Top 10 Pull Exercises for Legs: Build Lower Body Strength - Healthkyte

Top 10 Pull Exercises for Legs: Build Lower Body Strength

Top 10 Pull Exercises for Legs: Build Lower Body Strength


Do your glutes disappear when you view your physique from behind in the mirror? If you want legs that can power you through any athletic endeavor and fill out a pair of jeans, it’s time to start incorporating pull exercises into your training knowing about top pull exercises for legs.

Pull exercises target the neglected muscles of the posterior chain – primarily the hamstrings and glutes. These movements train your legs through horizontal hip extension, developing strength and muscle that will increase performance, prevent injury, and sculpt a rounder, more balanced lower body.

In this article, the top 10 best pull exercises for legs will be discussed. From deadlifts to hip thrusts to Nordic curls, these movements will light your hamstrings and glutes on fire. Master these exercises and you’ll build lower body muscle and power you never thought possible. Let’s dive in!

Benefits of Best Pull Exercises for Legs

Pull exercises are movements where the weight is pulled towards the body, rather than pushed away from it like in a press or squat. For the lower body, this involves hip extension and knee flexion to target the glutes, hamstrings, and other posterior chain muscles.

Here are some of the key benefits to training your legs with pull exercises:

  • Increased athletic performanceStronger glutes and hamstrings translate to more power, speed, and injury resilience on the field or court. Pull exercises mimic common athletic motions like sprinting, jumping, and changing direction.
  • Muscle growth – The glutes and hamstrings have high amounts of fast-twitch muscle fibers with growth potential. Pull exercises prompt hypertrophy leading to rounder, stronger glutes and hamstrings.
  • Injury prevention – Pull exercises balance out the muscle imbalances and quadriceps dominance brought on by repeated lunging and squatting. This relieves low back, hip, and knee discomfort.

Here are the top 10 pull workouts for legs!


This pull exercise has been building massive legs and sculpted backsides for decades.  It engages many joints and engages muscles all down your posterior chain. The deadlift is the only exercise that adequately targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.


Leg Pull Exercises


Step by step guide:

  • Set up with the barbell on the floor in front of you and your feet shoulder-width apart. Knees are slightly bent.
  • Keep your back flat, chest up, and push your hips back. Just outside the legs, grab the bar.
  • Take a deep breath, tighten your abs and force your heels into the ground to stand up while lifting the bar up your thighs.
  • At the apex, raise your hips and shoulders jointly. Reverse the action gradually to lower the bar to the ground.

Mistakes to avoid:

It seems simple enough, but some common mistakes can get you into trouble:

  • Back rounding: Throughout the lift, maintain a rigid core and a neutral back. Neither circular nor overarch.
  • Jerking the weight – Initiate lift by driving through heels, not yanking the bar upward.
  • Not engaging glutes – Focus on squeezing the glutes at the movement’s top.
  • Overextending at lockout – Finish with hips fully extended but no further. Do not hyperextend.

So next time you deadlift, focus on proper form and squeeze those glutes and hamstrings. It may not feel like much at first, but you’ll develop the butt and legs of your dreams over time!

Barbell Hip Thrust

Looking to isolate and eradicate your glutes? Enter the barbell hip thrust. This exercise targets the glutes like no other, earning its reputation as a top booty builder.

Step by step guide:

  • Set up a bench and load a barbell over your hips while seated on the floor.
  • Drive heels into the floor and bridge hips until thighs and torso are parallel.
  • Squeeze your glutes hard and hold the top position for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly lower hips back to the floor with control.

Mistakes to avoid:

It looks easy, but beware of these common mistakes:

  • Allowing knees to cave inward – Keep them pushed outward throughout the movement.
  • Letting hips drop too low – Only go as low as you can control. Avoid overstretching.
  • Failing to engage glutes – Focus on squeezing glutes at the top.

