Resistance Band Overhead Shoulder Press -Benefits, Muscles, Variations

Resistance Band Overhead Shoulder Press -Benefits, Muscles, Variations

The resistance bands are not only extremely comfortable, but they also provide accommodating resistance for pushing exercises like overhead press.

This guide will not only demonstrate the overhead press variations with resistance bands but also provide details about the muscles which work beneath this workout.

Being able to imagine the muscles of shoulders that contract during banded overhead press is a lot of a different experience. It would assist you in understanding even minute differences that a variation can bring in.

So, how do we correctly perform the banded overhead press? Stand straight on the ground while pressing resistance band in the middle with feet placed shoulders width apart. Hold the radial ends of the resistance band with both hands and bring them closer to the sides of the shoulder with palms facing forward. Keep the chest out and back in a neutral position. Lift the hands while breathing out until arms are almost straight without locking elbows in the topmost position. Slowly bring the hands back to its original position while breathing in.

Hold on until I put some light on the muscles that make these movements of shoulder press happen and variations that are worth reading for all levels.

❝ Hi, I am Ravi, your companion, and a passionate fitness athlete, cyclist, runner, gym enthusiast who just loves the concept of resistance bands for their extreme flexibility. I have been using resistance bands as one of my primary fitness equipment for the last many years ❞

Let us begin –

Muscles activated during banded overhead press –

Here are the exact muscles that are activated during banded overhead press –

a) Deltoid muscles –

The deltoid muscles are the main muscles that are activated during overhead presses. These muscles originate from the scapula (triangular shoulder blades visible on the upper back) & clavicle (collar bone) and terminate at the humerus (upper arm bone).

The deltoid muscles overlap the entire shoulder joint (formed by upper arm bone (humerus) with the scapula). The deltoid muscles can further be divided into the three regions named anterior (front), middle, posterior (backward) depending upon the direction of the movement of upper arms.

b) Upper trapezius muscles –

These muscles provide stability to the neck and shoulder joints. They originate from the neck area and terminate at the collar bone (clavicle) and the shoulder blades (scapula).

Skeleton bones of front side activated during shoulder press

c) Lower trapezius muscles –

These muscles play a vital role in the rotation of the scapula during exercises involving back and shoulder. The lower trapezius muscles originate from the middle of the spine and end at the upper part of the scapula.

d) Serratus anterior muscles –

These muscles also play a crucial role in the anterior (frontal) rotation of the scapula. The serratus anterior muscles originate from the rib bones on side of the chest and end at the anterior (frontal) border of the scapula.


Several other muscles act in coordination with the above muscles to make the pushing movement of shoulder press happen.

Such muscle groups include abdominal muscles, back muscles (spinal erectors), triceps, and biceps.

📑  To learn more about the shoulder muscles and anatomy of the shoulder joint, I recommend visiting this article from Kenhub  – Shoulder muscles – Anatomy and Functions

How muscles behave during a resistance band resisted shoulder press –

Let us take an example of a traditional standing overhead press with resistance bands and sneak inside the shoulder joint.

During the bottom-most position of the overhead shoulder press, the shoulder blades are in their neutral position (bent towards the centerline of the body). The deltoid muscles are in their original shape.

As soon as we start stretching resistance band and move the hands over the head, the scapula starts rotating away from the spine. The external rotation of scapula happens due to the contraction of the serratus anterior muscles (connected between the rib cage (on the side) and the scapula) & lower trapezius muscles.

Further, during the lifting phase of the shoulder press, the upper arms (humerus bone) need to be lifted against the band’s resistance. The mammoth part of lifting the upper arm towards the sky is done by the deltoid muscle which is connected between the upper arm and scapula and clavicle (collar bone).

The deltoid muscles contract (reduces in length) to pull on the upper arms towards the neck.

The biceps and tricep muscles also contract in addition to the other shoulder muscles to extend the elbow joint (straighten).

👉 Pro-Tip

The biceps and triceps are the vanity muscles which are way smaller than the other major muscle groups of the back, legs, hip, shoulder, etc. The above fact simply indicates that they need minimal attention to train them.

Further, these tiny muscles get engaged in every exercise of the other bigger body parts. So, they don’t need dedicated days to work on them.

