What Is A Kettlebell High Pull, The Muscles Worked, And How To Do It

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Jordyn Snyder

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Kettlebell high pulls can be a great exercise to add to the rotation. It works your whole body, builds strength and power, and is actually fun to do? It’s almost too perfect. Sign us up!

In this article, we’re going to go over the hows and whys behind the kettlebell high pull as well as its benefits and everything else you need to know before giving it a try.

A woman knowing the kettlebell high pull exercise and the muscles worked
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So, What Is A Kettlebell High Pull?

There are all kinds of kettlebell exercises with different body movement patterns that swing and lift, but some of our favorites include a well-known pull movement. A kettlebell high pull is a great exercise for upper body strength and the posterior chain that is often looked over. Not only is it a bomb muscle-building workout, but it’s pretty easy to learn. 

We go through the step-by-step process of doing a proper kettlebell workout at the end of the article, but the concept of a high pull is a deadlift mixed with an upright row

Let’s get into the whys behind the exercise first though.

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A man at the gym doing kettlebell high pulls showing the muscle worked
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The Kettlebell High Pull Benefits:

Wrist Strength

Since you’re in a “racked” position with the kettlebell over your forearms, it requires less grip strength but instead focuses more on the wrist. Yes, you’ll need a decent grip on it, but the key muscles used are going to be in the wrist to maintain proper form and keep it from bending.

Full Body Workout

When we say it’s a full-body workout, it’s a FULL body workout. The kettlebell high pull isn’t just a fun exercise to add to your routine. It gets your forearm muscles, rotator cuff muscles, lat muscles, leg muscles, and so much more! It actually works over 600 muscles in total, especially the posterior chain muscles to help aid you in your kettlebell workouts and increase muscle growth.

Improves Posture

This exercise does a great job of activating the muscles in the upper body, which can assist in improving posture. Horizontal pulling exercises like the high pull help to balance the rounded shoulders that so many of us suffer with in today’s office-based society from sitting at a desk.

Someone preparing himself to do kettlebell high pulls, showing muscles worked
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Muscles Worked During the Kettlebell High Pull

As we said, there are a lot of muscles used and some intense stabilization muscle activation involved in a workout like this. The high pull is very dynamic and the smaller muscles have to work hard to keep the joints in the correct alignment, though here’s a list of larger muscle groups you’ll be working out:

How to Do Kettlebell High Pulls:

Step One

Start with the kettlebell on the floor between your feet that should be set slightly more than shoulder-width apart. With your deep core muscles engaged and your spine in a neutral position, bend your knees to grab up the kettlebell by the handle with both hands.

Step Two

Once at the original standing position, keep the kettlebell hanging in front of you with your arms relaxed until ready. Once your weight is evenly distributed throughout your body and your upper back muscles are pulled back and engaged, raise the kettlebell until the handle reaches chin level. Make sure your elbow is pointing up in the process.

Step Three

Once you reach your chin, lower the kettlebell back down to hip height and then descend further into the squat position you went to originally grab the kettlebell. That is one rep. Do it again for the desired repetitions per set.

Two friends wondering what are the muscle worked by kettlebell high pulls
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How Much Weight Should I High Pull?

Typically, the high pull should be done for 2-5 reps per set with 70%-90% of the lifter’s best clean weight. So if you can typically lift a 50 lb kettlebell from the ground and up above your head, then doing 35-40 lbs will be ideal.

This weight range will allow most athletes to get their elbows to maximal height, which is the goal for most people doing high pulls, though you can use a heavier weight if maximal elbow height is not desired.

Kettlebell Swing Vs. High Pull: Which One Is Better?

Both exercises are great in their own way like assisting in building posterior muscles and increasing muscle tissue growth. It’s less of “are they an effective exercise” than “which one is best for me?”

Of course, there’s no problem with doing both. We actually recommend it! Both of these kettlebell workouts are fantastic full-body activators, but if cardiovascular fitness is your goal then you’re going to want to do more kettlebell swings. And if you’re needing an increase in shoulder mobility then adding more high pulls to your workout is going to be ideal.

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