exercise band shoulder workout

Resistance Band Shoulder Workout & Exercises for Building Muscle and Strength

October 08, 2019

In this post, we will show you an effective resistance band shoulder workout, with specific details on each resistance band shoulder exercise. Before we jump into the workout, we will begin by explaining why resistance bands are effective for shoulder workouts and how to use resistance bands to build shoulder muscles.

resistance band shoulder workout

Why Resistance Bands are very effective for shoulder exercises and workouts

At SET FOR SET, resistance bands are a staple in our strength training routines.

When it comes to using resistance bands for building muscle and strength, the easiest group of muscles to target effectively are the shoulders.

With other muscle groups, it can be difficult to engage the muscles effectively without proper technique. But with the shoulders, it is pretty easy to pump them up and hammer them into hypertrophy.

That doesn't mean the workout will be easy, though...

There are so many different shoulder exercises that you can do with resistance bands. You can hit every angle of every muscle effectively.

Moreover, a set of bands will have a huge range of resistance. From 5-170+lbs. So even elite fitness enthusiasts can get a brutal shoulder workout in with bands alone.

Countless Benefits

Resistance bands offer so many benefits because they are an extremely versatile training tool. We won’t be discussing every reason why bands are great in this post. We will simply run through a few reasons why bands are effective for strength training and hypertrophy, and more specifically relating to shoulder exercises and workouts.

Learn all about the benefits of resistance bands and how to use them.

resistance band shoulder exercises

So, here are 4 reasons why resistance bands are effective for building muscle, and muscular strength & endurance:

1. Strength Curve

Free weights have a strength curve where certain parts of the movement are easier than others. For example, the first half a dumbbell lateral raise will be easier than the top half of the movement. This means your muscles are not getting constant tension during the exercise.

Free weights vs Resistance Bands

Unlike free weights, resistance bands put tension on your muscles for the entire movement, and the movement becomes even harder at the end range of motion. Thus, resistance bands will keep constant tension for the entire exercise, making them very effective for hypertrophy as time under tension is a crucial factor in building muscle. Note: You will need to make sure your resistance band already has tension from the starting position for this to be true. 

Pairing resistance bands with free weights can give you the best of both worlds. It eliminates the strength curve while also increasing the difficulty of the exercise. There will be constant tension on the way up and on the way down. Can you say, “shoulders hammered”?

2. Elastic Resistance, not Gravity.

With resistance bands, you are not fighting gravity like you are with free weights. The more you stretch the band, the more tension there will be.

What this means is, you can create tension from any direction, thus, you can hit your shoulder muscles from all angles - Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal planes are all fair game. You can really shock your muscles through variety like this.

What's more, you can easily perform unilateral exercises to hone in on smaller stabilizer muscles to strengthen them. Having strong shoulder stability is crucial. 

3. Easy on the joints & Less chance of injury

With resistance bands, you can perform challenging exercises without all the pressure on your joints that comes with free weights, especially the spine.

If you’ve been in the iron game for years, your shoulders might be beat to crap, and we can almost guarantee they’ve at least been injured once or twice.

So, for those with joint issues, you don’t have to give up training, you can simply switch to bands for a while, or forever.

If injuries aren't an issue, it is still ideal to mix it up and do bands and free weights. This will give your joints time to recover while your muscles are still being worked. Nobody wants atrophy and nobody wants joint pain.

If you are looking at risk to reward, yes, free weights have more reward, but the risk is much higher than bands too. Bands are not as good as free weights for building muscle and strength, but the risk is much lower. Therefore, the risk to reward ratio is much better for bands.

Not to mention, when talking about shoulder exercises specifically, heavier weights are not even necessary. Typically, shoulders respond best to lighter weights with higher reps, in terms of building muscle.

Note: some people claim bands are better than dumbbells as you can't use momentum, which not only means more tension on your muscles, but it also won’t place wear and tear on your joints.

All in all, resistance bands are an effective way to build muscle without putting unwarranted pressure on your joints. You will be much less likely to get injured training with bands than with free weights, and if you are doing rehab, bands will bring your shoulders up to speed in a safe manner.

