Band Pull Apart Alternatives (9 Best Substitute Exercises)

Without strong shoulders, you're more susceptible to injury, and you're limited in what exercises you can perform. Band pull aparts can help you build resilient shoulders, but if you don’t have resistance bands, you obviously can't perform them.

The last thing you want to do is spend even more on gym equipment, but don't worry, because in this guide, we'll introduce the best band pull apart alternatives so you can strengthen your shoulders whatever your set up.  

Band pull aparts are a great exercise to target your deltoids, and performing them regularly can help you build strong shoulders. This won't just add to your overall strength; it will help protect your whole body from injury.

When you're looking for alternative band pull apart exercises, you want to find substitutes that mimic the movement and engage your shoulders to improve your flexibility and stability. Here are the 9 best band pull apart alternatives: 

1. Reverse Cable Crossovers 

Reverse cable crossovers are an effective way to work your shoulders and upper back. The cables extend much further than resistance bands to give you a greater range of motion. This helps activate smaller muscle groups and improve your overall flexibility and strength. By using a cable machine, you can also set the weight resistance precisely and lift more to build greater muscle mass.  

Set the pulleys and handles to about shoulder height and set the weight. Face the machine and reach across your body to grab the handle on the opposite side.

Position yourself in the middle of the cable machine and take a step backward. Slowly pull the cables so they crossover in front of you and keep going until your arms form a horizontal line. Hold for a few seconds, and then return back to starting position. 

Make sure to use a low weight when you're getting used to the movement and aim for sets of 8-12 reps. Then, as your flexibility improves, you can add more weight.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip I perform this exercise with no attachment. I simply hold the round ball or joint where the carabiner is connected. Give it a try!

Related Article - 7 Best Cable Crossover Machines

Reverse Cable Crossovers

2. Reverse Pec Deck Fly 

Pec decks are mostly used to help you grow your pectorals, but they’re really effective at strengthening your upper back and shoulders if you use them in reverse. Using the pec deck in this way completely isolates your deltoids so you see greater gains.

You can also customize the weight levels so you can continually challenge your body as you develop. There’s very little chance of injury with this exercise because the machine helps to control the movement and give you the proper form.  

To perform a reverse pec deck fly, sit facing the machine and adjust the handles so that they are level with your shoulders. Set the weight, and then push the handles in towards each other. Pause for a second, and then slowly bring them back out again. Try to keep both sides moving at the same pace to avoid putting strain on one side of your body.

Garage Gym Pro Tip This is one of the few machines that can completely isolate the rear delts, so take advantage. I recommend starting pretty light and trying to squeeze your rear delts. It's harder than it sounds!

Reverse Pec Deck Fly

3. Rear Delt Rows 

Rear delt rows engage all your upper and lower back muscles, as well as your shoulders, to dramatically improve your strength. You can perform this exercise with dumbbells, barbells, or even kettlebells, so it’s a good option no matter what equipment you have at home.

This alternative should help you gain more muscle, and you can use heavy weights to maximize your gains. However, it is more challenging because it engages your whole back so be careful not to overload with too much weight, or it might impact your form.  

Start by standing up straight, holding the weights with an overhand grip, and with hands just over shoulder-width apart. Slightly bend your knees and lean your body forward until you're at 45 degrees with the floor. Engage your back and lift the weight up towards your chest, moving your elbows out to your sides. Hold for a second, and then lower back down to starting position to complete the movement. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip Make sure you you flare out your elbows and lift the bar into your chest. This will engage your rear delts. If not, you will be doing a standard barbell row, which engages more of your back.

Rear Delt Rows

4. Rear Delt Fly 

The rear delt fly is a great way to train your shoulders and is often used in conjunction with rows to build a broad back. It isolates your upper body and essentially takes your legs out of the equation. 

This maximizes the benefit to your back and shoulders, and is a good alternative for those with limited mobility. It can be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, machines, or resistance bands, so it’s suitable for pretty much everyone. 

Start by standing tall with a weight in each hand and your feet hip-width apart. Bend forward at the hip until your upper body is almost parallel with the floor. Let your arms drop down until the weight is close to the floor, and then pull them up until they are at shoulder height.

Pause for a second, and then lower them back down to starting position. Keep a slight bend in your arms throughout the exercise and keep the movement controlled.

Garage Gym Pro Tip - If you want to isolate your rear delts even more, you can lean your chest against an incline bench. This will help you remain stable and remove the rest of your body from the lift.

Read More - 18 Dumbbell Rear Delt Exercises

Rear Delt Fly

5. Face Pulls 

This alternative exercise engages your deltoids just like a resistance band pull-apart but also helps strengthen your whole upper back. It's also been shown to increase scapular stability which helps to limit your risk of a shoulder injury and improves your flexibility for other exercises. 

Face pulls are usually performed using a cable machine with two handle attachments, but you can also use resistance bands.

Start with the cable machine handles, or resistance bands, at shoulder height in front of you, one on each side. Grab the handles or bands with your palms facing towards each other and take a step backward, so your arms are outstretched.

