Supinated face pulls are a variation of face pull where the palms are rotated inwards, causing them to face each other and producing an overall narrower top position.
Though a seemingly small change, changing the grip used while performing an otherwise ordinary face pull causes the biceps brachii and upper trapezius to respond far better – as well as reduce strain on the labrum within the shoulder joint.
Supinated Face Pull at a Glance
Cable Machine and Rope Handle Attachment
Main Muscles Targeted
Posterior Deltoids, Biceps, Upper Trapezius
How to do Supinated Face Pulls
- To perform a supinated face pull, the lifter will begin by standing a sufficient length of distance away from the cable pulley as they grip the handles in both hands. The palms should be facing each other, thumbs “pointing upwards” as the handles are gripped.
- Square the shoulders so they are not internally rotated, align the head and neck with the spine and push out the chest.
- Begin pulling the handle towards the face, rotating the wrists as the elbows bend and the upper arms move parallel to the shoulders.
- The scapula should be retracted as this initial pull is performed, ending with the shoulder blades pinched together as the top position is reached.
- Once at the apex of the movement with the scapula pinched, arms parallel with the shoulders and wrists facing further inwards, the lifter slowly disengages their back and allows the resistance to pull their arms back forwards.
- When back in the starting position, the repetition is considered complete.
Sets and Reps Recommendation:
Supinated face pulls are somewhat more demanding on the arms and trapezius than regular face pulls. This allows for a greater loading capacity.
As such, we recommend upping the intensity of the exercise while comparatively reducing total volume.
Try performing 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions at a moderate load.
Although they are called supinated face pulls, a full supinated grip is not actually used.
A full supinated grip looks more like what one would use when performing bicep curls or chin-ups, rather than the half-neutral grip used in supinated face pulls.
The supinated portion of the name comes from the inward rotation of the wrists as the pull is performed, targeting the biceps to a greater degree without increasing strain on the wrist or limiting range of motion.
Common Supinated Face Pull Mistakes to Avoid
In order to make the most out of supinated face pulls, correct the following mistakes if present.
Excessive Twisting of the Wrists
While the exercise indeed features supination of the hands as the pull is performed, avoid twisting the wrists a full 90 degrees into maximum supination range. This not only reduces emphasis on the rear delts, but also needlessly places torque on the elbows and wrists.
Each repetition should start and finish with the thumbs pointing upwards, but rotate only enough that the palms are facing the sides of the head at the top of the movement.
Poor Range of Motion and Rapid Tempo
As is a mistake in most other exercises, performing supinated face pulls with an excessively short range of motion can lead to certain muscles being targeted to a lesser degree.
Furthermore, a short range of motion also causes issues like sticking points or greater injury risk to occur.
In connection to an overly short range of motion is an excessively rapid tempo, where the lifter fails to elongate the time under tension enough to stimulate growth in their muscles.
This is especially important with the eccentric portion of the exercise, where greater hypertrophy and strength development occurs.
Ensure that each repetition is performed in a slow and controlled manner alongside a full range of motion.
Failing to Retract Shoulder Blades
Another highly common mistake seen with supinated face pulls is failing to retract the shoulder blades correctly.
Face pulls involve more than simply rotating and abducting the humerus within the shoulder joint – the scapula too should retract as this mechanic occurs in order to properly engage the upper back muscles.
A good cue to use when attempting this is to imagine pinching a small ball behind the back using the shoulder blades. Time this retraction with the outward rotation of the upper arms as you pull the handle.
Turning the Movement Into a Curl
Because a supination of the hands is employed as the exercise is pulled, many lifters may mistakenly turn the movement into a curl, rather than a horizontal pull.
Even with greater biceps engagement, remember that it is the posterior deltoids that should be leading the movement, not the biceps. Bend the elbows only as the upper arms rotate parallel to the shoulders, and aim to begin with the initial pulling force derived from the upper back and shoulders instead.
Are Supinated Face Pulls the Right Exercise for You?
Supinated face pulls are simply conventional face pulls with somewhat greater emphasis on the biceps and the trapezius – meaning that, outside of a few specific cases, you’ll probably be better off with conventional face pulls instead.
If you find that your biceps are underdeveloped and don’t have the space for additional biceps isolation exercises, then the supinated face pull may just be right for you. That, or if you find the conventional neutral grip uncomfortable on the elbows or shoulders.