• Why You Should Do Face Pulls


      by Bryan Krahn T-Nation

      Guys are seemingly bullet proof when they first start lifting weights.

      Bench press three days a week? Hell yeah. A full hour of variations of the cheat curl and triceps extension? Bring it. Heavy behind the neck presses with a spotter? It's all you, bro!

      Then, something lame yet predictable happens. Progress slows to a standstill, and frustration starts to dampen newbie enthusiasm. Sometimes nagging pain or even injuries start to pop up.

      And then it hits you, as you look around the gym for answers the really big and strong guys don't train like you.

      They follow structured workouts, vary their intensities, and don't just train what they can see in the mirror. In fact, most do a few exercises for no discernible benefit except injury prevention and "structural balance." How boring is that?

      An excellent example of the latter is the face pull. A staple in powerlifting circles, this bad boy has since trickled down to the general lifting population, where it's been a godsend to legions of guys stricken with jacked-up shoulders due to poor programming choices when they first started out.

      By serving to help offset all that horizontal and vertical pressing, the face pull can rejuvenate your lifting (or at least pressing) career while conditioning the rear delts, rhomboids, and external rotators. It can even help make your posture decidedly less Neanderthal-like, which is a plus unless you're dating a woman who's into the sloped-head, knuckle-dragging type. (I'm told they're out there.)

      Unfortunately, there's a problem. The typical gym rat performs face pulls so poorly it's a miracle they don't injure themselves further.

      The face pull is not a "power" exercise, and it certainly isn't an ego lift. Here's what you should do:

      Attach a rope to a pulley station set at about chest level.
      Grasp both ends of the rope with a pronated (overhand) grip.
      Step back so you're supporting the weight with arms completely outstretched and assume a staggered (one foot forward) stance. Bend the knees slightly for a stable base.
      Have a partner (optional) place their fingers along your spine at about the mid-back height. This helps remind you not to use the low back to move the weight.
      Retract the scapulae (squeeze your partner's finger with your shoulder blades) and pull the center of the rope slightly up towards the face. A good cue is to think about pulling the ends of the rope apart, not just pulling back.
      As you near your face, externally rotate so your knuckles are facing the ceiling.
      Hold for one second at the top position and slowly lower.


      Notes

      Avoid using too much weight. Going too heavy forces you to involve the lower back to complete the rep, completely defeating the purpose of the exercise and ratcheting up the potential for injury.
      Don't push your head forward to meet the rope. This bastardization looks like you're trying to fellate the Invisible Man. For the sake of the children, please don't do it.
      Don't drop the elbows. Keeping the shoulders-elbows-wrists in a straight line keeps the emphasis on the upper back musculature; dropping the elbows into "low row" position involves more lats.
      Don't go too fast. I know many big, strong bastards blast through their face pulls explosively, but for most this is a movement best hit with a slower, controlled tempo, especially at first.
      If you don't have a partner to keep your back in check, try filming a set to verify your technique. You might be surprised just how ugly your form really is.
      According to an article by Hartman and Robertson, an underhand grip may be a better choice than an overhand grip. If nothing else, I suggest playing around with both variations.
      Stretch the pec minor between sets. The standard "doorway pec stretch" will suffice.

      Wrap Up
      There's a reason the monthly muscle rags run arm training and bench press articles every month this is what the average ham and egger gym guy wants to read, and it's certainly what they want to train.

      But you're not a kid anymore, and you're supposed to be wise. And a big part of training wisdom is knowing that what you need is more important than what you want.

      Source: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=5635793
      Comments 7 Comments
      1. 804's Avatar
        804 -
        Probably been the most important exercise in my shoulder routines for a while now. Almost everywhere you go there is a guy with huge front delts and no rear delts - I used to be that guy. This exercise is probably the one that helped the most with getting my rear delts up to speed. Great review - Heavy weight truly doesn't prove anything here. Its a great slow and controlled exercise that I've found works best in the 12-15 rep range.
      1. ricroc's Avatar
        ricroc -
        Hadn't seen these done with a rope before. Will start using these next week. I know my rear delts are hurting and this will also help with my funky left shoulder. T-Nation has some of the best training articles around!
      1. TheMovement's Avatar
        TheMovement -
        I like explosive pulls with a 2 sec eccentric stretch on these. Ive always been more of an explosive pull kinda guy, but over compensation in the lower back def means drop weight. Should be a staple in any program done and really helps hit the rear delts and helps tone the upper posterior muscles.
      1. mikeg313's Avatar
        mikeg313 -
        Originally Posted by 804 View Post
        Probably been the most important exercise in my shoulder routines for a while now. Almost everywhere you go there is a guy with huge front delts and no rear delts - I used to be that guy. This exercise is probably the one that helped the most with getting my rear delts up to speed. Great review - Heavy weight truly doesn't prove anything here. Its a great slow and controlled exercise that I've found works best in the 12-15 rep range.
        Couldn't have said it better. I've incorporated this into my routine as my rear delt and scapula/upper back are a weak point for me after having shoulder and scapula surgeries. I've noticed improvements in rear delts and upper back significantly and I've only started these two months ago. Totally send my problem areas a wake up call. I use the 12-15 rep range as well. Going heavy/low rep with this just causes pain and cracking in my rotators and upper back. High rep/light weight really feels good solid burn and helps maintain form to really target these areas.
      1. Tuffguy80's Avatar
        Tuffguy80 -
        Originally Posted by mikeg313 View Post

        Couldn't have said it better. I've incorporated this into my routine as my rear delt and scapula/upper back are a weak point for me after having shoulder and scapula surgeries. I've noticed improvements in rear delts and upper back significantly and I've only started these two months ago. Totally send my problem areas a wake up call. I use the 12-15 rep range as well. Going heavy/low rep with this just causes pain and cracking in my rotators and upper back. High rep/light weight really feels good solid burn and helps maintain form to really target these areas.
        I agree as... Well put!
      1. TGB1987's Avatar
        TGB1987 -
        I hit these at the end of my shoulder and upper back workouts. It is nice when you are exhausted already so you can go lighter weight and still get a solid hit with good form. Great exercise.
      1. VS91588's Avatar
        VS91588 -
        As a personal trainer I usually tell my clients about the importants of these exercises. I explain to them that a majority of people do not train back and rear delts correctly based on not being able to see the muscle working so you need to be able to feel it instead. When performing the Face Pull I usually stick my fingers in between their shoulder blades and tell them to try and squeeze my fingers together. That's my way of showing them what part of the upper back to target. I also tell them to keep their elbows up and when they start to fatigue I let them know when I notice their elbows starting to drop so that they can regroup and fix their posture

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