My aunt showed me an exercise a few months ago that I fell in love with. The exercise is called Band pull-apart and requires a rubber band. It works the upper back, chest, and shoulders. As I am trying to target my chest and improve strength and mobility in my scapular muscles, this exercise has been an excellent way for me to achieve the goal. Today, I will cover this exercise and a few variations.

Traditional band pull-apart

In Healthline’s article “6 Resistance Band Exercises for Shoulders,” they explain that this exercise is effective for rear shoulders and upper back, being particularly helpful in improving shoulder stability and deterring rounded shoulders. First, 1) hold the band and extend your arms in front of you. 2) Lengthen your spine and maintain a slight bend in your elbows. 3) Pull the band as far as possible to draw shoulder blades together. I like to think that there is a pencil in the middle of my back, and I must hold it tightly. 4) Hold this position for a few seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. If you want to make the exercise more challenging, move your hands closer. I would generally perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps, depending on how I feel.

Variation of the band pull-apart

Barbell Rehab’s article “A Better Way to do Band Pull Apart” offers a different approach to doing this exercise. Turning your palms up instead of down allows for more external rotation in the shoulder and more rotator cuff muscle activation. At the same time, holding the band for a few seconds at the end of your reach and squeezing all the muscles ensures optimal activation of this muscle. To increase scapular motion, the article recommends performing the exercise from a high to a low position instead of staying at the same level throughout the entire exercise. Starting above head height, you move down to chest level as you extend the band. If you would like an example, the article has a video displaying how to perform the exercise. This approach aims to enhance scapular mobility, stability, and strength, demonstrating the effectiveness of this variation. 

Overhead band pull-apart

Healthline’s article “6 Resistance Band Exercises for Shoulders” also covers the overhead band pull-apart. This exercise primarily targets the shoulders, back, and triceps. The difference to the traditional band pull-apart is that it starts above your head, and the band goes behind your head instead of in front at chest level. To start, 1) hold the band above your head and 2) pull the band apart as your lower your arms to your shoulder, trying to press your hands outwards. 3) Hold this position for a few seconds before returning to the starting position. I usually alternate between overhead band pull-apart and band pull-apart, performing them on separate days. Doing 2-3 sets of 15 reps also works for this exercise.

A final note on band pull-apart

When performing these exercises, keeping your back and neck straight is crucial. When I am not paying close attention, I occasionally compensate by moving my back forward, which reduces activation of the back, shoulder and scapular muscles. There are also much more variations of the band pull-apart if you would like to explore further, but these are the variations I normally use. I hope you can experience the same benefits and joy I had when I first discovered the exercise and continue to practice today.