In weight rooms and gyms across the world, the bench press is the ultimate sign of strength in the male human specimen. The state of New Jersey and specifically the Jersey Shore has the motto of “How much ya bench???” With the focus on bench press and pec development, the idea of posture gets thrown out the window. I have a cure for this, the band pull-apart.
Excessive anterior shoulder work, and specifically the pecs, can lead to a rounded shoulder posture. Think of the guy who looks like he can’t scratch his back or the guy who looks like a gorilla. Dragging their knuckles on the ground and grunting as they walk around. Much like this guy….
Now the band pull-apart will not make you smarter or move you a step further in the evolutionary process but they can help you stand a little taller.
Rounded shoulders can create a lot of issues in the neck and shoulders. A rounded shoulder posture can create a lot of strain in the muscles of the neck, especially of the upper trap. With rounding of the shoulders the head moves forward when compared to the body’s center of gravity. This increases the static force, or constant tension, that is required of the neck extensors. Over time, if your posture is not corrected, your neck will begin to scream at you and become tight. This is a classic case of the painful area only being a symptom of a different issue.
The rotator cuff is another victim of the rounded shoulder posture. As the shoulders round forward, there is less space between the head of the humerus and your collarbone. This lack of space for the rotator cuff can create impingement leading to rotator cuff tendinitis and eventually leading to a tear of the rotator cuff.
To fix your rounded shoulders you must work on releasing the tight of tissues of the anterior shoulders, specifically the pecs. You must also work on your upper back musculature especially your scapular retractors.
In this post about the Bat Wing Hold exercise, I show a rowing variation that can help with your back musculature. The band pull-aparts is another exercise that is extremely effective in strengthening the scapular retractors. The pull-aparts target the upper and lower traps, rhomboids, and the often neglected posterior deltoid. The band pull-aparts can not only build your back and make your shoulder feel better, they can help you in building a bigger bench as well.
The band pull-apart is relatively easy to do and all you need is a band. It can be of the power band variety(big heavy duty band that people often use to assist pullups) or it a regular tubing band often used in physical therapy clinics.
The band pull-apart should be done standing and grasp and hold a band out in front. Arms should be straight and shoulders flexed at 90. You will then pull the hands into horizontal abduction or away from each other. Squeeze for a one to two second hold and return to the start. It is important to not shrug your shoulders and instead squeeze your shoulder blades down and back. The band should not be so heavy that you must cheat to achieve the reps. The goal should be for strict reps.
This exercise and the muscles you are targeting allow for much higher rep ranges. Try using the band pull-apart as either part of my warm-up or as a superset between sets of bench press. Another way is to try to achieve 100 reps in as few sets as possible. This can be a real burner on the posterior shoulder and upper back. Sets should be terminated at fatigue or when form begins to break down.
Here is a video the exercise.
Save your shoulders and give this exercise a try during your upper body training sessions. You won’t regret it and your shoulders will thank you.
If you have any questions about shoulder health or about the band pull-apart, please contact me below.