How Many Resistance Band Pull-Aparts Should I Do?

Perhaps what is best about resistance band pull-aparts is that the exercise has numerous functions or applications, depending on the strength of the resistance band that you use.

For example, it makes a great shoulder mobility exercise or dynamic shoulder and upper-back warm-up exercise before lifting weights, swimming, rowing, or other forms of exercise.

The resistance band pull-apart exercise can also be used for rehab from shoulder injuries like rotator cuff injuries or impingement, as well as for rehab from upper back muscle pulls.

Lastly, like other strength training exercises, you can also use resistance band pull-aparts for increasing strength and building muscle if you use a heavy resistance band and program your reps appropriately.

So, when programming your workouts, you may wonder: how many resistance band pull-aparts should I do according to my fitness goals and needs? Keep reading to find out!

A band pull-apart.

How Do You Do Resistance Band Pull-Aparts?

The resistance band pull-apart exercise is an effective strengthening exercise for the muscles in the upper back, especially the rhomboids, trapezius muscles (traps), posterior deltoids (back part of the primary shoulder muscles), and the rotator cuff muscles.

The resistance band pull-apart is a great shoulder warm-up exercise for your posterior deltoids and will also activate your rhomboid and upper traps.

You can also use this shoulder mobility exercise between sets of bench presses or overhead presses to keep your shoulders warm and mobile.

Here are the steps for how to do resistance band pull-aparts:

How To Perform Resistance Band Pull-Aparts

  1. Find a light or medium resistance band depending on your fitness goals and level of upper back strength.
  2. Use an overhand grip with your palms facing the floor and space your hand shoulder width apart along the band.
  3. Extend your arms directly out in front of your body parallel to the floor at approximately shoulder height.
  4. Contract your rhomboids to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the resistance band apart, sweeping your arms away from one another and towards the outsides of your armpits.
  5. When you can move no further, or the band touches your chest, pause for 1-2 seconds. Squeeze your rhomboids, posterior deltoids, and traps. Imagine that you are trying to hold a pencil between your shoulder blades.
  6. Then, slowly return to the starting position. The slower you move, the better because your muscles will be under tension for longer. 

If you want to isolate the rhomboids with resistance band pull-aparts specifically, you’ll want to pull at an angle.

The best way to target these muscles is to use an overhand grip and a slightly angled path of motion that mimics the direction of the muscle fibers in the rhomboids (which is roughly 45 degrees sweeping down from the upper vertebrae down and out towards the scapulae).1Fennell, J., Phadke, C. P., Mochizuki, G., Ismail, F., & Boulias, C. (2016). Shoulder Retractor Strengthening Exercise to Minimize Rhomboid Muscle Activity and Subacromial Impingement. Physiotherapy Canada68(1), 24–28. https://doi.org/10.3138/ptc.2014-83

You can also perform resistance band pull-aparts for the rotator cuffs by modifying the arm position.

  1. Grab your resistance band with the same overhand grip so that your palms face the floor and space your hand shoulder width apart along the band.
  2. Instead of straightening your arms all the way out in front of your body parallel to the floor at approximately shoulder height, bring your elbows down to the sides of your ribs and tuck them in as if gluing them into the space just below your ribs on the sides of your torso. Maintain this upper arm position throughout the duration of the exercise, keeping your upper arms totally still and squished up against your ribs. 
  3. Straighten your forearms directly out in front of your affixed elbows parallel to the floor around waist level.
  4. Contract your rhomboids, posterior deltoids, and traps to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the band apart, pivoting your elbows so that your forearms move away from one another and towards your back without allowing your elbows to lose contact with your rib cage. 
  5. When you can move no further, or the band touches your stomach, stop and hold the position under tension, contracting all the muscles in your upper back and shoulders to squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to fuse them into one bone.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position, resisting the band’s pull so that you are using your muscles to maintain tension for the eccentric contraction. 
A band pull-apart.

With both of these resistance band pull-apart exercises, it’s critical to use proper posture. 

