Face Pulls are one of the best exercises to train all muscles in your upper back and in my top 3 of my favorite exercises for sure (and probably 9 out of 10 fitness trainer will tell you the same) – and the awesome thing here is that you can do them with a resistance band extremely well.
In the first part of this article, I will show you how to execute a face pull with a resistance band properly and in the second part, you find some really nice alternative ways to do this exercise to either go lighter or harder on it to really work your muscles the way you need it.
Face Pulls With Resistance Band
Let’s jump right into how you do the face pulls with resistance bands.
Band VS Cable Machine
You could technically do face pulls with free weights as well when using an inclined bench but the most common way to do it is with a cable machine. Anyway, with resistance bands you have multiple advantages for face pulls:
- Better range-of-motion! With a resistance band you can get into full contraction with a face pull a lot better than with any attachment on a cable machine and can really reach as far behind your head as you can without sacrificing good form.
- Follow the natural strength curve of your muscle! The resistance of a band will always increase the more you stretch it and that’s also the natural strength curve of your muscle, having the most power in the full contraction. With a cable machine, you often fatigue in the expanded part of your muscle without fully fatiguing the whole muscle.
There are also more reasons to favor resistance bands over traditional free weights, like reducing the stress on your joints, getting more peak contraction, and many more. But we’re talking here about doing a face pull, so if you’re interested in background info about what benefits resistance bands give you in strength training and bodybuilding, check it out here.
How To Face Pull The Right Way
The exercise works like the name says, you will pull towards your face and try to reach as far behind your head as possible to fully contract the muscles in your upper back area and rear delts.
First you will attach the band either in the height of your head or above with a door anchor or by looping it around anything stable enough.
You grab the band on each side and either turn your hands so your thumbs face the direction of the band or make your thumbs direct to the back. If you use loop style bands you will do that with your grip and if you use tube bands with handles you can normally set them up so you can have that grip as shown here in the image:
Now you stand upright with a straight back, shoulder blades tucked together and pull towards your face and try to get your hands behind your ears. You can either place your feet next to each other or put one in front the other to get a more stable position (depending on the resistance of your band).
Important Do’s & Don’ts!!!
⓵ No Slack – when you’re in the starting position of your face pulls, there shouldn’t be any slack in the band. The band should already be stretched a little bit and pulling on your shoulders. If you have a slack here you will lose a lot of time under tension!
If you can’t do the exercise without slack in the starting position you probably use a band that’s too strong for that exercise and normally the face pull is done with a lighter resistance band. Use a lighter band and step back a little more is normally better than doing it with a band that’s too strong!
⓶ Hand Position – by no means you should do the face pull with your hands turning the band – always mind your thumbs and get them to face the same direction as the band. Forward or backwards.
If you do turn your wrists, you will either get other muscles involved like biceps or you might even get a rotation that can lead to injuries. Just remember, thumbs facing back or forward and you’re good.
⓷ Straight Back – the reason why foot position doesn’t matter much in this exercise is because your upper body will stay straight and static during the full face pull, don’t extend your back, lean back or make any other movement that pulling your hands behind your face.
If you have problems work with different foot positions but the resistance you use for a face pull is never that much that you can’t stabilize it with your upper body, unless you have a weak lower back (more on that below).
Alternative Ways To Face Pulls With Resistance Bands
With every version of an exercise, you will find people that really like it and others that don’t like it that much. If you have problems with the traditional way of doing the face pull as shown above (while executing it the right way), you might want to try one of the alternative ways.
Kneeling Face Pulls – if the position where you attach the resistance band isn’t that high or you might have problems keeping your upper body stable (e.g. weak lower back), you might switch it up and get into a kneeling position.
The face pull won’t get harder or easier but with that added stability you might be able to get more reps done with the same resistance and progress better.
Please try it out and don’t think about this version as the version for “weak lower back people”, it#s the same resistance and if it suits you better it will work better long-term.
Wall Step Face Pulls – this variation now is for those of you who really want to work hard. The thing with resistance bands (but also cable machines) and the face pull is that the limit is always how much you can stabilize the resistance and if the band will pull you too much you can’t do the face pulls properly.
Normally with bands you would start using a singe-arm version but with face pulls there’s no proper single-arm version.
A nice way to solve this is to lean back and use one foot to step on the wall to get a stable resistance against the band when doing the face pull. I’d say this is for the 10% that are really advanced and need that much resistance to overload this exercise more.
Time Under Tension – compared to weights where you have the same force applied to any position of the movement, bands will add more resistance the further you stretch them – this will lower the time under tension your muscle has during a set in the starting position. Focus on doing the exercise controlled and try to hold it for a second or two in the fully contracted position and don’t let the band snap back but slowly go back to the starting position.
Full Back Workout
Simply doing face pulls is not a full back workout as there are multiple muscles working in your back – we have here a full back workout with different exercises that will give you the strongest back you can ever thing of – check it out here.