Skip to main content

Face pulls are a well-known exercise in the fitness community, but for those who aren’t familiar with them, it may be a mystery which muscles they target. Let us shed light on this exercise, offering a comprehensive guide for both beginners and advanced gym enthusiasts.

What are Face Pulls?

Face pulls are an exercise that targets your back, shoulders, and arms muscles. When performing face pulls, an individual typically uses a rope attached to a cable machine. The position of the body, along with the movement of the arms, is integral to the correct execution of the exercise. Standing upright, the person grips the rope with both hands and pulls it towards the face, with the elbows driven outward and upward. This motion places particular emphasis on certain muscles in the upper body, leading to the benefits we’ll explore further.

The Primary Muscle Groups Targeted by Face Pulls

The primary muscle group targeted by face pulls is the upper traps and rear deltoids. These muscles are responsible for various shoulder movements and help maintain good posture.

Upper Traps

The upper trapezius, or upper traps, are muscles that stretch across the back of the neck and shoulders, playing a significant role in the functionality of these areas. Face pulls uniquely target the upper traps, placing emphasis on an often-neglected muscle group.

When engaging in face pulls, the upper traps are activated during the pulling motion, working in unison with the arms and shoulders. The specific movement of pulling the rope towards the face with the elbows positioned high and outward ensures that these muscles are engaged effectively.

Strengthening the upper traps through face pulls brings several benefits. For one, it contributes to a more balanced appearance of the upper body, adding definition to the shoulders and neck. More importantly, strong upper traps are vital for a range of motions, from lifting objects overhead to simple daily activities like reaching for something on a shelf.

But beyond aesthetics and basic functionality, working the upper traps can also lead to improved posture. These muscles support the neck and shoulders, helping to keep the spine aligned. Weak upper traps might contribute to a hunched appearance and may even lead to discomfort or pain over time. Incorporating face pulls into a workout routine can thus have a noticeable impact on overall well-being, in addition to enhancing physical appearance.

Rear Deltoids

The rear deltoids are another primary focus of the face pull exercise. Located at the back of the shoulder, the rear deltoids are part of the larger deltoid muscle and are essential for a variety of shoulder movements.

Face pulls are especially effective in targeting the rear deltoids due to the specific pulling motion involved in the exercise. As the rope is pulled towards the face, the rear deltoids are engaged, working to control the movement and stabilize the shoulder.

Strengthening the rear deltoids is vital for overall shoulder health. They balance the front deltoids, which often receive more attention in common exercises like bench pressing or push-ups. Without strong rear deltoids, the shoulders can become imbalanced, leading to potential discomfort or even injury.

Additionally, strong rear deltoids contribute to a more rounded and aesthetically pleasing shoulder appearance. They help create a more symmetrical look, which is often a goal for those looking to improve their physique.

The benefits of working the rear deltoids through face pulls are thus twofold: they contribute to a healthier and more functional shoulder joint, and they enhance the overall appearance of the upper body.

Additional Benefits of Face Pulls

Face pulls are not just beneficial for targeting specific muscles like the upper traps and rear deltoids. They offer an array of other benefits that contribute to overall physical health.

Posture Improvement

One of the standout advantages of face pulls is the improvement in posture they can provide. As our daily lives often involve activities that promote a forward-leaning posture, such as working on a computer or looking down at a phone, the muscles responsible for pulling the shoulders back and keeping the upper body upright may become weak. Face pulls specifically target these muscles, strengthening them and contributing to a more upright and confident posture.

Shoulder Health

Another vital benefit is the positive impact face pulls can have on overall shoulder health. The unique pulling motion of the exercise encourages proper shoulder mechanics, allowing the joints to move in a natural and controlled manner. This reduces the risk of injury and promotes healthier, more resilient shoulders, essential for a wide range of activities, from lifting weights to carrying groceries.


Lastly, face pulls are versatile and can be incorporated into various workout routines, whether focused on strength training, muscle building, or rehabilitation. This adaptability allows individuals to tailor their workouts to their specific needs and goals, making face pulls a valuable addition to virtually any fitness regimen.

Proper Technique to Perform Face Pulls

Proper technique is vital to maximizing the benefits of face pulls. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Starting Position: Begin by selecting a suitable weight that offers resistance but allows for controlled movement. Grip the rope attached to the cable machine with both hands, palms facing each other, and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • The Pull: Initiate the pull by moving your hands towards your face, keeping the elbows high and aligned with your shoulders. The motion should be controlled, with focus on engaging the targeted muscles, including the upper traps and rear deltoids.
  • Squeezing the Shoulder Blades: As you pull the rope towards your face, consciously squeeze your shoulder blades together. This engagement helps activate the muscles responsible for improving posture and strengthening the shoulders.
  • Returning to Start: Slowly return to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the movement. This controlled release is as important as the pull itself, as it ensures continued engagement of the targeted muscles.
  • Repetition and Sets: Generally, performing 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions is recommended, but this can be adjusted based on individual goals and fitness levels.

The Bottom Line

In essence, face pulls are a versatile and valuable exercise that targets specific muscles like the upper traps and rear deltoids, improves posture, and contributes to overall shoulder health. Utilizing proper technique is key to maximizing these benefits and minimizing injury risk.

Whether incorporated into strength training, muscle building, or rehabilitation routines, face pulls offer a practical approach to enhancing physical well-being. Their adaptability and multifunctionality make them a worthwhile addition to any fitness regimen.

Leave a Reply