4. Portable, Durable, Lightweight, and Versatile

We won’t go into this one too much, but it’s amazing that you can have a portable, durable, lightweight, versatile training tool that’s effective for building muscle, strength and endurance.

This means you can train anywhere and anytime. And you can do just about anything with them - warm up, workout, stretching, and recovery.

They are an essential when it comes to traveling because of this. We never let being on the road deter us from training.

Overall, bands are great for people of all training/fitness levels. Even the biggest, strongest guys can get an effective shoulder workout in with resistance bands. Our resistance bands come in a variety of resistance levels, up to 170lbs, so for the shoulders, that is more than enough resistance, even for insane elite weightlifters (think one-handed presses with a 170lbs, yikes).

Shoulder Anatomy

Knowing the muscles that make up your shoulders is the most advantageous way to actually start building shoulder muscles.

By understanding the anatomy of your shoulders, you will know exactly why you are doing each exercise, and what muscle(s) to focus on. Ultimately, it will create a stronger mind to muscle connection.

Now, we aren’t going to go into full-on in-depth details about shoulder anatomy, we are simply going to run through the main muscles of your shoulders. These will be the primary muscles you are targeting with the resistance band shoulder exercises in this post.

Have a look at this picture:

shoulder anatomy

As you can see, you have the anterior delts (front), the lateral delts (middle), posterior delts (rear), and your traps.

Another key component of the shoulders are the rotator cuff muscles. We won’t be focusing on them in this workout, but we have some great resistance band rotator cuff exercises from a previous post here: 7 resistance band rotator cuff exercises for shoulder rehab and prehab.

Of course, other muscles are involved when doing shoulder exercises too, like your pectoral muscles and your triceps. But we are just focusing on the shoulders to keep things simple. 

Moving on...

Now, the goal is to hit the different shoulder muscles equally. This will not only make you look better and more proportional, but it will also help you maintain proper posture, and it will make you stronger in other lifts, as each shoulder muscle works as one unit. Furthermore, your shoulders are often stabilizers for big lifts (i.e. rear delts are stabilizer muscles for bench press, so the stronger your rear delts are, the better your bench press will be). The point is, you don't want to just focus on your middle delts and traps, as a lot of people mistakenly do. 

We will label each exercise with the primary muscles that it targets, that way you know what muscles to focus on.

Best way to train Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises for Hypertrophy

resistance band exercises for shoulders

The exercises in this resistance band shoulder workout are inspired and taken from conventional free-weight shoulder exercises. Such as overhead press, lateral raise, upright rows, and so on. All of these traditional exercises can be done with bands.

Here is how we will structure the workout in the most effective way for building shoulder muscles.

First, you will want to explode through your reps during the concentric phase (the upward motion), and make sure you use a full range. Then during the eccentric phase (the downward motion), you will want to move slowly down to the starting position and repeat.

This is a type of power training, and power training recruits the biggest muscle fibers.

Sets and Reps

For shoulder hypertrophy using bands, you will get the best results with high reps (thus more time under tension).

As mentioned above, when it comes to building muscle, most people’s shoulders respond best to lower weight and high reps rather than heavy weights and low reps. So, we are going to use a light band and do high reps for this workout.

We are going to be doing 3 sets of 20 reps.

Now, if you want to go up in resistance, you can go up in the band size with each set (i.e. set 1 x 20 reps, set 2 x 15 reps, and set 3 x 10-12 reps). If certain exercises are too difficult with a heavier band, keep the rep count at 20 for all three sets.

That said, we are recommending 3 x 20 for all the exercises in this shoulder workout. And we will be using lighter bands (lower resistance level) for these exercises. Use the band size that is doable for a high volume workout but will still challenge you for 20 reps.

Using the right resistance level will allow you to perform the reps explosively on the way up and slowly on the way down, maximizing time under tension, power and stability. This will help us engage our stabilizers better, and it will force us to remain cognizant about maintaining a tight core, all of which will greatly decrease any chance of injury.

