Face pulls are an exercise that should be added to your upper body lifting routine in order to improve poor shoulder and thoracic positioning. Both play a large role in posture, making the face pull a beneficial exercise in that it directly contrasts the slumped shoulder position we tend to live in everyday when sitting at the computer, watching TV or staring at our cell phones. (Have you straightened up yet?)
When performing a face pull, either with a band or rope, set it up between chest and head height. Don’t lean forward; use only your upper back to control the weight. Use a pronated grip, with your palms facing the floor, and keep your elbows high throughout the entire movement. It may be easier to maintain a tall, rigid torso by using a split stance, with one leg forward. Before pulling, make sure to pinch the shoulder blades together, this will ensure proper positioning of the scapula. Use a weight that allows for 10-15 repetitions and incorporate a slight pause at full contraction, to fully engage the musculature. Perform 2-3 sets either as a warm up for upper body lifts or as an accessory movement in the middle of a lift.
Face pulls are great at increasing stability of the shoulder girdle, which not only improves posture but also maintains shoulder health in athletes that consistently overhead press or perform more ballistic movements such as throwing.
Even if you’re not performing overhead movements on a regular basis, face pulls are important to help counter the poor posture that screens pull us into on a daily basis.
Will Gilmore, CSCS is a Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Kansas City Royals