So, if you struggle to feel your glutes working during other exercises, add hip thrusts to isolate them. Over time, you’ll start activating and building your glutes more effectively for that coveted Butt lift!

Glute Ham Raise

The glute ham raise is one of the most effective exercises for building strength in your hamstrings. It works the hamstrings through hip extension and knee flexion to provide maximum activation.

Step by step guide:

  • Kneel on platform, ankles secured by rollers. Extend legs so body is straight.
  • Keeping legs straight, slowly lower down by hinging at knees and hips.
  • When hamstrings are fully stretched, use glutes and hams to pull yourself back up.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Allowing knees to bend – Keep legs straight throughout motion.
  • Jerky momentum – Control motion down and up.
  • Curving spine – Maintain flat back.

With practice, you’ll learn to feel your hamstrings working eccentrically to control the descent and pull you back up concentrically. The result is insane levels of muscle activation!

Sliding Leg Curl

The sliding leg curl allows you to isolate the hamstrings without any equipment. Use a towel or slider discs on hardwood or carpet to mimic a leg curl machine.

Step by step guide:

  • Lie on ground with legs straight, heels on towel/discs. Engage core.
  • Keeping legs straight, dig heels down and slide legs in towards butt.
  • Flex knees to curl legs up as slider pulls in. Squeeze hamstrings.
  • Slowly straighten legs back to start position.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Lifting hips off floor – Keep core braced and hips grounded.
  • Bending knees too soon – Keep legs straight as long as possible.
  • Not engaging hamstrings – Focus on flexing knees with hamstrings.

The sliding leg curl is a creative way to target the hamstrings through their full range of motion. The extended lever of straight legs increases resistance for greater strength gains.

Romanian Deadlift

Like a traditional deadlift but performed with the weight in your hands, the Romanian deadlift provides maximum hamstring activation. With limited knee flexion, the emphasis stays on hip extension to isolate the hamstrings.

Step by step guide:

  • Hold the barbell, soften your knees slightly, and hinge your hips.
  • Maintaining a flat back lower bar as far as flexibility allows.
  • Drive hips forward until upright, squeezing glutes.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Rounding lower back – Keep core braced and back neutral.
  • Bending knees deeply – Maintain a slight bend, but don’t squat.
  • Not hitting end range – Go as low as hamstring flexibility allows.

The Romanian Deadlift shifts tension away from the quads and lower back. Your hamstrings must work overtime to control the descent and power you back up. This leads to insane muscle growth over time!

Single Leg Romanian deadlift

The single-leg Romanian deadlift takes the hamstring-torching potential of the RDL and doubles it. Splitting the load between sides allows you to correct any imbalances or weaknesses.

Step by step guide:

  • Hold weights and stand on one leg; soften your knee slightly.
  • Hinge at the hip of the standing leg, lowering weights toward the floor.
  • Maintain a neutral spine and balance before driving back up.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Allowing arch in the low back – Keep core tight.
  • Rotating shoulders or hips – Eyes forward and torso square.
  • Failing to hit full range – Target maximum hip hinge.

The Single Leg Romanian deadlift forces your stabilizers to work overtime while hitting the hamstrings through the entire range. Start light to get the movement down before progressing.

Nordic Curl

Think again if you thought you needed fancy machines to train your hamstrings. The Nordic curl uses your body weight to torch your hams through a killer range of motion.

Step by step guide:

  • Kneel on the ground and anchor feet under the immovable object.
  • Keeping back straight, slowly lower body by extending knees.
  • Pull yourself back up once your hamstrings reach full stretch by curling your knees.

Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Allowing the low back to round – Maintain a neutral spine throughout.
  • Using momentum – Keep the motion slow and controlled.
  • Not engaging hamstrings – Focus on pulling with hamstrings to return up.

Having a partner hold your ankles makes reaching your entire range of motion easier.

Band-assisted variations are also significant for reducing resistance as you build strength.

