Exercise of the Week: Face Pulls

Face Pulls

In this edition of Exercise of the Week, I’m going to feature the face pull.  The face pull is an excellent exercise for developing the low and middle trapezius, as well as the external rotators of the shoulder.

Key points to remember when performing this exercise include:

–  Keep your chest out!  Many will collapse the chest at the initiation of the pull.  Instead, keep the chest out throughout.

–  Initiate the movement by pulling through your elbows and squeezing the scapulae together.

–  In the beginning, focus on a 1-2 second contraction at the midpoint.  Focus on squeezing the scapulae back/down.

The face pull is one of the premiere shoulder health exercises, and it should be a staple in your training routine.

Good luck and good health!



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  1. Thanks for the video and explanation. Any chance you can do this exercise with manual resistance or bands? Thoughts? Great posts. Keep them coming.

  2. Mike,
    This question is not about face pulls- I think they are a great movement. I was wondering, what happened to the Gametime Strength Clinic in Ft. Lauderdale, FL? I've tried to contact the coordinator with NO success. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for your time…..

  3. Mike,
    In regards to the face pulll. I have seen Hartman pulling them to his forehead and now this shows you pulling them to your neck/chin. Is there any differenece between the movements that I should be emphasizing one or the other based on different shoulder needs? Or is it just a DO IT kind of exercise?

  4. Thanks so much for this post. What an exercise! Targets the hard to isolate stabilizers that I need to strengthen and same with my clients.
    Clear, concise, easy to understand.
    Thanks for the video, too.
    ~Take 5 to Exercise!

  5. Mike:
    I too have found that as I've added weight, I get pulled forward if I stand verticle.
    My solution is to put one foot forward and lean forward at a 30 degree angle, keeping my body in a straight line. This gives me good leverage for higher weights, but does it negatively impact the exercise?
    BTW, I've been doing face pulls for a year or so, since I first came across your recommendation. they are great, many thanks!

  6. Hi Mike; I’ve become more and more aware of SI joint issues–I guess as I’ve experienced those. There is a paucity of research on the issue, but the studies that exist show quite a few complaints may well result from disturbance of the SI joint alignment, including weakened hip rotators, groin pain (me), etc. which resolved immediately by simply getting the SI joint aligned. Initially I began working my lateral hip muscles because the orthopedist said I was really weak on one side–which amazed me since I do plenty of single leg work, KBs, etc. Once I had a physical therapist tweak my SI joint back in shape, the “weak” external hip rotators magically became strong again–instantly! My observation is that bones only do what muscles tell them to do, and I’m guessing the SI joint isn’t too different in this regard. If you and/or your colleagues, e.g. E.Cressey got something together to attack this problem, I think it would resonate with a lot of people who have SI joing problems and don’t even know it.

  7. Thanks!I started incorporating this exercise a few years ago after reading your article on it. I have put on noticeable size on my traps in the last few years. People always come up to me at the gym asking what I do for my traps . I do 3×20 reps every upper body workout twice per week and it works wonders.

  8. Hi Mike
    Any tips on how to ensure that in the presence of mid/lower trap weakness that there isn't any compensation in any potentially overactive muscles . I just know that the right shoulder isn't as 'anchored' nor do I feel the intended muscles contracting as well as my healthy left shoulder. Any touch cues maybe?
    Great site and great products by the way.

  9. First came across this exercise in a Men's Health article by Bill Hartman. I started doing them religiously after discovering the hard way, how much shoulder impingement injuries and bursitis can really slow your progess. I first started doing them with dumbells, laying face down on a raised bench. I have now set up a cable and pully sourced from the hardware store that I hang from a beam to mix it up. I have also found substituting bench press with one of the countless variations on the pushup has helped stabilise my scapular as well. I have to say my shoulders have not given me too many problems since.
    Good website by the way.

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