21 Great Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises for Every Body

Some muscles, like your legs, are easy to train even if you don’t have equipment. There are plenty of exercises you can perform with just your body weight (think: squats, lunges, glute bridges).

Body-weight shoulder exercises, on the other hand, aren’t as well-known and require a little creativity. The options range from simple exercises like arm circles to more complex handstand walk-ups. But if you’re not ready for handstands just yet, there are plenty of exercises in between.

Top Benefits of Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

Bodyweight shoulder exercises offer a convenient and accessible way to develop resilient and strong shoulders, without the need for equipment or a gym membership.

From enhanced upper body strength and joint stability to improved posture and functional movement, there are numerous advantages of incorporating these exercises into your fitness routine.

  1. Convenience and accessibility: Bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere, without the need for specialized equipment. You can do them at home, outside, or while traveling, making them highly convenient and accessible.
  2. Improved shoulder strength: Bodyweight exercises engage the shoulder muscles effectively, helping to build strength and endurance over time. This is particularly helpful for individuals who may not have access to or prefer not to use weights or machines.
  3. Enhanced joint stability: Bodyweight shoulder exercises often involve stabilizing the shoulder joint, which can improve its stability and reduce the risk of injuries, such as dislocations or strains.
  4. Functional movement patterns: Many bodyweight exercises mimic everyday movements, such as pushing, pulling, or lifting, which improves functional strength and mobility. This translates to better performance in daily activities and sports.
  5. Core engagement: Bodyweight shoulder exercises often require engaging the core muscles to maintain stability and proper form. This helps strengthen the entire midsection, improving overall posture and stability.
  6. Increased flexibility and range of motion: Certain bodyweight shoulder exercises, such as wall slides, can help improve shoulder flexibility and range of motion. This is important for maintaining joint health and preventing stiffness.
  7. Scalability and progressions: Bodyweight exercises can be modified to suit different fitness levels. As you gain strength and proficiency, you can progress to more challenging variations, ensuring continued development and growth.

Muscles worked in bodyweight shoulder exercises

The largest muscle of the shoulder, the deltoid, stretches across the front and back of the acromioclavicular, or AC, joint and the top of the humerus, giving the shoulder its rounded shape.

Strengthening this muscle, as well as the muscles surrounding it like the lats, traps, rhomboids, and triceps is something many people should aim to do.

While using free weights, machines, and even resistance bands are effective approaches, you can also use just your body weight to build the shoulder muscles.

Below is a list of 9 bodyweight exercises ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced that will help you sculpt a nice set of shoulders no equipment necessary!

Top Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

1. Pike Push-ups

Start the pike push-up in a push-up position with your arms straight and hands shoulder-width apart. Lift your hips in the air and create an upside-down V shape. From here bend your elbows and lower the top of your head to the ground.

Just as you would perform a push-up. Push your body back up until your arms are straight. If this is easy for you, you can try handstand push-ups.

2. Handstand Push-ups

Begin this shoulder exercise by standing in front of a wall. Kick your feet up and achieve a handstand position against the wall. Maintain a tight core and squeeze your glutes to maintain position. Then, lower yourself down towards the ground.

Once you are as close as you can get to the ground, push back up. Focus on keeping your legs straight and core muscles engaged. If the handstand push-up is too challenging for your client, start with wall walks.

3. Wall Walks

For wall walks, you will start in the same position as the handstand push-up. Your body will be up against the wall. Begin by walking your hands away from the wall. At the same time allow your feet to walk down the wall.

Once you are in a push-up position, walk your feet back up the wall. Walk up until you are flat against the wall in a handstand position.

4. Incline Push-ups

Incline or decline push-ups provide an alternative to being in a vertical or upside-down position. For incline push-ups, start in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart on a bench. Lower your chest down to the bench and push back up.

For decline push-ups, start in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart. This time have your feet elevated on the bench or box. Lower your chest down to the ground and push back up.

5. Shoulder Taps

Start in a push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms fully extended with your back flat and toes on the ground. Bring one hand up off the ground and tap the opposite shoulder.

Rotate back and forth tapping both arms. When performing the shoulder tap exercise keep the core tight and avoid excessive movement at the hips.

