No, this exercise does not involve a gimmicky gadget that stretches and pulls your face to firm it.
Sorry to disappoint you.
It’s completely understandable to be confused. This misleadingly named exercise actually involves the shoulders and they definitely should have called it the “shoulder pull” to avoid these types of misunderstandings.
Face Pulls are a weight resistance exercise that primarily works the posterior deltoids in the shoulder, which are notoriously hard to target and tend to be neglected as a result. Face pulls also work the trapezius and upper back muscles and are a great tool to utilize as part of your upper body strength routine.
Using a cable machine to pull the weight straight at your face, the face pull works to prevent muscular imbalances while building shoulder strength. This exercise is simple to do, but maintaining proper form is paramount to its effectiveness.
Though face pulls have likely been around for much longer, the earliest documented reference doesn’t appear until the 1990s. An article featured in a 1998 issue of Powerlifting USA mentioned them for the first time, which sparked a sudden interest in the move. It was likely an obscure exercise known only by the powerlifting community prior to this mention.
Owner of Westside Barbell, Louie Simmons began singing its praises in the early 2000s, followed by T-Nation, who is largely responsible for introducing face pulls to the general fitness populace.
In a 2007 T-Nation article by Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman called Push-Ups, Face Pulls, and Shrugs, they recommended the exercise as a way to stabilize shoulders to prevent pain and injury. As a result, face pulls began to be a common topic of conversation among bodybuilding forums worldwide.
How to Perform Face Pulls
Step 1: Adjust a cable pulley machine so it pulls from slightly above your head. You can choose handle bars or double hand-holds.
Step 2: Reach out and grip the handle(s) with your palms facing in and step backward until your arms are straight.
Step 3: Engage your core as you inhale and lean back at a 20-degree angle, pulling the cable taut and rolling your shoulders back to engage them. This is your starting position.
Step 5: Inhale as you slowly pull the cord toward your forehead using your rear delts, allowing your elbows to flare out to the sides and keeping your palms facing in.
Step 6: Exhaling, maintain tension on the cable as you release it in a slow and controlled movement, keeping your shoulders back throughout the movement.
Step 7: Repeat the process until the desired number of reps has been achieved.
- Strengthens the rear deltoids, trapezius, and upper back
- Improves balance and posture
- Stabilizes the shoulders
- Improves functional fitness
- Builds back muscle mass
- Improves performance in other lifts such as presses
- Keeps shoulders pulled back to avoid the “hunched over” look of some heavy lifters.
- Identifies and corrects shoulder imbalances
The face pull can be performed by those of all weight-lifting abilities, and has several modification possibilities if you don’t have access to a cable machine, including:
- Resistance Band Face Pulls
- Rear Dumbell Flies
- Underhand Face Pulls
- Seated Face Pulls
How Much Is Your Shoulder Health Worth?
The shoulder is the most common are for injury among the weightlifting community. If all it takes to effectively reduce the chances of such an injury occurring is spending 2 minutes once a week doing face pulls, wouldn’t you do it?
Of course, you would.
Well, get ready to incorporate face pulls into your regular rotation because that is, in fact, all it takes.