How to Do Dumbbell High Pulls | Movement Breakdown

Dumbbell high pulls are a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the upper body, particularly the shoulders, traps, and upper back. They are an explosive movement that are a precursor to cleans. These are great to help build to a clean and are also a great accessory exercise for those struggling at the pull variation of the clean.

How to Do High Pulls

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing your body). Let your arms hang down in front of you.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and initiate the movement by explosively pulling the dumbbells towards your shoulders. As you pull the dumbbells up, lead with your elbows and keep them above your hands.
  3. At the top of the movement, your elbows should be above shoulder height, and the dumbbells should be close to your body. Your shoulders should be shrugged, and your wrists should be flexed.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position with control, allowing your arms to straighten fully.

    Muscles Worked

    Dumbbell high pulls primarily target the following muscles:

    1. Deltoids: Both the front and side deltoids are heavily engaged during the pulling motion.
    2. Trapezius: The upper trapezius muscles, which run along the neck and upper back, are responsible for the shrugging motion in the high pull.
    3. Rhomboids: These muscles located between the shoulder blades are engaged to stabilize the shoulder blades during the movement.
    4. Biceps and Forearms: While the primary focus is on the upper body, the biceps and forearms also assist in lifting the dumbbells.

    Alternative to High Pulls

    An alternative exercise that targets similar muscles is the upright row. It involves lifting a barbell or dumbbells close to your body, leading with your elbows and engaging the same upper body muscles as the high pull.

    Benefits of High Pulls

    On top of leading to a better clean, dumbbell high pulls have a ton of benefits. Dumbbell high pulls can help build strong and well-defined shoulders due to the emphasis on the deltoid muscles helping with shoulder development. The exercise engages the trapezius and rhomboid muscles, contributing to improved upper back strength and posture. The explosive pulling motion in high pulls can enhance your overall power output and athleticism. High pulls require coordination between multiple muscle groups, promoting better overall body coordination. And the movement pattern mimics actions often performed in daily activities or sports, making it a functional exercise.

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