6. Bear Crawls

A bear crawl is a bodyweight exercise that targets shoulder strength and mobility. Start in an all-fours position and lift your knees off the ground. Maintain a flat back and keep arms shoulder-width apart.

Move one hand forward and follow with the opposite foot. Alternate sides, stay low to the ground and repeat the movement for distance.

7. Plank Rockers

Achieve a push-up position with feet hip-width apart. Push your body back towards your heels. Allow your legs to bend and sit your glutes on your heels.

The end position should mimic a child’s pose. However, keep your legs off the ground. Return to the starting position. Keep your arms straight throughout the entire motion.

8. Plank Walks

Start in a plank position on your elbows. Place one palm down and begin pushing the body up off the ground. Follow with the other hand and arm pressing the body up to a position push-up. Once in a push-up position, slowly lower the body back down to the elbows, one arm at a time.

9. Superman (I, Y, & T)

For the Superman exercise, lie flat on the ground in a prone position. Keep your arms extended and out to the side. Start by raising your arms in front of the body, above the head, to create an “I” shape with both arms.

Bring them back to the starting position. Then, raise your arms up and out to the side of the head, creating a “Y” letter shape. After returning to the starting position, finish by raising your arms to the side creating a “T” shape.

10. Crab walk

Sit on the floor with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and palms on the floor behind you with fingers pointing forward. Engage your glutes and raise your hips off the floor, making a table shape with your body.

Walk forward with left foot and right hand, then with right foot and left hand. Walk forward for the specified number of steps, then reverse the movement and crab walk backward to the starting position.

Muscles targeted: Glutes, abdominals, triceps, quads, hamstrings, lats

This is a total-body movement that can be slowed down or sped up depending on the desired intensity of the workout,” says personal trainer and health coach Hannah Daugherty.

11. Push-back push-up

Start in a push-up position but with feet a bit wider than shoulder width. Brace the core and lower your body toward the floor, leading with your chest.

Instead of pushing straight up from the floor as you would in a regular push-up, push your upper body back toward your heels. As the upper body goes back, bend the legs and let the hips rise as the upper body comes back to meet them.

Your end position will look like an elevated Child’s Pose. Keep your spine long. Drive through your legs to return to the starting position.

Muscles targeted: Abdominals, pectorals, triceps, deltoids

This is one of my favorite push-up variations for all skill levels,” says Darren Tomasso, performance coach at The Session NYC. “First, it’s a great exercise to build pushing strength. Next, it challenges core control as you transition from the push-back to the push-up position. Finally, it is great for overhead shoulder stability and mobility.”

12. Plank to Down Dog

Start in a plank position with arms straight, core braced, and neck, shoulders, hips, and ankles in line. Exhale and you lift your hips, transferring your weight back and aiming to create a straight line from wrists to hips, before lowering back into the starting position.

Muscles targeted: Shoulders, hamstrings, biceps, triceps

Working on your hamstring and calf flexibility will help you improve this exercise,” says personal trainer Hannah Sheerin of W Fitness.

13. Elevated pike push-up

Elevate your feet on a chair, bench, table, or box and start in Downward Dog, with hands wider than shoulder width and fingers facing forward.

Bend your elbows and inhale as you slowly lower your head until it nearly touches the floor. Arms should make the shape of a goal post, and elbows shouldn’t track out past wrists. Exhale as you push back up, straightening your arms but not locking elbows.

Muscles targeted: Shoulders and triceps

To target the shoulders, keep your hands wider than shoulder distance,” says Ryan Gleason, co-creator of Ryan and Alex Duo Life.

“To target the triceps, place your hands shoulder-distance apart. As with any push-up variation, always maintain a slight bend in your elbows, since locking your elbows puts a significant load on the joint.”

14. Plank-up

Start in a plank position on your elbows (straight line from heels to shoulders). Keeping your core tight, place the palm of one hand on the floor and push up, following with the other arm until you’re in a push-up position. Lower yourself back to the elbow plank position, one arm at a time. Up with both arms and down with both arms is 1 rep.

Muscles targeted: Triceps and abs

“Switch your lead arm for each rep or for each set to keep balanced strength,” says Mackenzie Holznecht, the Get Healthy coach at Running with Bacon.

