should remain in a neutral position without changing its angle throughout the exercise. All of the tension should be felt in the hamstrings and glutes.

If this exercise still hurts, then use one of the alternatives below.

Whats An Ideal Cable Pull-Through Weight?

Aim to perform 12 repetitions with 65% of your body weight

How Can I Integrate The Cable Pull-Through In My Training?

Check out The WCT Best Workout Template For Busy Professionals to find a simple way to add the cable pull-through and other great exercises into your routine.

CABLE PULL THROUGH ALTERNATIVES

So what can you do instead of a cable pull through? If you don’t have access to a cable machine, any of the below exercises will train the same muscle groups.




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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.