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The 7 Best Vertical Pull Exercises For Any Level

best vertical pull exercises

What Are Vertical Pull Exercises?

When it comes to training your body, most exercises can be classified into the following movement patterns:

  • Vertical pull
  • Horizontal pull
  • Vertical push
  • Horizontal push
  • Hinge
  • Squat
  • Rotation

These movement patterns will train almost every muscle group in your body.

Vertical pull exercises are one of the 7 major movement patterns which primarily consist of movements where you pull weight in a vertical plane. The most obvious example of this movement is a pull-up.

What Muscles Do Vertical Pull Exercises Work?

Vertical pull exercises primarily engage your lats, rhomboids, biceps, lower traps, rear delts, and teres major. Some of these muscles like rear delts, rhomboids, or lower traps help you depress your shoulders. This is crucial in today’s world as this helps you improve your posture that suffers from the long hours of sitting that we spend during the day.

The 7 Best Vertical Pull Exercises

1. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are one of the most popular and common upper body exercises for your back. They are probably the most classic example of a vertical pull exercise.

Pull-ups work your lats, biceps, and forearms along with other muscle groups.

One of the reasons they’re so great is that almost anybody can do them. If you’re just a beginner and can’t do a proper pull-up, you can make it easier for yourself by attaching a resistance band to the top of the bar and stepping into it to do pullups. The resistance band will help you with some of your weight which will make the exercise easier.

On the other hand, if you want to make the exercise harder, you can always attach some weight yourself using a weighted vest.

How to do a pull-up:

  • Get under the bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip
  • Use a shoulder-width apart grip or even wider to increase tension on your lats during the exercise
  • Engage your abs and quads to prevent you from swinging
  • Pull yourself up to the bar until your chin is over the bar using your lats
  • Stop for a second a slowly lower yourself down

2. Lat Pulldowns

A lat pulldown is one of the best back exercises that can help you build strength and muscle size. It’s a very similar movement pattern to a pull-up, except that in this case, you have to pull the bar and the weight down to your body instead of pulling yourself to the bar.

Lat pulldowns can be performed at any gym that a lat pulldown machine. Given how common this exercise is, you should have no problem finding a lat pulldown machine in your gym.

How to do a lat pulldown:

  • Take a seat inside the lat pulldown machine. Place your knees under the pads and your legs on the floor
  • Grab the ends of the bar with an overhand grip
  • Pull your shoulders back and pull the weight down to your upper chest. Don’t lean back too much
  • Make a short pause and slowly let the weight go up

You may also like: 11 Best Lat Pulldown Alternatives.

3. Single Arm Cable Pulldowns

The single arm cable pulldown is another example of a unilateral vertical pull exercise. This one is very similar to the lat pulldown with some minor differences.

Firstly, it’s a single arm exercise which means you’ll be performing it with one arm at a time. This will help you focus on one side of your body for a better mind-muscle connection and faster muscle gain.

Another added benefit is that your core will get some additional work during this exercise to stabilize your body.

How to do a single arm cable pulldown:

  • Attach a handle to the cable pulley
  • Grasp the handle with an overhand grip
  • Pull the weight down. Make sure your arm is one the side of your body and not in front of you
  • Squeeze your muscles at the bottom position for a moment and let the weight go back up

4. Chinups

Chinups are a very similar exercise to pull-ups except that it focuses a bit more on your biceps and less on your back. For many people chinups can be a good starting point as most people are stronger doing chinups rather than pullups.

One of the major benefits of chinups is that they can be performed almost anywhere as they require very little equipment: just a pull-up bar.

How to do a chinup:

  • Stand under the bar and grasp the bar with an underhand grip
  • Make sure your hands are about shoulder-width apart. Don’t go too wide as this can make the exercise uncomfortable
  • Engage your abs, glutes and quads to create more stability throughout your body
  • Pull yourself up to the bar until your chin is over the bar
  • Stop for a second a slowly lower yourself down

5. Scap Pulls

The scap pulls are an overlooked and underutilized exercise. It can be used as a warmup or a rehabilitation exercise for your shoulders. This exercise works your lower traps which will help you bring your shoulders down creating more stability in your shoulder area and helping you improve your posture.

How to do a scap pull:

  • Get under a pull-up bar and hang on it with an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart
  • Make sure that your body is vertical and you don’t lean back too much. Keep it that way throughout the exercise
  • Pull yourself up without bending your arms in your elbows. It is a small movement that will bring your shoulder blades down
  • Hold for a second and return back to the starting position

6. Straight Arm Pulldowns

The straight arm pulldown is another great vertical pull exercise, especially for those who can’t feel their lats during the pullups or lat pulldowns. This movement will exclude your biceps and mid-back muscles from the movement helping you focus on your lats.

I order to do this exercise you’ll need a cable machine with a bar handle attached to it.

How to do a straight arm pulldown:

  • Start by grabbing the bar and stepping backward just a little bit
  • Bend your torso forward slightly at about a 30-degree angle
  • Make sure your arms are fully extended while keeping a slight bend in your elbows
  • Breathe out and pull the weight down towards your lower abs region. Make sure you keep your arms extended at the elbow throughout the movement
  • Pause for a second and return to the starting position

7. Dumbbell Pullovers

The dumbbell pullover is another classic back exercise that has been used for years. It may not be the most obvious vertical pull movement exercise since the weight is moving parallel to the ground unlike in other exercises where it moves perpendicular to the ground.

This exercise can be fantastic for your lats if you do it properly. In order to do this exercise, you will need a dumbbell and a bench that is about knee height.

How to do a dumbbell pullover:

  • Put a dumbbell closer to one end of the bench and sit behind it
  • Take the dumbbell with both hands placed under one side
  • Lay down on a bench placing your head on the end of one side. Place your feet down on the ground
  • Bring the dumbbell up above your head while keeping your elbows extended
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell down behind your head and go down as much as you can. You should feel a good stretch in your lats
  • Pause for a second and then bring the weight back up while keeping your elbows straight
  • Make sure that your elbows flare out during the exercise. This will keep the focus on your lats instead of your chest


Vertical pull exercises are great for keeping your shoulders healthy, fixing your posture, and having a better overall look. Make sure that you integrate them into your workout routine to get the most out of your training.