If we summarise the above discussion, the deltoid muscles are the main/primary muscles that are activated to rotate the shoulder joint against the resistance of resistance bands.

The muscles such as serratus anterior, lower trapezius, upper trapezius, including abdominal muscles and back muscles work in tandem with the primary muscles to maintain the posture during shoulder press workout.

How to perform shoulder press correctly with resistance bands?

The resistance bands work independent of gravity. That means we can do a shoulder press with resistance bands in numerous planes of movement.

It also means that there are numerous variations of banded shoulder press exercises possible using resistance bands which may not be possible with the conventional fixed weights such as dumbbells and barbells.

For explaining the proper technique while doing, shoulder press using resistance bands, I will be taking a case of the conventional shoulder press in standing position.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for doing band resisted, shoulder press-

  1. Stand straight on the floor with the feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Press the resistance band under both feet while holding the other ends of it with both hands, just outside the shoulder. The palms should be facing forward.
  3. Now, focus only on the shoulder and contract deltoid muscles to lift the hands against the band’s resistance while breathing out.
  4. During the lifting phase, the back should be in a neutral position without arching and the chest should be out and active.
  5. In the topmost position, the hands should be over the shoulders and the elbow joint shall be fully extended without locking out.
  6. Hold for one or two seconds and lower the arms until elbows make an angle of 90 degrees while breathing in.
  7. The eccentric phase (lowering the arms) should be performed slower in comparison to the concentric phase (lifting phase) to maintain the tension on the engaged muscles.


We must keep our hands on the sides of the shoulders during the concentric phase of the shoulder press. People often stretch their shoulder joint and lift the resistance bands from the back of the shoulder.

The shoulder joint is one of the most flexible and movable joints in the body which is also unstable at the same time. A dislocated shoulder is often a case that happens when we try to put pressure over the shoulder joint when it is stretched.

So, we need to be careful while putting pressure over the shoulders and not stretch them backward while resisting movements.

👉 Pro-Tip

The banded overhead press can also be combined with dumbbells and barbells to increase the loading in the topmost position of the shoulder press without injuring the shoulders.

📑  Here is an article where I have discussed the crucial benefits that we get by combining resistance bands with fixed weights (many of which you may not be knowing) – Benefits Of Combining Resistance Bands With Free Weights -Pro And Cons

Benefits of overhead, shoulder press with resistance bands-

Resistance bands provide varying resistance during the range of motion which makes them a perfect option for exercises involving push movement.

Here are some of the reasons that may motivate you towards using resistance bands while doing an overhead press.

a) Reduces risk for injuries –

The body doesn’t behave similarly during the complete range of motion of any exercise. During the bottom-most of the shoulder press, the shoulder joint is not stable and susceptible to the injuries. Whereas in the topmost position, the shoulder joints are comparably much stronger.

The resistance bands provide accommodating resistance. That means, during the bottom-most position, they provide the lowest resistance. However, during the topmost position, when the shoulder joint is stronger, the resistance provided by the bands also increases proportionately.

b) Increased recruitment of the fast-twitch fibers –

There are mainly two types of muscle fibers in our body namely – fast-twitch fibers and slow-twitch fibers. Every muscle carries them, though in different proportions. The fast-twitch fibers provide explosive movements.

During the bottom-most position of banded shoulder press, we can accelerate hands faster in an upward direction due to lower resistance provided by the bands. That means, our body needs to recruit fast-twitch fibers at a much faster pace.

The fast-twitch fibers bring the difference in our body which is similar to the difference between the sprinter and marathoner.

3). Multiple planes of movements-

The dumbbells and barbells provide resistance in the vertical plane of movement only. This way, our muscles are activated only in the vertical plane, which is not a case in real-life scenarios.

The resistance bands, in contrast, provide resistance in infinite planes of the movement, which trains muscles in all directions. It means that several stabilizing muscles are also engaged in different body positions to maintain the posture.

📑  I have covered the several other benefits of the resistance bands, including above, in more detail in this article – Benefits of Resistance Bands – With Unique Visual Insights.

Other unique variations of resistance bands resisted, shoulder press workout-

The resistance bands are the other name for the possibilities. Some variations may be useful for beginners, while others may only be meant for advanced athletes.

