Coauthored by Scott H. Mendelson and Dr. Eric Serrano


Boost your bench press by building rock-solid shoulders with randomized band shoulder press exercises. Athletes of all stripes will benefit from this exercise and the series of protocol enhancements developed by Dr. Eric Serrano. Bands allow for moderate tension dictated by the partner to simulate an unstable environment, like those of challenge athletes in most athletic competitions.

Unique Randomized Band Shoulder Press Benefits

  • Keep the bar in the proper bench pressing groove by preventing the bar from drifting toward the head.
  • Reduce common shoulder discomfort.
  • Improve your throwing power.
  • Reduce the risk of many potential injuries.
  • Randomized band pulling by a partner helps the muscles and nervous system to prepare for competition conditions, including the application of unequal forces.
  • Opportunity to shoulder-press with a wider finish point on top of the movement to emphasize the shoulders while reducing tricep engagement

Keeping the dumbbells in alignment with the back of the ears at all times forces the external rotators to engage properly. The dumbbells moving in front of the ear at any point of the rep signals the partner holding the bands to reduce the tension for one or both arms. It is common for one side to have less external rotation strength than the other does.

External Rotation Strength Is Vital

Sub-optimal shoulder external rotation strength limits pressing performance and increases the risk of injury. Consider that there must be a proper balance between pressing movements, such as the bench press and the external rotators, to unlock your full potential. The body has ways of limiting strength output when imbalances signal the risk of a major injury. Trainees and athletes of all stripes must optimize their external rotation strength and functional range of motion to maximize performance.

Dr. Eric Serrano, MD, tests multiple shoulder strength functions with serious trainees on a weekly basis. In many cases, patients come to see Dr. Serrano for a combination of needs, including injury rehab, sub-optimal performance, or a general lack of performance. A series of patient visits following specialized exercise implementation reveals that significant increases in the external rotation strength resolve shoulder pain and improve the pressing strength dramatically.

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The height of the band origin impacts the level of tension significantly. The partner holding the bands closer to his waist will make the top portion of the press more difficult in comparison with holding the bands at eye level. The training partner holding the band can modify the tension and height to accommodate the fatigue of the training partner.

Athletic Competition is Unstable and Unpredictable

Unlike bench pressing, an athletic competition involves many different forces at one time that are constantly changing. A sudden and unexpected force can cause injury, especially when the body is not accustomed to instability. Dr. Serrano prefers exercises with randomized forces to improve performance while reducing the risk of certain injuries during competitions for collegiate as well as professional athletes.

Over time, as athletes increase their pressing strength, the external rotation and other elements of performance must also rise to maintain a proper balance. Consider that every athlete is only as strong as the weakest link in many ways.

Engage the Core to Fight Rotational Forces

Not leaning against the bench forces the core to engage throughout the entire set. The core muscles must fight against rotational forces to keep the torso properly aligned even with moderate band tension. The training partner holding the band should inform the trainee if the torso begins to rotate in a certain direction so that this can be corrected during the set. Applying different levels of tension or height of the band origin point adds to the core work challenge during the set, especially when these calibrations are random.
Two different band tensions are used during this set by Dr. Eric Serrano, MD, to create the asymmetrical conditions commonly present in most athletic competitions.

The Smart Approach

Very moderate tension is needed with bands to gain benefits from the randomized band shoulder press. Partners should not apply much force by pulling the bands and focusing on helping the partner performing the press to recognize areas of weakness. The dumbbell weight loads should be moderate in nature, as the objective is to press perfectly more while enduring moderate band resistance. Use a weight load that is half of what you can normally do for eight perfect reps without any band tension. Take a gradual approach to the application of the bands and weight loads to maximize benefits.

When and How Often?

Do two to three work sets at the beginning of one of the weekly upper body training sessions while the nervous system and muscles are fresh. This exercise should not be done more often than one time per week to prevent overtraining. In many cases, Dr. Serrano will assign external rotation work using different exercises during multiple training sessions each week while monitoring athlete recovery rates to modify the volume accordingly.

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Scott H. Mendelson, director of, is a highly regarded performance nutrition and training specialist. In addition to designing customized programs for his celebrity, weekend warrior and executive clients, Scott works daily with professional athletes from the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, and NCAA. Scott has built an excellent reputation providing effective supplements, cutting-edge information, and unmatched service to thousands of clients worldwide since 1999. Special assistant to Dr. Eric Serrano MD, Scott helps with the design of training, nutrition and supplementation trials to confirm the effectiveness of protocols and expand his expertise.

Dr. Eric Serrano, MD, is the ace sought out by elite athletes and business professionals around the world for help with the most difficult of problems. Dr. Serrano spends a majority of his time promoting the success of his family practice patients in Pickerington; a suburb of Columbus Ohio. Amongst the thousands of patients are elite athletes from around the globe who will travel to the ends of the earth to consult with Dr. Serrano.