Pull both arms backwards towards your ears in a smooth motion, keeping the cable or band straight. As the cables or bands are just next to your face, pause for a second, and then slowly move them back to starting position.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip Many people like using a rope attachment for this exercise, but you can use really anything to add resistance. Try wrapping a resistance band around a stable rack and completing your sets.

Related Article - Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?

Face Pulls

6. T Raises 

T raises are a helpful substitute because they can be performed with no equipment. They're designed to improve your flexibility and stability rather than stimulate muscle growth, so they're perfect for beginners but may be too easy for advanced lifters.

They will help you improve your overall shoulder strength, though, and are often useful as part of a warmup. 

Start by lying on your stomach, preferably on top of a yoga mat, with your arms stretched out at a 90-degree angle. Keep your neck in line with your upper body, and slowly raise your hands upwards as far as possible. Pause at the top, and then slowly lower them back down to starting position. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip This movement isn't really about muscle growth, but if you do find it too easy, you can always add in dumbbells to make it more challenging.  

T Raises

7. W Raises 

W raises mimic the movement of resistance band pull aparts very closely and give you a lot of the same benefits. You only need a bench and some kind of handheld weight for this exercise, and it can be performed with 1 or 2 hands. This makes it a practical alternative if you're carrying an injury on one side but still want to be able to train your deltoids.  

Set your bench at a 45-degree angle and lie forward on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the weights at the side of your body until they’re at shoulder height. This should form a W across your back (which is where the name comes from).

Slowly raise your elbows upwards to lift the weight above you until your arms are almost fully outstretched. Pause for a second, and then lower them back down to the W position to complete the rep.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip Before you destroy your delts, do this exercise along with T raises for a complete warm up. This will help you prevent injury.

Related Article - 8 Best Adjustable Weight Benches

W Raises

8. Overhead Press 

The overhead press has been used for a long time to help strengthen your shoulders and upper back. This alternative allows you to lift more weight and gain lean muscle quickly, but you can still use lighter loads if you want to improve your flexibility. It can be performed with any handheld weight, so it's a useful exercise for home gym owners with limited equipment.

Start by standing tall with the dumbbell or barbell in your hands using an overhand grip. Bend your arms and raise the weight up to shoulder height. Engage your back and shoulders and push the weight directly upwards. Pause for a second at the top, and then slowly lower it back down to shoulder height. Repeat the movement and aim for 8-12 reps at a time.

Garage Gym Pro Tip This exercise can be tough on the shoulders. Make sure you warm up and do a few lighter sets to make sure your shoulder joints are prepped.

Related Article - Overhead Press Vs Bench Press

Overhead Press

9. Superman Exercise 

The superman exercise is more of a stretch, but it's a perfect alternative exercise for beginners. There's also no equipment needed, so it can be performed by anyone, anywhere. The movement will help develop your core and improve the flexibility in your shoulders and deltoids.

Start by lying down on your front with both arms stretched out in front of you (like superman flying). Push your hips down and lift your arms and legs upwards. Squeeze your back muscles and shoulders, and then slowly lower your back down to starting position. Try to hold the superman pose for 30-60 seconds and increase as you get more comfortable with the movement.  

Superman Exercise

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Over Band Pull Aparts

Band pull apart alternatives give you all the same benefits and allow you to build broad shoulders. They also help you prepare your deltoids so that you're less likely to injure yourself when you work out. The advantage of these alternatives is that they don't require resistance bands.

Not every commercial gym will have them, and if you have a home gym, you might not want to buy resistance bands. These alternative exercises give you a lot more options so you can work your back out with whatever equipment you have.  

The other key advantage is the resistance levels. Bands are good for flexibility and can help you grow muscle, but they only give you one set amount of resistance. Some band pull-apart alternatives like the row and cable crossovers let you load a custom amount of weight.

This allows you to lift heavier and can lead to more significant muscle gain. Some of the substitute exercises are also compound, which means that they’ll train multiple areas at once.

The other real benefit is the variety. By incorporating a few of these exercises into a routine, you can continually challenge your body. Studies have shown that this yields better results, and you're most likely to build lean muscle if your body isn't used to the exercise, so having 9 different alternatives will help you develop more quickly.


Common Band Pull Apart Alternative Questions 

Do band pull aparts fix posture? 

Yes, band pull aparts help to strengthen your upper body, which in turn helps to improve your posture.

When should I do band pull-apart alternatives?  

Band pull aparts are designed to strengthen your shoulders and upper back, so they are most effective if they are incorporated into your back and shoulder routine.

Can I use weights instead of resistance bands for these exercises? 

Yes, most of these band pull apart alternatives can be performed with weights rather than resistance bands. Just make sure your form is correct before you start to lift too heavy.

Which of the exercises on our list is best for beginners? 

T raises are the best band pull apart alternative for beginners and will help you improve your overall flexibility and stability without putting too much strain on your upper body.


Conclusion

Having strong, flexible shoulders helps to protect you from injury and prepare your body for other exercises. The alternatives in this article use a variety of different equipment so you can strengthen your deltoids no matter what your setup is.

This removes the reliance on resistance bands and helps ensure you build a strong upper body. Hopefully, you've found a few useful exercises here that you’ll be able to incorporate into your training routine.  

Paul J