The banded face pull is one of the most effective tools for building a thick and functional upper back to support the dynamics of the shoulder. Using only a band with hands placed in a pronated position, driving your elbows back and the band to your face against accommodating resistance, has some major benefits that make it my go-to variation.
Many athletes don't have access to cable stacks or machines, so using a common tool like the band is practical. But we need to be a little more selective with the kinds of bands we use for the face pull. Those tubular bands with handles on each end aren't going to cut it. You need circular bands. Why? It's all about the "face pull-apart" when we're talking about maximal activation and trainability.
How to Do It
Set up the band attached to a stable unit like a rig or squat rack at about head height. Drive back your elbows, staying around shoulder height. On the backside of the rep, your hands need to not only be pulling back on the band, but also driving apart from one another.
This detail will be a game-changer for your upper back activation, so focus on peaking the contraction as hard as you can, driving elbows back and pulling the band apart for a split second before controlling the band back into the starting position.