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Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises


Developing your shoulders is one of the most rewarding parts of working out. Having shoulders that are defined and well-developed look great on guys and girls, and are a huge part of having an well-balanced physique.

There are a few different ways to work your shoulders and you shouldn't get stuck in a rut of doing the same exercises all the time. If you haven't tried doing some bodyweight exercises for your shoulders, you'll definitely see some great results.

If you're like most people, you feel better when your body is in shape. Getting in shape doesn't happen overnight, but consistency with your workouts certainly helps. Many exercises, like the ones in this article, can be done with little or no equipment. This article also talks about how to maintain proper form and keep you safe during your workouts.

Some Basic Shoulder
Muscle Anatomy

Your shoulders act as a sort of bridge between your arms and your head or neck region. This makes them slightly more complex in terms of anatomy.

There are larger muscles to help with movement and smaller muscles that work to keep the joint stabilized. Your rotator cuff is one of the main and larger muscles in your shoulder, and it is made up of four smaller muscles.

All of these muscles start out on your scapula, or shoulder bone, and wrap around to the bones of your arm, namely the humerus.

On top of your rotator cuff sits your deltoid, which is a triangular shaped muscle that can be further divided into three areas. Those areas are the clavicular or anterior portion, the acromial or middle portion, and the spinal or posterior portion.

The anterior portion is located on the front of your shoulder, facing outward. The middle portion runs on the outside area of your arm, and the posterior portion is angled towards your back. 

shoulder muscle anatomy

                       by Anatomography CC BY-SA 2.1 via Wikimedia Commons

Main Benefits of Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

Working your shoulder muscles using your own bodyweight for resistance is great for a few reasons. 

The first is that it's free, and you can adapt your workout to whatever environment you find yourself in. If you want to work out at home, no problem. If you're travelling and at a hotel, you can do a great workout with these exercises.

The second is that it can help you increase your overall strength and endurance. Doing bodyweight exercises activates a whole ton of stabilizer muscles. It also works your muscles in different ways than dumbbells and barbells.

 Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises Tips

The last thing to discuss before we get into the exercises is safety. You want to make sure you are always using proper form for your workout to prevent strain or injury. 

Having a friend help you can work, or use a mirror if it's available. You could even try recording your workout to check yourself later.

You also need to make sure you start out with easier exercises. Some of these exercises are advanced exercises which require you to build up the necessary strength with easier exercises.

There's no need to jump straight to the hardest part of the workout. The only thing that will prove is that you definitely know how to give yourself an injury.

Remember, an injury in your shoulder muscles could easily set your workout goals back by a couple months. Although your chances of getting injured doing a bodyweight exercises are lower, it's still worth it to be careful during your workout.

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises 
with No Equipment

Let's take a look at some shoulder exercises. With the exception of the last two, this list will require no equipment other than your own body.

1. Wall Handstand

Handstands are a great overall exercise once you are able to work up to them. You are able to strengthen several muscles all at once, including your arms and shoulder and your abdominal muscles as you attempt to stabilize yourself. The downside is that they are a more advanced exercise. You want to build up more strength first, then practice trying a partial handstand while you slowly increase your range. This will prevent you from getting a serious head or neck injury.

A wall handstand is done by placing your hands about shoulder width apart. Make sure you keep your fingers facing forward and elbows locked. Then, kick your legs up when you're ready. Try to aim for a straight line in your body, but this will come with time.

This video from Breaking Muscle can give you a good visual representation of what you're aiming for. You need to remember to work your way into this exercise. It's recommended that you try a headstand before going for a full handstand in order to get your body adjusted and to build your strength up. 

2. Pike Push Up

The pike push up is a variation on a traditional push up that allows you to target your shoulders in a much better way. It also helps work more muscles in less time. 

You are able to strengthen and tone your entire upper body because all of those muscles are going to be used to stabilize you during the exercise. It doesn't get much better than that.

For proper form, you are going to want to start out in standard push up form. Then, you need to raise your hips toward the ceiling so that your body takes on a v-shape. From here, you want to bend your elbows and lower your upper body down to the floor and back up.

A good tip is to go slower on the way down so that you don't accidentally bump your head on the floor. A good video to watch for this exercise is this one from Global Bodyweight Training:

3. Dive Bomber Push Ups

The dive bomber is an awesome shoulder bodyweight exercises which requires quite a bit of strength. It's going to work the muscles on the front of your chest along with your shoulders. 

