Shoulder injuries are one of the most common reasons for people to stop training. It’s a very delicate joint that is involved in most upper body movements and can easily be damaged. That’s why it's important to train our shoulders from every angle, not just to gain muscle mass, but also to prevent injury.
The band pull apart is an amazing way to train our rear delts. The rear delts are located at the back of the shoulder, and they act as stabilizers for the entire joint, maintaining posture and preventing dislocation.
There is one problem with band pull aparts though… You need a band. I don’t know about you, but I don’t own a band, even if I did, I don’t wanna have to bring ANOTHER piece of equipment to the gym.
That’s why I searched far and wide for band pull aparts alternatives I could do with equipment I already own.
Today, I’m sharing those alternatives with you, so that you don’t have to go out and buy bands when you don’t need to.
What Is The Band Pull Aparts Exercise?
The band pull apart is a great exercise to improve rear delt strength, which increases shoulder stability and is a must for anyone having trouble with their shoulder joint. This is not an exercise you need to go super heavy on, it's more about form than it is about heavy weight.
Equipment Needed To Do A Band Pull Apart
It may seem pretty obvious from the name, to do a band pull apart you need, well… a band. However, not all bands are built the same. Depending on your training experience and personal preference, there are different options to choose from.
Amazon Basics Latex Resistance Band - A Cheap Option
This is a great set for those with little training experience that are looking to get started with band pull aparts. They’re cheap, durable, and can be used to increase resistance as you get stronger.
The only downside is that these bands have no handles and you have to hold them directly, which can be uncomfortable for some people.
Whatafit Resistance Band Set - Much Better Option
These are a better choice for those with some training experience under their belt. As you get stronger, holding on to the band directly gets harder, so handles are a great addition. Even better, the bands come in heavier increments and can also be used simultaneously to increase resistance.
If you use them all together, you can get to a whopping 138lbs of resistance, though that is waaay too much for band pull aparts!
How To Do the Band Pull Aparts Exercise
The band pull aparts exercise is not as complicated as it might sound. Master the move, and it becomes way easier than you could ever imagine.
Here’s how it's done;
Step 1: Starting Position.
The starting position for the band pull apart is fairly simple. Stand up with your feet at shoulder width, keeping your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
What is a bit more complicated is grabbing the band at the right length. You should hold it in such a way that when your arms are outstretched in front of you, just slightly over shoulder width, the band has some tension in it.
It shouldn’t be hanging loose, but it also shouldn’t be super tight, that would cause too much tension during the exercise.
Remember, the band pull apart is not about moving heavy weight, it's about proper form and feeling the exercise in your rear delts.
Step 2: Pulling On The Band.
As the name implies, you need to try to pull the band apart. That means keeping your arms stretched and pulling your arms outward. Keep pulling while bringing your shoulder blades together until the band touches your chest.
Once the band touches your chest and your arms form a straight line, slowly return them to the starting position. It’s important to always keep tension on the band, this will keep permanent tension on your rear delts for better results.
Like this video:
Muscles Worked With Band Pull Aparts
As I mentioned above, the band pull apart is a rear delts exercise. The rear delt is part of your deltoid muscle, and it lies at the back of the shoulder. Most bodybuilders and gym goers often neglect their rear delts, and have overdeveloped front delts, which leads to posture and shoulder issues.
While the triceps are not the target muscle for this exercise,keeping your arms extended while the band is in constant tension is bound to tire out your triceps.
Since the triceps are responsible for two thirds of your arm size, this is a nice little benefit.
Pros And Cons Of Band Pull Aparts
Just like any other workout, this exercise too has some cool sides, but I also found a few gripes to pick as well.
I mentioned the benefits of the band pull apart before, they’re great for building rear delt strength. This will create that 3d look by giving you rounded shoulders from all angles.
Most importantly, however, it helps stabilize the shoulder joint to prevent injury. That’s not all though, stronger rear delts will pull your shoulders backwards, improving posture.
The main drawback of the band pull apart is the fact that you need bands. It may seem inconsequential at first, but as you progress you’re gonna have to keep buying bands to match.
Not to mention that you have to take the bands with you to the gym, which is one more thing you need to remember for your lifting bag. I don’t know about you, but if i'm paying for a gym, I’d prefer to use the equipment that I'm paying for.
That’s why I’ve been looking all over for alternatives to the band pull apart that can be done without bands, with gym equipment and no extra cost.
Best Exercise Alternatives To The Band Pull Apart
Here are a few exercises that can substitute band pull aparts.
Dumbbell Rear Delt Flyes - My Personal Favourite
In my opinion, rear delt flyes are superior to band pull aparts by a long shot. Both of these exercises target the rear delt, but with rear delt flyes you get to use dumbbells instead of bands.
Unlike bands, dumbells are readily available at any gym, and going up in weight is a lot easier than having to go out and buy a new set of bands.
How To Do Rear Delt Flyes
Rear delt flyes don’t have to be difficult, although they might seem so for beginners. If you are just trying out this workout, here is a rundown of everything you need to do.
