Best Shoulder Warm Up With Bands (According to Trainer)

shoulder warmup with bands

Drawing from nearly a decade of personal training experience, I'm here to guide you through the optimal shoulder warm-up routines with bands to boost strength, flexibility, and joint stability.

I recommend a mix of band pull-aparts, overhead band stretches, and band pass throughs. This combination of movements effectively warms up all portions of the shoulder. Perform each exercise for 20 to 30 slow and controlled reps, avoiding jerking motions.

Keep reading for detailed explanations of these and other exercises, what mistakes to avoid, and what bands to use for your warm-up routine to protect your shoulders from aches and injuries.

Key Takeaways on Shoulder Warm Ups

  1. You must warm up the three deltoid heads and four rotator cuff muscles before training to promote safety, stability, and good performance.
  2. Resistance bands are ideal for a shoulder warm-up because they offer constant tension, promote joint stability, lead to greater muscle activation, and allow you to do many exercises.
  3. Picking the correct movements and learning how to perform them correctly will make a massive difference in your warm-ups, ensuring better performance and joint stability.

Shoulder Muscles: Brief Overview

Shoulder Muscles

Despite their relatively small size, the shoulder muscles play an integral role in many arm motions and promote stability during upper body exercises like the bench and overhead press, pull-ups, rows, etc.

What muscles make up the shoulders?


The deltoid, which gets its name because of its triangular shape (resembling the Greek letter delta - Δ), is a superficial muscle enveloping the shoulder joint. The delts create a round or ‘capped’ shoulder appearance when developed. The delts have three heads:

  • Anterior (front): it makes up the frontal portion of the shoulders. One of its primary functions is to assist the chest and triceps during ‘push’ activities: push-ups, bench presses, etc.
  • Lateral (middle): it makes up the middle portion of the shoulders, and developing it contributes to upper body aesthetics. The lateral head is primarily responsible for arm abduction (lifting your arm to the side, away from the midline of your body).
  • Posterior (back): it makes up the rear portion of the shoulders and contributes to upper back aesthetics. The rear deltoids assist during pull movements like lat pulldowns and play a role in lifting your arms to your sides and back.

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff consists of four smaller muscles located underneath the deltoids. Their primary function is stabilizing the shoulder joint and supporting mobility by contributing to abduction and rotation.

The four rotator cuff muscles are the subscapularis, infraspinatus, teres minor, and supraspinatus. Individually and collectively, these muscles play a role in numerous arm motions and keep the humeral head (upper arm bone) centered in the joint socket.

Benefits Of Using Bands To Warm Up The Shoulders

Using bands to warm up the shoulders

Main reasons to use resistance bands for your shoulder warm-ups:

  1. Greater muscle activation. Resistance bands provide constant tension, which allows you to activate the target muscles more effectively.
  2. Less strain on joints and tissues. Thanks to the greater muscle activation, bands allow you to target all the muscles of your shoulders and warm up effectively without using as much resistance, which reduces the stress on your joints and tissues.
  3. Easier to progress the resistance. You can adjust the amount of tension you get by manipulating the length of the resistance band or by using a thicker one.
  4. Promotes joint stability. Shoulder joint stability largely depends on the strength and coordination of the muscles surrounding the joint. Since bands can improve muscle activation, they can strengthen the smaller and larger muscles, teaching them how to work together and enabling them to provide adequate joint support.
  5. Pick from many effective exercises. You can use resistance bands to do various exercises and target your shoulders from multiple angles to warm up all areas well before training.
  6. Affordability and portability. Resistance bands are light, portable, and relatively inexpensive, which makes them a fantastic fitness tool. You can take one or two bands to the gym to warm up your shoulders and other muscle groups before starting your workouts.

Related Articles:

> How to Do Lateral Raises With Bands

> The Best Glute Activation Warm-up With Bands

9 Best Banded Shoulder Exercises For Warming Up

Boost your shoulder strength and flexibility with these top nine banded shoulder exercises. Incorporate these essential moves into your warm-up routine to prepare your shoulders for any workout. Each exercise targets specific shoulder muscle. Check out the quick how-to instructions below each video.

1. Band Pull-Aparts

Target muscles: rear deltoids, trapezius, and rhomboids

How to do Band Pull-Aparts

  1. Grab a loop band with both hands.
  2. Extend your arms forward with your elbows straight and palms facing down.
  3. Inhale and pull the band apart, bringing your arms to your sides and back.
  4. Bring your arms to the starting position as you exhale.

2. Overhead Band Stretches

Target muscles: rear deltoids, trapezius, lats, and rhomboids

How to do Overhead Band Stretches

  1. Wrap one end of a loop band overhead––for example, on a pull-up bar.
  2. Grab the opposite end of the band with your right hand and take two steps back.
  3. Hinge at the hips to lean your torso forward several degrees. The goal is to align your torso with the band attachment point.
  4. With your arm straight, push your buttocks back and straighten your back.
  5. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds. You should feel a stretch in your shoulder and lat muscle.
  6. Once finished, grab the band with your other hand and repeat.

