4 Mini Band Exercises to Improve Your Shoulder Mobility

Resistance bands + shoulders = a match made in heaven

Let’s not lie to ourselves: 99.9 percent of lifters either want or have great looking shoulders. Having a great and healthy pair of deltoids brings a lot to someone’s overall build and their performance in and out of the gym.

But shoulders are complex beasts, and building them requires a mix of compound moves (think rows, presses, and chin ups) and isolation exercises (lateral, front and bent over raises). These moves will mostly get the job done, but they require a lot of shoulder mobility.

When access to the gym is limited or your shoulders are cranky, then the mini band is a great tool to train your shoulder mobility, so you can keep on lifting big.

mini bands
Natalia Plekhanova/Shutterstock

What Are Mini Bands?

Mini bands are usually 9-inch flat bands that are usually used for targeting the muscles of your thighs, glutes, and shoulders. 

They’re usually looped around the ankles, knees, palms, or elbows to provide some extra lateral resistance during exercise — a band around the knees, for example, means your glutes and abductors will get extra fired up as you sink into a squat and push your knees outward.

Shoulder Movements And Muscles

The shoulder is a shallow ball and socket joint that has the rare ability to move in multiple directions, and it requires a lot of muscles and mobility to make this happen.

Here are the main movements around the shoulder girdle with the muscles involved.

  • Shoulder extension: Posterior Deltoid, Lats
  • Shoulder flexion: Anterior deltoid, Pec major
  • Scapular retraction: Rhomboids, Trapezius
  • Scapular protraction: Pec major, Serratus Anterior
  • Shoulder abduction: Rhomboids, Traps
  • Shoulder adduction: Pec major, Lats
  • Shoulder horizontal abduction: Middle Deltoid Pec major, Lats 
  • Shoulder horizontal adduction: Pec major, Lats
  • Scapular upward rotation: Serratus anterior, Upper and lower traps
  • Scapular downward rotation: Rhomboids
  • Scapular elevation: Upper Traps
  • Scapular depression: Lower Traps, Lats

With the above movements, the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint (big and small) need strength and endurance for shoulder mobility and stability. The mini band can target the important muscles such as the rhomboids, trapezius, and the serratus anterior to improve your shoulder mobility and strength.

The following exercises are great  to use in a shoulder warm up before hitting the barbell, as filler exercises between strength sets or used in a circuit for active recovery. One little band has so many options.

1. Mini band archer row

Trains: In the working arm, scapular protraction and retraction, shoulder flexion and extension. In the non-working arm:  Scapular protraction, shoulder horizontal adduction and half kneeling position (isometric)

The half kneeling position ensures there is less cheating and gives you feedback if you are. Make sure to keep your chest up and shoulder down while rowing.

Do this for higher reps in the 12-15 range on both sides.

2. Mini band overhead reach

Trains: Shoulder horizontal abduction (isometric), scapular protraction and retraction, upward and downward rotation.

This is a great exercise to fire the serratus anterior and for priming your muscles to go overhead. With the mini band pulling  your arms together, make sure to push them out and keep your fingers spread.

Do this in front of a mirror to make sure you’re not overarching your lower back.

5-10 reps works well. 

[Related: Why reaching is the most underrated move for shoulder health]

(This is the same video, yes, but it starts on a different exercise than the one above)

3. Mini band bent over overhead press

Trains: Shoulder horizontal abduction (isometric), scapular upward/downward rotation and the hip hinge.

This is much like the above exercise, except the hinge and the angle while going overhead. If you have trouble feeling your traps, this exercise is the cure. Remember to use your shoulder blades and to not shrug with the upper traps while going overhead.

This is best done in front of a mirror to ensure you’re doing the exercise with good form.

5-10 reps works well.

4. Prone floor slides

Trains: Mainly scapular protraction and retraction. 

Being in the prone position with the non-working elbow pressed into the floor helps target the serratus anterior, which is an important muscle for shoulder health and for getting your arm overhead pain-free.

Keep your chest and head up and your non-working elbow pressed into the ground.

5 alternating reps on both sides will do the trick.

mini band exercising
Zoran Pucarevic/Shutterstock

Wrapping up

The smaller important muscles that make up the shoulder girdle allow the bigger muscles of the pecs and lats to do their job. And when they do, boulder shoulders are around the corner. 

Featured image via Natalia Plekhanova/Shutterstock

Shane McLean

Shane McLean

Shane McLean is a Certified Personal Trainer who’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from the general population client all the way to ex-Navy seals and college athletes.

Shane is a big believer in seeing exercise as a gift for the body and never a punishment — exercise should be as enjoyable as possible and never just a “work” out.

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