Fitness

20-Minute Upper-Body Resistance-Band Workout for Your Arms, Shoulders, and Back

There are a lot of reasons to love resistance bands. “They are inexpensive, light, easy to travel with, and can be used to help strengthen virtually every major muscle group,” Nate Bahr, certified personal trainer and corporate personal trainer at Anytime Fitness, tells SELF. Because of their versatility, trainers often recommend resistance-band workouts to pretty much anyone and everyone.

To help you put resistance bands to good use, Bahr put together the upper-body resistance-band workout below. “This workout is great for the person with little time and/or equipment who wants to get an efficient and challenging workout in,” he says. It’s beginner-friendly, but if you aren’t a beginner, you can easily make it more challenging by doing an extra set or two.

Bahr adds that this upper-body resistance-band workout is great for building both strength and mobility. “The focus of the exercises in this workout is shoulders, upper back, chest, triceps, and biceps,” he says. All of these exercises will strengthen the muscles involved, thanks to the resistance from the bands, and the two pull-apart exercises in particular will also improve shoulder mobility, Bahr says, since they strengthen your shoulders safely through a wide range of motion.

Speaking of moving: When you’re using resistance bands, it’s important to keep in mind that for most exercises you want to move in a slow and controlled manner, keeping constant tension in the band, Bahr says. “Doing this will help improve muscular endurance and stability.” It’s also a good way to avoid accidentally snapping the band back, or using too much momentum to do the movement and potentially hurting yourself.

If you have sensitive shoulders or any known shoulder issues, it’s best to check with your doctor before trying these exercises, to make sure they’re safe for you. If you don’t have shoulder issues, incorporating this upper-body resistance-band workout into your routine can help keep that joint strong, mobile, and functioning well.

This workout is also great for opening your chest, releasing tension in your shoulders, and working the muscles responsible for good posture. “When you are sitting, driving, or looking at your phone, your shoulders are elevated, rolled forward, and shoulder blades are spread apart,” Bahr says. “When you are in this kind of position for an extended period of time, your posture starts to adapt and change to a forward shoulder and head posture, called kyphosis. By performing exercises consistently that oppose this posture, like banded pull-aparts, it can help to improve your shoulder mobility and help prevent kyphosis,” he explains.

Bahr suggests doing this upper-body resistance-band workout two times a week, alternating it with lower-body work, to ensure proper recovery and maintain balance throughout your body.

Model Lauren Leavell is a NASM-certified personal trainer and barre instructor.

The Workout

Exercises

  • Resistance Band Biceps Curl
  • Resistance Band Push-Up
  • Resistance Band Split-Stance Overhead Press
  • Resistance Band Pull-Apart
  • Resistance Band Overhead Pull-Apart

Instructions

  • Use a medium-weight resistance band.
  • Do the suggested reps of each exercise in one minute. If you finish the reps before the minute is up, use the remainder of the minute to rest and then prep for the next exercise.
  • Start the next exercise promptly at the top of the next minute.
  • One time through the circuit is five minutes. Do four rounds for a 20-minute workout.

Here’s how to do each move

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