10 Best Face Pull Alternatives and Substitutes (with Pictures)

By | May 26, 2022


The shoulders are one such muscle group that is involved in the execution of almost every upper body lift. Training them adequately is of utmost importance. However, if you think that shoulder training is only confined to vertical presses and raises, you are only partially correct.

To train your shoulders optimally, you also have to perform exercises that involve the element of horizontal pulling. An exercise like face pull serves that purpose pretty well.

Performing a face pull not only contributes towards developing your rear delts, mid-traps, and rhomboids but also works on improving your overall shoulder health. This is the reason face pulls are an essential exercise in many shoulder rehab training programs.

But what would you do if you don’t have adequate training equipment to perform a conventional rope cable face pull? In such a scenario, the exercises that we are going to mention in this post will serve your best interests. They act as a substitute for face pulls and can be a great addition to your shoulder or back training routine.

Let’s have a detailed overview of each of them.

10 Best Face Pull Alternatives

Including face pulls in your pulling workouts will improve your shoulder health. However, performing face pulls in each of your ‘pull’ workouts will make this amazing exercise quite boring.

To counter that issue, you can try your hand at the following exercises that serve as the perfect alternative to face pulls.

Band Pull Aparts

Band pull aparts are an easier substitute for face pulls. This is because their execution requires a resistance band only. Moreover, they can be performed at any place with ease.

Why is it important?

When you perform a band pull apart, your rhomboids get targeted adequately. It also provides a decent workout to your rear delts. Performing band pull aparts have profound effects on your overall posture as well.

How to do it?

  • Grab a resistance band with an overhand grip. Keep your arms shoulder-width apart and extend your arms until they are perpendicular to your torso.
  • Maintain a neutral spine and retract your shoulder blades.
  • Now pull the band apart until your arms are fully extended by your sides. Squeeze your rear delts.
  • Hold this position for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly get back to the starting position.
  • Perform 12-15 repetitions.

Band face pulls

Band face pulls mimic the execution of a conventional face pull to a great extent. Just like cables, the use of resistance bands also ensures that there is constant stress on your back muscles.

Why is it important?

Performing a band face pull trains your rear delts. But apart from that it also works wonders in enhancing your shoulder strength as well as the stability of your scapula. Even if you have shoulder mobility issues, performing band face pulls can counter that issue effectively.

How to do it?

  • Anchor a resistance band to a steady pole at your head height.
  • Now grab the band with both hands and step away from the pole until your arms are fully extended and tension is created in the band.
  • Slightly bend your knees and pull the bands towards your face. Keep your elbows up and try to touch your ears with your palm.
  • Squeeze the muscles in your upper back at this point and hold this position for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly extend your arms and get back to the starting position.
  • Perform 12-15 repetitions with strict form.

Cross cable laterals

Performing cross cable laterals work on developing your rear delts. The element of shoulder abduction present in this exercise gives a decent workout to your mid-traps and rhomboids.

Why is it important?

When you perform a cross cable lateral, your rear delts get trained in a slightly longer range of motion compared to face pull. That is what makes this exercise one of the best face pull alternatives.

How to do it?

  • Set the handles of a cable pulley station at the lowest height.
  • Stand in the middle of the cable pulley station and grab a handle in each hand keeping your arms crossed in front of your body. Your left hand will grab the right handle and your right hand will grab the left handle.
  • Now lean your torso forward until it is almost parallel to the floor. Maintain a neutral spine and keep a slight bend in your knees.
  • Pull the cables in an arcing motion until your arms are straight by your sides. Squeeze your rear delts, mid-traps, and rhomboids for a second.
  • Then slowly lower the cable handles until your arms are crossed in front of your body.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Resistance band upright row

The resistance band upright row is a compound exercise that targets your rear delts, side delts, and trapezius. Since this exercise is performed with a resistance band, it enables one to keep constant stress on the targeted muscle groups. If you are looking for a replacement for face pull, try your hand at this exercise.

Why is it important?

When you perform a resistance band upright row, you get an increased range of motion. This exercise works wonders in developing your traps and side delts along with your rear delts.

How to do it?

  • Grab a resistance band and place your feet in the middle of it. Hold the ends of the band in each hand.
  • Keep your feet hip-width apart.
  • Retract your shoulder blades and let your arms holding the resistance band hang in front of you.
  • Now pull the bands towards your chin, pointing the elbows outwards. Your elbows must be higher than your hands.
  • Squeeze your rear delts and traps at this point.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Perform 10-12 repetitions in each set.

Bent-over dumbbell reverse flys

The bent-over dumbbell reverse fly is one of the prime exercises for rear delt development. Its execution is pretty simple which makes it a great face pull substitute exercise.

Why is it important?

Being an isolation exercise, the bent-over dumbbell reverse flys enables you to target your rear delts specifically. However, its execution also stimulates your mid-traps and rhomboids to some extent.

How to do it?

  • Stand upright and hold a light-medium weight dumbbell in each hand.
  • Slightly bend your knees and lean your torso forward by pushing your hips back. Your torso must be either parallel or above parallel to the floor.
  • Let your arms hang down in front of you.
  • Now raise your arms by your sides keeping your palms facing down. Once your upper arms cross your torso, pause for a moment and contract your rear delts.
  • Slowly lower your arms back towards the starting position.
  • Perform 12-15 reps in each set.

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Dumbbell reverse flys on an incline bench

The dumbbell reverse flys performed on an incline bench serves as the perfect replacement exercise for face pulls. It enables you to train your upper back muscles with a strict form.

