The band pull apart is possibly one of the most effective accessory exercises for overall shoulder health and stability; however, even it can be overused. With the majority of barbell pressing work being performed in a position of shoulder internal rotation, we need an exercise that can effectively promote some balance. It turns out that this can be done by optimizing the band pull apart!
The Traditional Band Pull Apart
The traditional band pull apart is now part of the mainstream fitness population, and rightly so. With the tremendous focus on barbell pressing performed, I'm thankful that people are intelligently programming in more scapular retraction work, such as the band pull apart.
The traditional band pull apart is performed in a position of shoulder internal rotation. While there's nothing inherently wrong with this, this is also the position that all of your barbell pressing work is completed in. In order to optimize the pull apart and promote shoulder balance, we should be performing the it in a position of shoulder EXTERNAL rotation!
Turn Your Palms Up
By externally rotating the shoulders and supinating the forearms (turning the palms up) you can effectively emphasize the rotator cuff muscular MORE than if you performed this exercise in pronation (palms down). Additionally, I've found that I get a better peak contraction during the squeezing/retraction phase with this version as well.
External rotation essentially "opens up" the shoulder joint, giving it more room to "breath," making this a PERFECT exercise for those who typically get that "pinchy" sensation in the front of the shoulder during lifting.
Increase Scapular Motion for Further Optimization
To further increase the effectiveness of the supinated band pull apart, try and perform these from a high to low position. Typically, with the standard pull apart, we are pulling in a straight horizontal plane. This heavily focuses on the scapular motions of protraction and retraction.
By performing from a position starting high above the head, and pulling to the lower chest, you now add the scapular components of upward and downward rotation. This further enhances both scapular mobility and stability, things that any barbell athlete could use!
Overall, the traditional band pull apart is a fantastic exercise. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, and quite frankly, I'm happy if you're just utilizing this in your program!
However, for those who are predisposed to shoulder pain, give the palms up version a try, and make sure you pull it from high to low to maximize the effects!