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The shoulder muscle is one of my favorite areas to train. The shoulder has several muscles that attach to the scapula, humerus, and clavicle. The largest shoulder muscle is the deltoid, which consists of the anterior, middle, and posterior fibers, giving the shoulder that nice rounded look. There are other muscles — the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis — that form the rotator cuff and are vital in the dynamics of the shoulder movement.

Other muscles involved in shoulder movement are the deltoid, supraspinatus, coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, pectoralis, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, teres major, and rhomboid major among others. The shoulder area is one of the most mobile spheres in the body. The wide range of motion permits great rotation, abduction, and adduction. Simultaneously, this versatility makes the shoulder area more prone to injury.

A great exercise to sculpt and strengthen the shoulder muscles, mainly the rear delts, is Face Pulls.

Below we’ll look deeper into face pulls and we’ll cover the following:

  • Muscles involved in barbell face pulls
  • Benefits associated with barbell face pulls
  • How to properly do barbell face pulls
  • Common mistakes when performing barbell face pulls
  • Video on how to do Barbell Face Pulls
  • Shoulder exercises to complete your shoulder workout

What Muscles Do Barbell Face Pulls Work?

Besides engaging the lateral delts and the core muscles slightly, face pulls mainly work the upper posterior chain muscles which include rear deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius.

  • The rear delts are located in the rear part of the deltoids. This is a shoulder area that, sometimes, gets neglected. This is problematic since all the areas of the deltoid (anterior, lateral, and posterior or rear) need to be exercised in order to allow for shoulder mobility, stability, and to prevent injury.
  • Trapezius – triangular muscles extending over the back of the neck and shoulders
  • Rhomboids –   muscles located in the upper back in between the scapulas

Benefits of Face Pulls

The face pull is a very effective rear delt exercise and has many advantages:

  • Shoulder Stability & Mobility: Face pulls work your upper posterior chain muscles which help keep your shoulder joint stable and mobile. 
  • Strength: They help increase overall shoulder strength as the rear delts can assist in other movements. Strong shoulders are important for everyday activities – movements involving pressing, pulling, and rotating your arms.
  • Hypertrophy: Every muscle that you work grows with proper technique and nutrition. Face pulls help fill up the back of the shoulders.
  • Aesthetics: They sculpt rounder, more defined shoulders, and traps, helping you develop a beautifully sculpted upper body.
  • Isolation: This exercise is excellent to isolate the rear delts, muscles that are not often engaged. These muscles retract and engage during the face pull, which is also important for pressing movements.
  • Posture: Working the rear delts helps avoid a “hunched forward” appearance and poor posture.
  • Shoulder Health: They help deal with imbalances as most people concentrate on the anterior and lateral heads of the deltoids, not the rear deltoids. Working out every head of the deltoids helps to keep your shoulders healthy and prevent injuries. 
  • Versatility: Face pulls are versatile, easy to do, and can be performed without machines. You can use cables, bands, dumbbells, or a barbell to pull the weight straight toward your eye area.

How to Do Barbell Face Pulls

  • Grab a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width distance apart and with your palms facing down. Let the bar rest by your tights
  • Stand with your feet about hip-width distance apart
  • Bend your knees slightly and bend forward without rounding your back
  • Keep your back straight and almost parallel to the floor, shoulders back, and core tight
  • Lift the barbell up towards your face – mainly the eye area, keeping your elbows out
  • Hold at the top of the movement for a couple of seconds, squeezing the back of your shoulders – You’ll feel your shoulder blades retract or pinch together
  • Lower the barbell down in a controlled way
  • Repeat

*️⃣ This is not an exercise to perform with a very heavy weight as other muscles can easily assist and take the emphasis off the rear delts. Aim to perform 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.

*️⃣ Besides performing the barbell face pull, you can do dumbbell face pulls which can be performed at home. You can also perform face pulls with cables/bands and standing instead of bending over.

Avoid Barbell Face Pulls Mistakes

  • Avoid improper form: If you move the weight towards your chin or neck, point your elbows down instead of out, or don’t keep your palms facing away from your face, you are performing face pulls incorrectly.
  • Avoid targeting other muscles: You should perform the face pulls form properly so you can feel the rear delts – the backside of your shoulders, not your back or biceps.
  • Avoid very heavy loads: The rear deltoid is a small area and if you put too much weight, you may end up using momentum and/or working other muscle groups to lift the load.
  • Avoid rounding your back: Keep your back straight so you don’t overstress or injure your back.

Barbell Face Pull Video

Deltoid Workout

If you want to target your rear delts further, you can also perform seated bent-over rear delt raises and bent-over rear lateral raises.

In order to complete your delt workout, you should work your front and lateral deltoids. You can perform Shoulder Presses, Front Raises, and Later Raises.

Lift, Burn more Fat, Get Stronger, and Live Healthier!

To a Fitter Healthier You,

Adriana Albritton

The Fitness Wellness Mentor

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