- Depending on goals, these can be done standing, seated or kneeling and from different angles. We're going to proceed with the assumption that the seated variation is being performed as this has the most universal applications.
- Set the cable at roughly head height or slightly above. Have a bench or box (or anything stable that allows your hips and knees to be at 90º when seated) available in which you can use as your seated support during the set. Refine the positions of the cable and seat as needed to create a 45º angle when performing the movement.
- Select an attachment that allows for free movement of each hand/arm. This can be a rope, long strap, individual handles, etc.
- Now that you're set-up, grab the attachment with each hand and slowly walk back until you're seated and secure. You will now be bearing the load so make sure to get a wide base of support with your feet/legs and adjust your torso angle accordingly.
- Before initiating the concentric, brace your abs and ensure a neutral lumbar spine. Allow your scaps to protract fully (but not elevate/shrug).
- Begin the movement by simultaneously pulling with your arms and retracting your scaps. The direction of the pull should be aimed at your upper chest rather than your face/forehead (contrary to the name).
- Without moving through your torso or hips, continue the pull until your scaps can no longer retract any further and your elbows are as far back as possible. Your upper arms should be flared but not 90º winged in full contraction.
- Once the concentric has been exhausted, reverse the motion all the way back to full protraction without allowing for any extraneous torso movement. Keep the abs braced and lower body supported.
- Shoulder Pain
- Poor Shoulder Mobility
- Band Pullaparts
- Chest Supported DB Kelso Shrugs
- Band Facepulls
- Chest Supported Machine Facepulls
- Seated Low Cable Facepulls
- Bent Over DB Facepulls
- Bent Over Wide Grip Barbell Facepulls
- TRX Inverted Facepulls
- Up to 15 sets per week
- Up to 5 sets per session
- 10-30 rep range
Applicable Intensity Techniques:
- Supersets (These are particularly effective for training the mid/lower traps)
- Giant Sets
- Load Drop Sets
- Mechanical Drop Sets
- Cluster Sets
- Marathon Sets
Modern white collar workers (so a lot of the people who will be reading this) are slaves to poor postural habits.
We sleep all night on a poorly supported bed while hugging 10 pillows just to get comfortable.
We drive to work in our ill-adjusted vehicle while contorting in vain attempts at comfortability.
We sit at a desk all day while hunched over a computer screen.
Then we finally make it back home after a long and exhausting day just to fold ourselves into the couch in a futile effort to relax.
And the backdrop of all of this is unmanaged stress, anxiety and poor health habits that lead to ever more degradation of our physical bodies.
When phrased like that, it's clear to see just how much damage our lifestyles impart on us, but most of us are quick to brush corrective work aside in favor of "more pressing matters" like more work, more TV and more stress.
But no matter if it's 10 weeks, 10 months or 10 years from now; the chickens always come home to roost.
Low back pain, neck issues, internal shoulder rotation, kyphotic thoracic spines and MUCH more are on the future menu.
In many ways, this lifestyle and the chronic damage it does is unavoidable; it's not like we can just abandon our jobs or obligations using our declining posture as an excuse. We have to find a way to manage and offset the problematic compensations that are a product of being a human in the 21st century. And while there has been a whole industry created around monetizing the easy way out of this mess (passive body work and the like), there is no avoiding the hard truth that bulletproofing your body for longevity is going to be hard work...
You'll have to get stronger and ensure your muscle complexes are integrated and functioning as they're intended.
The mess that's been created isn't going to be fixed with a single band-aid; the problem is systemic and will require a full overhaul in order to regain control.
Abdominal and glute strengthening work is almost always a good place to start. Glute bridges, planks and pelvic tilting drills are going to be the foundation that our renovation will build on top of.
Stability and proprioceptive training come next to reteach our bodies how to move properly and ingrain those neurological pathways. Birddogs, single leg RDLs, and deadbugs should be staples here. (Note again that this is mostly abs and glute specific because those complexes are THAT important!)
Then we can move into some of the more conceptual fixes like addressing the volume of upper body pull to push exercises, reducing inhibitory compensations through direct flexibility/mobility work, and actual postural remodeling. These each have clear and direct paths for counteracting the continuous pressure that our habits exert on us.
As you can see, none of these are meant to be quick fixes or easy; but they are effective and they do get us back on track.
The more fun aspects of this corrective work come when strength and hypertrophy based training can be integrated with the maintenance of postural effects. Obviously, nobody wants to be confined to low threshold proprioceptive work for eternity and we don't have to be! Building a strong and well-functioning upper/mid back can be just as important for the long-term prospects of postural health as any plank, bridge or RDL.
And though there are (literally) an infinite amount of variations and implementations for achieving this, the Facepull has long been the incumbent when it comes to building a yoked scapular shelf, and for good reason.
When done properly (and as we've seen, this isn't an assumption we can easily make), Facepulls will effective grow and strength pretty much every muscle that opposes the effects of our slumped-over lifestyles. We're also going to be on the receiving end of proper shoulder blade movement with full protraction and retraction being encouraged by the mechanics of the Facepull. Over-active pecs will be politely asked to chill the fuck out while our rounded T-spines can enjoy some long-needed extension.
Facepulls are an inconspicuously profound exercise. Many of us in the fitness community have written them off as not being the best for hypertrophy or strength, but trying to box their utility into a singular effect is the biomechanical version of square-peg-round-hole.
True, they're not the best at growing our rhomboids...Bent Over Barbell Rows would be better for that.
And they're not going to make our upper back as strong as Snatch Grip Deadlifts would.
But an objective analysis of the pros and cons presents us with a clear picture that the additive effects of Facepulls are nearly one-of-a-kind.
Primary Use Case:
- Hypertrophy of the Rhomboids, Mid/Lower Traps, Rear Delts
- Strengthening of the Scapular Retractors
- Improved Posture