You won't see high pulls performed at many commercial gyms very often. MUCH less often than bench presses and biceps curls, way less often than lateral raises and seated rows, and even less often than squats and deadlifts.
I'm not sure why this is the case, but my theory is that they just haven't had their fair share of marketing. No one has presented them as sexy, or even necessary.
Bench presses and biceps curls are sexy, seeing as they develop the iconic pecs and biceps. Squats and deadlifts have been deemed necessary, since they build up the foundation of the entire physique. I think it's well overdue for high pulls to get a little bit of well deserved attention.
First a little bit about the high pull. It is basically a clean without the catch. Eliminating the catch takes away one of the more difficult skill portions of a clean. So what you are left with is all the physical benefits of a clean without spending a ton of time learning the skill of catching the weight.
Like the clean, you can perform the high pull from the floor, from a hang position, or from pins or blocks. You can also use a regular grip (like you would use for a deradlift) or, my favorite, a snatch grip.
For an example of a high pull being performed, he is a short Youtube video from the Testosterone Nation channel featuring Christian Thibadeau performing the high pull.
As you can see in the video, the object is to move the bar quickly, developing explosive power and using a LOT of large muscle groups.
Here is why this exercise is the best exercise you are probably not doing:
- Develops powerful hip extention, which will carry over to your performance in squats and deadlifts as well as countless real life scenarios.
- Develops a powerful looking physique. The traps generally respond best to high intensity stimulus. Heavy and explosive high pulls provide just what is needed to build thick and powerful looking traps. The deltoids will also be stimulated greatly and in a way you do not get from over head presses and/or lateral raises. As if building those two muscle groups weren't enough to have you loading up your barbell as we speak, your upper/mid back will get torched using high pulls, which is a muscle group only the baddest lifters are able to develop.
- Athleticism. Looking strong, powerful and capable is great, but BEING powerful, strong and capable is a feeling like no other. Because of the many muscle groups being developed and the coordination of the entire body syncing up when developing this complex neural pattern, the high pull will develop devastating power and athleticism while building strength and muscle. Moving a heavy barbell from the floor (or blocks) to your upper chest in an explosive manner requires, and therefor develops, speed, power, strength, and coordination. Can't complain about any of that.
So there you have it. High pulls may not have a catchy slogan like "curls for the pretty girls" but it IS an amazing exercise that will provide you will some very sexy results.
I invite you to work them into your program 1-2 times per week. Start light, learn the movement, and move that barbell fast. Most of all have fun, and enjoy the process of getting better.