You've likely seen a standard Y-raise, and you've probably done the face pull before. Now try this hybrid:
- Set a bench to a 30-45 degree angle.
- Grab your tools. You can do these with some light dumbbells, kettlebells, or plates. These also work using two cables or two resistance bands crossing over each other.
- Do the first part of the exercise as you would a face pull. Press your arms into a "Y" at the top, then lower down to repeat.
- Pay attention to the lowering portion. Do the eccentric at normal speed (1-2 seconds) or for a longer duration (4-6 seconds).
If you don't have a bench, try doing these in a bent-over position. Or bend over with your butt up against a wall if you have a cranky lower back.
Why This Works
Face pulls can build impressive medial and posterior delts while also firing up your important shoulder stabilizers and external rotators. They've gained popularity because they're a meathead-friendly way to strengthen your rotator cuff (particularly the infraspinatus muscle).
Y-raises are arguably just as important as face pulls for your shoulder strength and health. They'll target your medial delts and your neglected lower traps.
Individualized Grip and Arm Path
Find the grip and arm path that doesn't hurt and places tension on your medial delts.
Commonly termed a "trap-3 raise" when using a thumbs-up grip, Y-raises are different in that your palms should be facing more downward (pronated). The exact grip angle and arm path will vary from person to person.
If your shoulder is too internally rotated (thumbs facing inward too much), you'll be restricted by your humerus and scapula structure. If your shoulder is too externally rotated, you'll turn this into an exercise for your anterior delts.
Find your own individual "sweet spot," and you'll be perfectly aligned to hit the fibers of your medial delts, alongside your lower traps.
The angle of your grip during the face pull portion matters, too. I'd start with a thumbs-up grip and with the humerus slightly more externally rotated. A more neutral grip allows for more range of motion at your shoulders.
When to Do These
Try doing this toward the middle or end of your workouts for stubborn delts. Broadly, start with 2-3 sets of 12-20 at a regular lifting speed (2-second lowering) or 6-10 reps if you want to take 4-6 seconds to lower the weight.
To prep your shoulders for a heavy pressing workout, do these right at the start. For this, you're looking to maximize bio-feedback from the exercise while minimizing fatigue.