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9 Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises to Try: Beginner to Advanced

A strong set of shoulders is important for an active daily life. Not only does the shoulder joint have the…

By admint10m , in Arms , at July 31, 2021

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A strong set of shoulders is important for an active daily life. Not only does the shoulder joint have the largest range of motion in the body, but the muscles of the shoulder girdle are also responsible for moving your arms wherever you need them to go.

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!

Prone I to Y

Though this move may seem easy, it will effectively challenge your deltoids and upper back — particularly the posture muscles, including the rhomboids and lats.

Move slowly and controlled here, and really make the muscle-mind connection to ensure you’re getting the most out of the move.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs fully extended. Roll your shoulders down and back, and put your shoelaces on the ground.
  2. Engage your core and, keeping your neck neutral, raise your shoulders and chest off the ground, maintaining an I shape with your body. Stay here for 1–2 seconds
  3. Transition to a Y shape by moving your arms apart to a 45-degree angle. Stay here for 1–2 seconds.
  4. Come back to an I shape, then slowly lower back down to start.
  5. Complete 6–10 reps.

Incline pushups

While pushups are a great exercise for your chest muscles, they also work your deltoids. If you are a beginner, performing a pushup on an incline will allow you to nail perfect form for plenty of reps.

How to do it:

  1. Set up behind an elevated surface, like a bench or a couch. Place your hands about shoulder-width apart, and form a straight line with your body from head to heel.
  2. Keeping your neck neutral, begin to lower your chest down while keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Lower down as far as you can go, then push back up to start.
  4. Complete 8–10 reps.

Mountain climbers

Fire up your shoulders and add a touch of cardio with mountain climbers.

How to do it:

  1. Get into a high plank position, with a neutral neck and your hands stacked directly under your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Engage your core and drive your knees to your chest one at a time while maintaining a straight back. Go as fast as you can while maintaining proper form.
  3. Complete 15–20 reps on each side, alternating legs.

Plank to Downward Dog

You can’t go wrong with a good ole plank for bodyweight training. Adding the transition to Downward Dog fires up the shoulders even more.

This move works the entire body, including the deltoids, pecs, rectus abdominis, quads, and glutes.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a high plank position: Your hands should be stacked underneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from head to heel. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Avoid letting your hips sag.
  2. Transition to Downward Dog: Push your hips up to the ceiling while allowing your heels to move toward the ground. Keep your legs straight and your arms straight through this movement. Your body should form a V shape at the top.
  3. Pause here, then return to start in a fluid motion.
  4. Complete 8–10 reps.

Plank to alternating pike

This is another variation on a plank. Adding a pike movement with one hand off the ground challenges your balance and your shoulders.

How to do it:

  1. Complete a plank to Downward Dog.
  2. At the top of the movement, take your right hand and reach back to touch your left shin or foot, depending on your flexibility.
  3. Return to start, then repeat with the opposite hand.
  4. Complete 8–10 reps on each side.

Elbow to high plank

In moving from an elbow plank to a high plank, you’ll be supporting your body weight with only one arm momentarily. This means that your entire upper body, especially your shoulders, will be working hard.

You can also complete this move on your knees if being up on your toes causes form issues.

How to do it:

  1. Start in an elbow plank: Your forearms should be on the ground, elbow stacked under shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Inhale and bring one palm to the ground, followed by the other, to push up into a high plank.
  3. Hold a high plank for 1 second.
  4. Return to a forearm plank.
  5. Complete 6–10 reps, alternating the starting side.

Pike pushup

Take the pushup up a notch by completing it in the pike position. This will hit the deltoids more than a standard pushup.

How to do it:

  1. Assume a Downward Dog position, then lift your head slightly so you’re looking at the ground instead of your feet.
  2. Bend your elbows out to the side and begin to let your head lower toward the ground, dropping as far as you can.
  3. Push back up to start.
  4. Complete 6–10 reps.

Side plank with leg raises

When aiming to get a balanced workout for any target area, it’s a good idea to move the joint in all planes of motion. Doing so will help you strengthen muscles all the way around the joint.

Bonus: The side plank is a great way to target the shoulders, as well as the core!

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your side with your bottom arm bent and your forearm on the ground with your hand in front of your body.
  2. Press into your forearm and lift your bottom hip off the ground to make a straight line from your foot to the crown of your head. Reach your other arm to the ceiling.
  3. If you can hold this position while keeping your chest open to the side, try lifting your top leg.
  4. Lower the leg and then lower the hips.
  5. Repeat 8–10 times. Or, for an added challenge, hold the side plank while you lift and lower the top leg 8–10 times before lowering down.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Triceps dips

Dips are a triceps-focused exercise, but the anterior deltoid is also targeted in this move. Performing them on parallel bars is the most advanced version of this exercise. You can also perform them off a bench for an intermediate-friendly option.

How to do it:

  1. Hop onto the parallel bars so your arms are straight, your body leans forward slightly and your shoulders are down and back. You can cross your legs and bend your knees into a comfortable position. If you have a band, you can use it for assistance by keeping it under your knees, as in the example below.
  2. Bend the elbows and lower your body down until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Your elbows should stay close to your body.
  3. Push back up to start by straightening your arms.
  4. Aim for 6–10 reps.

To gain shoulder strength, complete 3 of these exercises 2 times per week, alone or within a larger workout. Aim for 3 sets of each exercise.

To see best results, try to challenge yourself: Once an exercise becomes easy, add more reps (up to 15), then move to the next level of exercises. The last rep of each set should be difficult to complete.

Use just your body weight to strengthen your shoulders, whether you’re new to exercise or more advanced, and reap the benefits. Focus on form and feel the shoulders working to move your body intentionally. Strong shoulders, here you come!

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