Step 1: Find A Suitable Weight.
Much like band pull aparts, rear delt flyes are not about moving heavy weights. For this kind of exercise the importance lies in technique and mind muscle connection, that’s why you should go for really light weights. Especially when you’re new to the exercise.
Step 2: The Starting Position.
There's two ways to go about doing rear delt flyes. You can do them standing or seated.
For seated rear delt flyes, you simply sit with a dumbbell in each hand, then lean forward until your chest is parallel with the ground.
For standing rear delt flyes, you stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and lean forward in the same way. In both cases you should be mindful of keeping your back straight.
Step 3 & 4: The Move
Once you’re in position, simply lift the dumbbells upwards until your arms and shoulder form a straight line. Then slowly lower them back down to the starting position.
Focus on the mind muscle connection with your rear delts and use slow, controlled movements.
I suggest going for high reps for this exercise, since weight isn't the main concern. Somewhere around 15-20 should do it.
Resist gravity on the way down for around three seconds each rep. You’ll get twice the stimulus on your rear delts and really feel the burn!
Standing Cable Rear Delt Fly - Easier Alternative
After talking to some friends and training partners, I realized that some people don’t like having to bend over and keep their spine in a possibly dangerous position.
Just to clarify, rear delt flyes are not dangerous, but if performed incorrectly they could be.
A relatively safer alternative for begginers is the standing cable rear delt fly. It’s basically the best of both worlds, you don’t need any extra equipment, it's easy to change the weight and you can perform them while standing up, keeping your spine in a safer position.
Even better, the exercise is performed just like you would a band pull apart, so if you’re familiar with those, you’ll do cable flyes without issue!
How To Do A Standing Cable Fly?
Doing cable fyels is pretty simple: While standing between the power station, grab the left cable with your right hand and the right one with your left hand. You should see the cables from an X shape in front of you.
Once that's done, stand up straight, brace your core and pull outwards until your arms form a straight line. Then, go back to the starting position and repeat.
Experiment with different cable heights to see what is more comfortable for you, I’ve found some people prefer having it level with their arms, while others are more comfortable when the cables are at the top position.
Band Pull Apart Variations
For those of you who have tried all the band pull-apart alternatives that I have shared here, and just want to stick to this exercise, there is still something for you.
If that sounds like you, then you can still try out the following variations to work different muscles in your upper body, with the delts benefiting the most.
Get a bit of versatility with your workout by alternating the grip on your bands. You could even use the different possible grips to work on your grip strength – you will need this for different lifts or other workout situations.
How to do the variable grip pull-apart;
As the name suggests, you can do this move in different forms. You could either grab the band the conventional way, with your hands facing downwards; this is the most common one.
Alternatively, you could go for a different grip, with your palms facing upwards, or settle for a more neutral grip where your hands are facing each other.
Incline Band Pull Aparts
With this one, you start with the band held up, and away from your torso instead of holding it right over your head. Keep your palms slightly twisted upwards. One foot should be slightly forward and keep the knee bent, just a bit.
Now, stretch out your resistance band as you bring it down until it lands on your pecs, close to the top of the shoulders – pretty much the way you would do normal pull apart exercise.
Overhead Band Pull Aparts
For those who want to hot both their shoulder muscles along with the biceps, this one’s for you. You should start with the band held in an overhand grip, arms fully extended over your head. Now, pull your resistance band out on each side as you lower it slowly behind your head.
Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle to pull off this move, keep going until you hit the lowest point at your shoulders, then move it just as slowly back up to your starting position.
Band Pull-Apart FAQs
Is that all there is to band pull-aparts? Not really, if you still have more questions about this exercise, here are few other tidbits that you should check out.
Are band pull-aparts good for rear delts?
Sure they are! This exercise is awesome for those who want to build on structural balance while still building on rear delt strength and flexibility.
The reason this exercise is so important is that it helps target the rear delt directly, which is a small muscle that can easily be overwhelmed by other larger muscles in the upper back section when working out this area.
Do band pull aparts work traps?
If you are looking to work your upper and lower traps, this is the exercise for you. But that’s not all, since band pull-aparts are very effective in building your scapular retractors, so besides the lower traps, you will also be working the rhomboids, and of course, the posterior deltoid muscle.
Do band pull aparts work your chest?
For those who also want to work their chest, this exercise can be a good option for you, mostly for the pectoralis major as well as working on a bad posture. You could also work on these muscles with other workouts like push-ups for working your lats, pecs, and shoulder muscles too.
To Sum it All Up; Are Band Pull Aparts Worth It?
Absolutely! Band pull-aparts can give you a great deal of workout not only for your delts, but also for the shoulders as a whole, probably chest and biceps too.
Done with a bit of creativity and movement, you could also work your chest too, and yes, possibly the lower body as well. It's a simple yet well rounded workout that could make a world of a difference.
Thankfully, there is a wide range of different variants that you can do with band pull-aparts; it all boils down to the results you want and how far you are willing to push yourself.
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