How to Do Face Pulls: Benefits, Techniques, Variations & Common Mistakes

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The importance of shoulder stability should not be neglected. The combination of shoulder and shoulder blade (scapula) is responsible for all your arm movements. A healthy and robust scapula ensures better and stable movements in sports like swimming, basketball, or baseball.

But how can you develop these muscles? Several exercises can help you do that, like face pull. This exercise is also known as rope pull, rear delt pull, or high row.

Utility Basic or Auxilliary
Force Pull

Muscles Worked by the Face Pull

As previously mentioned, face pull focuses on your shoulder muscles. But this is a compound exercise that also targets other muscle groups.

For a better understanding, the face pull exercise activates the following muscles:

Primary Muscles

  • Deltoids (rear)

Secondary Muscles

  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius (upper back)
  • Biceps

The face pull exercise works up the rear deltoids. They retract and rotate the shoulders internally.

With the help of rhomboids, you can pinch the shoulder blades together. It also holds the scapula against the thoracic spine wall. Other back muscles affected by this exercise are the trapeziums and biceps.

As it is a pulling exercise, it targets and activates the biceps.


Benefits of Face Pull

If you are looking to build shoulder strength, you must integrate the face pull exercise into your routine. But this exercise brings along several other benefits, like the following:

Improved Shoulder Strength and Health

You can build your shoulder strength with the help of the face pull.

It is often seen that shoulders get pulled in front while doing several chest exercises. But with the help of face pull, this situation can be avoided. It helps in keeping the shoulders stable and squared.


Improved Posture

You will see an improved posture with this exercise as it pulls your shoulders back and holds them retracted.

This becomes useful for people with slouched shoulders.


Helps with Activities and Other Exercises

You can add this exercise to your routine for improving your form in other exercises. As it improves your shoulder health, you can use it to enhance your bench press form.

Other than that, it also helps lift heavy items or have a full range of motions. You can also use it to your advantage in sports activities like basketball.


Upper Shoulder and Back Strength

While this exercise helps build shoulder strength, the effect is felt in your back and upper shoulder.

When you get such an overall development, you will feel a difference in the comprehensive muscle mass.


Scapular Stability

Scapular stability is a prerequisite if you are into sports like basketball and swimming. Moreover, lifters use this exercise to build up endurance and strength for the overhead press.

Even if you don’t fall into both categories, you can benefit from it. It can help you with your everyday chores like moving or lifting heavy objects.


How to Perform the Face Pull?

You can perform the face pull exercise in two ways. You can use the cable machine if you are at the gym. In case that situation is not plausible, and you wish to do this exercise at home, you can use a resistance band.

For a better understanding, we have explained both ways.

Face Pull with Machine

  • Stand in front of the machine with one end of the rope attachment in each hand.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull the attachment till you feel tension.
  • With your shoulder held back, bring the rope to your head.
  • Keep your elbows sideways and not leaning in front.
  • Hold the position for a second and return to the original position.


Face Pull with Resistance Band 

  • Take a resistance band and loop it around a sturdy pole or any vertical object.
  • Keep your feet shoulder length wide.
  • Hold it with both hands and move back till your feel tension in your band.
  • Keep your arms parallel to the ground with your palms facing in.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and shrug your shoulders a little bit.
  • Pull the resistance band and bring it all the way to your eyebrow height.
  • Hold it for a second and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the procedure with slow and controlled motions.


 to Avoid While Performing Face Pull

Even though a face pull may seem like a straightforward exercise, several mistakes can lead to negative consequences.

It is better to know about such common mistakes to avoid them in the future.

Small Length of the Attachment

If you are using a resistance band, you might not come across this. But in case you are doing face pulls with a cable machine, you must be aware of this.

The rope attachment on the machine should be long enough. When you hold both ends with your hands, there should be enough distance between you and the machine.

If you use a smaller machine, you might not get a full range of motion.

To solve this, you can use a larger attachment or simply attach two ropes.


Height of the Machine

Some people prefer keeping the machine in a low position. This will not allow you to work on your shoulders as it has completely wrong mechanics. Always remember that the pull should not be low to high. This is not healthy for your shoulders or back.

To avoid this, keep the anchor high so that it helps in strengthening the shoulder muscles.


Elbow Flaring

While pulling the rope toward your head, ensure that your elbows go sideways. They must not lean in forward.

This will also guarantee back stimulation.



People are confused about their leg position while performing the face pull. But you must have an athletic stance while doing this exercise.

However, if you are having issues in maintaining your balance, you can keep one foot forward.


Improper Grip

An overhead grip can lead to the internal rotation of your shoulders. To reap maximum benefits, you must hold the rope attachment from underneath with your thumb backward.


Sets, Reps, Programming Recommendations for Face Pull

If you are doing the face pull with a resistance band, we recommend two sets of twenty reps each.

In case you are using a machine for the same, we recommend two sets of twelve reps each.

You can alter this as per your experience and other alternate exercises in your workout routine.


Variations of Face Pull

Besides the usual resistance band and machine, you can perform a face pull with the following variations:

Face Pulls with Palms-down Grip

In this variation, your thumbs face forwards while your palms go down while holding the rope attachment.

This limits the range of motion. But it is beneficial for those who wish to lift more weight.


Face Pulls with Hammer Grip

Going with a hammer grip with your thumbs facing inward will allow you to lift more weight.

However, the same hammer grip with your thumbs facing towards you will lead to more range of motion. It will also engage your shoulder and lead to more activation in that muscle group.


1-arm Face Pulls

If you want to focus on one arm at a time, this is a good face pull variation. It can help you treat muscle imbalances while also giving proper rest to your shoulders.


Seated Face Pulls

This targets your shoulder as well as the traps and biceps. Mainly, it is for beginners.

Moreover, it helps you stay alert about the position of your ribs and pelvis.


Half-kneeling Face Pulls

If you want better core engagement, this variation is for you. Along with that, it helps in developing the lumbopelvic hip and the stability of your knees and feet.


Safety & Precautions for Face Pull

To save yourself from getting hit in your face with the cable or any other injuries, adhere to the following precautionary measures:

  1. Keep a safe distance between your legs and the machine.
  2. Do not flare your elbows, as it could lead to more pain.
  3. Maintain a steady grip on the rope.
  4. Avoid this exercise if you have shoulder problems.


Alternatives of Face Pull

Doing the same exercise every day can get monotonous. If you want to include more exercises that could target your shoulder muscles, try the following:

  1. Lateral Raises
  2. Dumbbell Row
  3. Rear Cable Fly
  4. Pullups
  5. Lat Pulldown
  6. Rear Delt Dumbbell Fly
  7. Shoulder External Rotation

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