Superset-Style Upper Body Resistance Band Workout for Muscle Gains

There’s no doubt barbells and dumbbells reign supreme when it comes to sculpting the ultimate physique. However, whether you don’t have time to make it to the gym, don’t have access to equipment, or aren’t ready to train at full capacity quite yet due to an injury, there is a readymade solution that will allow you to still make progress toward your strength and hypertrophy goals: resistance bands.

While they’re typically associated with physical therapy and rehabilitation settings, bands deserve far more respect from the fitness community. After all, although they may seem rather innocuous, they still have the ability to deliver a sufficient stimulus for muscle growth and development.

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Even if you’ve largely resisted band-based workouts for fear of not making gains, it’s never too late to reconsider your stance. After all, elastic resistance training has been shown to promote similar strength gains to conventional resistance training. (1) This superset-inspired resistance band workout will make you break a serious sweat, get a proper pump, and transform your thinking about how to approach upper body training.

Upper Body Resistance Band Workout

The Warm-Up

The Workout

Muscles Trained

How to Warm-Up Your Upper Body for a Resistance Band Workout

With a full slate of upper body exercises on the horizon, you’ll want to dedicate some time to prepare your mind, muscles, and ligaments for what’s to come. Warming up for any workout — even one that leaves barbells, dumbbells, and machines by the wayside for resistance bands — is imperative if you want to perform at your best and avoid injury. When it comes to upper body training specifically, a systematic review showed strong evidence that a high-load dynamic warm-up can enhance power and strength performance. (2)

Sticking with a band-based protocol, this three-part routine primarily focuses on preparing your shoulder joints for the workout to follow. In addition to increasing blood flow and priming your stabilizing muscles, completing these mobility exercises will provide a much-needed stretch for your pecs and shoulders, which can easily become tight and stiff from sitting at a desk for extended periods of time. Make sure to maintain proper form throughout the warm-up by keeping your core engaged and going through the full range of motion (no partial reps) for each exercise.

Banded Shoulder Circles: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold a light resistance band toward the floor with your hands wider than your shoulders and your palms facing behind you. Pull the band to create some slight tension and carefully raise your arms above and behind your head in a circular motion. Once you have reached as far as your shoulders can comfortably handle, reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat for two sets of 12-15 reps before moving on to the next warm-up exercise.

Band Pull-Apart: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a light resistance band directly in front of you with your palms facing downward and your hands a few inches wider than your shoulders. With your arms extended so they are parallel to the floor, retract your shoulder blades, engage your core, and pull the resistance band back until your arms are directly aligned with your body. Squeeze for one to two seconds before slowly letting the tension out of the band to return to the starting position. Complete two sets of 12-15 reps to prepare your rhomboids, rotator cuffs, and rear deltoids for battle.

Banded Face Pulls: Wrap a light/medium resistance band around a stable anchor point (such as a squat rack or pole) at face level. Using an overhand grip, grab the band with your hands about 12-15 inches apart. Step away from the anchor point to create enough tension on the band without preventing you from staying upright. With a slight forward lean and your head in a neutral position, retract your shoulders, pull back with your elbows, and slightly rotate your arms so that the back of your hands are facing behind you. Slowly release tension from the band by bringing your arms back to the starting position before repeating the movement for 15-20 total reps.

Superset-Style Upper Body Resistance Band Workout

As long as you have a set of resistance bands, a little bit of space, and a solid playlist to keep you pumped, you’ll have everything you need to have a successful session. This upper-body routine takes advantage of the agonist-antagonist relationship by utilizing supersets to stimulate hypertrophy in opposing muscle groups. For example, the first part of the workout targets the back and chest, while another superset pairs a triceps exercise with a direct biceps movement.

Plus, this session makes use of the compound set principle, which involves performing two exercises for the same muscle group consecutively without rest. So, not only will you get a hypertrophy stimulus from resistance training, but you will also reap some cardio benefits by immediately jumping from one exercise to the next.

