Eclogite facies metamorphism of the lithosphere forms dense mineral assemblages at high- (1.6–2.4 GPa) to ultra-high-pressure (>2.4–12 GPa: UHP) conditions that drive slab-pull forces during its subduction to lower mantle conditions. The relative densities of mantle and lithospheric components places theoretical limits for the re-exposure, and peak conditions expected, of subducted lithosphere. Exposed eclogite terranes dominated by rock denser than the upper mantle are problematic, as are interpretations of UHP conditions in buoyant rock types. Their subduction and exposure require processes that overcame predicted buoyancy forces. Phase equilibria modelling indicates that depths of 50–60 km (P = 1.4–1.8 GPa) and 85–160 km (P = 2.6–5 GPa) present thresholds for pull force in end-member oceanic and continental lithosphere, respectively. The point of no-return for subducted silicic crustal rocks is between 160 and 260 km (P = 5.5–9 GPa), limiting the likelihood of stishovite–wadeite–K-hollandite-bearing assemblages being preserved in equilibrated assemblages. The subduction of buoyant continental crust requires its anchoring to denser mafic and ultramafic lithosphere in ratios below 1:3 for the continental crust to reach depths of UHP conditions (85–160 km), and above 2:3 for it to reach extreme depths (>160 km). The buoyant escape of continental crust following its detachment from an anchored situation could carry minor proportions of other rocks that are denser than the upper mantle. However, instances of rocks returned from well-beyond these limits require exceptional exhumation dynamics, plausibly coupled with the effects of incomplete metamorphism to retain less dense low-P phases.