Isometric Face Pulls

It's a growing problem within our society—more and more people are getting upper cross syndrome. Obviously, this isn’t Earth shattering news, but we should learn how to make corrections to those who have poor posture for whatever reason. Take me, for example. I have a case of kyphosis caused by God only knows what. Maybe it was from spending my youth on the floor building the best Lego sets you ever saw or maybe I was just born this way (I'm not making a Lady Gaga reference). I remember being told to always stand up straight when I thought that I was already standing up straight. Whatever the case or cause, I could care less. All I know is that I have this ugly bump on my back that I can’t stand.


On a positive note, I had a physical therapist convinced that it was muscle until I bent over to touch my toes. Then his reaction was, “Oh yeah, that’s kyphosis.” Mark Rippetoe caught it right away, but I digress. I have a barrel-chested look, and when I have to deadlift or bench press, my range of motion is shorter than it could be. And again, I have this bump on my back that I hate. I’m not going to get into the problems that can come from having poor posture, as this point gets discussed a lot at corrective exercise seminars and colleges all over the world. I’m just pointing out my silver linings.

So for a person like me with very forward shoulders, we obviously need a lot of upper back work to strengthen the rhomboids and other muscles. The rhomboids are considered “beach muscles,” but I believe that with shoulders where they should be, they will make the other beach muscles pop out and give you healthy shoulders. In my opinion, the latter is more important.


Face pulls and bat wings have become almost routine in my upper back work. I try to work these in every day. Will I ever cure my kyphosis totally? Probably not, but I can at least work on keeping my shoulders healthy. For the isometric face pull, I take the standard face pull exercise and tweak it. Once I've reached the end of the repetition, I hold it while squeezing my glutes and quads and arching my upper back even harder into the rope. You may only move an inch, but your rhomboids will definitely feel worked after 10–15 seconds in this position. You really want to focus on pinching your scapula together hard to get this effect.

There isn't anything wrong with the standard face pull exercise. It's just another tool to use to fix people who are bent over a computer all day and might have a hard time staying upright in a front squat. I was once told by a coach that I have the worst T-spine mobility that he had ever seen. After working face pulls, both standard and isometric, I've increased my mobility.