Take a look back at your recent training routine and pick out all the exercises you’ve done that work your shoulders. We’re willing to place a gentleman’s bet that the vast majority (if not all) of them were pressing movements, either out in front of your chest or above your head. Now there’s nothing wrong with pressing exercises, they’re terrific, but if you do them exclusively you won’t build strong, balanced shoulders.
The face pull might not be as glamorous as the bench or overhead press, but it’s one that should absolutely be part of your routine. It works many muscles in the shoulders and upper back, bulking them up while also balancing out the effects of all those pressing exercises. That means improved posture and stronger shoulders all round, so you’ll be able lift more weight when you are pressing.
How To Do The Face Pull
Set up a cable machine with a double-rope attachment fixed to the high pulley. Grasp the handle in an overhand grip (palms facing the floor) and hold it with your arms fully extended out in front of you. Pull the handles towards you, keeping your upper arms parallel to the floor, so that the handles go either side of your face. Then return to the starting position, keeping the tension in the cable. Keep your movements slow and controlled throughout the exercise.
Don’t overdo the weight with this exercise – doing so will mean your lower back gets involved, reducing the focus on the shoulders and upper back – and make sure you don’t move your head forwards to meet the handle while pulling.
Face Pull Variations
Resistance band face pull-apart
If you don’t have access to a cable machine you can perform the exercise with a resistance band – just make sure you have a stable point to which you can connect the large looped resistance band. To add an extra dimension to the exercise, take your hands out to either side as you pull the band towards your face. By adding the pull-apart you’ll be hitting more muscles in your upper back and shoulders, which makes not only this a great exercise in its own right, but also a fine warm-up move for your upper body ahead of a free-weights workout.
Seated face pull
If you’re keen to increase the weight of your face pulls, the safest way to do so is to perform them while seated so you have a more stable base for the exercise. This will provide an added challenge for your upper back while offsetting the chance that the extra weight on the cable will yank your body out of position during the exercise.