Resistance Bands. It’s been not even a year since I last wrote about the benefits of these amazing contraptions popularized by Louie Simmons and the boys at Westside Barbell, including but not limited to continued tension throughout an exercise and compartmentalization, as you can take them everywhere you go. I even offered a few exercises you can perform with these bands in the name of posture, and shoulder health and strength, in particular the Band Pull Apart. The Pull Apart is a fantastic way to train your shoulders and upper back every day if you want to (and you should!) both before and even during your training sessions, as well as on your days off from the gym.
Did you know, however, that much like dumbbells and barbells, you can train with resistance bands using varying speeds and holds to accomplish different goals? When it comes to traditional barbell and dumbbell training, regardless of your individual goals, different speeds or tempos bring different results. For example: we know that in order to build muscle while performing and exercise, it’s recommended that dumbbells in particular are moved in a slow, controlled motion, especially during the eccentric portion of the movement. This will force your body to break apart more muscle fibers in your targeted muscle group. On the flipside of that coin, it’s often recommended to move the weights as fast as you can for the sake of developing strength or power. Don’t forget that both speed and strength are the two components of power. No emphasis on eccentric movements. No isometric holds. The concentric portion is the emphasis here.
So with those details in mind, why couldn’t we train with resistance bands in the same manner as we would with barbells and dumbbells, especially since bands do offer the added benefit of lasting, non stop tension? I have been playing around with this idea in my own training for a few weeks now and I’ll now discuss with you my three preferred tempos for performing Resistance Band Pull Aparts:
- X/X/X – No eccentric, isometric, or concentric aspects of this tempo. This is meant to be fast, but technique is still crucial. Perform these both with the band both above the nipples and even below, as if you were setting up to bench press, to loosen up and strengthen the tendons in your shoulder girdle to avoid an injury. Recommended set/rep range: 3-4×20.
- 2/1/2 – Two second eccentric contraction, one second isometric hold, two second concentric contraction. This is ideal for muscle building since, much like with dumbbells and barbells, this forces a given muscle group to use more muscle fibers. This will not just aid in providing upper body balance between the posterior and anterior chains, it’ll also give you a strong upper back! Recommended set/rep range: 3 – 5 reps per superset (explained down below!).
- Isometric Holds – Simply retract the scapula and hold it in place for as long as possible. What this will do for you is reinforce in your mind the idea that the scapula absolutely must stay retracted during major compound movements such as the Bench Press and especially if you Squat in a low bar position as I do. If those shoulder blades aren’t nice and packed together your bench will suffer due to lack of stability and your low bar squat will suffer since you won’t have a proper “shelf” to rest the bar on.
- Perform the fast tempo pull aparts, as stated above, before doing anything else to loosen your back and shoulders and strengthen your tendons. This will help prevent injuries from what would probably have been a stiff posterior deltoid.
- Perform the more controlled pull aparts in supersets preceeding most upper body compound moves such as the Overhead Press, the Bench Press and it’s multiple variations and even the low bar Squat for the reasons stated above. You can do these during during your warmup sets and even your working sets for 3 – 5 reps per superset and no more, as you’ll still need your energy to perform your other upper body exercise following the pull aparts.
- Superset the Isometric Hold Pull Aparts before performing any relatively heavy set. The emphasis here, again, is mental reinforcement. These will reinforce keeping your shoulders back and your upper body stable while still making it nice and strong. Can’t go wrong there!
I personally own a red mini resistance band I ordered off the Westside Barbell website and an orange light resistance band I ordered off the Elite Fts website. I currently use the red mini band for all my speed work including fast tempo pull aparts and even back extensions. I’ll use the orange light band for slower tempo, muscle building pull aparts as well as the isometric holds. What I recommend is to try to perform as many light band pull aparts as you can on your days off to build as much muscle back there as you can. Don’t forget that a big back usually makes for a strong bench press.
My Article On Resistance Bands For Shoulder Training
Resistance Bands I Use:
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