The Nordic curl takes advantage of eccentric loading, where the hamstrings are forced to fight gravity on the way down. This leads to unparalleled hamstring development!

Glute Bridge

Don’t have a hip thrust bench? No problem! The floor glute bridge allows you to tap into serious glute power from the ground up.

Best Leg Pull Exercises

Step by step guide:

  • Lie face up, bend your knees, and feet flat on the floor.
  • Drive heels down to lift hips until knees, hips, and shoulders align.
  • Squeeze glutes at the top, hold briefly, lower with control.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Letting hips sag – Keep glutes engaged throughout the motion.
  • Overarching low back – Maintain a neutral spine by bracing the core.
  • Failing to reach the top – Drive full hip extension.

Try weighted variations with a barbell across the hips or a band around the knees for added resistance. Use these bridging movements to learn how to integrate your glutes into other exercises.

You’ll be building serious strength from the floor up in no time! Those glutes will be begging for mercy.

Cable Pull-Through

The cable pull-through is a unique exercise that fires up the entire posterior chain in one fluid motion. The cable provides constant tension through a total hip and knee extension range.

Step by step guide:

  • Attach a rope handle to a low pulley and step back.
  • Hinge at the hip with soft knees, pushing the hips back and down.
  • Keep back flat and drive hips forward until upright.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Rounding low back – Maintain a neutral spine by bracing the core.
  • Limited hip hinge – Focus on pushing hips back as far as possible.
  • Not engaging glutes – Squeeze glutes at the top of the motion.

With cables, you eliminate strength imbalances since both sides pull evenly. Get ready to smoke those glutes and hamstrings!

Lying Leg Curl

The lying leg curl machine is excellent for prioritizing your hamstrings through a substantial range of knee flexion. Adjust the roller pad to target different areas of the hamstring muscle group.

Step by Step guide:

  • Lie face down, the pad under your ankles and hips on the bench.
  • Keep your hips down as you bend your knees and curl your ankles.
  • Control return until legs are straight. 

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Lifting hips – Keep core braced to stabilize hips.
  • Limited range of motion – Curl ankles up as high as possible.
  • Jerky motion – Keep the motion slow and controlled.

This machine takes hamstring activation to the next level by isolating them during knee flexion. It’s the perfect complement to heavy hip extension moves like deadlifts.

Get out there and start building those glutes and hamstrings until you can hardly walk! Your legs will thank you eventually.

Final Thought

There are 10 killer pull workouts for legs to sculpt, strengthen, and define your lower body like never before. From heavy compound moves like the deadlift to targeted isolation exercises like leg curls, these movements cover all the bases for complete hamstring and glute development.

So, feel inspired and equipped to incorporate these posterior chain exercises into your training. They will completely transform your legs’ shape, definition, and functional strength.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What if I don’t have access to certain equipment like a cable machine? Are there alternatives?

You can get creative and mimic many of these movements without machines. For example, the sliding leg curl can be done at home with furniture sliders, and hip thrusts can be performed with a barbell or just bodyweight. Explore exercise variations to work around equipment limitations.

How often should I train legs with pull exercises?

Aim for 2-3 focused leg sessions per week. At least one of these should emphasize posterior chain muscles. Don’t train the same muscle groups daily to allow for proper rest and recovery.

How much weight should I use for these exercises?

Start light and focus on nailing proper form. Progressively increase weight over time as strength improves. Choose a weight that allows you to complete all sets and reps with good technique. Quality over quantity.

What can I do to maximize glute activation in these movements?

Concentrate on squeezing your glutes at the top contraction of each rep. Many of these movements require you to thrust your hips forward or externally rotate your hips to fully engage the glutes.

Can pull exercises for legs replace squats and lunges?

Pull exercises complement squats and lunges nicely by working the backside of the legs. However, you’ll want to incorporate both pull and push exercises for balanced lower body development. Program a mix of movements to train legs from all angles.


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