Bullet Proof Shoulders: 3 Ways You’re Screwing Up Face Pulls

by Jordan Syatt January 28, 2015

After a decade of heavy strength training and 5-years of competitive powerlifting, I’ve been fortunate enough to never have a shoulder injury.

I’m also happy to report that none ofmy clients>have injured their shoulders while working with me and many regularly tell me their shoulders feel stronger, more mobile, and healthier after doing my programs. 

While there are numerous components of a well designed training program that will build bullet proof shoulders, the face pull is unquestionably one of the best drills you can use to improve shoulder health and performance.

Unfortunately, most people royally screw it up.

To end the confusion once and for all, below I’ve provided 3 videos describing several ways most people screw up the face pull and how you can correct it to make sure you get the most bang for you buck.

Face Pull Screw Up #1

Neglecting Scapular Upward Rotation

Improving scapular upward rotation is one of the primary reasons we perform face pulls in the first place.

But when lifters set the band up too high and/or allow their elbows to drop too low, the scapula will downwardly rotate, negating most, if not all, of the desired benefits.

Your Takeaway: When performing the face pull, set the band or cable up around head-height and make sure to keep your elbows elevated so they remain in-line with your shoulders throughout the entire movement.

Face Pull Screw Up #2

Substituting Forward Head Posture for Scapular Range of Motion (ROM)

Improving scapular movement and strength of the stabilizers is arguably the single most important reason why we perform face pulls.

However, athletes and lifters almost always prefer to find the path of least resistance which often causes us to compensate our movement and substitute range of motion from unrelated structures. 

For example, during the face pull many lifters will substitute forward head posture for scapular retraction. In doing so they reduce the drills’ ROM and miss out on both the movement and stabilization benefits that the face pull provides.

Your Takeaway: When performing the face pull, keep your chin tucked and do not allow yourself to reach forward with your neck. Instead, focus on allowing your scapula to retract as you pull the band all the way to your face.

face pull

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Face Pull Screw Up #3

Relying on Momentum

While improving strength and performance in lifts like the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift partially rely on your ability to generate force rapidly, the face pull is a different story.

Instead of relying on speed or momentum to help you complete the drill, your focus during the face pull should be on feeling the muscles create the movement. If you neglect the muscular contraction and instead try to use speed, you’ll lose out on the benefits of the face pull and essentially just be wasting your time on a silly looking drill.

Your Takeaway: Slow down and control both the eccentric and concentric portions of the face pull. To “feel it” even more, you can add an isometric hold mid-way through the drill (when the band/cable is touching your face) as great method to improve scapular stabilization.

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