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An upper-body workout at home to smoke your shoulders and back

No weights needed.

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


•Single-arm bent-over row

•Overhead press

Triset 2

•Overhead pull-apart

•Single-arm lateral raise with hold

•Shoulder external rotation


•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.

1. Pull-Apart

•Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold one end of a resistance band in each hand.

•Raise your straight arms to shoulder height, palms down, with your hands about six inches apart.

The band should have a small amount of tension, but not be taut.

•Now pull the band apart, extending your arms wide to each side until your upper body is in a T position, keeping your hands at the same height. Pause for 2 seconds when the band is fully extended.

•Return your arms to centre.

•Complete 12–15 reps.

Starting with pull-aparts is like a built-in warm-up, says Fagan. It hits your back muscles, including your trapezius and your rhomboids.

2.Single-Arm Bent-Over Row

•Stand in a staggered stance with your left foot ahead of your right.

•Loop your resistance band under your left foot, and hold one end of the resistance band in your right hand. The other end will remain slack on the floor.

•Bend your left knee slightly and hinge forward at the hip so your core is engaged and your back is straight.

With your right arm fully extended down toward your left foot, the band should have light tension. That’s your starting position.

•Do a row, pulling your hand toward your torso, and keeping your elbow, forearm, and hand in line with your ribcage.

•Extend your arm to return to your starting position. That’s 1 rep.

•Complete 10–15 reps, then switch sides.

Rowing with a resistance band really helps you make sure you’re retracting your shoulder blades and not just jerking with your arm. This move works your rhomboids and your lats.

3.Overhead Press

•Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your feet holding down a resistance band. Hold an end of the band in each hand at your shoulders, palms facing out.

•Extend your arms straight above your head. Make sure to keep your back straight and avoid arching.

•Bring the band back down to rest on your collarbone. This is 1 rep.

•Complete 10–15 reps.

The overhead press is a pushing movement that works your shoulders and triceps.

4.Overhead Pull-Apart

•Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold one end of your resistance band in each hand.

•Raise your arms overhead, palms facing forward, with your hands about six inches apart. The band should have a small amount of tension but not be taut (readjust your grip if your band is too long).

•Now pull the band apart, bringing your arms down until your upper body forms a T position, in line with your shoulders. The band should travel behind your head.

•Return your arms to center overhead. This is 1 rep.

•Complete 8–10 reps.

The overhead pull-apart also serves as a mobility drill while helping you work on setting your shoulder blades back and down, Fagan says.

5.Single-Arm Lateral Raise With Hold

•Stand with your feet together, and loop the band under both feet, holding one end of the band in each hand.

•Raise both arms to chest height, straight in front of you, with your core engaged.

•Hold your left arm still, while you swing your right arm out and to the right. Then lower your right arm to your right side. Then reverse the motion to return to your starting position.

•Now hold the right arm still, and repeat the movement with your left arm. This is 1 rep.

•Complete 12–15 reps.

This move works on the lateral and front head of your shoulders, and the isometric hold gives it an added challenge.

6.Shoulder External Rotation

•Hold a looped resistance band in your hands, palms facing up. Bend your elbows so your forearms are in a straight line. This is starting position.

•Keeping your elbows tight at your sides, move your palms away from each other, then bring them back to starting position. This is 1 rep.

•Complete 12–20 reps.

External rotation targets your rear delts and your rotator cuff muscles, both of which are important in maintaining shoulder stability.

This story originally appeared on Self US| Author: Christa Sgobba.

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