Sports Training

Barbell Face Pulls – How To, Muscles Worked, Alternatives to Face Pulls, Mistakes, Tips for Beginners – An Exercise Guide

The barbell face pull is noted for its versatility and dynamism and its ability to fix shoulder problems. It can remedy many of the health issues that emanate from our hectic life and our overdependence on technology.

Let’s face it, most of us spend our days bent in front of a laptop or a computer, or at the very minimum, a phone. As a consequence of this, our muscles get woozy from prolonged inactivity, and this leads to posture irregularities, mobility problems, and shoulder pain.

By accommodating the barbell face pull in your workout routine, you can save your body from all these niggling problems and set up your shoulders for long-term sustainability.

In this article, we will talk about the different aspects of the barbell face pull. I have tried to use my own experience of doing barbell face pulls in penning this article.

I will also try to provide alternatives and try to answer the possible questions that you might have.

What Are Barbell Face Pulls?

What Are Barbell Face Pulls

As I have already explained, the barbell face pull is an excellent exercise to develop those killer shoulders that you have always longed for, and also to strengthen the powerhouse muscles of your body, particularly the rear deltoids. Barbell face pulls are considered a great alternative to barbell rows, if you want to diversify your barbell exercises.

Equipment Needed

Equipment Needed for barbell face pulls

To do the Barbell face pull, you would only need a barbell.

How to Do Barbell Face Pulls Exercise

How to Do Barbell Face Pulls Exercise

To do the barbell face pull exercise, you would have to follow the following steps:

  • Hold a barbell with your hands kept at a distance of a shoulder’s width and your palms pointing in the downward direction.
  • Your feet should be separated at a distance of a hip’s width.
  • Marginally bend your knees and bend your body forward while at the same time not making your back rounded.
  • Your back should be erect and positioned nearly parallel to the ground. Your core should be held as tight as possible, and your shoulders should be kept back.
  • Raise the barbell upwards in the direction of your face. Your elbows should be kept out of the loop.
  • When you are at the top, pause for a few seconds while pressurizing the back of your shoulder joints. Your shoulder blades should either get retracted or will get pinched with each other.
  • Now move the barbell downwards in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Repeat as advised.

Muscles Worked with Barbell Face Pull Exercise

Muscles Worked with Barbell Face Pull Exercise

The barbell face pull mainly works the lateral deltoid muscles and the muscles of the core. It also engages the rear deltoids, rhomboids, and traps.

  • The Rear deltoid muscles are frequently ignored in favour of other more visible muscles. But neglecting these muscles are wrong because even if one group of deltoid muscles function badly, it will completely destabilize the shoulders and lead to injury.
  • The traps or trapezius is a group of triangular-shaped muscles situated near the rear end of the head and shoulders.
  • Rhomboids are muscles situated in the upper back, sandwiched between the scapulas.

Other exercises that target these muscles include the single-arm French press, regular dumbbell and barbell bench presses, and dumbbell or barbell shrugs.

Tips for Mastering the Barbell Face Pull

Tips for Mastering the Barbell Face Pull

  • Try to emphasize pulling on the area around the chin and the neck.
  • Your abdominal muscles should be tightened, and your gluteal muscles should be squeezed properly.
  • While you are pulling back, breathe out slowly and composedly.
  • Do not use a barbell weight that your body cannot handle. Use a resistance level that your body is comfortable with.
  • Your routine should ideally consist of 3-5 sets of 9-12 reps. You can change it according to advice from a professional trainer.
  • To verify whether you are maintaining proper alignment during the exercise, employ someone who will monitor you throughout the exercise.
  • If maintaining a proper posture proves to be quite difficult while your body is in a standing position, try doing the exercise in a lunge position or a half-kneeling stance.

Common Mistakes Beginners Make During Barbell Face Pulls Exercise

Common Mistakes Beginners Make During Barbell Face Pulls Exercise

  • Because the rear deltoids are a smaller muscle group, you’ll have to go easier on them than you would on other shoulder exercises.
  • Adding too much weight to the machine, like most other exercises, can prevent you from doing the manoeuvre correctly.
  • If you can’t control the weight when returning it to the stack, using your own momentum to pull the weight towards you or even having the weight pull you forward, you should probably decrease the amount on the machine.
  • When performing the face pull, make sure you aren’t focused on any other muscles because you want to target your rear deltoids as much as possible.
  • Although not incorrect, having a square stance when performing the face pull may result in more mobility in the lumbar spine.
  • If you extend your neck while performing the exercise, you will not be able to complete it.
  • We recommend finishing the exercise in a staggered stance to prevent your back muscles from moving any farther.

