The Right Way to Do Face Pulls

Face pulls can be done using a resistance band or a cable machine. Resistance bands come in various tensions, but advanced users may not experience any difficulty exercising even with the strongest bands. On the other hand, a cable machine is the most preferred method for doing a face pull, because you can increase the resistance as your strength improves.

Face Pulls
Photo Credit: Verywell / Ben Goldstein

So, what are face pulls?

According to the American Council on Exercise, a face pull is an intermediate-level form of physical activity. Other names for face pull include rope pull, high row, or rear delt pull.

What are the health benefits of face pulls?

The main muscles targeted during face pulls are the rear deltoids. Also, the rhomboids, which allow uniform pinching of the shoulder blades, and the middle trapezius are also involved in executing face pulls.

Exercising these key areas play an important role in minimizing shoulder injuries, maintain good posture, and prevent muscle imbalances that usually occur due to stress.

Also, the muscles of the upper back and shoulder muscles assist with many daily tasks and physical activities that require reaching or pulling. Before you do a face pull standing, you will have to involve your core muscles, which aid balance and stability, as indicated by Harvard Health.

Standing face pull muscles

Muscles that are involved during standing face pulls include:

  • Rhomboids
  • Deltoids
  • Core muscles
  • Trapezius

Cable face pulls

When you get to a gym or a fitness center, you will see quite a number of people doing face pulls on a cable machine with a rope attached. Sometimes, they may use a straight bar attachment. But then, using a straight bar attachment changes your motion range. So, when it is possible, you use a rope. You’re better off that way.

The following steps will help you to perform the face pull rightly:

  1. Fix a rope attachment to a rotating, and high pulley. The rope attachment should have dual handles. It should be head height or just slightly above.
  2. Chose the appropriate resistance in the weight stack. Understand that this is not a power exercise. Your main focus should be on form and function.
  3. Face the pulley in a standing position with your hip spread a hip-width distance apart.
  4. Reach out to the rope handles with both hands positioned neutrally, and palms facing in.
  5. Take some steps back until both arms are fully extended, with your knees bent slightly. Lift up your chest, roll back your shoulders, and engage your core muscles.
  6. Pull the handles toward your forehead till your hands are positioned right before your shoulders. At this time, you will feel your shoulder blades pinch together or retract. Maintain this position for some seconds.
  7. Straighten the arms slowly, switch to the start position, and repeat. Try not to rest the weight on the stack until you are done with the set.

Banded face pulls

If the gym is jam-packed or you are exercising at home, you can still add face pulls to your workout regime through the use of a resistance band. In this case, you will use an open resistance band, not a looped one. So, you will have to anchor it to a sturdy surface, like a tree or a post.

Most gyms have locations or areas dedicated to resistance bands. These locations will allow you to attach the band to a high point.

  1. Anchor or hang the band to a fixed point.
  2. Grab the band with your hands. Your palms should face in.
  3. Squeeze your scapula together and pull the band slowly toward your shoulders.
  4. Stop for a few seconds and move back to the start position. The goal is to maintain focus on form and squeeze both scapulae (shoulder blades) together.

How can you secure a resistance band?

Resistance bands at home can be secured with wall and door anchors. You can also hold a band in place using doorjamb techniques.

Wall and door anchors are available for purchase online.

Tips that will help you to master the face pull

  • Shoulder blades should be squeezed together: This is a very important tip to master when doing face pulls. As you pull the rope towards you, ensure both shoulder blades are squeezed together. Picture yourself having a golf ball between your shoulder blades and that they have to be pinched to keep them in position.
  • Use a lighter weight: Face pulls target the rear deltoids, and the deltoids are a small muscle group. If you are using a very heavy resistance, then there is a good chance that you will use stronger and larger muscles to perform the move, and this defeats the goal of the exercise. The aim is to feel the rear of your shoulders doing most of the work.
  • Do not miss out on the form: The success of face pulls depends on your ability to maintain a good posture. A good posture in this context implies standing at full height, elbows pointed out, palms facing in, and your shoulders back & down. If the weight is very heavy, then there are chances of your falling forward & out of this stance. Of course, this will increase the strain on the lower part of your back and removes the tension from the targeted area.
  • Alter your stance: If it seems that your lower back is doing most of the work, or you are feeling discomfort and pain in that area, then take a staggered stance. You may also perform the exercise in a kneeling position.

Similar exercises that train the rear deltoids

There’s no doubt that face pull is a great choice for exercising your rear deltoids. But then, it is a good idea to occasionally substitute it for other moves. Performing the same exercise every time you train can increase your risk of injury, minimize the benefits, and also get somewhat boring.

The following exercises equally target the same muscles:

  • Lat pulldown
  • Dumbbell row
  • Rear cable fly
  • Pullups
  • Rear delt dumbbell fly

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