Upper Body Resistance Band Workout Summary

Superset One

Banded Bent-Over Rows — 3 x 10-12

Banded Standing Chest Press — 3 x 10-12

Superset Two

Banded Shoulder Press — 3 x 10-12

Banded Upright Row — 3 x 10-12

Superset Three

Banded Overhead Triceps Extension — 3 x 12-15

Banded Biceps Curl — 3 x 12-15

Superset Four

Banded Lateral Raise — 2 x 12-15

Banded Front Raise — 2 x 12-15

Banded Bent-Over Rows

A multi-joint movement that recruits your core, hamstrings, and glutes, the bent-over row is a staple in most strength and conditioning programs. While the barbell-based version of this exercise is great for building a thicker, wider back, it requires precise technique to avoid injury.

In this case, though, using a resistance band to perform this pulling movement takes some of that risk out of the equation while still providing a solid stimulus for your upper back muscles.

How to do it: Stand on a resistance band with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Grab the ends of the band with an overhand grip, brace your core, and hinge at the hips until your torso is between 45 degrees to parallel with the ground. Retract your shoulder blades and bring the band toward your ribs by pulling your elbows back until your hands align with your midsection. Make sure to squeeze your upper back at the top of the movement, then slowly let the tension out of the band to return to the starting position.

Sets and Reps: 3 x 10-12

Rest Time: No rest time before moving to the banded standing chest press.

Benefits of the Banded Bent-Over Row

Using a band instead of a barbell or a heavy set of dumbbells places far less stress on your lumbar region, reducing the risk of injury.

Not only does the bent-over row target upper-body muscles like your rhomboids, rear delts, and lats, but it also engages your glutes, hamstrings, and core throughout the movement.

Banded Standing Chest Press

Although the bench press is considered the gold standard for building your chest, you can still get great results by leaving the barbell behind for a resistance band. The standing chest press not only directly targets your pecs and shoulders but also engages your core throughout the movement.

Make sure to powerfully extend your arms during the lockout phase for maximum triceps recruitment. While it may be tempting to let the band come back quickly, maintain full control so you can reap the muscle hypertrophy rewards of time under tension. (3)

How to do it: Wrap a medium resistance band around an anchor point — such as a squat rack or pole — so that it is at the height of your chest. Grab both sides of the band with a pronated (palms-down) grip. Step away from the anchor point to create tension on the band, utilizing a staggered stance with one foot about 12-18 inches in front of the other. While maintaining an upright posture, engage your core and drive your arms forward until you lock out your triceps completely. Slowly bring your hands back to the starting position and repeat.

Sets and Reps: 3 x 10-12

Rest Time: Rest for 30-45 seconds after completing each round of the superset.

Benefits of the Banded Standing Chest Press

Performing the chest press from a standing position rather than lying down forces you to engage your abdominal muscles more to maintain stability and balance.

Whereas the bench version allows for a fixed range of motion, the standing version can be more challenging because you have to stand further away from the anchor point to create more tension on the band.

Banded Shoulder Press

The first exercise in the next superset is a vertical push movement designed to put your delts to work. An overhead press variation that can quickly become taxing if you use a thicker resistance band, this type of shoulder press is also substantially safer than the barbell- or dumbbell-based version since you don’t have to worry about supporting a heavy weight.

That said, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself with a heavier band, especially if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter.

How to do it: Stand on top of a resistance band with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Grab the band from both sides and bring your hands to your shoulders with your palms facing forward. Engage your core and drive your hands toward the ceiling until your arms are fully extended. Bring your elbows back to 90 degrees, then repeat the movement.

Sets and Reps: 3 x 12-15

Rest Time: No rest time before moving to the banded upright row.

Benefits of the Banded Shoulder Press

Using a band to perform an overhead press can be a great way for people with wrist issues to develop stronger, more muscular shoulders without worrying about supporting the weight of dumbbells or a barbell.

Performing the standing version reinforces proper posture by recruiting posterior chain muscles like your glutes and hamstrings to maintain a tall, upright body position.

Banded Upright Row

Pairing a push movement with a pull movement is perhaps the most poignant example of supersetting. After challenging your triceps and delts to create tension in the band by pressing it above your head, you will use the opposite motion to harness your traps, biceps, and upper back muscles.

Typically performed with an EZ curl bar or barbell, the banded upright row is a simpler way to work out your upper back and core. For best results, keep your elbows higher than your wrists, and hold for one to two seconds at the top before bringing the band back to your waist area.

