A while ago we talked about the best pull exercises for your upper body. So it is only fitting that we talk about the best pull exercises for your lower body as well.
Since your hips do not have nearly the same level of mobility that your shoulders do and you have fewer muscles on your lower body than on your upper body there aren’t nearly as many exercises for your lower body especially when it comes to pull exercises for your lower body.
Compound Lower Body Pull Exercises
Single Leg Deadlift
The single-leg deadlift is a pulling exercise like any kind of deadlift and in this case, it works especially well for targeting the hamstrings and even more so the gluteus maximus muscle also known as the glutes. As well as having the added benefit of enhancing one’s balance and stabilization.
- Stand straight arms shoulder width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand with a pronated grip
- Lean all your weight onto one of your legs having it bent ever so slightly
- Slowly bring your other leg behind your body until it is kicked all the way out while keeping your leg straight the whole time
- As your leg gets further behind you your mid trunk will lower ensure to keep your back straight while this happens
- When you get your leg kicked out all the way back your body should look like a “T” shape with your back leg and back forming the top of it and your other leg being the base.
- Your arms with the dumbbells should be hanging down directly in front of you
- Slowly bring your extended leg back to the starting position straightening your back as well
- Repeat this movement with the other leg and perform for the desired number of repetitions
Stiff Leg Deadlift
This deadlift variation is a pulling exercise that focuses on your lower body especially during the first half of the movement in order to maximize the hamstring and glute muscles engagement.
- Have a regular barbell loaded with weights on the ground slightly in front of you, not close enough to touch your ankles but close enough to where the bar is over the tips of your feet
- While keeping your back and head and in turn your spine and neck in line bend your back about 45 degrees
- Slowly bend your knees with your back in this position until you are lower enough to the ground to grab the bar
- Grab the bar from slightly outside where your legs are placed I recommend an overhand grip although many use an over/under grip for a sense of a stronger grip
- When you are ready remembering to keep your spine and neck aligned begin to stand up pushing your legs onto the ground to help you do so and lift the weight while keeping your knees in the same position of very slightly bent almost straight maintain this position during the whole movement like your legs are stiff
- With no time between once you feel your are stood up bring your back and head up until it is once again perpendicular to the ground
- Safely lower the bar to the ground again by reversing these steps remembering to keep your back aligned and straight at all times
- Repeat until the set is done
Many people believe this is the same exercise as a stiff leg deadlift but in fact, this is not the case and this deadlift variation focuses on maintaining a great amount of time under tension (TUT) in order to maximize hamstring and glute stretch and in results potential gains.
- This exercise is performed extremely similar to the stiff leg deadlift but there is one major difference
- The difference in the Romanian deadlift is unlike in the stiff leg deadlift you do not return the bar back down to the ground instead you keep a grip of it bring it back down close to the ground but not touching it and repeat the exercise for the desired amount of reps not letting go until your set is complete
- Since you never let go of the bar you have constant tension placed on the muscles in this case your hamstrings and glutes the entire time which is good for maximizing gains
- Repeat movement for the desired number of repetitions
The reverse lunge is included on this list because unlike a forward lunge which could be seen as an exercise that pushes your body forward the reverse lunge involves pulling yourself back.
- Start in a standing position facing forward with feet shoulder-width apart
- Step backwards pointing toes towards the ground
- Slowly begin to bend the knee of your back leg until your knee touches the ground
- Bring the leg back to the starting position straightening it again
- Perform the same movement until the set is complete
Good mornings are a very obscure exercise. I have actually never seen anyone performing them in a commercial gym. It is a shame too because they are an extremely effective exercise when it comes to working your hamstrings and glutes.
- Start standing with a barbell over your back as if you were about to perform a barbell squat
- Keeping your legs ever so slightly bent and your back perfectly straight begin to lower the trunk of your body forward
- Stop just before 90 degrees then bring your trunk back up until you are once again standing straight
- Repeat movement for the desired amount of repetitions
Isolation Lower Body Pull Exercises
The first of a small number of isolation pull exercises for your lower body is the leg curl. Great for isolating the hamstrings the leg curl is probably the most commonly known lower-body pull exercise and the first one that comes to mind when talking about pull exercises for the lower body especially to a newer lifter.
- Sit on the seat of a leg curl machine or if it is a lay down lay on the cushion belly down
- Ensure the pad is resting at the appropriate level on the back of your leg just above your ankle
- Ensuring your upper body stays stationary curl away with your legs
- Do as many curls as you require for your set then you may get off the machine and rest
Bodyweight Hamstring Curl
The bodyweight hamstring curl is the bodyweight alternative to the leg curl. Let it be known this is definitely a harder body weight exercise and if you are new to training and don’t already have really big strong legs it may be difficult but don’t let that stop you from trying.
- Find something you can anchor your legs under while you are facing downward this can be a low bar close to the ground or pads from a machine anything as long as you can get both legs level underneath it and it is strong enough to handle your body weight
- While laying flat attempt to pull the trunk of your body upright with your legs
- You can achieve this through a combination of pushing the bottom of your legs against your anchor and flexing the back of your legs using them to pull you closer
- This exercise can be difficult so if you can not pull yourself up with your legs very far at first do not be discouraged There is always progress to be made
- If you have nothing to put your legs under you can also push yourself upright using your arms like you would a push up this way you would only be focusing on the negative portion of the exercise and slowly bringing yourself back down
Another bodyweight isolation exercise and again one rarely seen or used is the toe raise. Rather than raising your heel off the ground by pushing like in a calf raise this exercise sees one raising their toes off the ground by pulling. This exercise works the front part of your lower leg, in particular the tibialis.
- This exercise can be done standing holding any amount of weight or sitting with any amount of weight placed on your lap
- From the starting position simply lift your toes and upper foot off the ground as high as you can while keeping your heels planted then return them to the starting position
- You can do both feet at the same time or what at a time if you so desire
- You may also find a platform to place your heels on that will have your toes and upper foot hanging off the edge as the starting position for this exercise
- By having the end of your feet hanging off the edge like this you help to maintain TUT