Now, don’t let this lower resistance level get you thinking this will be easy, because it won’t. You are going to be doing high reps and more volume. And with that, you’ll be working yourself to a massive pump. 

Moreover, the rest time will be short. You will only be resting for 30 seconds between sets. You should be sweating big time during this workout. If you aren’t, then you are not doing it right.

To summarize, here are the key methods for building shoulder muscles with resistance band exercises.

  • High reps and really pump the muscles full of blood (the "pump" is an underrated aspect of building muscle, it is proven to elicit hypertrophy…no matter what strength and powerlifting athletes may say).
  • Increased volume (more sets and exercises)
  • Decrease rest time to 20-40 seconds. This will create cumulative fatigue on the muscle tissues, and it will be brutal, yet non-intrusive on your joints (joint-pain free…yes, please!)
SET FOR SET Resistance Bands Resistance Levels

resistance bands for shoulders

Here are the resistance levels of our resistance bands at SET FOR SET, for reference, so you can see what resistance level we are using in each exercise.

Yellow (1/2"): 10 to 35 Pounds  (Lowest resistance)
Black (3/4"): 30 to 60 Pounds
Blue (1.25"): 40 to 80 Pounds
Green (1.75"): 50 to 125 Pounds
Gray (2.5"): 65 to 170 Pounds

All the bands are 41 inches long*

Note: Most of the exercises will use our yellow band. This and the black resistance band would be good for most people for shoulder workouts. 

Resistance Band Shoulder Workout

shoulder workout with resistance bands

Here are the workout details….

Workout Protocol: Traditional/Conventional (sets/reps)
Target: Building Muscle, Strength, Burning Fat
Equipment: Resistance Bands
Skill Level: All levels can benefit from this workout
Duration: 30-35 minutes (not including warm-up and decompression)

Warm-Up: Before you do any taxing workout, you need to warm up. It will help you to start your workout strong by increasing body temperature and blood flow to your muscles and joints, and it reduces the risk of injury.

Follow this Dynamic Warm Up before you start this resistance band shoulder workout.

Resistance Band Shoulder Workout

Warm up (5-10 mins): See above dynamic warm up.

Workout (30-35 mins):

Rest 30 seconds in-between sets and 30-60 seconds in-between exercises. Complete one exercise for all the recommended sets before moving on to the next.

Exercise 1: One Arm Shoulder Press - 3-4 sets x 20 reps (each side)
Exercise 2: One Arm Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 20 reps (each side)
Exercise 3: Front Raise - 3 sets x 20 reps
Exercise 4: Upright row - 3 sets x 20 reps
Exercise 5: Reverse Fly - 3 sets x 20 reps
Exercise 6: Thrusters - 3 sets x max reps (end of workout burnout)

Decompress/Cool Down (5-10 mins): Focus on stretching and decompressing, with extra emphasis on the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints.

Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises

Here are videos of all the above exercises, plus more exercises, with a few tips on each.

The links above will take you to the same videos as below.

We’ve added extra exercises in here because it would be advantageous to switch up the exercises after a few weeks. You can rotate and replace exercises.

The main goal for every workout should be to hit all your shoulder muscles (refer back to shoulder anatomy if needed). Again, we will provide the primary muscles being worked for each exercise.

Lastly, you can also try a different workout protocol such as a circuit or a descending ladder. We will give you sample workouts with both of those protocols after we run through the resistance band shoulder exercises.

Exercise 1: One Arm Shoulder Press

Primary Muscles: Front Delts, Rear Delts, Middle Delts

The shoulder press is a fundamental exercise for strengthening your shoulders. It is one of the best exercises for overall shoulder development.

This exercise is done just like it would with a dumbbell. You can substitute the one arm shoulder press for a two-arm shoulder press.

We often do one arm presses as it works the core more. With one arm presses, you will need to stabilize your core to remain standing straight with your spine aligned.

Nevertheless, both two arm and one arm banded shoulder presses are very effective for building shoulder muscles and strength. 

