Our shoulders are like the steering wheel of the body—they help direct the rest of our limbs and champion good posture. Hunch ’em forward, and you’ll slouch, but pull them back and you’ll stand up straight. Rocket science? Nope. But, it can be helpful to remember that they do a lot of work for you and so strengthening them can pay off big time. One of the best ways to do that is with resistance band shoulder exercises.
“Resistance training is important especially for muscle and bone development,” says Steve Stonehouse, a trainer, certified coach and director of education for Stride. “Resistance band work for shoulders will pull in a significant amount of core demand, and both your shoulders and core are major players in overall postural control.”
Your shoulders are sneakily really important compared to other joints because of its major range of motion. “The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, so it naturally has more range of motion than a hinge joint, like an elbow or knee,” says Stephen Foster, personal trainer at Trainiac. “With this greater range of motion comes more opportunity for weaknesses and imbalances.” And that can lead to injury.
This is where resistance bands come in—they’re an effective way to work more muscles than using just a dumbbell, for instance. “One of the most important tools used to adequately warm up the shoulder muscles are resistance bands,” says Foster, who carries a set with him everywhere (bonus points for being super portable). “They use what is referred to as ‘variable resistance,’ so as you do a resistance band exercise, as your shoulder works through its range of motion, the resistance increases due to increased tension.” That tension means you’re getting a better bang for your buck in terms of strength development, since your muscles are forced to work harder in their full range of motion and “have peak force output at the end range of motion,” he says.
Rounded shoulders are particularly helped by resistance band exercises—they just open your body up more than lifting weights. “Bands are a good tool to correct many posture issues, like rounded shoulders, which are due to muscular imbalances around the shoulder,’ says Foster. He notes this position comes from not only shoulders pulled forward, but having overly tight chest muscles and weak muscles around the shoulders that are responsible for pulling the shoulder blades back and stabilizing them. “You’ll want to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulders and stretch the chest muscles to actually pull the shoulders back,” he says.
So yes, resistance bands can be great for sculpting your glutes or upgrading your ab workout, but they’re also key for your shoulder work. “There are tremendous benefits to using resistance bands for stretching, low resistance, physical therapy, and for injuries,” says Stonehouse, who likes to use them for strength training. Ready to pull those shoulders back?
Keep scrolling for trainer-approved resistance band shoulder exercises
1. Standing upright row: Stand with both of your feet on the middle of the resistance band, shoulder-width apart. Hold each end of your band at your waist, and lift your elbows to shoulder level. “This targets your overall deltoids and your core,” says Stonehouse.
2. Shoulder press: In the same position on top of the resistance band, hold each end of the band at waist level. Pull the ends of the band to right above your shoulders, then extend your elbows and arms overhead. Stonehouse likes this move to work your shoulder muscles, core, and your triceps.
3. Reverse fly with tube resistance bands: Secure your resistance band to an anchor point at chest height, gripping a handle in each hand. Stand three to four feet away while facing the anchor point. Keep your chest up, head straight, and legs slightly bent. Your arms should be slightly bent with your elbows at shoulder height, palms facing in. Pull the handles back and around, moving your arms from out in front of your body directly out to the side, which targets your posterior deltoids, AKA your rear shoulder muscles, according to Stonehouse.
4. External rotation: Attach the resistance band to a rig or a rack, and stand perpendicular to it at elbow height, with your right shoulder farthest away from the rig and the band in your right hand. With your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, press your elbow up against your right side and pull the band across and away from your body, maintaining the elbow-in-the-side position and 90-degree flexion, according to Foster.
5. Internal rotation: Also standing perpendicular to the attached resistance band at elbow height, have your right shoulder closest to the rig and band in your right hand. With your elbow bent to a 90-degree angle, press your elbow up against your right side and pull the band across and in towards your body, maintaining the elbow-in-the-side position and 90-degree flexion.
6. Band pull-aparts: Hold your resistance band with both hands, stand up tall, and hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder-height, says Stonehouse. As you maintain your straight arms, pull your hands away from each other until they are extended laterally, and pinch your shoulder blades together.
7. Band Y’s: Hold the resistance band with both hands and palms facing up. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the knees and hips, and maintain a strong core and flat back. With your arms hanging down, slightly pull your hands away from each other to generate tension in the band. Stonehouse says to maintain that same level of tension as you lift your arms up overhead and back down in unison, working through your full range of motion. Want more resistance band workouts? We got you.
While you’re using that band, here’s a resistance band core workout that’ll have your abs burning. And this is a short but mighty resistance band workout for your arms, courtesy of our former Trainer of the Month (and it only takes 10 minutes).