5 Best Face Pull Variations (with Videos!)

face pull variations

Unilateral contraction, greater emphasis on certain muscles or correcting specific issues in execution can all be solved by picking a different variation of face pull.

Some of the better variations to use are:

  • Kneeling Face Pulls
  • Seated Face Pulls
  • Supinated Face Pulls
  • Pronated Face Pulls
  • Single-arm Face Pulls

Face Pull Variations

1. Kneeling Face Pulls

Kneeling face pulls are much the same as conventional face pulls as far as mechanics go.

The sole difference between the two lies in form adherence, where being in a kneeling position helps prevent “cheating” the repetition by generating momentum through the legs. 

kneeling face pull movement

Alternatively, kneeling face pulls are also used for cable machines that do not have an adjustable pulley height – allowing for the right angle of resistance to be adopted.

Equipment Needed

Kneeling face pulls require a double ended rope and cable machine. A pad can be used to help cushion the knees as well.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Kneeling face pulls should be performed with additional attention paid to the movement of the knees and hips. Avoid rocking them to generate momentum.

In addition, remember to keep the angle of the cable as horizontal to the face as possible. This helps target the right muscles.


Kneeling Face Pull
  1. Kneel with one or both knees flat on the ground, the glutes engaged so that the hips are tight and extended.
  2. Adjust the cable pulley to current head height, if applicable. Grip the handles in both hands, wrists pronated.
  3. Assume the correct face pull stance by rolling the shoulders into a slightly external position, push chest out and align the head over cervical spine.
  4. Perform the face pull as normal. Rotate the arms until they are parallel with the shoulders, bending the elbows and retracting the scapula as they reach the terminal point.
  5. Allow the resistance of the cable to slowly pull the arms back into their starting position. Repetition complete.

2. Seated Face Pulls

Like kneeling face pulls, seated face pulls are also used when cheating the repetition is a bad habit present in the lifter – or if the cable pulley cannot be adjusted.

seated face pull movement

This is most often seen when using a cable row machine for face pulls, rather than a standard tower cable machine.

Equipment Needed

Seated face pulls require some form of cable machine, a double-ended handle and a seat at the right height.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid swinging the torso backwards at the hips while pulling the handle, as if rowing the weight. This takes emphasis away from the shoulders and upper back.

Furthermore, ensure the core is braced and torso horizontal (if not leaned back slightly) to maximize muscular engagement and range of motion.


Seated Face Pull
  1. Sit firmly atop the bench or chair, adjusting the pulley so it is head-height with the face when the handles are gripped.
  2. Brace the core, face the head forwards, push the chest out and imagine immobilizing the body from the waist down.
  3. Pull the handle towards the face, rotating the upper arms out to the sides as the elbows bend and the scapula retracts.
  4. When the upper arms are parallel to the shoulders and the shoulder blades completely pinched together, allow the resistance to slowly pull the arms back around until they are extended straight once more. This completes the rep.

3. Supinated Face Pulls

Also known as underhand face pulls, using a supinated grip encourages external rotation and shifts greater emphasis to the biceps brachii.

supinated face pull

Effectively, doing face pulls in this manner helps protect the shoulder joint from chronic overuse injuries but can reduce emphasis on the deltoids and upper back.

Equipment Needed

Supinated face pulls require the same double-end rope attachment and cable machine as conventional face pulls.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Ensure the cable is horizontal with the face. If too low, the movement essentially turns into a bicep curl.

In the same vein, while greater biceps recruitment is present, aim to still emphasize the back by focusing on proper scapula retraction.


Supinated Face Pull
  1. Set up for the face pull as normal by standing facing the pulley with the shoulders squared, chest pushed out, torso upright and hands gripping both ends of the handle.
  2. Rather than using the conventional grip, aim to keep the thumbs “pointed” upwards by rotating the wrists towards each other. If the lifter is lean enough, the biceps will visibly shorten when doing so.
  3. Now with the correct stance and grip, simply pull the handle towards the face while rotating the upper arms out to the sides, aiming to end with the hands over the biceps at the peak of the rep.
  4. Remember to retract the scapula as the arms reach their terminal point.
  5. At the apex, slowly allow the resistance to pull the arms back to the front of the torso, extending the elbows. This completes the rep.

4. Pronated Face Pulls

Rather than adopting a neutral or supinated hand orientation, face pulls can also be done with a pronated grip so as to better emphasize the rear delts and internally rotate the shoulders to a greater degree.

Equipment Needed

Rather than using a double-ended rope, pronated face pulls may be better served with two separate D-handles instead. Of course, a cable machine is also required.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Make sure excessive internal shoulder rotation is not an issue at the start or end of the rep, as this can cause greater strain on the shoulder joint. 

Avoid rotating the wrists into a neutral or supinated orientation as the top of the movement is reached, as this defeats the purpose of using a pronated grip in the first place.


  1. Begin by first setting up for face pulls as normal. Stand upright with the shoulders squared, head facing forwards and the handles gripped with the thumbs facing each other. The knuckles should be facing the same direction as the cable, palms towards the floor.
  2. In this position, the lifter then pulls the handles towards their face, allowing the wrists to bend slightly as the upper arms rotate to the sides of the shoulders.
  3. Once in the top position of the repetition, the lifter then allows the resistance of the cable to slowly pull their arms back to the front, hands still pronated. This completes the repetition.

5. Single-Arm Face Pulls

Just as its name implies, single-arm face pulls are a unilateral variation of face pull meant to better isolate one side at a time. 

one arm face pull movement

Performing the exercise in this manner allows for the correction of muscular imbalances, a more efficient angle of resistance and overall greater focus with each repetition.

Equipment Needed

Single-arm face pulls will require a single-handed rope attachment or D-handle.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid twisting the torso when performing this variation, as many lifters unconsciously do so to compensate for the unbalanced pull on the torso. 

Furthermore, remember the exercise is a face pull, not a curl. The majority of force should be derived from the upper back and shoulder.


Single Arm Face Pull
  1. Set up in much the same manner as a bilateral face pull; arm extended gripping the handle with the shoulders squared, neck neutral and chest pushed out.
  2. Pull the handle towards the face on the same side as the working arm, focusing on contracting the rear delt and trapezius.
  3. Once the working upper arm is parallel to the shoulder, slowly disengage the deltoid and allow the resistance to pull the arm back to the front. Repetition complete.
  4. Don’t forget to switch sides.

Which Face Pull Variation is Best?

With the face pull itself already being an all-around solid exercise, the use of a more specific variation is only needed when you have a more specific goal in mind.

This can be working around a previous injury, better emphasizing a certain muscle or better replicating a specific activity in other forms of athleticism.

As such, there is no “best” face pull variation. Instead, select the variation that best fits your current training needs. 

Difficulty with torso orientation? Kneeling variant. 

No cable machine, but have a cable row machine? Seated variant.

Bilateral imbalance of the posterior deltoids? Single-arm variant.


1. Sung, Jung-Ha, Woosung Jung, Junsig Wang, and Jung-Hyun Kim. 2023. “The Effects of Body Positions and Abduction Angles on Shoulder Muscle Activity Patterns during External Rotation Exercises” Healthcare 11, no. 14: 1977. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11141977