Exercise 2: One Arm Lateral Raise

Primary Muscles: Middle delts

Lateral raises with bands are great as you can't use momentum like you can with dumbbells.

For this one, make sure your palms are facing parallel to the floor at the peak position.

Aim to get your elbows higher than your hands.

Create more tension from the starting position by looping the band around your foot once or twice.

Exercise 3: Front Raise

Primary: Front Delts

This exercise is pretty straight forward.

Some tips are as follows: Keep your elbows slightly bent in a fixed position. Don’t rock your body back in forth, keep your core tight, body upright and your shoulder back and packed. Lastly, make sure the band has tension at all times. Feel the burn!

Exercise 4: Upright Row

Primary: Traps, Middle Delts, Front Delts

Standing upright with a neutral spine, core tight, and your feet shoulder width apart, wrap the band around your feet and grab the band with both hands about 4-5 inches apart and raise it up to about upper chest level (if your shoulder mobility is lacking, you may not be able to get as high).

Aim to keep your elbows above your hands at all times. Really feel your traps and side delts working on this one!

Exercise 5: Reverse Fly

Primary: Rear delts, middle and lower traps

For this one, you are going to anchor the band. Simply wrap it around an anchor at chest height (just like the video).

Keep a slightly fixed bend in your elbow. And keep your hands just above elbow level. Make sure you keep your elbows and arms up at all times. If it is working, you will feel it in your rear delts and traps.

Pro tip: pause at the back position for a second or two to really hammer those rear delts!

Exercise 6: Thrusters

Primary: Quads, Glutes, Shoulders, Triceps.

This is a full body exercise, and although this is a shoulder workout, we like to add this as the last exercise to really end the workout with a bang.

Thrusters will elevate your heart rate, so you will be increasing your cardiovascular fitness, metabolism, balance, and muscle endurance on top of the strength and hypertrophy gains.

This is one of the most effective full body exercises there is. If you are trying to get lean muscle growth, this is a great exercise to add to your shoulder workout. With the black band, it’s not going to really beef up your legs but it will put your shoulders to the test and it will surely help to burn off pesky fat!

We are not going to go through an entire how to, but a few tips are as follows: You will do a normal squat with your hands/band at chest level, when you come up from the squat, press your arms up like a military press. To engage your shoulder even more, press your hands up and out a bit. Lastly, explode up and descend slowly.

Other Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises that you can add to any shoulder or full body workout

Exercise 7: Behind the Neck Presses

Primary: Rear delts, middle delts, front delts, traps

This was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's go-to exercises on shoulder day. If done right, it is a very effective exercise.

Be careful doing this exercise as it can put some strain on your neck and shoulders if you aren’t careful. Thankfully, with resistance bands, it’s not nearly as much of a concern.

For this exercise, you will need adequate shoulder mobility and stability, and good trunk stability and thoracic spine mobility.

Exercise 8: One Arm Front Raise

Primary: Front Delts

This is an alternative to the two-handed front raise. This exercise will help prevent muscle imbalances in your shoulder strength. What’s more, it will work your core stability as you need to remain upright with tension being only on one side.

To make this exercise easier, you can put the band around one foot (the same side as the shoulder you are working).

By doing two feet on the band at shoulder-width apart, it causes more tension, thus more resistance. The more you spread your feet, the more resistance there will be.

Exercise 9: Rear Delt Fly

Primary: Rear delts, middle and lower traps

For this one, you will need an anchor. The movement is very similar to a reverse fly. The main differences are that you will be standing to the side of where the band is anchored instead of directly in front of it, you will be keeping your hand at the same level as your elbow, and you will pull the band straight back with your elbow bent more at the peak position.

Exercise 10: Bear Crawl

Primary: Shoulders, Arms, Glutes, Core

This is a very popular exercise among strength coaches for athletes.

Like thrusters, bear crawls are a super effective full body exercise. You can do this one as your burn out exercise instead of thrusters, switching it up each week to add variety…You will need a friend for this one or you can tie two bands together and anchor them and crawl forward then backward (which can count as 1 rep).

