The face pull targets the rear delts and can help in strengthening the rotator cuffs. I have been doing these since the beginning but only recently did I discover I have been doing them incorrectly since the beginning. Form is always so key.
video: Omar Isuf
I started out doing them closer to correct and I ended up slowly turning them into a rowing movement as I kept moving up in weight. Face pulls are meant to be done with low weight. At one point I was doing 60 lbs and had to lean back to keep from pulling myself towards the rope rather than the rope towards my face. In doing this, my traps pretty much took over and it became a strange rowing exercise. One day I asked the question if I was doing too much weight and as it turned out I was using way too much.
I dropped the weight down to about 20-25 lbs and started doing high reps, also 20-25. So now I typically do 5×25 twice a week. So I am doing 200 face pulls per week and I am feeling it directly in my rear delts where I should. I pull from about chest height, and pull to my face being sure to get in that external rotation at the end of the movement. See image below.
image source: weighttraining.guide
My left shoulder is subject to subluxations if I am not careful. This is basically a partial dislocation of your shoulder. When I first started lifting weights and I attempted to do an overhead press, my shoulder popped out almost immediately. I quit doing ohp and moved to just incline bench which did not give me any trouble. Since doing face pulls regularly, I have been able to pick ohp back up again and am increasing my weight each week. I am still being careful but I am almost sure that face pulls have helped.
So if you are doing face pulls so heavy that you have to lean way back just to keep your balance, do yourself a favor and cut that weight in half and double the reps and sets. You will feel more activation in your rear delts where you are supposed to.