You are going to want to start out on the floor in a pushup position and bring your hips up so that your body is in the shape of a v like for the pike push up. You are going to want your back flat, your arms and legs straight, and your knees slightly bent. You should also be up on your toes.

From here, you want to lower your hips while keeping your legs straight and bending your arms. You're going to arch your back and your chest is going to come down almost to the floor and then you will extend your arms and curve your chest back up.

Hold your position here for a couple seconds, then reverse the process to come back to the v position.

 If this sounds confusing, there is a great video from Ruben Belliard and Alex Fell from Warrior Fitness which can help to show you what to do for this exercise:

4. Body Weight Side Lateral Raise

The side lateral raise is a great exercise to target your side deltoids without any equipment. To understand why this exercise works we need to think about what the side head of the delt does. 

Basically, it helps move your arm away from your body, which is referred to as abduction. You can accomplish this same movement using a plank position to train and strengthen your shoulder muscles.

Take the plank position on your forearms and then slowly twist your upper body up and away from one arm that stays planted on the floor.

A great video to show you how this is done and the proper form for this exercise is located here from Jeff Cavaliere from Athlean-X:

5. Crab Walk

We all learned the crab walk in elementary school, but did you know that it can be a great exercise to work your shoulders as well? This exercise can be a pretty intense shoulder exercise.

First of all, you want to get on the floor on all fours with your stomach facing up. Make sure you turn your hands to the side rather than towards your head or feet as these positions can cause an injury.

From here, bring your hips up and start "walking" forward. This video from CrossFit gives you a nice demonstration of this move:

6. Floor Raise/Superman

I don't know about you, but I'm much more likely to get my workout done if the exercise has a cool nickname like the Superman. This move may look and sound easy, but it can actually be quite challenging.

You are going to want to start out lying on your stomach. Plant your toes on the ground and stretch your arms out straight in front of you. Engage your core as you lift your arms and legs off the ground.

Hold that position then relax and lower your arms and legs back down. This exercise is great because it can work your shoulders, core, and back all at once.

Check out this video from Fit Father Project. He also shows you some variations you can try in order to work different muscles.

7. Floor Reverse Fly

The reverse fly is going to work your trapezius muscles, your rear deltoid, and a small muscle in your shoulder called the rhomboid.

They are fairly easy to do and there are several different variations you can try and ways to make the exercise adapted for a beginner level or for a more advanced exercise. 

You are going to want to lie on the floor or a bench on your stomach. Flex your arms slightly and bring your arms up and together. If it helps, you can think about pulling your shoulder blades together to get a better form.

You want to be sure that you keep your elbows stable, not letting them come too close to your body or become too wide in your stance. Check out the videos here from Beach Body to learn more.

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises 
with Some / Minimal Equipment

1. Inverted Row

The inverted row, or reclined row as some people call them, will need to be done with the use of some equipment. This exercise works your back, shoulder muscles, stabilizer muscles, and your rear deltoid. It can help balance out the work done with push-ups or bench presses.

You are going to want to start out at an incline on your back, then take a wide grip on the bar, just a little wider than shoulder width. Next, you want to pull up so that your chest touches close to the bar.

You want to make sure you lead with your chest rather than your hips to maintain proper form and watch your wrists to make sure you don't put too much pressure on them.

This video from Nick Tumminello from Performance U can give you more tips for this move:

2. Pullup

Pull-ups are a very strong exercise for working out your shoulders. They can target your lats, which are located in your back and can help your shoulders look better. This move can also target your shoulder muscles, like the pecs, traps, and rhomboid.

The position for this exercise is fairly simple. You look for a suitable pull-up bar and adjust your grip so that it is slightly wider than shoulder width. The move is completed once you pull your chin above the bar.

If these are too difficult for you, there are plenty of guides out there for you to follow so that you can work your way up to multiple reps of this move.

Check out the beginner progression video here from Scott Herman from Muscular Strength to get you started.


As you can see, there are plenty of exercises out there to help you get your shoulders looking great. You are able to modify many of these according to your current fitness level, and then modify them again as you increase in skill and strength.

Remember to watch for overextension of any muscles, especially your wrists, to prevent injury. You also need to start out slower and not try to rush into the more advanced moves too quickly.

Incorporate some of these exercises into your weekly routine and you're sure to see a ton of muscle growth.

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