HomeFitnessFace Pulls For Shoulders: The #1 Exercise For Dominant Rear Delts

Face Pulls For Shoulders: The #1 Exercise For Dominant Rear Delts

Face Pulls For Shoulders

When it comes to building shoulders exercises like the military press, dumbbell shoulder press and side lateral raise come to mind... the vast majority of guys forget about face pulls for shoulders.

"SJ, aren't face pulls a back exercise?"


Face pulls target the rear deltoids and traps.
Not only are they great for building size, but as we'll discuss below in a moment they are a key exercise for keeping your body running well in general.
Add 3 - 4 sets of face pulls into your workout regime twice a week and reap the benefits.

5 Big Benefits Of Face Pulls

Increase Your Push-Pull Ratio

To ensure your physique remains balanced you should be performing one set of a pulling based exercise for every set of a pushing based exercise....
Unless you're consciously focused on improving this ratio chances are you're performing far, far more pushing based exercises (think bench press, military press etc.).

Improve Your Posture

By building up and placing focus on the rear deltoids with face pulls you'll improve your posture over time, you'll no longer find your shoulders rolled/slumped forward.
The face pull encourages you to pull your shoulders back and walk with your neck and head held high, this is turn leads to a reduction in injury as poor posture over time generally always leads to forms of shoulder & neck tightness that's just waiting to be aggravated by a poorly or incorrectly performed lift.

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Targets Your Rear Delts Well

You will not find a guy out there with impressive shoulders that isn't consciously targetting the anterior, medial and posterior (rear) deltoids with various exercises.
Yes, the barbell press is the king of shoulder exercises in terms of load we're able to place on our shoulders but this does not target the rear deltoids.
By adding face pulls for shoulders into your routine you'll be isolating (and growing!) your rear deltoids.

Assist In Build A Thick & Commanding Upper Back

As face pulls hit the rear deltoids, traps and upper back you'll find consistently performing them to aid in building up the thickness of your upper back.
Pull-ups and pull-downs are great for building up overall width and taper in your back, but you'll be wanting to hit face pulls along with some rowing variations to really build up the overall thickness.

They Improve Overall Shoulder Health & Improve Your Lifting Longevity

I've experienced it first-hand, shoulder issues can essentially cripple your ability to lift.
Not only will you not be able to perform shoulder exercises if you experience a shoulder injury (i.e. rotator cuff impingement) you'll also struggle to lift any real weight on ANY upper body exercise.

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The face pull strengthens the shoulders to assist in injury prevention, this alone should be enough justification to add them into your routine immediately.

How To Perform Face Pulls Correctly

Place a rope attachment on your cable machine, set it to just above head height.

Grasp the rope with both hands, palms face in.

Take a few steps back until your arms are extended before leaning back slightly and engaging your core (about a 20 degree angle).

Pull the rope slightly towards you and roll your shoulders back, this is where we're going to be beginning each repetition from.

With your palms facing and your elbows flaring out pull your rope attachment, ensuring you're engaging your rear deltoids.

Now return to the starting position by slowly allowing your arms to extend again, do not allow your shoulders to roll forward while doing so.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions while focusing on you form and a slow, controlled tempo.

Common Mistakes When Performing Face Pulls For Shoulders

Prioritizing Weight > Form

As I mentioned above the face pull is a fantastic exercise for injury prevention, the caveat is if you perform these too heavy you're at a high risk of injury particularly while your elbows are flared out!
The face pull is not and never has been a strength or power-based exercise.

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The Chinese Back Plank: The #1 Posterior Chain Exercise You're Not Doing

Consider this more of a slow and controlled stretch for the rear delts while keeping just enough tension on them with your cable machine.
Save your heavy lifting for your bench press, squat and deadlift.

Using Too Fast Of A Tempo

I recommend using a 2-1-2 tempo for your face pulls - 2 seconds for the concentric portion of the repetition, 1 second isomtric hold followed by a 2 second eccentric portion.
If you perform your face pulls at lightning speed the rear delts aren't going to be under tension for long.

If they aren't under tension they aren't being targeted efficiently and as such we can't expect them to grow.

You'll likely be recruiting more of your lower back as well as be rounding your shoulders at the end of each repetition if you perform these with speed.

What's Your Take On Face Pulls? Let Me Know Below!

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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