1. Fixing shoulder posture isn’t as complicated as you think it is. Using only a band and your own body, these staple exercises have the ability to create neutral shoulder and upper back positioning and also add some impressive thickness and strength to the area.
2. The banded variations of the Over and Back, Face Pull and Pull Apart should be staples in every single person’s programming if you sit at a desk for a living, or just want healthy shoulder for the long run.
3. Here’s how to get the most out of these movements with videos, coaching notes and programming recommendations to bulletproof your shoulders and have you back to uninhibited pain-free training.
The Most Efficient & Effective Way To Improve Shoulder Posture
Western posture, or a lack thereof, is becoming one of the most damaging variables in our modern day physical society. Due to hand held technologies, forced chronic seated/slouched positions, and a general lack of daily movement remediation to counteract the hours on end of feeding into this vicious cycle of dysfunction, this physical problem is real, and here to stay.
How are we going to fix this problem, you may be asking? Well, lets start by counteracting poor posture with the activation and strategic training of upper back postural stabilizing muscles.
The use of specific metabolic stress through postural enhancing muscles such as the external rotator cuff, middle trap and rear deltoid facilitate neutral shoulder and spinal positions. Don’t worry, this isn’t as complicated as the muscles I just named, and consists of only a few quick movements that involve no equipment except for a band and your body!
This is hands down the best shoulder specific dynamic warm-up I have ever used. Using only banded resistance, you can activate postural stabilizers of the shoulders, target upper back muscles that are often neglected, and create an amazing training effect in just a few minutes a day.
Lets break down the three movements that we will be focusing on, and bring it all together to show you the magic behind healthy shoulders and pristine posture.
Banded Over and Back
The reason we place the Banded Over and Back movement first in this sequence is to really focus on the smooth and synergistic control of the small intrinsic structures of the true shoulder joint, also known as the gleno-humeral joint, along with the local muscular attachments to the shoulder blade.
Slow and controlled translation of the head of the humerus into the glenoid fossa in multiple directions does a few key things for long term shoulder health and physical preparation for a training session.
First, the joint itself gets oiled up with an increased amount of synovial fluid production. Second, the synergistic effect of the rotator cuff are trained to work together to maintain joint centration throughout the movements. Finally, the larger muscles of the shoulder complex such as the three heads of the deltoid are hit with a longer duration stabilizing contraction that generates local blood flow into the region.
I could go on and on with why this movement is so great, but lets keep it simple.
Grab a band with your palms facing down and slightly away from each other. Starting with the band down in front of you at your waist, be sure that you place constant tension into the band by pulling your hands away from each other while maintaining a straight elbow position.
You will begin to initiate a dynamic movement of the band traveling up and over your head then back behind your back until it makes physical contact with your lumbar region. Go back and fourth touching down at the waist and lower back for the allotted amount of reps.
Staying smooth with this movement is vastly important. Try to make this movement better and better every single set as you get more warmed up. It goes without saying (well, I guess not) that a neutral spinal position through the neck and lower back needs to be maintained throughout the movement. We are not in the business of training compensation patterns on a daily basis!
This movement is quite versatile in the way which you can use it to your advantage. Obviously, a time to place this into your training is the dynamic warm-up, but it can also be advantageous to use this as a “filler” exercise if you are focusing on push or pull specific upper body movements like a horizontal press variation.
By itself, this movement will feel very easy, but when programmed strategically with other postural heavy movements, it will create a huge amount of metabolic stress that works to create optimal shoulder positioning and alignment for the long run.
*Caution: If you are experiencing notable anteriorly directed shoulder pain, pass on this movement until you can complete it 100% pain free. Though it is a very powerful tool for posture, it can place a bit too much pressure on the anterior capsule and structures of the shoulder if an injury is acutely present.
Banded Face Pull
The Face Pull may be the most versatile training tool in our arsenal for remediating poor shoulder and thoracic positioning. It provides the exact opposite movements that we’re continuously pulled into on a daily basis – namely sitting down and looking at computer, phone, and TV screens.
This movement incorporates humeral horizontal abduction and external rotation of the shoulder and retracts the shoulder blades – all helping combat the hunched over, constantly adducted, internally rotated and protracted shoulder posturing. If you’re slouching over a phone or computer reading this, put down the damn phone! That’s the poor position we’re talking about!
We are targeting the posterior deltoid, middle trapezius and external rotator cuff here with this movement. These are all very small and intricate muscles, so a proper athletic position at the lower body and core is needed to create a stable base to work from.
Place the band at about shoulder height and focus on smoothly exploding the band back to your face while driving the elbows behind you. Be sure to keep the elbows above shoulder height and add a little external rotation to the end of each rep.
