Can You Build a Big Back Without Deadlifts and Pull-ups?

| August 7, 2015 by Truth Seeker |

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Some things in life may be mandatory, but deadlifts and pull-ups aren’t part of the group. Yet the muscle industry has convinced many people that there are irreplaceable exercises. This is not true.

Almost every article on deadlifts uses the same catchphrases:

“The deadlift is the best exercise to build ‘real’ world strength. ”
“The deadlift increases your testosterone levels.”
“If you are not deadlifting, you are not training.”
“Real men deadlift.”
“Deadlift heavy or die trying.”
“If you are not deadlifting, you are missing on one of the most ‘anabolic’ exercises.”


While annoying, this behavior is hardly a surprise because people do only activities pre-approved by the system and rarely question the mainstream social movements.

Ultimately, however, progression is the key. Who’s going to build a stronger lower back – the man doing deadlifts or the one doing hyperextensions? The one that’s progressing and adding weight.

People should be worried about the progression rather than the exercise. In order for that to happen, we need thinking individuals instead of zombies who expect the muscle magazines to do all the thinking. It can’t happen. Until you are immune to all the tricks, the mainstream media could be considered an enemy.

You can achieve the effect produced by the deadlift through other paths/exercises. Here are some examples: Romanian deadlifts, weighted back hyperextensions, power cleans, rack pulls, barbell rows plus squats, barbell good mornings, power snatches, sprints and hyperextensions, front squats plus leg curls…etc.

As far as pull-ups are concerned, they aren’t a mandatory exercise for a bigger back either. You can reach your back potential without doing a single pull-up in your life.

However, that will only happen if you make a deliberate effort to progress. You have to get stronger one way or another.

The same principles hold true in other aspects of life. Imagine that you want to become a good piano player. Will the “ultimate” piano get you there? No. Only working can make it happen. The materialism which reigns supreme today has convinced everybody that the latest model of whatever is always the answer to your sorrow. “If it hurts, buy an iPhone,” they say. The same phenomenon has become a part of lifting too. People are starting to treat exercises like material possessions. That’s why it so hard to let go – you want to keep them all.

Of course, you can’t play well on a garbage can, but you don’t need a golden piano either. It’s the same with exercises. Regardless of your choice, the difference will come from the effort you invest.

In conclusion, you can reach the potential of your back without ever doing deadlifts or pull-ups. All you have to do is work hard and smart.

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3 comments

  1. Matt

    Perhaps a better question to ask is if there a good reason not to do deadlifts and pullups if you care about back strength. They might not be required, but they seem like the best options as far as I can tell. Maybe add some rows in for good measure.

  2. Stupid fat fuck

    This while web site is a bunch of people making justifications for why they can’t be big/ strong/muscular.

  3. eric

    Well you can look at the body builder Serge Nubret who mostly did pullups, pulldowns, and variations of grips and what not PULLING DOWN and when he hit a front double biceps pose his lats DID NOT sweep out like Arnolds or Sergio Olivia. Both Arnold and Sergio Olivia did dead lifts, rows, and low close grip cable rows AND T BAR rows so that their lats were developed as low down as possible. The problem with the pullup and pulldown is that you never get your elbows all the way back which is why Dorian Yates preferred the Lat machine, he got a great stretch and then a great contraction with his elbows back and at his sides. If you would do a pullup so that at the end your body is almost parallel to the floor with your hands down near your belly button you would have a complete movement for lats. There is a misconception that pulldowns are for width and rows are for thickness. Rows are for width AND thickness. Pulldowns are NOT for thickness and overall development. You will never develop a great back with only pullups or pulldowns but you can absolutely develop a great back doing many forms of rows.

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