Throughout every training program there are exercises and movements that can be integrated prior to main lifts, at the end of workouts, or as corrective movements to help maximize muscle hypertrophy, neurological patterning, and overall performance. The cable pull through is a commonly seen movement for hip and hamstring development, increased gluteal hypertrophy and endurance, and reiterating proper hip flexion and extension mechanics.
In this cable pull through exercise guide, we’ll cover multiple topics including:
- Cable Pull Through Form and Technique
- Benefits of the Cable Pull Through
- Muscles Worked by the Cable Pull Through
- Who Should Do the Cable Pull Through?
- Cable Pull Through Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
- Cable Pull Through Variations and Alternatives
- and more…
How to Perform the Cable Pull Through: Step-By-Step Guide
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the cable pull through. Note, that this guide is going over how to perform this with a resistance band.
If you are using a cable weight stack, simply skip step 1 and follow the directions below.
Step 1. Attach Band to Rig
Start by attaching a band to the squat rack or other stable surface. Do so by looping one end of the monster band through the other, like below. You can omit this step if you are using a cable weight stack, in which all you need to do is attach the rope handles to the pulley system.
The thicker the resistance band, the more tension and muscular demands it is.
Coach’s Tip: Start with moderate loading, as too heavy of a load may throw your balance off, and too light of a load may feel like, well, you aren’t doing anything.
Step 2. Stand Strong
Stand a few feet from the squat rack/cable stack so that there is no slack in the band/cables. Note, that the farther you stand from the squat rack when using bands, the harder it is. If you are using cables weight stacks however, you do not need to stand farther and farther away, as the only way to increase the loading is to add more weight to the stack.
Once you are set up, place your feet firmly in the floor, with the rope attachment/band in between your legs. Its important to have the arms straight to allow the band/cable to not cause friction in the groin. Additionally, keeping the arms straight at all times will minimize arm pulling.
Coach’s Tip: This is a perfect time to find your balance, and flex everything in the body. Be sure to also keep the shoulder-blades down the back to secure a good upper back positioning.
Step 3. Hips Back and Chest Up
With the knees slightly unlocked, focus on keeping the hands into the hips and allow the tension/weight to pull the hips backwards, making sure to flex the hips while keeping the back flat and chest up.
Its important to keep the shins perpendicular to the ground, so that you can really place emphasis on the stretch of the hamstrings, glutes, and posterior muscles of the body.
Coach’s Tip: This should be a controlled, active stretching of the posterior muscles. From the side view, your hips should get pulled backwards, however your overall foot pressure should remain throughout the entire foot.
Step 4. Feel the Stretch
Once you have stretched as far as you can (back), pause for a brief movement and feel the stretch in the glutes, hamstrings, and posterior. From there, actively flex your glute muscles as you begin to ascend.
If you do not feel the stretch in the hamstrings and glutes, be sure to (1) check to see if you lower/upper back is rounded, (2) if the hips actually went backwards, and (3) that your knees are not pushed forwards, meaning the shins are perpendicular to the floor.
Step 5. Punch Glutes Forwards and Up
While keeping balance, think about lifting your hips upwards as you also push them forwards. You should end in the identical position as step 2.
Its important to feel this almost exclusively in the glutes. If not, be sure to check that you are not hyper-extending as you come up.
3 Benefits of the Cable Pull Through
Here is a brief overview of the benefits coaches and athletes can expect from performing cable pull throughs, either with resistance bands of cables.
1. Glute and Hamstring Hypertrophy
The cable pull through is a good exercise for increasing time under tension, eccentric muscle damage, and overall muscular activation of the glutes and hamstrings. Due to the isolated nature of this movement (although it does offer sport specific movement patterning), this can often be done in higher volumes without additional neurological fatigue and/or stress to the lower back.
2. Reinforcing the Hip Hinge
The cable pull through can be used to help teach and reinforce proper hip flexion and hinging patterning necessary for more advanced movements like deadlifts and pulls. The added tension in the eccentric phase can provide neurological and motor patterning feedback to help increase a lifter’s understanding of what positions should feel like.
3. Increase Muscle Activation of Posterior Chain
The cable pull through is an isolated glute exercise that can be done to increase muscle activation of the glutes via increasing time under tension and the ability of a lifter to actively engage the muscle under loading in a more controlled setting (less ballistic than swings, less lower back strength and stability needed than deadlits).
Muscles Worked – Cable Pull Through
Below is a listing of the primary muscles targeted by the cable pull through (in no specific order). Note, that these muscles are often trained with other hinging movements like deadlifts, however with the cable pull through, which can also be done with a resistance band, there is significantly less spinal compression/loading. This can be beneficial for individual looking to not over-train or overtax their lower backs.