NOTE – The instructions for these variations shall remain somewhat similar, as discussed earlier for a classic standing overhead press.

a) Seated overhead banded press –

ACTIVATED PRIMARY MUSCLE – Deltoid (middle region)

SECONDARY MUSCLES – Upper and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, abdominal muscles, back muscles (spinal erectors)

Seated band resisted overhead shoulder press

Here, the only difference in this exercise is the use of a seated position instead of standing. We need to tug resistance band under the butts while holding the radial ends of it along the sides of the shoulder.

b) Inclined shoulder press with tube resistance bands –

ACTIVATED PRIMARY MUSCLE – Deltoid (middle region)

SECONDARY MUSCLES – Upper and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, abdominal muscles, back muscles (spinal erectors), glutes, quadriceps, calves

Here, instead of standing straight on the floor, we tilt our body towards the floor in the forward direction, i.e., in the direction of the push.

That means, in this case, we can’t anchor resistance band below the feet as there is an increased risk of the band slipping under pressure.

So, we need to anchor the resistance band, such as the tube resistance band at the bottom of the door or some rack using door anchor. After anchoring band appropriately, we need to tilt the back in the direction of the overhead press so that force exerted by the stretching of the band is exactly opposite to the movement of the arms.

➤ The tilting of the body against gravity results in the engagement of additional muscles of back, glutes, and legs. These muscles help in maintaining the position and prevent the body from falling against the bodyweight (which acts downward only).

c) Banded overhead press with squats –

ACTIVATED PRIMARY MUSCLE – Deltoid (middle region), Glutes, Quadriceps

SECONDARY MUSCLES – Upper and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, abdominal muscles, back muscles (spinal erectors), quadriceps (rectus femoris), hamstrings, calf muscles.

Ideal for advanced athletes

Here we combine a powerful compound exercise into the overhead press for getting maximum results from a single exercise.

The squat exercise actively engages quadriceps, glute muscles (gluteus maximus), and spinal erectors (back) while other lower body muscles behave isometrically (without a change in length) to counterbalance the primary muscles.

➤ Adding squats as above to the shoulder press exercise makes it useful for full-body strengthening, especially when we need quick high-intensity workout in minimum possible time.

📑  Here is a valuable resource where I covered all aspects of banded squats including benefits, technique, and muscles – Why Should I Use Resistance Bands In Squats – Instead Of Fixed Weights

d) Single-arm banded overhead press

ACTIVATED PRIMARY MUSCLE – Deltoid (middle region)

SECONDARY MUSCLES – Upper and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, abdominal muscles, back muscles (spinal erectors), calf muscles, oblique muscles

Suitable for beginners and intermediate athletes

Single hand overhead shoulder press with resistance bands

Here instead of lifting the arms with both hands against the resistance of the exercise bands, we make use of only one arm at a time.

➤ The above action results in asymmetrical forces developed on the one shoulder only. As such, the body needs to recruit additional stabilizing muscles to balance the other side of the body while the engaged shoulder joint is doing all the heavy work.

Such single arm/single leg workouts should be added at least once per week for a balanced physique.

e) Resistance band-resisted close grip overhead press-

ACTIVATED PRIMARY MUSCLE – Deltoid (frontal region)

SECONDARY MUSCLES – Upper and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, abdominal muscles, back muscles (spinal erectors)

Here, the main difference between the above shoulder press and previous methods (discussed before) is in the position of hands in the bottom-most position.

In close grip overhead press, we grip the handles of the resistance bands in front of the shoulders (palms facing each other) instead of the sides.

➤ That means, instead of the medial region of the deltoid muscles, the frontal portion of deltoid muscles is preliminarily activated.

👉 Pro-Tip

So, it is a good idea to include the few sets of the close grip banded shoulder press along with the conventional overhead presses in the single workout session involving shoulder training. It enables you to target the front and middle portions of the deltoid muscle in a single session.

In order to train the leftover posterior (back) region of the deltoid, the reverse fly can also be included to target upper back muscles along with the posterior part of the deltoid muscle.

Other resistance band exercises covered by us with their muscles, techniques, and variations worth reading  – 

1. Resistance bands assisted sit-ups

2. Banded Push-ups

3. Clamshells using resistance bands

4. Banded plank jacks

5. Resistance bands bridges

6. Resistance band resisted mountain climbers



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