Every guy wants to build well-rounded shoulders. And although it’s a good idea to focus on doing shoulder presses and lateral raises to hit the middle and front deltoids, you can’t forget the rear delts.
When the rear delts lag behind the front and middle delts, the shoulders look incomplete and less than impressive. If you’ve been doing your fair share of rear lateral raises but seeing little growth back there, we have a good alternative for you—face-pulls. This exercise is a multijoint movement, which allows you to use more weight than rear laterals so that you can really pack on some serious size on the rear delts and your middle traps.
To do face-pulls, hook a rope attachment to the cable pulley of a lat pulldown station. Grab the ends of the rope attachment using a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and place one foot up on the kneepad post and lean back at about 45 degrees. Pull the rope toward your face as you spread the ends of the rope so that they end up on the sides of your neck just above your shoulders in the finish position. Your upper arms should be straight out to your sides with your elbows bent. Hold this position for a second as you squeeze your shoulder blades together, contracting your rear delts and middle traps as hard as possible. Then slowly return the rope to the start position and repeat for reps. —Jim Stoppani, ph.D.
WHEN TO PULL IT: The best time to do exercises that focus on the rear deltoids, such as the face-pull, is at the end of your shoulder workout. Exercises that focus on the middle and front deltoids are the major mass builders for the delts, so do them first.
Keep the face-pull as your last rear delt exercise. Since it also hits the middle delts, it works as a good segue exercise between delts and traps, so follow with traps.
Form & Function
The deltoids are composed of three heads—the anterior (front) deltoid, the middle deltoid, and the posterior (rear) deltoid. As the name implies, the rear, or posterior, head of the deltoid is located closest to the back of the body. This muscle starts from the scapula (shoulder blade) and attaches to the common tendon that is shared by the other two deltoid heads, which attaches to the humerus (upper arm bone). The rear deltoid head is responsible for extending the upper arm back, such as during face-pulls.