Health

How to Work Your Whole Upper Body With Just a Band

As 2020 really hammered home for us, you don’t need weights to get in a great strength-training session—and this upper-body workout at home proves it. All you need is a set of resistance bands to really work your shoulders and back.

Not only are resistance bands super convenient, but they also play a couple of really important roles in helping you get stronger, ACE-certified personal trainer, Sivan Fagan, C.P.T., owner of Strong with Sivan, tells SELF. For one, working with bands is a great way to increase your mind-muscle connection, she says. This means it helps make sure you’re activating the muscles you want to be working, and that other muscles aren’t taking over instead.

Second, unlike weights, resistance bands keep constant tension on your muscles throughout the moves, which challenges them a bit differently, Fagan says. So even if you normally stick to dumbbell workouts, adding a resistance band workout to the mix can give your muscles a little more variety in stimulus.

If you’re looking for a great upper-body workout—especially one that works your shoulders and back—the same principles apply with resistance bands as do with dumbbells. It’s important to start with compound moves (the big lifts that recruit multiple muscle groups) when your body is still feeling fresh, since these will take the most amount of effort. Then you can finish it off with more isolation-based moves, which really home in on specific, smaller muscles.

In the case of an upper-body back and shoulder workout, as in this routine Fagan created, you’ll start with moves like the bent-over row (which works your rhomboids and latissimus dorsi) and the overhead press (which works all three heads of your deltoids, or your shoulders). Then you’ll hit the smaller muscles, including your rear delts and your rotator cuff.

Focusing on these smaller, back-of-the-shoulder muscles is important, since many people tend to neglect them in their strength training. But building strength here is super important, Fagan says, since it helps stabilize your shoulder muscles, which can guard against injury. What’s more, strengthening these back-of-the-body muscles can also help counteract the forward-hunching posture many of us have from leaning over devices all day.

Ready to get started building strength right in your living room? Here’s what you need for an upper-body workout at home that uses only resistance bands.

The Workout

What you need: Resistance bands. (You can use either the large looped bands, or the ones with handles.) Fagan likes these bands from Rogue Fitness for their durability.

The Exercises

Triset 1

  • Pull-apart
  • Single-arm bent-over row
  • Overhead press

Triset 2

  • Overhead pull-apart
  • Single-arm lateral raise with hold
  • Shoulder external rotation

Directions

  • In Triset 1, perform 12–15 reps of the pull-apart and 10–15 reps of the row (per side) and the overhead press. Go from one exercise to the next without resting. After all three are done, rest for 1–2 minutes. Complete 3 rounds total.
  • In Triset 2, perform 8–10 reps of the overhead pull-apart, 12–15 reps of the lateral raise with hold, and 12–20 reps of the shoulder external rotation. Go from one exercise to the next without resting. After all three are done, rest for 1–2 minutes. Complete 3 rounds total.



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