Movement Masterclass: Cable Face Pull


Movement Masterclass: Cable Face Pull

Balance out your training and undo desk-bound damage.

We all love to press. But while presses for your chest and shoulders are satisfying, and help you to impress in front of the mirror, you’re missing half of the action. You need to get on the pull.

Pulling movements are both under-used and under-appreciated in the gym. They’re both essential for evening out your body after sets of presses, helping you to avoid injury-causing muscle imbalances, plus they can reverse the pain caused by the constantly rounded shoulders we experience sitting down at a desk all day.

The go-to is the pull-up or lat pulldown, which targets the major muscles of your back. But there is an increasing case to be made for mastering the face pull, which helps you to target your upper back and rear shoulders.


Here Third Space trainer and osteopath, Henry Howe, pulls back the curtain with his rep-by-rep guide:

  1. “The first thing to understand is that your technique – not weight – underpins performance. Be modest when judging the number of kilos you start with so you can nail the skill of the movement before applying more load.
  2. “Whether you are standing or in a kneeling position, set the cable up at about chest height and attach the rope attachment to the carabiner. As with all cable exercises, make sure that when you adopt your start position you have some tension on the cable so that the weights are lifted from the rack.
  3. “You should be standing tall with your arms reaching horizontally in front of you and your shoulder blades relaxed and pinned down. Be careful not to shrug your shoulders during the pull.
  4. “From your start position, pull the middle of the rope towards your face with high, wide elbows. This should make you form a Y position in your upper arms and torso. For those who struggle with their shoulder mobility, simplify to a T shape; draw your elbows wider to the height of your shoulders as you draw the cable back.
  5. “Return to your start position each time and try to minimise movement from the rest of your body as much as possible in order to really get the upper back and shoulders working.”

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