- Gluteus Maximus
- Spinal Erectors (lower back muscles)
- Lats and back (minor)
Who Should Perform the Cable Pull Through
Below is a listing of the primary muscles targeted by the cable pull through (in no specific order). Note, that these muscles are often trained with other hinging movements like deadlifts, however with the cable pull through, which can also be done with a resistance band, there is significan
Strength and Power Athletes
Strength and power athletes can use the cable pull through to increase glute activation, muscle hypertrophy, and maintain proper hip flexion and hamstring flexibility by performing this within the fullest ranges of motion. Seeing that weightlifters, powerlifters, and strongman athletes all rely on hamstring and glute strength, deadlifting/pulling performance (deadlifts, cleans, snatches, low bar squats, stones, etc). and hip flexion/hinging mechanics, this is a great accessory/activation exercise to increase such outcomes.
Functional Fitness and Bodybuilding
In addition to the above benefits, the cable pull through is a good exercise to add addition glute training volume for increase muscle hypertrophy, endurance, and/or to improve muscle activation. The glutes are active in nearly every functional fitness movement and exercise (running, squatting, pulling, jumping, etc), therefore making this movement pattern a great one to reinforce and strengthen with the cable pull through.
General Health and Fitness
This movement, in addition to the benefits of glute strength and hypertrophy (as discussed above), can be used as a regression and fundamental strengthening exercise for more advanced movements like deadlifts, pulling variations, and even squatting. This exercise allows novice trainees to feel proper positions and allows coaches the ability to isolate ranges of motion in the hip hinge patterning that may be causing weakness and/or limitations in more advanced deadlifting and hip flexion/extension progressions.
Cable Pull Through Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
Below are three primary training goals and programming recommendations when programming cable pull throughs into workouts. Note, that these are general guidelines, and by no means should be used as the only way to program the cable pull through.
Coaches and athletes can get very creative with programming this movement. I generally recommend programming it as any other hypertrophy based movement, in which loads are controlled at constant tensions and contractions are done at maximal voluntary force (squeeze and flex as hard as you can). For more advanced lifters, controlling the tempos, performing explosive concentric reps, and/or doing these to pre-exhaust the glutes and posterior chain prior to deadlifts and squats can also be an effective way to increase muscle development and performance.
Understanding how this movement can work within a training regimen, warm-up or corrective routine, or simply hypertrophy based cycle is critical to its implementation. In the below video, we integrate the banded pull through variation into a squat and pulling warm-up, which also includes banded overhead squats and ab wheel to get the entire core and hip muscles firing for heavier lifts.
General Strength – Reps and Sets
For general strength building sets, athletes can perform lower repetition ranges for more sets. Note, that this exercise is rarely done for max loading. Nonetheless, lower repetition training can be beneficial at times.
- 4-6 sets of 5-8 repetitions, resting 1-2 minutes
- You can increase loading by adding more weight to the cable stacks or using a thicker resistance band.
Muscle Hypertrophy – Reps and Sets
For increased muscular size and hypertrophy, the below repetitions can be used to increase muscular loading volume. This is typically the range you will find most useful for glute development.
- 4-6 sets of 8-12 repetitions, resting 60-90 seconds between, with heavy to moderate loads
- In addition to increasing loading/band tension, using tempos and isometric holds at various points throughout the range of motion can increase time under tension and muscle activation.
Muscle Endurance – Reps and Sets
Some lifters may want to train greater muscle endurance (for sport), in which higher repetition ranges and/or shorter rest periods are recommended. You can also hold for pauses and add time to the set.
- 2-3 sets of 12+ repetitions or for more than 45-60 seconds under tension, resting 60-90 seconds between (this is highly sport specific)
Cable Pull Through Variations
Below are two (2) cable pull through variations that can be done to improve glute, hamstring, and posterior strength, muscular development, and muscle activation.
1. Paused Cable Pull Through
This cable pull through variation entails a lifter pausing at the top of the repetitions, forcing on a maximal voluntary contraction (upon standing). In doing so, glute activation can be emphasized, making for greater muscle damage and growth.
2. Tempo Cable Pull Through
Using tempos either during the concentric (lifting) or eccentric phase (slow lowering) demands muscle coordination and increases time under tension. This is a good variation to increase muscle hypertrophy and/or reinforce proper hip flexion/extension patterning for more advanced movements like deadlifts and goodmornings.
Cable Pull Through Alternatives
Below are three (3) cable pull through alternatives that can be done to vary programming, challenge lifters, and more.
1. Barbell Hip Thrust
The barbell hip thrust (also known as a hip raise) can be done to target similar muscle groups as the cable pull through (glutes, with slightly less emphasis on hamstrings and lower back). This alternative can be used to increase glute hypertrophy and strength, and is often used with significantly more loading/weight.
2. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift is a fundamental deadlifting/posterior chain strength and hypertrophy movement for strength, power, and fitness athletes. While this does involve higher loading and much more spinal compression, this does offer a sport specific strength training component to a training program. That said, if the goal is to increase glute and hamstring training volume while limiting lower back stress, this exercise may not be the best option.
3. Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is a ballistic functional exercise that increases glute, hamstring, and posterior chain explosiveness, muscle hypertrophy, and athletic potentials. This movement can be a great stepping stone from the cable pull though, as it has high amounts of eccentric loading to increase muscle hypertrophy.
Featured Image: Mike Dewar