Face Pulls are on the top of my list for upper back exercises to help develop healthy shoulders, backs and necks.
The problem is that a lot of people do them poorly and actually irritate the shoulder or upper back when performed incorrectly.
This article and video will help you understand some of the key considerations when performing face pulls, and how to avoid the most common errors.
Many people choose to use bands, especially in rehab because so many physical therapy places just have bands. However, you must consider that the tension of the band increases as you get further into the movement where the hardest point of the exercise is. This means the most tension is at the highest position of difficulty.
For that reason, going lighter then you’d think is a good idea when starting out using bands. Also, the resistance should never compromise form.
A better alternative as you increase the load is a cable machine with the proper attachment because the resistance will be equal throughout the exercise.
To keep safety on the rotator cuff and not irritate the shoulder we should also be aware of the attachment point. Which when done correctly is at about the level of your forehead. Too many people use a low attachment point which causes an awkward upright rowing moment. This almost removes the rotator cuff from the exercise and makes it more rear delt. But also places the arms in more of a internally rotated position generally. Which more times than not just irritates the shoulder when done for sets and reps.
Be sure to use a thumbs back grip as this drives supination which leads to external rotation which helps us open our chest and use the muscles of our back and rotator cuff.
The biggest error people make is leading with their elbows and leaving their wrist behind.
The elbows and wrists should move together! This again helps you avoid an internally rotated position with the elbow above 90 degrees helping you avoid impingement at the shoulder. If you cannot coordinate the elbow and wrist moving as a unit you are either using too heavy of a band. Or you are trying to force yourself into a range of motion that you don’t currently have.
Dr. Greg Schaible is a physical therapist and strength coach specializing in athletic performance and a regular contributor the the IYCA. Greg is the owner of On Track Physiotherapy and owner of the popular online education resource Sports Rehab Expert. Greg works with athletes and active individuals of all ages. As a former athlete himself, he attended The University of Findlay and competed in both Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field where he earned honors as a 5x Division II All-American and a 6x Division II Academic All-American.
Dr. Schaible was instrumental in putting together the completely updated version of the Youth Athletic Assessment Specialist 2.0 course that covers a wide range of screens, performance assessments, and advanced assessment techniques. Learn more about the YAAS 2.0 by clicking the image below.