11 Resistance Band Exercises for Back and Shoulders (That Actually Work)

Best Resistance Band Exercises for Back and Shoulders

Among dozens of resistance band exercises for back and shoulders – a handful few delivers better results than the rest.

And only the best exercises are worthy of being part of your workout routine, right?

So, if you are serious about building a strong back and muscular shoulders, here are the exercises YOU should be doing!

Six Of The Best Resistance Band Back Exercises

1. Assisted Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are one of the best back-building exercises in existence. They are also incredibly versatile because you don’t need a gym to do them. All you need is a pull-up bar, and you’re good to go. Plus, they look great, come in many shapes, and say a lot about your fitness level (1).

By looping a resistance band over the pull-up bar and underneath your feet (or knees), you get to take away some of the resistance and start practicing the movement pattern. Over time, as you strengthen the muscles involved, you will become more balanced and better able to perform unassisted pull-ups.

To perform this movement, all you need to do is loop a band over the bar and underneath your feet or knees. Then, go about doing pull-ups or chin-ups as you usually would.

Pro Tip: Use one of these best resistance bands for doing pull-ups for a safe and effective workout.

2. Bent-Over Back Rows

Bet-over rows are another fantastic movement for the back muscles. Research shows that it causes symmetrical activation of the back musculature, making it a fantastic overall back-builder (2). 

Though this exercise is primarily done with a barbell, you can also secure a resistance band underneath your feet, bend forward, and do it. For example, if you have a long resistance band with handles, step over its middle, grab both handles, lean forward, and begin rowing as you normally would.

If you can’t create enough band tension from this position, you can roll the band once or twice over your hand to shorten it.

3. Kneeling Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are similar to pull-ups and have proven themselves to be a fantastic exercise for back development (3).

To perform this movement, all you need to do is secure a resistance band above your head (for example, by using a resistance band door anchor), kneeling to create some band tension, and then pulling down, much like you would on a cable machine. 

The best part is that you can vary your wrists’ position to offer different types of stress. For example, you can use a pronated, supinated, or neutral grip for your resistance band lat pulldowns.

4. Standing Horizontal Row

Standing horizontal rows are similar to those you would do on a seated back row machine. Plus, these are relatively easy to perform. All you need to do is attach a band against something sturdy (for example, on a door handle), take a few steps back to create band tension, and begin rowing.

Make sure to perform each repetition with control and avoid having the resistance band sling back as you begin to extend your hands. 

5. Resistance Band Lat Pullovers

Lat pullovers are a fantastic exercise that causes an incredible stretch in the lats. It’s also one exercise that comes as close as possible to an isolation movement for the back.

To perform these, you need to secure the resistance band on something above your head, much like you would for the lat pulldown. But instead of bending your elbows and rowing, you will keep your arms relatively straight and instead initiate the movement through the long head of your tricep, shoulders, and, of course, lats. So long as you keep your shoulders back and spine neutral, you will feel most of the tension in your back musculature.

Perform each repetition smoothly, make sure to squeeze your lats as you bring the band toward your waist, and then allow your arms to extend fully to cause a significant stretch in your lats.

6. Resistance Band Face Pulls

Heavily popularized by Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean X, face pulls have become the golden standard for upper back and rear deltoid development.

The movement is excellent for strengthening the area, maintaining good shoulder health, and preventing poor posture. Plus, you don’t need fancy equipment to perform it – a single band will do the job.

All you have to do is attach the resistance band to something sturdy, preferably at head level. From there, grab the band, take a couple of steps back to create some tension, and begin rowing toward your face with your thumbs facing the ceiling and elbows flared out.

Five Of The Best Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises

1. Standing Overhead Shoulder Press

Standing overhead presses are the gold standard for shoulder exercises (4). But did you know that you can also perform these with a resistance band?

To make this effective, you should take a long and looped resistance band, step over it with both feet, assume a stance similar to the one you would take on a standard overhead press, and grab the band.

Then, raise your arms to your sides, bring your shoulders back, and push straight up and over your head.

2. Reverse Fly

When most people think of shoulder training, they consider exercises like overhead presses. But the truth is, movements like reverse flyes are integral for balanced shoulder development and health.

The reverse fly strengthens the rotator cuff muscles and develops our posterior deltoid heads. This contributes to good posture and pain-free training.

To perform this movement, you can step over a band, grab it with both hands, bend forward, and extend your arms to your sides.

3. Front Raises

Front raises are a complimentary movement for the shoulders and primarily emphasize the front deltoid heads (5).

Similar to reverse flyes, front raises are beneficial because they ensure that our shoulders get trained in a balanced way and can develop evenly.

To perform these, you can attach a resistance band to something sturdy (such as a sofa leg), turn around, take a couple of steps forward to create a bit of band tension, and begin raising your arm in front of your body.

4. Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are among the most popular shoulder exercises and do a fantastic job of strengthening the lateral deltoid head (5). The best part is, you don’t need special gym equipment like a cable station or dumbbells to do these. All you need to do is attach a resistance band somewhere low (similar to how you would go about front raises), and begin raising your arm to the side.

Alternatively, you can creatively step over the band, as shown in this video:

5. Band Pull-Apart

Band pull-aparts are a fantastic movement for strengthening and developing your rear deltoids and upper back musculature. This movement is also often prescribed for trainees and everyday people to treat and prevent rolled shoulders and poor posture.

The movement is also great because it improves your shoulder strength and stability, both of which contribute to injury-free training in the gym or at home.

The best part is, all you have to do is grab both ends of a resistance band with your arms straight and in front of your body. From there, you simultaneously pull both arms to the sides and back, lengthening the band.

Final Words: Utilizing The Best Resistance Band Exercises for Back and Shoulders

There you have it: 11 super-effective exercises that, when integrated into your workout routine, will help build the shoulders and back of your dreams.

Combine them with some of the exercises found in the beginner’s guide to resistance band workouts for an amazing full body workout.

Or even better:

Add variety by mixing resistance band training with calisthenics. Find tons of calisthenics, workout routines, and actionable fitness hacks by visiting my massive strength-building archive.

See you there!

Other Helpful Resources

References

  1. Electromyographic analysis of muscle activation during pull-up variations. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2017 Feb;32:30-36.  doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2016.11.004. Epub 2016 Nov 28.
  2. Comparison of different rowing exercises: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness. J Strength Cond Res . 2009 Mar;23(2):350-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181942019.
  3. Electromyographic analysis of three different types of lat pulldown. J Strength Cond Res . 2009 Oct;23(7):2033-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b8d30a.
  4. Comparison among the EMG Activity of the Anterior Deltoid and Medial Deltoid During Two Variations of Dumbbell Shoulder Press Exercise. Indian Journal of Public Health Research and Development 8(4):653 DOI: 10.5958/0976-5506.2017.00411.9
  5. An Electromyographic Analysis of Lateral Raise Variations and Frontal Raise in Competitive Bodybuilders. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Aug 19;17(17):6015.  doi: 10.3390/ijerph17176015.