Benefits of Barbell Face Pulls Exercises

Benefits of Barbell Face Pulls Exercises

  • A research team found that people who suffer from chronic pains due to maintaining the same posture for hours at a stretch found reasonable improvement in their conditions after they took to performing barbell face pulls regularly.
  • Barbell face pulls improve shoulder health considerably. They fix muscle imbalances and effectively engage every segment of the deltoids so that the workout is balanced and has long-lasting effects.
  • Barbell face pulls help in developing the back of your shoulders. Most muscles of your body can grow with proper exercise, and with the barbell face pulls, you can increase the muscle mass in your shoulders.
  • The exercise keeps your shoulder muscles flexible and dynamic so that you can move them with ease. It also helps to prevent possible shoulder injuries.
  • Barbell face pulls also help you to strengthen your muscles for carrying out mundane daily activities, like lifting, pulling, etc.
  • Barbell face pulls also improve your muscular strength so that you can perform other exercises effectively, like weight training and barbell presses.
  • There’s also the aesthetic purpose, or should I say there’s only the aesthetic purpose? Doing regular barbell face pulls will help you develop a toned, muscular, athletic upper body.
  • All muscle groups work best when they are isolated. The barbell face pull isolates and engages the rear deltoids, which are otherwise rarely worked in any other exercise.
  • Barbell face pulls help you to avoid posture issues and prevent you from keeping a ‘hunched over’ appearance which I am sure everyone would distaste.

When Should You Do the Barbell Face Pull


Face pulls should be ideally reserved for the end of the workout session. No matter which workout routine you are following, after you are done with them, do the barbell face pulls.

Other Types of Face Pulls and Barbell Face Pull Alternatives

If you are uncomfortable or unwilling to do the barbell face pull, there are various alternatives that exist for you. I have personally found them as useful as the barbell face3 pull, if not more. We will mainly be talking about the cable rope face pull and the resistance band face pull, but of course, there might be others on the list.

Cable Rope Face Pull

Cable Rope Face Pull is a variation of the face pulls


This is an exercise whose effectiveness is often overlooked but which actually gives an excellent workout to the traps and strengthens the lower trap muscles of your body.

Equipment Needed

Equipment Needed for cable rope face pulls

To do this exercise, you will need a cable machine.

For a Comprehensive Guide to The Cable Rope Face Pull, Check This Video


Instructions for cable rope face pulls

To do this exercise, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Hold the cable machine at your eye level.
  • Using both hands, hold the rope handles. You should be using an overhand grip for best results.
  • Pressurize your shoulder blades while you move the cable machine towards your face. Keep in mind that your elbows should be kept as high as possible, and your back should be upright.
  • Try to keep the cable machine near to your face as much as possible, maintain the position for a few seconds, and then release and return to the relaxed initial position.
  • Repeat this movement as directed. Do not overstretch your body as it is not an easy exercise to do, and you would need ample breaks in between.

Push-ups and Pull-ups

Push-ups and Pull-ups, how do they compare

Doing a combined routine of push-ups and pull-ups can target the same muscle groups that you are attempting to work with barbell face pulls.



Push-ups are a basic exercise that increases the functional strength of your body and activates the major muscle groups of your body. Push-ups work the chest muscles, deltoids, triceps, and abdominal muscles.

Doing a push-up is fairly simple; you have to position your body on all fours, lower your

body until your chest almost touches the ground, and elevate yourself again.

You can look for more comprehensive details in this video.

While doing push-ups, keep in mind that you must not put much pressure on your lower back, as that can cause spinal injuries.



Pull-ups are an incredible exercise that targets diverse muscle groups like the lats, the traps, and the rhomboids. It also engages the core muscles quite efficiently.

To do a pull-up, follow these steps:

  • Hold a pull-up bar with both hands. You should use a wide grip, and your thumbs should be directed towards each other.
  • Your hands and torso should conjoin to form a Y-shaped figure. Each hand should be positioned at an angle of 30 to 45 degrees with your body, but the angle should never cross the 45-degree mark.
  • With your eyes looking straight, raise your body upwards in the direction of the pull-up bar.
  • Hold the pose for a few seconds, then put yourself slowly down to your starting position.

You can know more about the pull-up here.

