face pulls

Why Face Pulls Are an Essential Addition to Your Training Arsenal

Progress in the gym seems like a breeze when guys first start lifting and it seems as if you can easily add more and more poundages with each training session.

You can do bench pressing 3 times per week, spending 2 hours trying out different curl and triceps extension variations and do some conditioning work after a set of heavy squats. And you would barely feel sore. But, then the inevitable happens.

Progress will start to slow down until it comes to a complete standstill. It will still be there but it will be in smaller weight increments and longer rest pauses.

Frustration will start creeping in and dampen the enthusiasm the lifter once had. Not to mention a nagging pain will start to irritate you and you might get injured along the way because of improper execution form.

And then if you’re passionate enough, you start looking for answers, whether on the net or from your gym buddies. You start realizing that the guys that are really big and strong don’t actually train the same way you do.

These guys follow a well-structured training program, vary the training intensity and also pay attention to the muscles they cannot see in the mirror, like hamstrings, quads, lower and upper back, rear delts etc.

Lots of them don’t even have a large training arsenal, just a few exercises that they do for injury prevention and to bring balance to their musculature. A good example of this kind of exercise is the face pull. 

Why are face pulls important ?

Face pulls are an exercise that has been a staple among powerlifters and has only recently become popular among the general population, where it’s proven as a great rehabilitation exercise for lots of people who experience shoulder problems because of inadequate programming in their training routine when they first started lifting.

What muscles do face pulls work ?

When you do the face pulls you can offset many of issues caused by years of vertical and horizontal pressing and it can really improve your lifting, or at least your pressing while conditioning the rhomboids, rear deltoids, and external rotators.

It can also really help with your posture and make you more upright instead of being hunched like the majority of people nowadays are. This is a huge plus unless the woman you’re dating is into hunched up types with their shoulders sagging.

There’s something very important to note here. The typical lifter usually does face pulls with such a poor form that it’s really a miracle that they don’t sustain any injuries.

The face pull is not a power-building exercise and the purpose is not to lift with your ego and use as much weight as possible with disastrous form.

How to do face pulls :

1. Attach a rope to a pulley station and set it at chest height.

2. Grab both ends of the rope with an overhand grip.

3. Go a few steps back to that you are supporting the load with your arms fully outstretched and get into a stance with one foot forward. You can bend your knees slightly to be more stable.

4. This is optional. You can ask a partner put their fingers on your spine at your mid-back. This is to ensure that you do not use your lower back to move the load.

5. Retract your scapulae (you can imagine trying to squeeze the partner’s finger with the shoulder blades) and then pull the rope up towards your face. You can do this properly by thinking of pulling the rope’s ends apart, and not just pulling back.

6. As it nears your face, rotate the knuckles externally so that they face the ceiling.

7. Hold the top position for 1-2 seconds and then lower slowly.


Photo credit : MuscleWiki.org

Face Pull Execution Tips

1. Do not use too much weight. Doing face pull with a weight that’s too heavy will force you to engage the lower back to finish the rep, which will completely defeat the purpose of this exercise and drastically increase the risk of injury.

2. Don’t move your head forward to meet the rope faster. This is totally wrong and can seriously injure your neck muscles.

3. Don’t drop your elbows when pulling. Keep the elbows, shoulders, and writs in a straight line and you will keep the upper back muscles engaged throughout the entire movement. If you drop the elbows into a low row position, you will engage the lats.

4. Don’t do it too fast. There are lots of big lifters who do these in a fast and explosive manner, but for the majority of people, face pulls is an exercise which can give greater benefits when done with a slow, controlled tempo, particularly when first trying it out.

5. If you can’t find a partner to keep your lower back from moving, you can ask someone to film you to see your technique. You may be surprised how poor your execution form actually is.

6. There are some studies that show that an underhand grip might be a better choice than an overhand grip. You can try both variations and see which one suits you best.

7. Stretch your chest muscles between sets. The doorway pec stretch is a good stretching exercise.


Muscle magazines are filled with all the newest training fads and filled with useless arm and chest training workouts. That’s because this is what the average Joe likes to read and what they want to train thinking it’s enough.

But anyone who is wise about their training knows otherwise. A big part of training wisely is knowing that what you need to do is more important than what you want.

You might also like : 8 Tricks for Bigger, Healthier Shoulders

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