Build Without Bulking | Single-Arm Cable Face Pull | Erin Stern

Posted on February 25, 2017 at 12:00 AM

In the gym, cables are a great option for helping to build muscle, as they can provide constant tension on the muscle through a full range of motion. When building specific muscle areas, it also helps to be able to limit the use of stabilizer muscles and momentum. This month, we’ll be focusing on the rear delts – a small muscle in the back of the shoulder that is beautiful when developed. Rear delts create width in the back and also help fill out and “finish” the look of the lats. In building the delts and lats, the waist tends to look smaller. I’ve found that it also works to pull the shoulders back, which improves posture.

Compared to the lats the rear delts are weak.  When the rear delts fatigue or if the angle allows the lats to engage, the lats will often take over. The single-arm cable face pull is a great exercise to get those rear delts growing! I love this exercise as it’s a compound movement, but we can modify our angles to pinpoint the muscle!

Here are the details:

  • On the low row cable machine, choose a weight that’s about 40% of what you’d normally do. Use the handle attachment.
  • Start with your non-dominant side, and do the same number of reps on your dominant side.
  • Grab the handle, plant your feet, and keep your knees slightly bent. Lean forward until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle from the ground. Try to keep your back flat. Keep your upper body square to the machine. If you find your shoulders rotate, or if one shoulder comes back/forward, use a lighter weight and a slower tempo.
  • Keeping your upper body angle, pull the handle towards your forehead. Think about pulling through the elbow and disengaging your traps. Keep your elbow high and pull upward. This movement is very similar to an upright row. The higher angle will cause your rear delts to work. A lower angle will engage the lats. Also, light weight will allow you to focus on the delts, whereas a heavier weight will cause you to start pulling with your lats.
  • The goal of this exercise is slow and steady – focus on maintaining constant tension on the rear delts. I have found that a quick video or a workout buddy can indicate if you’re pulling with the delts or the lats.
  • Aim for volume on this one. Perform 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps at a lighter weight. With the constant tension it will start to burn. Think about perfect form during the last 2-3 tough reps.
  • As with any unilateral exercise, be sure to perform the movement evenly on both sides. My left shoulder has a tendency to drop, so I’m extra careful when I train.

Check out the corresponding video for an exercise demonstration and more tips! I love PEAK ATP, as it helps me perform with intensity on high volume days. A few more reps each workout leads to massive improvement over time!

Thank you for reading – until next time, train hard, ya’ll!

- Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia

Thank you so much for this exercise! I will definitely use it at the gym today! :o)
Sarah Boeckman | 1/30/24 at 1:25 AM
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