Face Pulls Sans Flare

When I was younger, I loved going to the chain restaurants that are ‘customized’ for their neighborhood.  You know the ones that I’m talking about. T.G.I. Fridays, Applebees; they were my jam!  I thought the food was awesome, I loved looking around at the decorations that honored famous locals and athletic heroes, and the best part was the staff.  They were always so damn bubbly and happy to serve up the latest steak variation on the menu.  The best part was the flair:


At the turn of the century, Flair was the equivalent of the modern Facebook wall.  You learned a lot about people when you saw how much ‘flair’ they had and how they styled themselves.  My love for flair is nostalgic, but I’m not worried about something that’s more sinister:  Rib flare.

Flair is great, and you should keep that up, but when it comes to rib flare, cut it out.  Keep those ribs down.

Rib flair is more common than bench pressing on Mondays, and while it’s not always a bad thing, it’s certainly something to keep in check.  For example, if you walk into most gyms and observe guys doing facepulls, it may look something like this:

While this is often explained as “body English” that’s just a sales gimmick that justifies bad technique.  There’s a variety of tweaks and modifications that you can make to allow you to hit the upper back more effectively, but the line should be drawn when you may be teaching your body poor movement patterns to follow.

face pull
Not the hip and rib cage position that we want.

If you find yourself sitting frequently (which is almost everybody)  then it’s important you learn what ‘neutral’ is, rather than overextending to make up for those periods of slouching forward.  Ideally you’ll find yourself in a comfortable position with your head, shoulders, and hips all stacked on top of each other.  Imagine that if you were riding a horse and leaned too far forward or too far backwards, you’d fall off.

Here’s an example where I made a concerted effort to keep my ribs down as I performed the face pull:

In that example, you’ll see minimized movement between my hips and rib cage.  For athletes and those who train frequently, we can overcompensate for poor posture and get stuck in a position of anterior pelvic tilt and anterior rib flare.  The “ribs down” cue isn’t very necessary while training the sedentary population, but it’s become increasingly popular in athletic settings where spinal extension isn’t an issue:


When performing face pulls, be sure to keep your hips level and your ribs down, fighting the natural reaction to elevate your chest to make the exercise easier.  You may need to reduce the load as you relearn proper technique, but you’ll gain better body awareness and movement skill as you practice.

Flair is awesome, but flare is not.  Be sure to keep your ribs down during your training to allow for better alignment and stronger positions.

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