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Seated Face Pull for Stability,
Growth and Bigger Lifts
The Seated Face Pull is an essential exercise for building upper body stability, improving shoulder health, thoracic mobility and posture.
This exercise is immense for rejuvenating your lifts by serving to help offset the mass amount of horizontal and vertical pressing while getting you ready for undertaking big lifts.
Seated Face Pull Muscles
Face pull benefits don't
stop there. This fantastic exercise also helps build the muscles in the upper
back like the rear delts, traps, lats and the rhomboids. It will also help
condition the external rotators.
I would go as far as to say
that this exercise can be used every day as part of a warm up for the shoulders
and rhomboids, as part of a mobility routine to help the Scapula move and
function better. Face pulls can also benefit rear delts and mid traps as part
of a muscle building workout.
I'm Psymon H., the
50-something year old warhorse making his name by improving physiques and
growing natural muscle with minimum equipment. Because I've been clashing with
the iron for over 40+ years, you can call me "Mature Muscle."
In this Seated Face Pull
master class, I will cover face pulls in its entirety, from equipment, height
and hand placement to important cues worth following during the movement. I'll
also touch on band face pulls and how to make them more effective if you don't
have the luxury of a cable machine rope attachment.
How To Do Seated Face
I've seen many different
versions of face pulls, most of which use bad form to the point I was surprised
they didn't injure themselves. Other variations resembled an upright or seat
row where the lifter was using way too much weight and focusing in on different
muscles, defeating the whole purpose of performing the exercise in the first
For this reason, I've
decided to take the exercise down to a seated position. While being in the
seated position knocks the ego because you won't be able to use as much weight
as standing, it will force you to focus on the movement itself.
Cable Pulley Machine or
cable pulley system, two rope attachments and one flat bench.
Don't use a straight bar;
doing so can limit your range of motion. If you're using a cable pulley machine
or pulley system, rope attachments are the best handles to use. For this particular
variation, use two rope attachments instead of one. The problem with using one
rope is that it doesn't allow the hands to come back far enough.
While this is an upper body
pull exercise, the cable height is where people go wrong. If you set the cable
up in the lowest position (pulling from low to high), you lose Thoracic
extension and the overall amount you can externally rotate. In fact, the
exercise starts to resemble a seated upright row instead of a seated face pull.
You want to set your cable
up to pull from high to low or at the very least from high to mid high.
Set your cable up and hook
the two rope attachments. Make sure to pull both rope attachments through so
they become two long ropes. Place your flat bench in front of the station with
enough room to perform the exercise.
Weight and Repetitions
If this is the first time
performing this exercise, don't get too caught up with how much weight you are
using. Shoot for something light that will allow you 10-12 good repetitions.
The aim here is to get good at performing each portion of the exercise rather
than setting out with the intention to see how much you can lift.
How to Perform the Face
Pull Cable Exercise:
Grip: Another area where lifters mess up is with the hand grip.
Some lifters will grip the ropes from the inside with their palms facing up.
The problem with this is that it promotes internal rotation with elevation of
Face Pull Form:
Cue 1: Grip each rope from the outside. Your pinky fingers
should be furthest away from you.
Cue 2: With the ropes in hand, sit upright on your bench facing
the station, lift your chest and tense your core.
Cue 3: Start with your shoulders set in a slight pronated position and your arms straight in front of you at shoulder height.
Cue 4: Pull the rope towards your nose while bringing your forearms to a 90-degree angle to your elbow. Aim to have your hands come back further than your elbows.
Most lifters end their seated cable rope face pull right here, but at Mission Jacked we do more to become more.
Cue 5: To activate the mid and lower trap muscles, raise
your arms directly overhead. Briefly hold before lowering to the previous
position and back to the start.
Resistance Band Seated Face
If you haven't got access
to a cable rope face pull, don't fear, the Resistance Band Seated Face Pull is
a good alternative if you set up your equipment correctly. Problems often
arrive when you can't perform the movement because of the ascending tension
that makes it harder towards the end of the exercise.
Personally, I love the
resistance band seated face pull and use it almost every day as a shoulder,
thoracic and scapula mobility movement. In my opinion, this is the best seated
face pull without a machine.
1 flat bench, one medium
resistance band, two light resistance bands and one Velcro wrist band. While
you can use an upright anchor, I like to loop my bands to a barbell placed
behind the rack. You will also need a shoulder-length of PVC piping or broom
Sometimes when using bands
to perform the seated face pull, you can end up not bringing your arms back far
enough at the end of the movement. We're going to use the piping as a guide to
make sure that we get the hands back behind the line of the head. While this
version is much harder and stricter to perform, it will target the rhomboids,
rear delts, mid and lower traps while allowing the scapula to move and function
1 - Loop the medium resistance band around your anchor at
head height. If you're new to this exercise, you can use a light band instead
of the medium sized band.
2 - Attach the two light bands to the other end of the
medium band using the Velcro strap to create a "Y." If you don't have
Velcro, you can loop the two resistance bands to the end of the medium band.
3 - Thread the pipe through the two light resistance
bands to create a straight bar.
4 - Set up the bench far enough away from the station to
allow you room to feel tension in the bands. You may need to move the bench
forward or back after a few trial repetitions.
Place the barbell behind the rack for safety
Attach the two light bands to the other end of the medium band using the Velcro strap to create a "Y." If you don't have Velcro, you can loop the two resistance bands to the end of the medium band.
Band Seated Face Pull Form:
Resistance band Seated
Face Pull Grip - Cue 1: Place your
palms at either end of the pipe and grip it so that your hands are in a neutral
Cue 2: Take a seat with an upright posture, high chest and
Cue 3: Start with your shoulders pronated and your arms
straight in front of you at shoulder height.
Cue 4: Pull the bar towards you so it travels behind the line of
your head. Your forearms should be at a near 90-degree angle to your elbows.
Cue 5: Now that the pipe is behind the line of your head, press
it up and briefly hold before bringing it back down behind your head.
Cue 6: Bring the pipe back to the start position and
repeat for 10-12 repetitions.
Mistakes to Avoid While
Doing The Resistance Band Seated Face Pull:
1: Try not to rock back so that you are almost lying
down when trying to bring the pipe behind the line of your head. When your
posture remains upright, it allows the smaller upper back muscles to get some
2: Avoid cranking your neck forward to get the pipe behind
the line of your head. If you have trouble getting your arms back far enough,
move the bench forward or/and use three light resistance bands instead of one
medium and two light bands.
Face Pulls Standing vs.
The difference between
standing face pulls and the seated face pull is the ease of use.
It is much harder to
perform the seated face pull as it takes more core strength in the seated
position to maintain an upright posture. With the Standing Face Pull, you can
put your legs in a straddle position or have them set shoulder-width
Other Exercises Under The Spotlight!