Tip: One Exercise for Posture & Shoulder Health

Many experienced lifters have added the face-pull to their training plan, but here's a challenging variation most haven't tried.

The Bodyweight Face-Pull

You can do these with suspension straps (rings, TRX, etc.) or from a rope draped over bar in the squat rack or Smith machine.

Initiate the movement by pulling your shoulder blades back. Let your arms externally rotate so you finish with your hands by your temples.

Keep a rhythmic feel to your reps and maintain the mind-muscle connection with your upper back. Modify this as needed by moving your feet back so your body is more vertical. The more vertical you are, the easier it'll get.

Why Do Them?

  • Face-pulls target the smaller, weaker muscles of your upper back: mid traps, rhomboids, posterior deltoids and external rotators. When these muscles are strong, they improve your posture, your shoulder health, and your bench press performance. Remember, pulling your shoulders back makes your chest look bigger!
  • Built lats are known for creating the coveted V-taper. However, they're also internal rotators. If they overpower your upper back, they'll pull you into poor posture. Face-pulls reduce lat involvement so you can hammer your upper back.
  • The straps are easy to set-up.
  • Because you're not diverting attention to standing (as you would with traditional face-pulls), you get better upper back isolation.
  • Most lifters tend to go too easy on these with bands or cables. While this is far from a max-effort exercise, you don't want to waste your time coasting through the exercise. When you have to lift your own body, you'll naturally work harder as your survival mechanism kicks in (i.e. you inherently want to avoid crashing to the floor).
Andrew Heming is a strength coach, professor, and former Canadian University U-Sport head strength coach. Andrew helps athletes and skinny hardgainers get bigger, faster, and stronger. Follow Andrew Heming on Facebook