If you look at most gym bros who love to bench press you’ll notice one thing, imbalance. Most of these bros have anterior delts and pecs that overpower their neglected rear delts. This imbalance can lead to wrecked shoulders over time. The band pull-apart is a great exercise for any one looking to restore structural balance and build some impressive rear delts. Here is an old article on the basics of the band pull-apart.
Because the rear delt is a relatively small muscle it can often be overpowered by other muscles of the upper back like the rhomboids. Based on the law of first tension, the muscle that fires first will be the one recruited and stimulated the most. The following tweaks will help not only put the focus on the rear delt but also stimulate it to it’s fullest extent.
Small Tweaks, Big Differences
A few small tweaks to the band pull-apart can make a huge difference in it’s ability to stimulate the rear delt. Check out the following form tweaks and see if you can notice a difference.
“Push The Weight Away”
The goal of these tweaks today is to cause the rear delt to fire first while limiting the rhomboids involvement until absolutely necessary.
Often people try to squeeze their shoulder blades together to initiate the movement. This is great if you are trying to cause the rhomboids to grow, but you are leaving a lot to be desired with the rear delt.
To keep the focus on the rear delt, try to keep your shoulder blades as neutral as possible. Basically attempt to keep them still while moving at the shoulders. The best cue for this is to imagine pushing the weight away from your midline instead of backwards. You end up pushing the weight away and back instead of just back.
Arms Slightly Below Parallel
Just like the rhomboids, the trapezius wants to join in on the band pull-apart fun.
To help keep the focus on the rear delt, keep your arms slightly below parallel. This will help keep the traps “quiet” and allow the rear delt to become the focus.
This is especially important for those who are upper trap dominant and can help correct some of this dominance.
Typically people perform the band pull-apart in an internally rotated shoulder position, or with their thumbs facing each other.
If you are trying to combat a lot of bench pressing, this may not be the most effective way. The bench press drives home a lot of internal rotation of the shoulder so it is important to train in the antagonist pattern.
A quick thumbs up can make a big difference. The thumbs up cue will create shoulder external rotation. The added external rotation will stimulate the rear delt to a greater extent, as the rear delt is also an external rotator.
The thumbs up cue also helps eliminate involvement of the traps and rhomboids, allowing the rear delt to do most of the work.
Try these three form tweaks and let me know how much your rear delt is burning!