Face pulls have become an increasingly popular exercise in the gym for good reason. If you’ve ever questioned, “should you lean back when doing face pulls?” then this post is for you.

If you are doing them incorrectly, you won’t be getting as many benefits as you could be. Let’s discuss the most effective way to train your rear delts using the face pull.

Should You Lean Back When Doing Face Pulls?

Leaning back is not required to effectively perform face pulls. However, you mind find that you can externally rotate your shoulders to a greater extent doing so. A slight lean may also help counter the weight stack that is pulling you forward. As long as the lean is slight, it will not take away from rear delt activation during the movement.

Proper Face Pull Form

Start by attaching the rope attachment at head height. You want to grasp the rope with both hands and step back so that your arms are fully extended.

Retract your shoulder blades as you pull the rope back. Your arms will end behind your ears and in a double bicep pose position. Slowly return your arms in front of you to the starting position.

should you lean back when doing face pulls

You don’t need to lean back to perform the face pull. However, a slight lean may allow you to pull your arms further back and increase the range of motion of the exercise, putting further tension on the rear delts.

This slight lean will also help you counter the weight that is pulling your body forward.

As long as you do not exaggerate the lean, it won’t take away from the movement.

You should be standing still and not rocking back and fourth. This causes you to use momentum and take the rear delts out of the movement.

Consider standing with one foot in front of the other to help with stabilization.

Use mind muscle connection and really focus on squeezing your mid back and rear delts while performing the face pull.

Common Face Pull Mistakes

Ensure that you keep your chest up and your shoulders back and down. Do not allow them to hunch forward.

TIP: Don’t let your elbows raise above your hands as this turns the movement into a row, making you unable to externally rotate the shoulders.

Your hands should remain above the elbows. Don’t let the hands be too far in front of the elbows. This also makes it difficult to externally rotate the shoulders.

Using too much weight will make it difficult for you to properly squeeze the rope back without swinging your body. This takes away from rear delt growth and can cause injury.

The face pull is not an exercise that you should be overloading or trying to use heavy weight.

Setting the rope too low or too high won’t effectively target the rear delts. Having the attachment set too low will force your shoulders forward.

Setting it too high will mainly target the traps.

Don’t use an overhand grip. This internally rotates the shoulders and makes it difficult to target the rear delts.

An underhand grip with your thumbs pointed backwards allows external rotation.

Why You Should Be Doing Face Pulls

Face pulls are great for strengthening both the rotator cuff and the posterior deltoid. This will help prevent and rehabilitate any shoulders injuries.

Many people mess up their shoulders from going heavy on the bench press, and face pulls are a great way to minimize injuries.

Doing a lot of pressing movements starts to internally rotate the shoulders. That is, they start to hunch forward. The face pulls will externally rotate and open up the shoulders, fixing this problem.

Face pulls can be done anywhere, even at home. Click here to check out some cheap, effective resistance bands for training at home. This is a great option if your gyms have been closed down due to Covid-19.

Simply wrap the band around a sturdy object at head height and perform the face pull the same way you do when using the rope cable attachment.

It’s best to use one with lighter resistance since face pulls don’t require heavy amount of weight.

Already got a home gym? Add a rope to your equipment here.

Face Pull Variations?

Try out a kneeling face pull to limit momentum and ensure that your rear delts are doing all the work.

The set up is pretty similar. You will want to set the rope at your head height when kneeling down. Kneel on a mat and perform the face pull the same way you would if standing.

You will find that you can’t swing your body to help you get the rope back and you’ll feel greater activation from the rear delts.

Combining the face pull with the upper trap raise is a great way to increase the intensity of your face pulls. If you’re looking to add some trap activation, try these out.

lean back when doing face pulls

Perform your face pull like you normally would. Once you are at the end of the movement with your hands and elbows beside your ears, raise your hands straight into the air while squeezing your traps and rear delts.

Return your arms back down beside your ears and then back to your fully extended starting position.

Keep your hands directly above your elbows. Don’t let them come forward.

You will most likely have to use less weight than you use for regular face pulls.

Importance of Rear Delt Training

Most people neglect their rear delts. They save them until the end of their workout and throw in a quick rear delt exercise after they’re already exhausted.

Just because you don’t see them from the front does not mean you shouldn’t be training them.

The rear delts give your shoulder a full 3D bowling ball type look that is very aesthetically appealing.

They also pull your shoulders back to stop your shoulders from hunching forward. This promotes better posture. If you have a desk job where you are slumped forward all day, this is especially important.

Developed rear delts pull the shoulders back making your chest and physique appear larger and wider. Yes, they will make you look bigger.

They also help with shoulder stability and will prevent shoulder injury in other lifts.

Here’s a full guide of the rear delt fly compared to the face pull.

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