Cable Pull Through Alternatives for Strength and Coordination

In an earlier article we covered in great detail the cable pull through, and why most lifters and athletes can benefit from them. Whether for glute development, warm up and/or corrective routines, or increase contraction and velocity of hip extension; the cable pull through can do it all. Sometimes however, a lifter or coach may not have access to cable stacks and/or machines, creating glute inactivity for all. Fear not, we have covered some alternatives that you can build in immediately to save those glutes from muscle atrophy and get started on living a stronger, more gluteal life.

[Want gloriously strong glutes? So do we, which is why we did this!]

In this article we will discuss three main alternatives lifters and coaches can implement into training programs with little set up and/or special equipment and still deliver results.

Cable Pull Through Benefits

Here is a brief overview of the benefits coaches and athletes can expect from performing cable pull throughs.

  • Develop hamstring and lower back muscular growth
  • Better isolate the glute and hip structures needed for proper hinging mechanics
  • Increase glute development
  • Teach/reiterate sound hamstring/posterior chain loading mechanics with lifters of all levels
  • Increase glute and hamstring training volume without increasing spinal loading

Muscles Worked

Below is a listing of the primary muscles targeted by the cable pull through (in no specific order).

  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Spinal Erectors (lower back muscles)
  • Lats and back (minor)

Cable Pull Through Alternative #1: Banded Pull Throughs

Fear not. If you love the cable pull through however are lacking proper equipment, simple elastic bands will do. Many gyms and garages can be outfitted with these inexpensive and versatile pieces of rubber, making them a great option for lifters on the go or on a budget. This no frills alternative can be set up the same way as the cable (set to low height and face away, with band running through legs).

Perform the reps in identical fashion as the cable variation, and reap all the benefits, for a fraction of the costs of cables. Note, that loading can be difficult at higher levels since band tension does have an upper limit. I have found that bands work well however, since as a lifter gets closer to lockout, the loading increases, forcing them to stay active and find peak contraction. You can take one step further by adding these into supersets with squats, deadlifts, and other glute exercises for added hypertrophy!

[Do deadlifts hurt you lower back? Odds are your are doing them wrong! Read here to start fixing your form!]

Cable Pull Through Alternative #2: Weighted or Banded Hip Thrusts

The hip thrust can be used with bands, weight, both, or any other load to maximize glute and hip strength and hypertrophy. When done correctly, this movement should target the same muscle groups as the pull through (maybe slightly less hamstrings and erectors singe not upright), however the net glute effect is substantial. Performing slower, tempo based repetitions for muscle hypertrophy is best, however performing these for more strength and/or explosive reps can have it’s place in more advanced training programs as well. The biggest way to have the best carry over to other lifts is to master these with complete control and tension, focusing on the glutes performing the movement rather than spinal extension and/or incomplete lockout of the hips (supported completely by active and maximal gluteal contractions).

In the above video Omar Isuf and Bret Contreras discuss the finer things about glute training and the hip raise.

Cable Pull Through Alternative #3: Dimel Deadlifts

The Dimel deadlift is named after Westside lifter, Matt Dimel. This deadlift variation is largely for the increased lockout strength and speed at the top of the deadlift, however can be performed like the cable pull through to target the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. While this deadlift variation is more for explosive contractions, slight modifications can be done to decrease the eccentric speed and forcefully contract the glutes at the top of the movement before going directly into the next repetition. It is important to note that this exercise will increase spinal loading more than the cable pull through, since the loading angles are different, however most lifters will gain benefit from adding these into their training (when performed properly). Note, that in the below video, the lifter is making sure to lock the back and spine, moving only through the hips, using his glutes and hamstrings to forcefully control and contract during each repetition.

Here are some quick questions to ask yourself when performing these:

  • Are your shins vertical?
  • Is your weight on your heels?
  • Is your back flat?
  • Are your abs pushing outwards?
  • Do you feel the weight on your hamstrings instead of your back?

If you can answer yes to these, you can rest assured you are on the right path to glute gains.

Final Words

Glute training doesn’t need to be overly complicated, however there should be a strong emphasis on focusing on the contractions and loading for all movements. Generally speaking, these exercises should be performed with moderate loading to allow for best control and contractions, and progressed towards heavier loading and explosive reps. Note that muscle hypertrophy doesn’t often occur maximally with low rep and or explosive training, so if this is the goal, stick to good old fashioned controlled, contracted, high volume training. And remember, there are no medals given for the strongest hip thrust, so use this as a supplemental exercise for your deadlift and squat training.

Featured Image: @KaiFit on Instagram