Improve Your Posture and Tone Your Back with Cable Face Pulls: A Step-by-Step Guide

March 26, 2023
Improve Your Posture and Tone Your Back with Cable Face Pulls_A Step-by-Step Guide

Cable face pulls may sound intimidating, but they’re actually a simple workout move that won’t have you pulling on your face at all. The name comes from the fact that you’re pulling towards your face, not actually pulling on it.

This upper body exercise is a great way to build strength and tone your back muscles, but it does require access to gym equipment. If you’re looking to add more targeted moves to your fitness routine after mastering basic muscle groups, cable face pulls could be a valuable addition.

To help you learn more about cable face pulls, we spoke with certified personal trainers Caley Crawford and Josh Honore. In this article, we’ll explain what cable face pulls are, how to do them correctly, and whether they’re a good fit for your fitness goals.

What Are Cable Face Pulls?

What Are Cable Face Pulls?

To perform cable face pulls, you’ll need access to a cable machine or a band anchored slightly above your height, according to Crawford. This upper body exercise targets your upper back muscles. Honore explains that cable machines are a versatile piece of gym equipment that use cables attached to a weight stack to provide resistance in various ways. The handle is often adjustable, making it easy to customize the machine to your needs. With multiple attachments available, the face pull involves facing the machine and using your upper back muscles to horizontally pull the load towards your face.

The Benefits of Cable Face Pulls

  • Improved scapula function: According to Honore, improving the function of your scapulae through exercises like cable face pulls can help alleviate shoulder pain and improve your posture.
  • Stronger upper body: Crawford explains that the primary benefits of cable face pulls are increased strength in your upper back muscles, rear deltoids, and traps. She notes that this exercise is particularly effective for improving overall shoulder health, as there are few other exercises that focus on the rear deltoids as intensely.
  • Better posture: According to Honore, spending prolonged periods in seated and hunched positions can cause dysfunction in upper spine muscles like the pecs, traps, and erector muscles. This dysfunction can contribute to pain in the shoulders, neck, and back, especially for those who engage in regular physical activity. Honore recommends cable face pulls as an effective way to restore the position and function of the shoulder blades and surrounding muscles, which can ultimately improve posture.
  • Improved range of motion: Honore points out that cable face pulls have the potential to improve the range of motion in your shoulder joints.

Read also: Treadmills vs. Ellipticals: Which Will Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals?

How to Perform Cable Face Pulls

  1. To begin the cable face pull exercise, position yourself in front of a cable machine with the weight set appropriately and the anchor point adjusted to a higher position than your height. “Stand facing the cable machine with arms extended straight out in front of you, holding the rope attachment,” advises Honore. Start with a light to medium weight and adjust as needed, as suggested by Crawford.
  2. Grasp the handles of the cable mechanism with your hands facing downwards. “Keep your knuckles facing in,” advises Crawford, and step backwards to create tension on the cables.
  3. Lift your arms diagonally towards the anchor point on the cable machine, ensuring to depress your shoulders to engage your lats. Crawford provides the instruction to lift your arms to a diagonal position.
  4. Next, pull the rope towards your face and bring your elbows back, focusing on engaging your upper back muscles. “The shoulder blades should converge towards the spine with as little shrugging as possible, and the wrists should land somewhere between the collarbone and the ears,” Honore advises. Maintain good upright posture and aim for the end range of motion where your upper back muscles are fully contracted.
  5. Slowly release back to your starting position, maintaining strength and control in your upper back. “Continue focusing on strength and control in the upper back as you return to the starting position,” says Honore.


For those who do not have access to a gym, the exercise can be performed using a resistance band. Crawford explains that while the weight is consistent with cables, the resistance increases with bands, making it an effective way to challenge the stabilizers in the shoulder joint. Honore suggests that using resistance bands is a versatile alternative to cable machines.

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Alternatively, if you have access to a cable machine but want to try a variation of the exercise, you can do face pulls on your knees. Honore recommends this modification as it can enhance overall stability, challenge the control of the trunk, and discourage the use of hips to execute the movement.

Cable Face Pulls vs. Reverse Fly

According to Crawford, the cable face pull and the reverse fly have similarities in terms of activating the rear deltoids, but they differ in the angle at which they are performed. The reverse fly is conducted with dumbbells and involves being hinged forward at the hips to utilize gravity for resistance. On the other hand, the cable face pull uses a cable machine with weights for resistance. Crawford suggests the reverse fly as an alternative for those who do not have access to a cable machine.

Safety Considerations

According to Crawford, cable face pulls may not be suitable for individuals with shoulder impairments. “Due to the position of the elbows in relation to the shoulders and hands, this exercise may not be the best for everyone,” she explains.

Honore recommends modifying or avoiding any exercise that exacerbates joint discomfort or back pain until a professional provides further guidance. “Individuals with unique spinal function circumstances should also seek professional advice before attempting face pulls,” she adds.

The Final Takeaway

Cable face pulls are a beneficial upper body exercise that targets the rear deltoids and traps to improve posture, scapular function, and shoulder mobility. This exercise can be performed using a cable machine, and if unavailable, resistance bands can be used instead. Additionally, a reverse fly with dumbbells is an alternative for those without access to a cable machine. However, individuals with shoulder or back injuries should avoid cable face pulls. If no such injuries are present, incorporating cable face pulls into your workout routine can be highly advantageous.

Photo: Pinterest

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Margaud Raynaud is a beauty expert with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge and tips with others and has a particular interest in skincare and makeup. When she's not writing about health and beauty, Margaud enjoys trying out new products and experimenting with different looks. Follow her blog for expert advice and inspiration for living your best life.

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