How To Properly Perform Kneeling Face Pulls

Kneeling face pulls are one of the best and most effective corrective exercises for shoulder joint dysfunction and poor posture.

They assist in strengthening the muscles in your upper limb that get tired, lazy and chronically weak from inactivity as we sit in a slouched position at the computer or driving cars.

The exercise targets the posterior and rear deltoids of the shoulder, rhomboid, and the external rotators (infraspinatus and teres minor).

If you do a lot of pressing exercises like push-ups, bench press and overhead press, it is important to keep these muscles conditioned and strong.

This is because it is the best for remedying poor shoulder positioning.  And, exercising them will improve your overall shoulder strength and prevent muscular imbalance.

For the movement, you only need a cable pulley machine or a resistance band to pull the weight straight toward your forehead.

Although, the cable machine is more preferred since you can add more resistance as you get stronger. The resistance bands come in a variety of tensions but it may not feel challenging even with the strongest band.

The exercise is versatile and you can program it as part of your dynamic warm-up or as part of your upper body strength training regimen. Essentially, focus on slow, controlled motions and your form.


Here are the steps for performing the exercise:

  • Set up a cable pulley machine such that its position is head-height or slightly above. Secure a rope attachment that features dual hand-holds.
  • Choose the appropriate resistance in the weight stack. Go lighter as this is not a power exercise and focus on form.
  • Stand with your feet about hip-width distance apart and face while facing the pulley.
  • Reach up and grasp the handles, palms facing in.
  • Take some steps back till your arms are fully extended. Engage your core, lean slightly back, lift the chest up and roll your shoulders back.
  • Pull the rope toward your forehead just enough to start lifting the weight from the stack until your hands are in front of your shoulders.
  • Engage your shoulders until you feel your shoulder blades pinching together or retracting. Roll back your shoulders and keep a good posture. Do not roll them forward or hunch.
  • Reverse the movement and slowly extend your arms. Do not let your chest or shoulders roll forward as you extend. This is to ensure you maintain a good posture.
  • Repeat and do not let the weight rest on the stack till you complete the set.


This weight training exercise utilizes and strengthens your shoulder muscles and upper back including the rhomboids, lower and mid trapezius, rear deltoids, teres major, infraspinatus, the core, and rotator cuff.

They offset the pulling work you do in the rest of your workouts. It also assists in supporting the shoulder joints because your rotator cuff works in them.


The rear deltoids are often neglected in favor of anterior and lateral deltoids by other exercises like shoulder presses, lateral dumbbell raises and front dumbbell raises.

This muscular imbalance can lead to shoulder injuries and pain, and poor posture.

Therefore, training the rear deltoids through kneeling face pulls is key in maintaining good posture, reducing shoulder injuries and preventing muscle imbalances.

The movement also improves shoulder and upper body muscles strength. The shoulder and upper back muscles assist with daily tasks and physical activities requiring reaching, pressing or pulling.

The deltoids especially are the powerhouse muscles responsible for all overhead actions like lifting a child or even shooting a basketball.

Since your core is engaged in the performance of the movement, this helps with stability and balance.

Also, the exercise maintains the shoulders in a squared and back position so that you do not get the pulled forward look from performing too many chest and front delt work. Further, it builds a thick upper base to arch into for a power bench press.


Swapping the kneeling face pull, or any other exercise, out for similar moves, helps to increase your gains, decrease your risk of injury and it won’t get boring. Some of its alternatives include:


The dumbbell row is an upper body exercise that uses a pulling movement pattern to activate several muscles in your shoulders, core, arms and shoulders.


The rear delt dumbbell fly helps to improve muscular balance and promote proper rear shoulder and upper back development.


Pullups are an upper-body strength exercise where the body is suspended by the hands and pulls up. It is good for the back and shoulders.



It is essential that you understand what part you’re supposed to be working.

Remember, this is a rear delt exercise and so, you should feel it working the backside of your shoulders into your upper back between your shoulder blades.

Double-check your form if your elbows are pointing downwards instead of out, if your palms are not facing in or if you’re pulling the rope toward your neck or chin and you’re feeling it more in your biceps and back.

Also, if you’re not keeping your arms at right angles to the body, then you are doing a pull-down instead of a face pull.


The rear deltoids, which are the primary targeted muscles, are a small muscle group. Therefore, do not select a weight that is too heavy.

Using a heavy resistance means you’ll have to use larger and stronger muscles thus, taking the tension off the rear deltoids.

Go lighter in order to feel the rear part of your shoulders doing majority of the work.


If you realize that you’re using momentum to pull the rope attachment toward your body, or that you can’t control the weight as it goes back to the stack, you need to pull your body forward and probably reduce the weight you’re trying to lift.

In order to effectively target the posterior deltoids, ensure you’re not inadvertently adding other muscle groups to take over performing the exercise.


You need to include this upper body workout in your overall workout routine or shoulder-specific workout.

This is because it not only improves your general shoulder health and movement patterns but also increases shoulder strength and scapular stability.

If you feel pain or discomfort during the exercise, check your form, decrease the resistance weight or stop and seek assistance from a certified personal trainer.