15. Bridge push-up

Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent and feet as close to butt as possible. Place hands next to ears, with fingers pointing toward heels. Push your hips up, then arch your back and press your hands into the floor to lift into Bridge Pose (also known as Wheel Pose).

Once you’re comfortable holding Bridge Pose, add push-ups. As you inhale, bend your elbows and lower your head toward the floor as far as you can. As you exhale, engage your shoulders to push back up. That’s 1 rep.

Muscles targeted: Shoulders, back, glutes, quads

“If this is too challenging, start by using an exercise ball to support Bridge Pose,” says Ryan and Alex Duo Life co-creator Ryan Gleason. “This requires a lot of chest, shoulder, and back flexibility, so you may need to work on flexibility in those areas before doing this exercise.”

16. Prone T (and Y)

Lie face down on the floor with your face and neck comfortable and supported. Extend arms out to the sides in a T shape, then raise arms and chest and hold for a couple of seconds before lowering. Alternatively, extend arms to a Y shape for additional benefits.

Muscles targeted: Shoulders, back extensors

“You might find it helpful to rest your head on a towel or pillow to avoid any strain,” says Kassam.

17. Plank to alternate pike

Start in a plank position. Shift your weight into your right hand while lifting your hips to the ceiling and reaching for your right toe with your left hand. Inhale while dropping hips and returning to plank position. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep.

Muscles targeted: Shoulders and core (abs and obliques)

“When returning to plank position from pike, make sure you don’t arch your back or thrust your hips down toward the floor. This aggravates your lower back,” says Gleason.

18. Side plank with lateral raise (bodyweight only)

Start with your body weight on one hand or elbow in the side plank position. Your body should be in a straight line from head to feet. Both knees can be bent, or you can bend one knee or keep both legs straight, depending on your fitness level.

Lift your hips off the floor and remain elevated (your hips will want to sink toward the floor). Lift your free arm toward the sky and slowly drop it back to your hip.

“The most important thing is for your elbow/hand to be directly under your shoulder,” says personal trainer Pam Sherman of The Perfect Balance.

“Having your elbow or hand outside of the shoulder can put a lot of stress on the shoulder. Doing this exercise in front of a mirror to see your form can help.”

19. Diving push-up

Start in Downward Dog, with hands and feet on the floor and hips high. Lower your chest toward the floor, bending at elbows, then pull your chest up and extend your arms as you bring your hips to the floor (similar to Upward Dog). Raise hips back up while bringing chest back to the floor, extending arms to return to Down Dog.

Muscles targeted: Chest, shoulders, hamstrings, lower back, quads, triceps, glutes

“Think of this move as a dog trying to go underneath a fence then backing out,” says personal trainer Jason Salter, co-owner of Forged Soul Fitness in New Jersey. “Throughout this exercise your chest and hips should not be touching the ground, just getting very close and hovering above.”

20. Kneeling table pullover

Kneel in front of a table, place your hands on the side of the table, and slide backward until you’re in a forward lean. Arms should be slightly bent and extended above your head, and the core should be tight, with the spine locked.

Press against the table to start the pullover, moving your upper body up until your hands are at about eye level. Slowly return to the starting position in a slow, deliberate motion.

Muscles targeted: Lats, chest, triceps, shoulders “Normally done lying down and with weights, most people don’t realize that this can be done as a bodyweight exercise by changing your approach and using a table,” says Nick Rizzo, fitness research director at RunRepeat.com.

“Pullovers are incredibly underrated. They are perfect for improving the strength, stability, and mobility of your shoulders while also recruiting almost every muscle group in the upper body.”

21. Inverted row face pull

Lie under a table or another firm surface. Grip the table with hands placed slightly more narrow than shoulder width and in line with your eyes. Pull up, bringing your face to the table and contracting deltoid muscles at the top before slowly returning to the starting position.

Muscles targeted: Rear deltoids, traps, rhomboids, rotator cuffs

“A normal inverted row involves having a wide grip and is designed to primarily target your back and lats,” says Rizzo. “With some slight alterations, inverted rows can be changed into face pulls that are great for targeting your rear delts and external rotators.”

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