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No Gym, No Excuses Banded Standing Upper Body Workout

Working out doesn’t always have to involve packing up a gym bag, commuting across town, visiting the locker room, and having a building full of equipment. One might spend 30 minutes just getting ready to workout plus the drive back home. The whole round trip ends up taking up two hours of the day. Some of you out there barely have a spare 30 minutes total to invest in your health on a daily basis. There are options for effective workouts that are much more time-efficient for those ‘short on time’. So much can be accomplished with just your bodyweight, but if you are beyond that or just want to step it up invest in a set of quality resistance bands. They make several different types of resistance bands which I would group into two classifications: loops or handles. I find the ones with handles are more versatile, but since they are all relatively inexpensive it’s not a bad idea to have both. A typical set of resistance bands might include 5 to 7 bands varying in resistance from 3 to 90 lbs with a total investment of $50 to $150. 


I personally have used a brand of resistance bands for many years called ‘Ripcords’ which can be found on Amazon. What I like most about this set is the length is just right, they have solid resistance, and the full set comes with a door attachment which I use often. I am not sponsored by them in any way but just enjoy their quality. Other reputable equipment brands like Rogue make quality bands as well. 


Just like at the gym there are multiple ways to train the body with resistance bands. You can train individual muscle groups, upper body, lower body, or full-body workouts. I want to share an all-out Shoulder beatdown with a hypertrophy focus that can be done anywhere followed by a full upper body workout that also incorporates classic bodyweight moves. All these movements can be done in a standing position so you don’t need to worry about floor surface, mats, or anchoring points for the bands. These can truly be done anywhere. 


Foot Positioning: Resistance can be adjusted by using a heavier band, but also by foot placement. If you have the correct gauged band but need to reduce the resistance slightly step on the band in the middle with only one foot. To increase resistance use both feet together. Then as you place your feet wider you further increase the resistance. In some cases, you may just need to grab a lighter or heavier gauge band to get it just right. 


Resistance Band Shoulder Workout: This is an example workout demonstration that specific muscle groups can be targeted and worked to exhaustion with a set of resistance bands. When gyms are not available true muscle-building work can be done. 


Superset 1: Do these two exercises back to back without rest for one set. Do 4 sets total. Rest 60 secs between sets. 

1a. Banded Lateral Raises: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

(Note: Work to raise your elbows outward while keeping your shoulders down. Try not to let the traps engage and the shoulders to lift. Your elbows should be higher than your hands.)



1b. Banded Overhead Press: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

(Note: Stand in the middle of a band and allow it to run across the back of your arms while getting into a standing press position. Make 90-degree angles with your arms- football goals. Press your arms straight up and down.)





Giant Set 2: Do these three exercises back to back without rest for one set. Do 4 sets total. Rest 60 secs between sets. 

2a. Banded Front Raise: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

(Note: Concentrate on lifting your elbows away from your body forward and don’t allow your traps to engage and cause your shoulders to lift upward. Raise your hands up to shoulder height.)






2b. Banded Wide Upright Row: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

(Note: Wider upright rows engage the medial head of the delts more so than the close grip variation. Raise your elbows upward so your hands end up around lower chest high. Your elbows should lead the way and be higher than your hands.)




2c. Banded Pull Backs: 4 sets of 12-15 reps

(Note: Grab the tube of a band, not the handles, with both hands. Raise your arms up straight out in front of your body at shoulder height. While keeping your arms straight stretch the band by separating your arms until they are in line with your body and the band is up against your chest.)



Resistance Band Full Upper Body Workout: Another way to train that would be great more so for general conditioning or maintaining would be to hit a full upper or lower body workout. Here is an example of a full upper body workout that can be done with a set of resistance bands and body weight. 


Intensity Tip: When incorporating bodyweight movements into your resistance band home workouts do each rep in a way that yields maximum intensity. One way to accomplish this is to do each rep slower and through the full range of motion. 


Back Superset: Do these two exercises back to back without rest for one set. Do 3-4 sets total. 


  1. Wide Pull Ups: Strict reps to failure

(Note: If you are unable to do pull-ups a good option would be a static hold at the top position for time or as long as you can hold. Another option would be negative only repetitions. Remember to keep your chest lifted up and not caved in regardless of what variation you do.)


  1. Banded Bent Over Rows: 12-15 reps

(Note: Step on a heavy gauged band with handles and perform a standard Bent Over Row. Hinge your hip and keep your back straight. Your upper body should be near parallel to the ground. Lift your elbows up high enough so they break the plane of your back.)




Chest Superset: Do these two exercises back to back without rest for one set. Do 3-4 sets total. 

  1. Banded Chest Fly (low to high): 15-20 reps

(Note: Stand in the middle of a medium gauged band. While this looks similar to a shoulder front raise it’s done in a way to place more focus on the pectorals. Your arms should have a slight bend that stays static throughout the movement. Palms should be facing forward in the bottom starting position. Draw your hands back so your elbow goes behind your back stretching your chest. Keeping your arms in the same position lift your arms upward to mid-chest high while keeping your chest out and contracted.) 



  1. Decline Push Ups: Strict reps to failure

(Note: Place your feet up on an elevated surface and perform a strict push up. Go through the full range of motion on each rep making sure your chest nearly touches the floor and push up until your arms are fully straight at the top.)


Delt & Triceps Giant Set: Do these three exercises back to back without rest for one set. Do 3-4 sets total. 

  1. Banded Overhead Press: 15 reps
  2. Banded Overhead Extensions: 15 reps
  3. Banded Lateral Raises: 12-15 reps


Biceps & Triceps Superset: Do these two exercises back to back without rest for one set. Do 3-4 sets total. 

  1. Banded Curls: 15 reps
  2. Banded Kickbacks: 15 reps




Annihilate to Motivate, 

Michael Wittig, ISSA CPT
IPE PNBA Natural Pro 6x Champ 

Master World Champion

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