3. Band External Rotations

Target muscles: rotator cuff, rear and lateral deltoids, and trapezius

How to do Band External Rotations

  1. Grab a loop band with both hands.
  2. Position your elbows at 90 degrees and pin them to your sides.
  3. Bring your chest out and inhale.
  4. Pull the band apart, rotating your arms out and keeping your elbows glued to your sides.
  5. Pause briefly and bring your hands to the starting position.

4. Banded Face Pulls

Target muscles: rear deltoids, rotator cuff, trapezius, and rhomboids

How to do Banded Face Pulls

  1. Wrap one end of a loop band at head level or slightly higher.
  2. Grab the opposite end of the band with both hands. Your thumbs should face the ceiling.
  3. Take a couple of steps back, bring your chest out, and stagger your stance, bringing one foot forward and one back for stability.
  4. Inhale and pull the band to your face in one fluid motion.
  5. Pause briefly and extend your arms forward as you exhale.

5. Banded Y-Raises

Target muscles: all deltoid heads, rotator cuff, and trapezius

How to do Banded Y-Raises

  1. Wrap one end of a loop band at collarbone height.
  2. Grab the other end with both hands.
  3. Step back, extend your arms, and have your palms facing down.
  4. Bring your chest out, engage your abs, and inhale.
  5. Pull the band overhead and spread your arms in one fluid motion without bending your elbows.
  6. Bring your arms to the starting position and exhale.

6. Banded W-Raises

Target muscles: rear deltoids, rotator cuff, trapezius, and rhomboids

How to do Banded W-Raises

  1. Wrap a loop or open-ended band to a sturdy object at collarbone height.
  2. Grab both ends of the band with your wrists neutral and thumbs facing the ceiling.
  3. Take a couple of steps back to stretch the band.
  4. Bring your arms in front of your body and bend your elbows at 90 degrees.
  5. Retract your shoulder blades and inhale.
  6. Extend your arms to your sides and back in one fluid motion without changing the elbow angle.
  7. Pause briefly and bring your arms to the starting position as you exhale.

7. Band Lateral Raises

Target muscles: lateral deltoids

How to do Band Lateral Raises

  1. Grab a loop resistance band with both hands.
  2. Step over one end of the band and stand tall.
  3. Position your arms to your sides and puff your chest out. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows.
  4. Inhale and raise your arms laterally in one fluid motion until your wrists and elbows align with your shoulders.
  5. Pause briefly and lower your arms to the starting position as you exhale.

8. Band Shoulder Press

Target muscles: lateral and front deltoids, triceps, and upper chest

How to do Band Shoulder Press

  1. Step over a loop band with both feet.
  2. Grab the band with both hands, stand up, and lift your arms to your shoulders with your elbows bent.
  3. Puff your chest out, inhale, and contract your abs.
  4. Press the band, fully extending your elbows and bringing your hands overhead.
  5. Lower the band to the starting position. Your elbows should be slightly lower than your shoulders. Exhale.

9. Band Pass Throughs

Target muscles: all deltoid heads, trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff

How to do Band Pass Throughs

  1. Grab a loop resistance band with an overhand grip.
  2. Stand tall with your arms straight and to your sides. Your palms should face you, and the band should be in front of your hips.
  3. Inhale and move the band behind your back in one fluid motion, keeping your elbows straight.
  4. Pause briefly and return the band to the starting position as you exhale.

Best Banded Shoulder Warm-Up

Now you know how to perform the exercises, it’s time to learn how to combine them to create the ultimate banded shoulder warm-up. Here is a simple shoulder warm-up routine you can do with a single light resistance band:

Exercise Reps
Band Pass Throughs 20-25
Band Pull Aparts 20-25
Overhead Band Stretches 20-25
Banded Face Pulls 20-30
Band Shoulder Press 15-20


I recommend including this routine in your warm-up sequence before ‘push’ workouts, where you train your shoulders, chest, or triceps. You can also do the routine before training other muscle groups, such as the back or quadriceps, if specific exercises cause shoulder discomfort.

For example, if you struggle to get into the correct position for low-bar squatting, spending extra time to warm up your upper back and shoulders with this routine can be helpful.

It shouldn’t take you longer than two to three minutes to complete, and you shouldn’t experience much shoulder fatigue by the time you’re done. Feel free to switch out any of these exercises in this sample warm-up for others in the list above that target similar muscles.

Best Bands To Use For Your Shoulder Warm-Up

The Desert Tan resistance band from the Gymreapers military set is ideal for shoulder warm-ups and general mobility work.


This band provides 20 to 35 lbs of resistance, which is ideal for activating the shoulders and upper back without generating too much fatigue that would impair your training performance.

The band is looped, which means you can easily tie it to external objects like the upright of a squat rack or a pull-up bar and use it for exercises like banded W and Y raises, face pulls, rows, and lat pulldowns.

OD Green from the same resistance band set is also an option, especially if you’ve been warming up for a few minutes and want to do some warm-up sets before bench and overhead presses. It provides 30 to 60 lbs of resistance, which works well for intermediate and advanced trainees.

The remaining bands in the set cover higher tension ranges and aren’t as suitable for general warm-up work, especially for small muscle groups like the shoulders. However, these bands are handy for many other activities like push-ups, pull-ups, upright rows, curls, etc.

Reading next

Blog posts 12 Best Back Exercises With Resistance Bands
How To Do Face Pulls With Bands (The Proper Way)

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