Cable Pull Through – Exercises, Benefits, and Muscles Worked

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.

All of these are critical for sound pulling, pushing, squatting, and human movement.

[You must do this glute and hip activation warm-up before you squat next!]

In this article we will discuss everything you will need to know about cable pull throughs, correct form, and even various ways to program them into training sessions.

The Cable Pull Through

The cable pull through, which can also be performed with resistance bands (see proper form section below) is an effective corrective, teaching, and assistance lift for developing the glutes and hip muscles. Many coaches and athletes will use this movement to also teach proper hip hinging mechanics and posterior loading, which is critical for nearly every barbell strength and power lift. Lastly, this is a great way to add quality hamstring and glute muscles, key for bodybuilders, mass training programs, and purely aesthetic based training.

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

Cable Pull Through 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)

Proper Form

Below is a video covering how to set up the cables, positioning, and proper execution of each pull through repetition.

Be sure to not load the movement first by bending the knees or having the arms supporting the load. Rather, allow the hips to bend, reaching your hands far back in between the legs towards the weight stack, with a flat back, for maximal stretch. Contract the glutes and focus on using ONLY the glutes to provide the force to bring yourself back to upright.

In the above video I demonstrate how you can get the same effect without the cable machine by performing these with resistance bands. This can be a great way to build these into workout sessions for most CrossFit® athletes, weightlifters, and other athletes who may not have the means or equipment that larger facilities may offer.

Programming 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.

Final Words

As you can see, the cable pull through (as well as the banded version) cab be employed throughout various programs with all sorts of goals and intended outcomes. Whether you are looking to specifically increase glute development (for aesthetics, but also for performance needs), teach proper hip hinging mechanics, or prime the glutes and hamstrings for more explosive and strength lifts, proper execution is paramount. When used wisely, this can be a very powerful and effective movement for hip and hamstring development and health.

Featured Image: @christinas_ifbbpro on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.