Yes, you can get a searing shoulder workout doing lateral raises with tension tubes or resistance bands. I’m a certified personal trainer. Sometimes, tension bands are a welcome relief from dumbbells, especially if you’re battling a tendon injury in an elbow.
The best way to perform lateral raises with a resistance band is to place the tubing on the floor, perpendicular to body. Place feet on the band to secure it, keeping feet less than shoulder width apart. Your feet on the tension tubing will provide the anchor point.
The instinct will be to grab the handle that’s on the same side as the hand grabbing it. However, this will short-change range of motion. Instead, the right hand takes the handle on the left side, and the left hand takes the right-sided handle.
Position arms before you so that forearms/wrists are forming an “X” shape. It doesn’t matter if the right wrist is on top, or the left wrist; just make sure that with each set, you alternate, to give equal time to whichever wrist is on top.
Keep a slight bend in the elbows while exercising, and keep upper body stable and relaxed. From this starting position, proceed with the lateral lifts. Go as high as you’d like, but at least with arms parallel to floor. Release with control and return to the “X” position.
Since tension bands come in all sorts of strengths, this motion has the potential to be too easy, or too difficult. The dynamics of the motion are actually the foundation of this shoulder routine. The variable is the strength of the tension band. You must find the right band.
If you can perform 20 reps and don’t feel that much challenged, the tension in the tubing is too weak for you. If you can barely perform eight reps, the resistance in the band is too high. You should not have to jerk your body to get the handles up (save for maybe the last few reps of a full set).
Good form should be maintained throughout (though again, “loose” form for the last few reps is acceptable).
The goal is to find a tension tube that provides a challenging to difficult level of exertion, for 12-18 reps that include a controlled release (“negative”) back to the “X” starting position. The end of the first set should produce a burn in the shoulder muscles.
Rest in between sets for 30 to 60 seconds. This is variable because it depends on degree of burn in the shoulder muscles. It’s possible that after only 30 seconds, despite a nasty shoulder muscle burn, one can resume and complete another good set.
However, one may need the full 60 seconds to get in at least 12 reps. Do six sets total, but each set should be designed so that it’s challenging to difficult in exertion, producing a wicked burn in the shoulder muscles.
If the burn is not there, the tension band is not strong enough. On the other hand, incomplete motions due to a tension resistance that’s too high, will also result in insufficient training, since complete range of motion is crucial to tax the shoulder muscle fibers.
If you’re stuck with a tension band that’s too weak, then add intensity by tacking on a shoulder press motion at the top portion of the lateral raise. Then release the shoulder press, extend arms into the top position of a lateral raise, and release from there.
Another way to add intensity to lateral raises if the tension tubing isn’t strong, is to hold the top portion of the lateral raise for a few seconds before releasing. If you’re doing this shoulder routine correctly, following all of the guidelines and using the resistance band that’s right for you, your shoulder muscles should be burning mad at the end of the six sets, even before then.