Keep your chest up and your shoulders back and down, away from your ears. Don’t allow them to hike up as you fatigue. Do not slouch. You should be contracting your abs and glutes to support an upright spine.

You can perform this exercise in a seated position if you are having difficulty maintaining balance and distributing your weight evenly across both feet.

What Type of Resistance Band Should You Use for Pull-Apart Workouts?

The best type of resistance band to use for resistance band pull-apart workouts will depend on your current level of back strength and the goal or purpose of your resistance band pull-apart workouts. 

For example, you will want to use a very light /easy resistance band if you are doing resistance band pull-apart exercises for rehab with any of the muscles in your upper back or for shoulder or rotator cuff injuries.

A light resistance band is also ideal for shoulder mobility resistance band pull-aparts or dynamic warm-up resistance band pull-aparts before weightlifting or some other type of exercise.2Veeger, H. E. J., & van der Helm, F. C. T. (2007). Shoulder function: The perfect compromise between mobility and stability. Journal of Biomechanics40(10), 2119–2129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbiomech.2006.10.016

A pile of resistance bands.

‌Then, you might use a moderately light resistance band if you are trying to increase muscular endurance in the rhomboids and upper back muscles.

You will want to use a much heavier resistance band that provides more tension in upper back workouts that increase strength and build muscle.

When the goal is to increase strength or hypertrophy, you want to use a resistance band for pull-aparts which is difficult but doable.

Aside from the actual tension or strength of the resistance band that you use, there are numerous types of resistance bands to choose from in terms of the structure or shape of the band.

When you are doing physical therapy resistance band pull-aparts, the physical therapist will likely have flat sheets of elastic resistance bands that are cut off into sections and don’t have any handles or demarcations.

These are sort of in the shape of toilet paper but might be a little wider, and they come in different strengths that your physical therapist will select based on your injury and rehab protocol.

Short resistance bands.

For at-home upper back workouts, you can use either the resistance bands with long tubes and handles on the end or the small “booty bands.”

The booty band resistance bands are the loop bands that are often used for exercises for the glutes and hips.

Either of these types of bands will work, but I generally recommend the long bands with the handles because then you can have a better grip on the bands without needing to turn your wrists in an uncomfortable way to grab onto the inside as you spread it apart.

You won’t hold onto the handles with the long resistance bands, but the exercise tends to be more comfortable and ergonomic for your joints because you can use an overhand grip with more flexibility in terms of your hand spacing.

The booty band resistance bands tend to be really small when they are not stretched out. This can affect the permissible range of motion for the resistance band pull-apart exercise.

A pull apart.

How Many Resistance Band Pull-Aparts Should I Do?

If you are asking yourself, how many resisatnce band pull-aparts should I do, think about your specific goal or use for pull-aparts because the number of resistance band pull-aparts you should do depends on your fitness level and training goals.

  • A good starting place for beginners is two sets of 10-12. Build up to three sets. 
  • If your goal is to increase strength, use a heavy enough band that you can manage for just 4 to 8 reps with proper form. Aim for 4 to 6 sets with at least 90 seconds of rest in between sets.
  • If you are doing pull-aparts to build muscle, strive for 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Use a hard enough band that you can manage all of your reps but that you feel fatigued by the last 1-2 reps of every set.
  • For shoulder warm-ups, perform at least three sets of at least 15 reps with no more than 60 seconds of rest in between each set.

Once your shoulders are warmed up, try a push/pull workout routine.

A bench press.

References

  • 1
    Fennell, J., Phadke, C. P., Mochizuki, G., Ismail, F., & Boulias, C. (2016). Shoulder Retractor Strengthening Exercise to Minimize Rhomboid Muscle Activity and Subacromial Impingement. Physiotherapy Canada68(1), 24–28. https://doi.org/10.3138/ptc.2014-83
  • 2
    Veeger, H. E. J., & van der Helm, F. C. T. (2007). Shoulder function: The perfect compromise between mobility and stability. Journal of Biomechanics40(10), 2119–2129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbiomech.2006.10.016
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.