Why Do I Feel Face Pulls In My Traps?

band face pulls
August 29, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “why do I feel face pulls in my traps?”. This is very common and could be a good thing depending on your goals regarding trap development. 

There are different ways to perform this exercise which I will talk about – they will have a different effect in terms of levels of trap involvement. I will also discuss the range of angles when performing face pulls as well as technique cues.

Why Do I Feel Face Pulls In My Traps?

The face pull is intended to be an exercise predominantly for the rear deltoids and serves to keep your shoulders healthy. 

The biggest reason why you could be feeling face pulls too much in your traps is if you are pulling your shoulder blades back when initiating the movement. This will result in the traps being recruited more heavily.

Additionally the angle of the face pull is important, if you have set the cable lower than your face height, there will be more of a shrugging component in this exercise when pulling the cable to your face. This will work the traps more.

In addition, performing face pulls with your elbows above your wrists will incorporate more traps than utilising a palms facing each other grip. When you do high rep sets of face pulls you will feel your traps getting sore generally as you get a great pump.

Moving Shoulders Back

If you move your shoulders back when performing face pulls you will feel the exercise in your traps a lot more. It is similar with the bench press, you should feel that in the traps as you are pinching your shoulder blades back.

The cue that you should concentrate on is “elbows back” and don’t pinch your shoulder blades back at the start of the movement. This will ensure that you are working the rear delts effectively and not targeting the traps too much. 

The Angle Of The Face Pull

The angle of the face pull plays a big role in where the emphasis of the movement will be. Optimally you should line up the cable attachment with your eye/nose area. 

This will ensure that the exercise works the intended muscles best. By having the rope significantly lower than your head height you will be almost doing an angled upright row. That would work the traps heavily.

If you want to purposely work the traps a lot then you could incorporate this variation of the face pull where you are pulling the rope up from a lower relative position. 

You also don’t want to position the rope higher than the top of your head. 

Omar Isuf Face Pull Variation

I especially like the way that Omar Isuf performs face pulls. The video below shows him running through how you should perform the exercise. Personally I agree with him, this is the way that face pulls should be done to keep your shoulders healthy and work the rear delts.

You ideally want to be in external rotation and doing a double bicep pose as he puts it. If you are too internally rotated when performing face pulls then you will bring the traps into the movement more.

The face pull is supposed to be an exercise to work your upper back, improve posture and keep your shoulders feeling good long term. Many people end up internally rotated from doing lots of pressing movements but not enough pulling to counter balance this.

This is why I always advocate an equal volume of pushing and pulling in your routine. Moves like the face pull are fantastic when done correctly for your shoulders and upper back.

Try Face Pulls With Bands

I am a big advocate of regular face pulls using resistance bands. This is also something that the popular fitness content creator Alphadestiny agrees with. 

A big benefit of resistance bands is they can be used pretty much anywhere and are very convenient. You can perform face pulls from the comfort of your home using bands and get in good volume.

With bands you can also try doing face pulls from many different angles and you can even double up bands to make the exercise a lot harder. I would recommend performing sets of 10-20 reps with a medium tension band.

You don’t want to go extremely heavy on face pulls as the focus should be on tension and controlled movement. If you go super heavy you will also bring a lot more muscles like the traps into the movement and cheat.

You can also spread apart in the end range of motion a lot better with bands. This will help you to get better side deltoid activation. Overall it would be beneficial for overall shoulder health.


band face pulls

Final Thoughts

Why do I feel face pulls in my traps? Well, there are a multitude of reasons which I have explored in this article. The most likely is that you have your shoulder blades back when initiating.

To do face pulls the right way I would recommend Omar Isuf’s approach to this exercise. From my experience this is the better way to perform face pulls to hit the rear delts better. It also won’t activate the traps as much as doing face pulls the way that the majority of people do.

I would also recommend trying band face pulls for convenience and to hit more angles with the face pull. You have even more freedom of movement with bands and can achieve more external rotation in the end range.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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