How to do it: Stand on a closed-loop resistance band with your feet roughly hip-width apart. Grab the band with both hands using a pronated (palms-down) grip. While maintaining a neutral spine and head position, pull upward on the band until your elbows go past your shoulders. Squeeze your upper back and traps at the top, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.

Sets and Reps: 3 x 12-15

Rest Time: Rest for 30-45 seconds after completing each round of the superset.

Benefits of the Banded Upright Row

The upright row helps strengthen the posterior chain muscles, which can help improve your posture and keep your back, neck, and shoulders healthy.

Getting comfortable with the upright row motion can prepare you to perform better on compound lifts like the power clean and deadlift that require you to keep the barbell close to your body.

Banded Overhead Triceps Extension

There are plenty of ways to train your triceps, including rope pushdowns, dips, and the close-grip bench press. For this workout, utilizing a resistance band to perform overhead triceps extensions will stimulate all three heads of the muscle while getting your lats and abdominals involved, too.

To get the most out of this exercise, give equal attention to the concentric portion (the part of the movement when your muscles contract) and the eccentric portion (the part of the movement when your muscles lengthen). Make sure there’s tension on the band throughout the movement, and avoid cheating on any reps by using your body weight rather than your triceps to bring the band forward.

How to do it: Wrap a resistance band around a squat rack or other anchor point at or slightly higher than your waist. Grab the band with both hands and take several steps away from the anchor point to create tension in the band. Set up in a staggered stance with one foot approximately 12-18 inches in front of the other and lean forward slightly. With your elbows pointing upward, bring your hands forward by engaging your triceps until your arms are fully extended. Let your hands reach back behind your head, then repeat.

Sets and Reps: 3 x 12-15

Rest Time: No rest time before moving to the banded biceps curl.

Benefits of the Banded Overhead Triceps Extension

Performing a standing overhead triceps extension allows you to get a deeper stretch of the muscle compared to an exercise like a rope triceps pushdown.

Strengthening your triceps is a surefire way to set yourself up for success on push-based lifts like the bench press and overhead press.

Banded Biceps Curl

You may not construct Arnold Schwarzenegger-like arms with a resistance band, but you can certainly build better ones with this piece of home gym equipment. Curls are a classic means to make your biceps bigger and stronger — and a band is more than capable of helping you accomplish both goals.

To make this exercise more challenging, play with the tempo. For example, you can do a partial rep to reach 90 degrees, hold that for a second, then fully contract and squeeze your biceps. Or, you can change to a pronated (palms-down) grip to target your forearms at the same.

How to do it: Stand on a resistance band with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Grab the band with both hands using a supinated (palms-upward) grip. Maintain an upright posture and perform a standard biceps curl, holding the contraction for two seconds before lowering your hands back down.

Sets and Reps: 3 x 12-15

Rest Time: Rest for 30-45 seconds after completing each round of the superset.

Benefits of the Banded Biceps Curl

Unlike dumbbells or a barbell, using a resistance band allows you to keep constant tension on your biceps.

A banded curl reduces the stress on your elbow and wrist joints, as the weight is more evenly distributed compared to using dumbbells or a barbell.

Banded Lateral Raise

One of the best shoulder exercises for achieving that rounded look, the lateral raise is traditionally performed with dumbbells. However, you can also use a band to isolate your lateral deltoid head and strengthen your shoulder joint.

When it comes to the technique, be careful about swinging your upper body or shrugging your shoulders up. Making either of these mistakes will result in your traps taking on the brunt of the work instead of your delts.

How to do it: Take a staggered stance with your left foot about 12 inches in front of your right. Place a resistance band underneath your left foot and grab the ends with a pronated (palms-down) grip. Engage your core and extend your arms to the sides until they form a 90-degree angle. Squeeze at the top of the movement to engage your lateral delts and upper traps before lowering back to the starting position.

Sets and Reps: 2 x 12-15

Rest Time: No rest time before moving to the banded front raise.

Benefits of the Banded Lateral Raise

A banded lateral raise can be an effective way for someone with shoulder stability issues to improve their strength and gain confidence before moving on to the dumbbell version.

Because most compound exercises do not directly target the lateral deltoid, incorporating this movement into your routine can help create a more well-rounded look for your upper body.

Banded Front Raise

For anterior delt activation, you can’t go wrong with the front raise. And after hitting your lateral delts, your shoulders will be more than warmed up for the second part of the last superset.

