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Get strong and defined shoulders with the cable face pull

It’s possible to puff out your chest and suck in your belly, but big, strong and impressive shoulders can’t be faked. And the cable face pull not only helps sculpt sizeable delts, it also builds bulletproof shoulder joints that can withstand all the pushing, pulling and throwing you need to do to perform at the highest level. Here’s how to do this peerless shoulder-strengthening exercise to transform your upper body, says New Body Plan editor Joe Warner

The cable face pull is one of the best gym floor exercises for strengthening all the major and minor muscles in your upper back and shoulders, as well as some muscles of your arms.

Doing the move properly and regularly can also help you improve your posture – especially if you spend a lot of your waking hours sitting at a desk – and minimise the risk of back aches and pains, and shoulder and elbow joint stresses and strains.

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More beneficially if you’re serious about building a better body, getting good at the cable face pull also has huge crossover benefit so you can lift heavier for longer in the big upper-body lifts to build a head-turning physique.

These moves include the barbell bench press and Smith machine shoulder press for a big, broad and defined chest and shoulders, and the lat pulldown and seated row for impressive back and biceps gains. Here’s what you need to know about one of the best cable machine moves to get the physique and performance results you want!

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What is the cable face pull?

The cable face pull is a key exercise for improving shoulder joint strength, stability and mobility.
It primarily works the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, as well as the small stabilising muscles of the shoulder joint.

Why is the cable face pull so good?

The cable face pull is such a valuable exercise to add to your training toolkit because of which muscles it works, and how it works them. It’s one of the very best exercise for training your rear shoulders.

Most people have weak or underdeveloped rear deltoids (delts) compared with their anterior delts (front shoulders). This part of the shoulder muscle is involved in all upper-body pressing movements, such as the overhead shoulder press, the Smith machine bench press and the incline dumbbell bench press, so gets worked a lot more often that the rear delts. And it’s also a great move to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles.

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What muscles does the cable face pull work?

The cable face pull works the major muscles of the shoulders, specifically the rear shoulders (known as the posterior deltoids), and the trapezius and rhomboids muscles of the upper back.

These muscles help to pull the shoulder blades back and down, improving posture and stability in the shoulders and upper back. Cable face pulls also work the small internal musculature of the shoulder joint, known as the rotator cuff muscles, as well to a smaller extent the biceps and forearms.

What are the rotator cuff muscles?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) in the shoulder that help to stabilise the shoulder joint and allow for a wide range of motion in the arm.

These muscles are responsible for allowing us to lift, rotate, and move our arms in a variety of directions. Without the rotator cuff, our shoulders would be much less mobile and we wouldn’t be able to perform many of the movements that are essential for our daily activities. Injuries to the rotator cuff muscles can cause pain and limited mobility in the shoulder, so it’s vital to keep these muscles strong and healthy.

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Why are strong rotator cuff muscles so important?

The rotator cuff plays a crucial role in stabilising the shoulder joint and allowing a wide and fluid range of motion. This makes the cable face pull a very important exercise for building not only bigger stronger and more defined muscles across your shoulders and upper back, but also for improving shoulder joint health.

Strong, stable and mobile shoulders will have a beneficial impact on every other upper-body exercise, as well as many lower body lifts, including the front squat and overhead squat. And the stronger the internal muscles of the shoulder, the less your risk of aches, pains and injury.

When should I do the cable face pull?

You can do the cable face pull as part of chest and back workout, in a back and biceps session, during a dedicated pull workout, or in a dedicated shoulder session. You can do the move at the start of your workout to warm up and mobilise your shoulder joint. Just make sure you start very light because you don’t want to go too heavy and risk injury.

You can also do the move towards the end of the workout. But again, the key is never to go too heavy. This is a move that’s all about perfect form over the amount of weight lifted. Great technique is what delivers all of the benefits, not how much weight you can move about.

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How do I do the cable face pull?

– Stand tall facing a cable machine holding a double rope attachment, secured to the the pulley at shoulder height or higher, in your hands with a palms-facing grip.
– Keep your chin and chest up, your abs braced and your back straight.
– Keeping your elbows high, pull the rope toward your face, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you go, until your elbows are behind either side of your head.
– Avoid leading back as you pull the rope towards your head. Your torso should remain in a stationary position and only your arms should move.
– Hold this top position for at least a second, then slowly return to the start position controlling the weight throughout.
– Keep the weight light and do between eight to 15 reps per set, resting for up to two minutes between sets.

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