Why is it important?

The best part about using an incline bench while performing dumbbell reverse flys is that it eliminates momentum. This further makes this exercise strict which helps in stimulating the rear delts optimally. Owing to these factors, the dumbbell reverse flys on an incline bench are often used as a substitute for face pulls.

How to do it?

  • Set an incline bench at an angle of 30-45 degrees.
  • Grab a light-medium weight dumbbell in each hand.
  • Now position yourself on the bench with your chest lying comfortably on the bench.
  • Let your arms hang down in front of the bench.
  • Now retract your shoulder blades and raise the dumbbells in an arcing motion towards your sides. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Once your upper arm slightly crosses your torso, pause for a moment and contract your rear delts firmly for a second.
  • Slowly lower your arms until they are perpendicular to the floor.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Y-raises

Performing a Y-raise aids in strengthening and developing your deltoids and upper back. Acting as an alternative to face pulls, Y-raises can be performed either with dumbbells or just your body weight.

Why is it important?

The execution of a y-raise might look simple, but it’s not. Performing a y-raise with strict form will take the development of your upper back musculature to a whole new level. Moreover, this exercise will also enable you to establish a better mind-muscle connection with your upper back muscles.

How to do it?

  • Set an incline bench at an angle of 45-degrees.
  • Grab a 5 lb dumbbell or plate in each hand and lie down on the bench positioning your chest comfortably on the bench. Let your arms holding the weights hang freely by your sides. If you are trying this exercise for the first time, you can even choose to keep your hands empty.
  • Rotate your wrists so that your palms face inwards.
  • Now raise your arms up and forward until they form a wide Y-shape with your body. Make sure to not bend your elbows.
  • Rotate your wrists in a way that your thumbs point towards the ceiling. Pause at this position for a second contracting your rear delts, traps, and rhomboids.
  • Now slowly lower your arms back to your sides.
  • Perform 10-12 reps with strict form.

Wide-grip inverted rows

The effectiveness of numerous bodyweight exercises has stood the test of time. And wide-grip inverted rows fall in the list of such exercises. Being a compound movement, it enhances your upper back strength and muscle mass.

Why is it important?

If you are looking for a bodyweight substitute for face pulls to train your rear delts and upper back, give the wide-grip inverted row a shot. Along with training your rear delts and upper back, this exercise also has profound effects on your core and grip strength.

How to do it?

  • Set a barbell horizontally at a height that is slightly below your hips.
  • Get under the barbell and hold it with an overhand grip. Place your hands wider than your shoulder width.
  • Now extend your arms and place your heels firmly on the floor. Your body must be in a straight line with only your heels being in touch with the floor.
  • Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes.
  • Pull yourself up until your chest almost touches the barbell. Keep your elbows flared out to target your rear delts adequately.
  • Now slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended.
  • Try to perform 10-12 reps in a single set.

Wide-grip seated cable rows

If you are bored with performing the conventional cable face pulls, try out the wide-grip seated cable rows as a rope face pull alternative. This exercise targets multiple muscle groups. However, it primarily stimulates your rear delts, rhomboids, and mid-traps.

Why is it important?

Wide-grip seated cable rows incorporate the use of cables. This in turn enables you to train your rear delts, rhomboids, and mid-traps with constant stress. This translates into greater muscle activation resulting in more growth.

How to do it?

  • Get in a seated position and set the handle of a cable pulley station in front of your lower abdomen.
  • Attach a parallel grip bar to the cable and hold it with a neutral grip. Position yourself away from the pulley until you feel a decent stretch in your upper back muscles.
  • Place your feet on the footrest to stabilize yourself. Keep your upper body upright and your shoulders retracted.
  • Now pull the bar towards your upper abdomen. Your elbows must be slightly below your shoulder height.
  • Squeeze your upper back muscles at this point.
  • Then, slowly release the weight to get back to the starting point.
  • Perform 12-15 reps with strict form.

Wide-grip bent over rows

Wide-grip bent over rows provides a decent workout to your rear delts and upper back muscles when performed with strict form. However, you must make sure that you don’t lift excessively heavy on this exercise especially if you want to target your rear delts. This is because it will compromise your form. This in turn will lessen the stimulation of target muscle groups.

Why is it important?

The execution of a wide-grip bent-over row is pretty simple. Replacing a face pull with a wide-grip bent-over row can fetch you greater gains in your upper back region.

How to do it?

  • Load a barbell with moderate weights and hold it with a pronated grip. Your hands must be placed wider than your shoulder width.
  • Lean forward by pushing your hips back and keeping a slight bend in your knees. Your torso must be almost parallel to the floor. Keep your back as straight as possible.
  • Now embrace your core and lift the barbell towards your upper abdomen. Keep your elbows flared out to target your upper back muscles.
  • Once the barbell touches your upper abdomen, pause for a moment.
  • Then slowly lower the barbell until your arms are fully extended in front of you.
  • Perform the desired number of sets and reps.

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Wrapping Up

A face pull is undoubtedly one of the best exercises that can keep your shoulder health in check. However, if you are unable to perform a face pull due to certain reasons, you can rely on the above-mentioned exercises. They will fetch you the same benefits that you would get by performing a conventional cable face pull.

While performing the above-mentioned face pull alternatives, you must ensure that you use a weight that is not moderate enough to make the exercise challenging.

If you do so, your rear delts, mid-traps, and rhomboids will get adequately stressed which will facilitate their growth.

Give these cable face pull alternatives a shot.



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