Menu

The 12 Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises + Workout – Fitness Volt

Well-developed shoulders can add a lot to your physique. They give your upper body its width and look impressive even when you’re fully dressed. There is no disguising great shoulders – even if you’re wearing a jacket.

If you train in a gym, training your shoulders usually means some form of overhead press, followed by a couple of isolation exercises, such as lateral and rear delt raises. But what if you train at home and don’t have access to any workout equipment?

The good news is that even using just your bodyweight, you can still build impressive, shapely, healthy shoulders.

In this article, we reveal the 12 best bodyweight shoulder exercises and provide you with a sample workout to follow.

Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises: Show

  • Shoulder Anatomy
  • The 12 Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises
    • 1. Pike push-up
    • 2. Handstand hold
    • 3. Handstand push-up
    • 4. Shoulder tap
    • 5. Plank to alternating pike
    • 6. Wall walk
    • 7. T-plank
    • 8. Doorway lateral raise
    • 9. Wall angel
    • 10. High reverse plank
    • 11. Wide grip inverted row
    • 12. Shoulder circles
  • Bodyweight Shoulder Workout
  • Wrapping Up

Shoulder Anatomy

The correct anatomical name for the muscles that make up your shoulders is deltoids. The deltoids cap your shoulder joint like football pads. There are three deltoids – anterior, medial, and posterior, and each one has a different function.

Shoulder AnatomyShoulder AnatomyShoulder Anatomy

Anterior deltoids – located on the front of your shoulder joint, the anterior deltoid is responsible for flexion and medial rotation of your upper arm. It’s involved in most pressing exercises, including bench presses and overhead presses. 

Medial deltoid – responsible for the abduction of your upper arm, the medial or middle deltoid is on the side of your shoulder. It gives your shoulders their width. Exercises that target this muscle include cable and dumbbell lateral raises.

Posterior deltoids – located on the back of your shoulder, the posterior deltoid is responsible for external rotation and extension of your upper arm. Of the three deltoids, the rear delt is the most likely to be underdeveloped. Exercises that work the posterior deltoid include face pulls and reverse flyes. 

Rotator cuff – the rotator cuff is made up of four muscles; supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These muscles help stabilize your shoulder joint and also work with the deltoids to flex, extend, abduct and rotate your shoulder joint. They might be small, but the rotator cuff muscles are critical for shoulder function and health. Weak rotator cuffs are a common cause of shoulder pain. 

The 12 Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

While there is nothing inherently wrong with exercises like overhead barbell or dumbbell presses, cable side raises, and reverse flyes, they are not always practical or possible. Maybe you work out at home and don’t have access to the necessary equipment, or are traveling and your hotel doesn’t have a gym?

Either way, you can work your delts using nothing but your body weight. Here are 12 of the best bodyweight shoulder exercises!

1. Pike push-up

Push-ups are one of the most popular exercises on the planet. Regular push-ups work your chest and triceps, and your anterior deltoids are also involved. Make push-ups more deltoid-centric by doing this pike variation.

How to do it:

  1. Place your hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart, fingers pointing forward. Walk your feet back, so your body is straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Lift your butt into the air, so your body resembles an inverted V. Keep your legs straight.
  3. Bend your arms and lower your forehead to the floor.
  4. Push back up and repeat.
  5. Make this exercise harder by placing your hands on blocks or push-up bars or placing your feet on an exercise bench.

 

2. Handstand hold 

Handstand HoldHandstand HoldHandstand Hold

Handstand holds are the bodyweight equivalent of holding a heavy weight over your head. Providing you maintain muscle tension, this exercise will help strengthen all three deltoid heads while increasing shoulder joint stability. This is also an excellent upper trap exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Squat down in front of a smooth wall. Place your hands on the floor about 12 to 18-inches away and shoulder-width apart, fingers pointing forward.
  2. Kick yourself up and into a handstand, with your heels resting against the wall for balance.
  3. Imagine you are “pushing the floor away” to maximize deltoid activation.
  4. Hold for as long as you comfortably can, returning to the floor before your arms give out. 

 

3. Handstand push-up

If you’ve mastered pike push-ups and handstand holds, you’re probably ready for a more challenging exercise – handstand push-ups. Be warned; this is a demanding exercise as you’re going to lift your bodyweight using just your arms. If you can’t do dips with relative ease, do not attempt this exercise. Place a cushion below your head for safety.

How to do it:

  1. Squat down in front of a smooth wall. Place your hands on the floor about 12 to 18-inches away and shoulder-width apart, fingers pointing forward.
  2. Kick yourself up and into a handstand, with your heels resting against the wall for balance.
  3. Bend your arms and lower your head to within an inch of the floor.
  4. Push yourself back up and repeat.
  5. Make this exercise harder by placing your hands on blocks or push-up handles, which will increase your range of motion.

 

4. Shoulder tap

This exercise is usually thought of as a core exercise, but it’s also great for your shoulders. During this exercise, you’ll need to stabilize your body weight using just one arm, making it a great way to strengthen your rotator cuff. And yes, your core will get a good workout too!

How to do it:

  1. Adopt the regular push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your legs and arms straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Bend one arm and touch your opposite shoulder with your hand.
  3. Put your hand back down and repeat on the other side.
  4. Continue swapping sides for the duration of your set.
  5. Make this exercise easier by bending your legs and resting on your knees.

 

5. Plank to alternating pike 

This exercise is a more demanding version of shoulder taps (#4). It also works your core, but you’ll have to work extra hard to transition from the plank position to the pike, which increases deltoid activation.

How to do it:

  1. Adopt the regular push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your legs and arms straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Lift your hips and push back with your arms.
  3. As your hips start to rise, lift one arm and reach back and touch your opposite knee, shin, or foot.
  4. Return to the push-up position and repeat on the opposite side.