Not only will it build strength, but it also increases mobility and improves overall conditioning. This is the definition of a total body exercise.

How to Increase the Difficulty of Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises:

You can increase the difficulty in a few ways…

  1. Anchor the band to something rather than wrapping it around your feet or stepping on the band. By anchoring the band, you can start from a position with more tension.
  2. Wrap the band around your foot/feet one or two times. This will also create more tension from the starting position.
  3. If you are standing with both feet on the band, spreading your stance apart more will increase the tension from the starting position as well.

**Tip for all resistance band exercises: Always bring the bands back to the starting position before releasing it, do not let them fling off from peak position or during the eccentric phase**

Other sample resistance band shoulder workouts you can do with the above exercises:

Circuit Workout:

4 rounds:

Exercise 1: One Arm Shoulder Press x 20 reps (each side)
Exercise 2: One Arm Lateral Raise x 20 reps (each side)
Exercise 3: Front Raise x 20 reps
Exercise 4: Upright row x 20 reps
Exercise 5: Rear felt fly x 20 reps
Exercise 6: Thrusters x 20 reps

Complete each exercise for 1 set, one after the other until you reach exercise 6, then that’s 1 round. Do this circuit again for 4 rounds total.

Option 1: Rest 20 seconds in-between exercises and 1-2 minute in-between rounds

Option 2: No rest in-between exercises and 2-3 minutes rest between rounds.

Circuit Workout 2:

3 rounds:

Exercise 1: One Arm Shoulder Press x 20 reps (each side)
Exercise 2: One Arm Lateral Raise x 20 reps (each side)
Exercise 3: Front Raise x 20 reps

3 rounds:

Exercise 1: Upright row x 20 reps
Exercise 2: Rear felt fly x 20 reps
Exercise 3: Thrusters x 20 reps

No rest between exercises, complete one exercise after the other until all three are completed. Rest 1 minute, then do another round. Complete three rounds before moving on to the next superset of 3 rounds.

Ladder Workout:

Complete each exercise below for 10 reps, then go back to exercise 1 and do all the exercises again for 9 reps, continue doing this until you reach/finish 1 rep for each of the exercises. Hence, the name ladder, you work from 10 to 1 reps.

Exercise 1: One Arm Shoulder Press 
Exercise 2: One Arm Lateral Raise
Exercise 3: Front Raise 
Exercise 4: Upright row 
Exercise 5: Rear felt fly
Exercise 6: Thrusters 

Rest time: As little as possible. Only rest when you need it. This is a very intense workout protocol if you push yourself.

Adding resistance band shoulder exercises to your current training program

resistance band shoulder workout for building muscle

Remember all of the exercises in this workout can be added to your current program to further target the muscles you are trying to work. You don’t have to do a purely resistance band shoulder workout.

i.e. add a couple of these moves to your regular routine to further target the muscles you're trying to work. These are great exercises for supersets with weights!

By adding resistance bands to your current training plan, you can keep your shoulders guessing, which is great for building muscle.

As your body adapts to a training stimulus, it gets to a point of decreasing returns. When this happens, and it happens surprisingly quickly, the same effort no longer generates the same results. Essentially, you're spinning your wheels...you will plateau.

This typically happens after 6-8 weeks of the same routine, even when progressively increasing resistance. This is why most workout plans are only 6-8 weeks.

Ideally, you should cycle your shoulder training from light to moderate to heavy every few weeks or even every other week. Changing up your rep scheme accordingly.

Moreover, performing different shoulder exercises is important. It will allow you to hit the muscle from slightly different angles, which in turn leads to greater long term growth.

Want to Buy a Set of Resistance Bands?

You can buy single or sets of resistance bands from us, SET FOR SET.

We have 5 different sizes so you can use the bands for all of their various applications.

Get yourself some Resistance Bands!

power resistance bands

We appreciate the support and we promise to continue pumping out useful resistance band exercises, workouts and training tips.

Not sure what size resistance bands to buy? Read our guide to buying the right resistance band size.

Links to other articles on resistance bands

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