Moreover, the banded front raise will also put your pecs to work. As long as you focus on bringing your arms to just above shoulder height, you will get excellent activation of your upper chest, too.

How to do it: Stand on a resistance band with your feet about hip-width apart. Hold the band with your hands shoulder-width apart using a pronated (palms-down) grip. Engage your glutes and abdominals, then raise your hands to just above shoulder height while keeping your arms fully extended. Carefully bring your hands back down toward your hips, then repeat the movement.

Sets and Reps: 2 x 12-15

Rest Time: Rest for 30-45 seconds after completing each round of the superset.

Benefits of the Banded Front Raise

Front raises can help improve shoulder mobility, as they strengthen the rhomboids and posterior deltoids.

The banded version forces you to activate your glutes and abdominals on every rep, which makes the exercise much more than an isolated shoulder movement.

Muscles Trained During the Workout

An all-encompassing routine that requires just one piece of gym equipment, this resistance band-based workout will take your upper body through the ringer. From pushing your pecs to torching your triceps, here’s a breakdown of how this superset-style session recruits specific muscles:


A large, triangular-shaped muscle that helps give bodybuilders’ shoulders that signature rounded shape, the deltoid has three portions (anterior, middle, and posterior) that deserve attention in your programming. Luckily, this workout hits the delts from multiple angles with both front and lateral raises, as well as the banded shoulder press.

The upright row also works the front and middle heads as you pull upward on the band. Even the standing chest press involves some anterior deltoid recruitment for stabilization.

Pectoralis Major

The largest muscle in the chest, the pectoralis major is responsible for adduction and internal rotation of the arm in the shoulder joint. Thick and fan-shaped, it’s comprised of two heads (clavicular and sternocostal) that assist with arm flexion and extension. Building full pecs requires plenty of direct work with pushing movements like the chest press and incline press, as well as isolation exercises like flye variations.

Triceps Brachii

Located on the back of the upper arm, this three-headed muscle is primarily recruited during push-based exercises, such as overhead or chest press variations. In addition to being an integral component of extending the elbow, the triceps brachii also plays an important role in stabilizing the shoulder joints. Directly targeting all three heads via the overhead triceps extension is an efficient way to build muscle and round out your upper arm.

Biceps Brachii

Like the pec major, the biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle that can truly transform someone’s look when fully developed. Commonly trained through curl variations, the biceps’ two heads actually serve opposite purposes. The long head is responsible for shoulder abduction (moving your arm out to the side) whereas the short head helps pull the arm toward the midsection via adduction.

Latissimus Dorsi

The largest muscles on the back, these triangle-shaped muscles are found just below the shoulder blade on each side. They are recruited during vertical pulling movements such as pull-downs and pull-ups, as well as horizontal pulling movements like the bent-over row. Well-developed lats give the back the width to shine in bodybuilding poses like the back double biceps and the rear lat spread.


The trapezius is a surface muscle of the back that is responsible for rotation, retraction, elevation, and depression of the scapula. Divided into three parts (superior, inferior, and middle), it can easily become tight from poor posture. That said, exercises like shrugs, upright rows, and the trap bar deadlift can be effective for building size and strength in your traps.

A Workout You Can’t Resist

If you’ve never given bands a chance, it’s time to embrace a new approach to building muscle. There’s no reason you can’t still base the majority of your upper-body workouts around barbell versions of presses and rows. However, incorporating resistance bands into your routine can provide a nice change of pace mentally while also cutting back on the wear and tear on your joints. And by supersetting specific exercises and keeping the rest periods short, you may be surprised at just how challenging (and enjoyable) this workout can be.


Lopes, J. S. S., Machado, A. F., Micheletti, J. K., De Almeida, A. C., De Souza Cavina, A. P., & Pastre, C. M. (2019). Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sage Open Medicine7, 205031211983111. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050312119831116

McCrary, J. M., Ackermann, B. J., & Halaki, M. (2015). A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. British Journal of Sports Medicine49(14), 935–942. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2014-094228

Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W. D., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G. A., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of Physiology590(2), 351–362. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200

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The post Superset-Style Upper Body Resistance Band Workout for Muscle Gains appeared first on Breaking Muscle.

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