Resistance Band Face Pulls

Resistance Band Face Pulls

Resistance band face pulls are the perfect face pull exercise for you if you are working out by yourself at home. You can also do these at gyms that have access to resistance bands.

Equipment Needed

Equipment Needed for Resistance Band Face Pulls

To do this exercise, you need a resistance band. Try using a resistance band that’s open so that you can attach it to a sturdy object.

The Resistance Band face pull is shown in this video in great detail


Resistance Band Face Pulls Instructions

To do the resistance band face pull, follow these steps:

  • Attach the resistance band to a stable and sturdy object.
  • Hold each side of the resistance band with your hands. Your palms will be directed inwards.
  • Hold the pose for a predetermined number of seconds and slowly move back to the initial position.
  • Remember that the emphasis of the exercise is on how well you are pressing your shoulder blades together and how accurate your form is.

How to Do Face Pulls with And without A Machine?

How to Do Face Pulls with And without A Machine

The good thing about face pulls is that you can use such a variety of machines to do it. You can use barbells, cable machines, or resistance bands.

I personally prefer the barbell, but a cable machine is also quite versatile, while resistance bands are beginner-friendly.

If you want a face pull alternative that does not use any equipment, then there’s the Superman (Superwoman), which can be performed pretty much anywhere and gives an excellent workout to muscle groups throughout your body.

Frequently Asked Questions About Face Pulls

Now we answer a few questions commonly asked about face pulls.

Are Face Pulls Dangerous?

Answer; Face pulls are safer than many other exercises, but there can, of course, be complications.

Problems can arise if you are not maintaining the correct form if your grip is wrong, or the weight you are using is too much for your body.

The face pull might also cause shoulder impingement sometimes, considering you are doing quite extreme actions while carrying weight.

The resistance band face pulls have the added risk of snapping. If the band snaps, then it could lead to a serious eye injury that could even blind you.

Can You do Face Pulls with Dumbbells?

Answer: Yes, of course, you can do the face pull with dumbbells. Dumbbells are actually quite suitable for face-pulls because of their relative safety.

Dumbbells are the best bet for you if you are a beginner. If you haven’t got much experience in the gym, dumbbells will significantly lower your risk of getting injured.

You can use dumbbells yourself without any inhibition, while you will probably require an experienced coach to guide you if you are using more advanced equipment.

Hence if I was a juvenile still learning my way around the gym, I would much rather choose dumbbells.

Dumbbells are much cheaper and available in nearly every gym in the world.


To the face pull with dumbbells, follow these steps:

  • Grab the dumbbell with the left hand. Make sure your arm is pointed towards the ground.
  • Raise the dumbbell upwards in the direction of your ribcage.
  • When the dumbbell is coming up, squeeze the muscles of your upper back.
  • Hold the pose for a couple of seconds.
  • Put the dumbbell down slowly in a controlled manner while maintaining the tension on your arms and chest.

The dumbbell face pull strengthens the shoulder, upper back, and core. It increases the flexibility of the shoulder joints and fixes muscle imbalances.

Are Face Pulls for Shoulders or Back?

Answer: Technically, face pulls are for both shoulders and back. They engage the rear deltoids, which are otherwise not worked and can grow inactive and injury-prone.

They also offer unprecedented workouts for the shoulder region. People who regularly do high-intensity training like bench press, leg press and push-ups need the face pull to keep their shoulder muscles strong and conditioned.

It relieves the body from the tension of these taxing exercises while also preparing the shoulders for them.

Do Face Pulls Work Side Delts?

Answer: Building up muscle mass in the side delts will help you to develop a lean physique. The face pull does this work quite efficiently.

The face pull is effective in working side delts and inducing muscle growth in them because of hypertrophy- both sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. It constructs contractile filaments, which gives the delts a muscular appearance.

To develop powerful delts, do the face pulls at least once a week, more if possible. Before doing it, you can try warming up for the exercise with a few minutes of light cardio.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts on barbell face pulls

The bottom line is that face pulls do work quite effectively in isolating muscle groups and maintaining the health and stability of your shoulder. Hence I highly recommend that you include any form of face pull in your workout sessions.

You can do it as a part of your general upper-body workout or as important constituents of shoulder-specific workouts or back-specific workouts.

If, while doing the exercise, you experience pain in your shoulders, you can try to decrease the weight you are using or reviewing whether you are doing the exercise with the correct form, or contact a certified trainer for advice.

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