Once you are proficient at this movement pattern, add a second hold on the back side to increase the amount of metabolic stress through these targeted tissues.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Face Pull is just another dainty corrective exercise. Sure, it can be programmed into any successful dynamic warm-up or activation technique for prepping the shoulders and rotator cuff, but you can also load this pattern up for a results-producing training effect.
When enhancing posture is the focus, we must match the chronic piss poor positioning that is largely tonic in nature with high rep, high intensity, high tension and high pain threshold movements such as this metabolic variation. Try this twice a day every single day to improve your posture quickly. Yes, it will burn, but that searing feeling through your posterior shoulder girdle will feel better than the shooting pain down your arm if your posture doesn’t improve, or better yet, recovering from invasive surgery!
Banded Pull Aparts
Banded Pull Aparts are one of the best movements to enhance posture and target the upper back muscles directly with pain-free volume that is an absolute requisite to counteract daily postures we are pulled into.
The mechanism of this movement is very similar to the Banded Face Pull, but lacks the external rotation component and the active elbow flexion that sometimes complicates a movement with too many moving parts.
Simply put, the Banded Pull Apart is one of the easiest ways to train the upper back without needing a steep movement based learning curve. The simplicity is due to only having your shoulder working into horizontal abduction and isolating that single movement to train these shoulder blade retractors directly.
Start off by grabbing the band with an overhand grip where your palms are facing the ground. Your hands should be approximately shoulder width apart, but feel free to go wider or more narrow depending on the thickness and tension of your band. Note that light bands work well for most people.
Once you are positioned, your arms should be parallel with the floor with the elbows in a fully extended position. As the name would infer, you will then pull the hands apart squeezing your upper back musculature hard and bringing your shoulder blades together. The band should hit you right in the sternum on the front side of the body if you are doing these correctly.
As you get better at this movement, add in a tiny rotational component to the back side of the motion where your palms will go from facing down towards the ground to facing each other as you squeeze your upper back and shoulder blades together. This will make a big difference so give it a try.
More than any other movement in this series, the Banded Pull Aparts are a great way to add “free” upper back volume throughout the day to stimulate postural stabilizers and even add some pretty impressive upper back thickness.
Use these in your dynamic warm-up routine before training, but also think about adding these into your daily routine, especially if you are working a sedentary desk job that has you sitting eight plus hours a day.
Ten reps every hour goes a long way towards building an impressive looking and highly functional back. It’s as easy as throwing a five dollar band in your desk drawer. Get it done!
Putting It All Together
Now that we have the movement defined down to the last minute detail above, we are ready to put these three movements together to form what I call the “Banded Shoulder Dynamic Warm-Up Set” that has worked absolute wonders keeping my clients shoulder bulletproofed through even the most intense training cycles. Here’s the setup:
1A. Banded Over & Back 3×10@0 1B. Banded Face Pull 3×10@0 1C. Banded Pull Apart 3×10@30
*Movements are defined as SETSxREPS@REST
You will complete this giant shoulder set for three cycles through with minimal rest in between exercises. Don’t rush between the movements, but make sure you are not squandering time that will decrease the metabolic stress that makes this set so effective in the first place. Program this into your dynamic warm-up directly before your first big loaded movement every single time you train the upper body.
If you struggle with your posture or chronic and maybe even debilitating shoulder pain, this giant set should be a primary focus on every single training day’s warm-up. No matter if you are hitting bench or squats, throw this giant set into your pre-training routine, as the added volume over the week’s time will absolutely be of benefit for long term postural enhancement and restoration.
And finally, for those of you that have really piss poor posture and daily positions and are in need of some serious kinematic remediation, simply keep a band with you at the office or at home and do this exact tri-set 2-3 times a day to retrain your posterior shoulder girdle and enhance your shoulder and thoracic spine position. All you need is a band that will cost you a few dollars and fits into any bag, and a tolerance to metabolic stress multiple times a day, of course!
Enjoy your rejuvenated posture and the lack of stabbing pain on the front side of your shoulder. Quick fix, but an important one. Having success with this giant set? You’re going to want to stick with this for the long run, so quit being fancy and focus on what creates results.
About The Author
Meet Dr. John Rusin | The Strength Doc
Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and writer, whose published over 100 articles in some of the most widely regarded media outlets in the industry like Testosterone Nation, Mountain Dog Diet, Breaking Muscle, and Muscle and Strength, to name a few.
Along with an impressive laundry list of publications, Dr. John works with some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pro Quarterbacks, MLB All-Star Pitchers, Professional Bodybuilders and World Class IronMan Triathletes.