How to Do Face Pulls: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re looking for an exercise that can help improve your posture, strengthen your upper back and shoulders, and reduce the risk of injury while lifting weights, then face pulls are definitely worth considering. This article will provide a detailed guide on how to do face pulls correctly and effectively.

What Are Face Pulls?

Face pulls are a resistance exercise that target the muscles in the upper back and shoulders. They involve pulling a cable or resistance band towards your face while keeping your elbows high and your shoulders back and down. Face pulls are important because they help counteract the negative effects of activities like sitting at a desk, driving, or using a smartphone, which tend to round the shoulders forward and weaken the upper back muscles.

What muscles do face pulls work?

Rear Deltoids

The rear deltoids, often referred to as the posterior deltoids, are located on the back of your shoulders. Their primary function is to facilitate the pulling of your arms backward and their outward rotation.


The rhomboids are situated between your shoulder blades, serving as the muscles responsible for the retraction of your shoulder blades, pulling them toward the spine, and bringing them together.

Middle Trapezius

The middle trapezius muscle, positioned in the upper back, extends from the base of your neck to the midsection of your back. It plays a crucial role in elevating your shoulders and bringing them closer together.

Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator cuff muscles form a group comprising four distinct muscles that encompass the shoulder joint. Their primary function is to provide stability to the shoulder joint, preventing dislocation and facilitating smooth movement

How to Do Face Pulls: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Set Up the Equipment

Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of the cable machine or anchor a resistance band to a sturdy point at shoulder level. Adjust the weight on the machine to a manageable level for your strength.

Step 2: Adjust the Handle Length

For a rope attachment, make sure the handles are set at a length where your arms are fully extended when you grab them. For resistance bands, ensure they are securely anchored.

Step 3: Stand in Position

Stand facing the cable machine or the anchor point with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one handle in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing down).

Step 4: Position Your Body

Take a step or two back to create tension in the cable or resistance band. Your arms should be fully extended in front of you, and there should be a slight lean back from your hips. Your body should form a slight angle.

Step 5: Begin the Pull

Initiate the movement by retracting your shoulder blades. Imagine pulling your shoulder blades back and together as if you’re trying to pinch a pencil between them. Keep your elbows high throughout the movement.

Step 6: Pull the Handles Towards Your Face

Continue pulling the rope or resistance band handles towards your face while keeping your elbows up and out. The goal is to have the handles end up at about the sides of your face, hence the name “face pull.”

Step 7: Squeeze and Hold

At the end of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a brief pause. This engages your rear deltoids and upper back muscles effectively.

Step 8: Slowly Return

Gradually extend your arms back to the starting position, keeping tension in the cable or resistance band. Avoid jerky movements or allowing the weight to slam back into the stack or anchor point.

Step 9: Complete the Repetitions

Perform the desired number of repetitions. A typical starting point is 10-15 reps, but adjust based on your fitness level and goals.

Step 10: Rest and Repeat

Rest briefly between sets if needed, and then repeat the exercise for the desired number of sets. Typically, 3-4 sets are a good starting point.

Benefits of Face Pulls

Enhanced Posture

Engaging in face pulls can lead to improved posture by strengthening the muscles responsible for retracting the shoulder blades. This, in turn, may alleviate discomfort and reduce pain in the shoulders and neck.

Lowered Injury Risk

Regularly incorporating face pulls into your workout routine can contribute to a decreased risk of injury. This is achieved by fortifying the rotator cuff muscles, which play a pivotal role in stabilizing the shoulder joint and safeguarding it against dislocation.

Enhanced Athletic Performance

The inclusion of face pulls in your fitness regimen can have a positive impact on your athletic performance. This exercise targets the upper back and shoulder muscles, thereby potentially enhancing your ability to lift heavier weights, throw with greater force, and deliver more potent hits.

Increased Muscle Mass

By incorporating face pulls into your training regimen, you can stimulate muscle growth in the upper back and shoulders. This can contribute to a more pronounced muscular physique and help you achieve your desired appearance.

Alleviated Discomfort

Engaging in face pulls may lead to a reduction in upper back and shoulder discomfort. This is due to the strengthening of muscles that provide support to the spine and shoulder joint, potentially alleviating pain and discomfort

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Not retracting the shoulder blades: Face pulls are primarily designed to target the rear deltoids and rhomboids, which are responsible for retracting the shoulder blades. If you are not retracting your shoulder blades, you are not working the target muscles as effectively.

Rounding the shoulders: Rounding the shoulders is a common mistake in many exercises, including face pulls. This can put stress on the rotator cuff muscles and lead to injury. To avoid rounding your shoulders, keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire movement.

Pulling the weight too far back: It is important to keep your shoulders retracted, but you should not pull the weight too far back. This can put stress on the shoulder joint and lead to injury.

Jerking the weight: Face pulls should be performed in a controlled manner. Jerking the weight can put stress on the muscles and joints and lead to injury.

Using too much weight: It is important to start with a weight that is challenging but allows you to maintain good form. If you are using too much weight, you are more likely to make mistakes and injure yourself.

variations of the face pull exercise

High Cable Face Pull

The high cable face pull closely resembles the classic variation but requires setting the cable pulley to its highest position. This adjustment increases the exercise’s range of motion and places a stronger emphasis on targeting the upper back muscles.

Low Cable Face Pull

Conversely, the low cable face pull maintains the classic technique but is executed with the cable pulley set at its lowest position. This modification reduces the range of motion, concentrating the exercise’s impact on the lower back muscles.

Single-Arm Face Pull

The single-arm face pull employs a dumbbell or kettlebell. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the weight in one hand at your side. Bend your elbow and draw the weight upward toward your face while keeping your elbow close to your body. At the highest point of the movement, ensure your shoulder is retracted, and your elbow is fully bent. Gently return to the starting position and then repeat the exercise with the other arm.

Band Face Pull

The band face pull incorporates a resistance band looped around a secure anchor point. Begin by grabbing the band’s ends with an overhand grip, maintaining a shoulder-width distance between your hands. Pull the band back toward your face while keeping your elbows snug against your sides. At the peak of the movement, your shoulders should be retracted, and your elbows should be fully bent. Gradually return to the starting position and repeat.


  1. Can you do face pulls every day?It’s not recommended to do face pulls every day as it can lead to overuse injuries. It’s best to incorporate them into your workout routine 2-3 times per week, with at least one day of rest in between.
  2. What equipment do I need to do face pulls?You’ll need a cable machine or resistance band attached to a high anchor point to perform face pulls. You may also want to use a rope attachment for added grip stability.
  3. Can face pulls help with shoulder impingement?Yes, face pulls can help improve shoulder stability and reduce the risk of impingement injuries by strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and promoting scapular retraction.
  4. How many reps and sets should I do for face pulls? Aim for 8-12 reps per set of face pulls, and include 2-3 sets in your workout routine. Increase weight or tension gradually over time as your strength improves.

Final Takeaway

Face pulls are a valuable exercise for improving posture, strengthening the upper back and shoulders, and reducing the risk of injury while lifting weights. By following the step-by-step instructions, avoiding common mistakes, and incorporating face pulls into your workout routine, you can reap the many benefits that this exercise has to offer.