One of my favourite accessory exercises is another one of those exercises that people tend to forget. When people think of shoulder training, they generally think of presses and raises rather than pulls. But the high pulley rope pull, or face pull, is the exercise that has helped me the most so far in terms of my rear delt development.
Purpose: When it comes to shoulder training, it’s important to hit the shoulder from all angles. Most presses and front raises target the front deltoids, while lateral raises hit the side delts. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time in front of a computer, only training the front of your shoulder is going to make your posture even worse. Rear delt and upper back training is extremely important for opening up the chest and pulling your shoulders back for every day life.
Bent over flyes seem to be the most common exercise performed to isolate the rear delt, but most people perform them incorrectly (but that’s a post for another time!). A face pull is a foolproof way to hit the rear delts and rhomboids.
Because you can’t see your muscles working, it’s important to focus on mind muscle connection to ensure the movement is coming solely from your rear delts rather than your arms.
Set-up: Attach a rope to a cable machine at a high position in line with your head. Hold one end of the rope in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other), with your arms completely extended and parallel to the ground. Make sure your back is straight, and take one step backwards. Adopt a split stance with knees slightly bent for leverage.
The shoulder’s rotator muscles are typically weak, so start with a very light weight.
Execution: By contracting your upper back and rear delts, pull the rope towards your face while allowing your hands to separate. Draw your elbows out wide to the side until they go slightly behind your shoulders and the ends of the rope are alongside your ears. Hold for one second. Slowly return the rope to the starting position by extending your arms. Keep your chest up throughout the movement.
Here is a shoulder workout from Dana Linn Bailey, where she warms up with rope pulls: DLB & Jose Raymond Shoulder Training
I would highly recommend watching this video for some serious motivation! The rope pulls are at 0:50-1:20. Dana is technically not doing face pulls (more like upper chest pulls), but the movement is the same for this exercise. I also tried a modified version of the 360 rep lat raise exercise they did. I only finished 120 reps and nearly died! Yowza.
(Also: any techies out there know why I can no longer embed my video? So frustrating!)
All-angles shoulder workout:
Barbell push-press: 3 x 5-8
Single arm dumbbell press: 3 x 8 (each side)
Lateral dumbbell raise: 3 x 15
Alternate front dumbbell raise: 3 x 10 (each side)
Bent over flyes: 3 x 12-15
High pulley rope pull: 3 x 12-15
Have you ever tried the face pull?