6. Wall walk 

If you aren’t quite ready for handstand push-ups but still want a demanding shoulder workout, this could be the exercise for you. Working your deltoids, triceps, and core, this move will develop the stability and strength you need to do full-handstand push-ups. It’s also a killer core workout.

How to do it:

  1. Adopt the push-up position with your arms straight and your feet against a flat wall. Brace your abs.
  2. Walk your hands back and your feet up the wall until you are in a handstand position.
  3. Walk your hands forward and feet down until you are back in the push-up position with your feet against the wall.
  4. Stop here or, if you are feeling strong, repeat.

 

7. T-plank 

This plank variation works your core, especially your obliques, as well as your deltoids. You’ll need to work hard to keep your shoulder joint solid and stable.

How to do it:

  1. Squat down and place one hand flat on the floor.
  2. Keeping your arm straight, walk your feet out and away, so your weight is supported on your hand and feet only. Stack your feet, so one is on top of the other.
  3. With your shoulders and hips square, reach your other arm up toward the ceiling, creating the T-shape this exercise is named after.
  4. Hold this position for as long as you can, and then switch sides.

 

8. Doorway lateral raise

This is one of the few bodyweight exercises to isolate your medial deltoids. If you want broader shoulders, this is the exercise you need to do. Doorway lateral raises are an isometric exercise, meaning there is no movement. However, it’s still an effective way to build your shoulders.

How to do it:

  1. Stand in a doorway. Place your forearms against the inner frame. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Push your arms outward against the door frame. Push as hard and as long as you can. Do not hold your breath.
  3. Relax a moment and repeat.

 

9. Wall angel

Wall angels are a postural exercise that works your posterior deltoids, middle traps, and rhomboids. It also provides your chest with a useful stretch. Do this exercise to offset the effect of sitting hunched over your computer keyboard.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your back against a smooth wall, feet a few inches out in front of you.
  2. Bend your elbows to 90-degrees and press them against the wall. Your elbows should be roughly level with your shoulders. Press the backs of your hands flat against the wall, too.
  3. Without moving away from the wall, slide your hands up the wall as far as you can. Keep pressing your arms and shoulders back.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.
  5. You can also do this exercise lying flat on the floor, which may feel a little easier.

 

10. High reverse plank

The high reverse plank is a glute and lower back exercise that also provides your posterior deltoids with an effective workout. It’s also an excellent way to stretch and mobilize your shoulders but, if you’ve got very tight pecs, you may find this exercise very challenging.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your torso upright. Place your hands on the floor next to or slightly behind your hips, fingers pointing backward.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, lift your hips, and look up and back toward the ceiling.
  3. Hold for a static contraction, e.g., 30 seconds, or lower your butt to the floor and do reps instead.
  4. You can also do this exercise while resting on your elbows, which is called a low reverse plank.

11. Wide grip inverted row

Inverted rows are a bodyweight back exercise. But, done with a wide grip, they also work your posterior deltoids. All you need for this exercise is a bar set to about hip height, and you can also do it using a suspension trainer, such as a TRX.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor below your bar. Hold it with an overhand wider than shoulder-width grip.
  2. Lift your hips off the floor, so your body is straight.
  3. Bend your arms and pull your chest up to the bar. Keep your wrists straight and focus on pulling your shoulders down and back. Lead with your elbows.
  4. Extend your arms and repeat.
  5. Make this exercise harder by placing your feet on an exercise bench or step. Make it easier by raising the bar to take some of the weight off your arms.

 

12. Shoulder circles

This is a popular exercise in traditional martial arts. It’s good for building endurance, and the lactic acid burn may help increase your mental toughness and tolerance for pain. On the downside, the better you get at this exercise, the longer you’ll be able to do it, and that can lead to very long workouts!

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet together and your arms by your side. Raise your arms up and out, so they’re parallel to the floor.
  2. Without bending your elbows, make small circles with your arms. You can go forward, backward, or do a few of each.
  3. Continue until you are no longer able to keep your arms up.
  4. You can also do this exercise with your arms extended in front of you.

Bodyweight Shoulder Workout

Not sure how to start doing bodyweight shoulder exercises? No problem; we’ve got you covered!

Do the following workout 1-2 times per week. If you do it twice, make sure you allow a few days for recovery and muscle growth, e.g., Monday and Thursday. Before you start, remember to warm up. A thorough warm-up will reduce your risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of your workout.

Jog or jump rope for 5-10 minutes, and then do a few mobility and dynamic flexibility exercises for your shoulders.

  Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Pike push-up 2-4 6-12 60-90 seconds
2 Handstand hold 1-2 ALAP* 60-90 seconds
3 Plank to alternating pike 2-4 6-12 per side 60-90 seconds
4 Doorway lateral raise 2-4 30-60 seconds 60-90 seconds
5 Wall angel 2-4 6-12 60-90 seconds
6 Shoulder circles 1-2 AMRAP** 60-90 seconds

* As Long As Possible, **As Many Reps As Possible

Wrapping Up

Your shoulders are the most mobile joint in the human body, capable of a wide range of motion and lots of different movements. Unfortunately, this mobility comes at a price – stability. This inherent lack of stability means your shoulders are also one of the most injury-prone body parts. Most lifters suffer shoulder pain at time point. 

You can keep your shoulders strong and muscular with barbell and dumbbell exercises, but bodyweight exercises are often just as effective. Many of them are more joint-friendly too. 

Don’t let a lack of training equipment stop you from developing shoulders you can be proud of. User these 12 proven exercises to sculpt the deltoids of your dreams.