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6 Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

Optimise your shoulder training.

This extensive guide will show you a selection of top-quality bodyweight shoulder exercises that you can incorporate into your training.

Why are Strong Shoulders Important?

Strong shoulders are important for several reasons:

Upper body strength: Strong shoulders are essential for upper body strength, as they are involved in many pushing and pulling movements such as push-ups, pull-ups, and overhead presses. A lack of shoulder strength can limit your ability to perform these exercises, which can hinder your overall strength and fitness.

3 Day Split Method build muscle face pulls Blow Up Your Rear Delts Benefits of the Barbell Shoulder PressSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Posture: Strong shoulders help to maintain good posture by supporting the weight of the head and upper body. Poor posture can lead to neck and shoulder pain, as well as headaches and other discomforts.

Injury prevention: Strong shoulders can help to prevent injuries to the shoulder and surrounding areas, as they provide stability and support to the joint. Weak shoulders, on the other hand, are more susceptible to injury and can contribute to shoulder impingement, rotator cuff injuries, and other shoulder problems.

Everyday activities: Strong shoulders make it easier to perform everyday activities such as carrying groceries, lifting children, and doing household chores. They also improve athletic performance, making it easier to perform sports and other physical activities.

Overall, strong shoulders are an important aspect of overall strength and fitness, contributing to posture, injury prevention, and everyday activities.

By incorporating exercises that strengthen the shoulders into your regular workout routine, you can improve your shoulder strength and overall fitness.

What Muscles make up the Shoulders?

The shoulders are a complex joint that is comprised of several muscles, including:

Deltoid: The deltoid is the largest muscle in the shoulder and is responsible for shoulder abduction (moving the arm away from the body), flexion (raising the arm forward), and extension (moving the arm behind the body).

Rotator cuff: The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) that surround the shoulder joint and are responsible for stabilizing and rotating the arm.

Trapezius: The trapezius is a large muscle that spans the neck, shoulders, and upper back. It is responsible for shoulder elevation (raising the shoulders), retraction (pulling the shoulders back), and depression (lowering the shoulders).

Shoulder-workoutsSource: Photos courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Rhomboids: The rhomboids are a pair of muscles that connect the shoulder blades to the spine. They are responsible for shoulder retraction (pulling the shoulders back).

Serratus anterior: The serratus anterior is a muscle that spans the ribcage and connects to the scapula. It is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder blade and protracting (pushing the shoulder blade forward) the arm.

Pectoralis major: The pectoralis major is a large muscle that spans the chest and connects to the humerus (upper arm bone). It is responsible for shoulder flexion (raising the arm forward) and adduction (bringing the arm across the body).

Together, these muscles work to provide stability, mobility, and strength to the shoulder joint, allowing us to perform a wide range of movements and activities.

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

There are many effective bodyweight exercises for shoulders that you can perform without any equipment.

Here are some of the best bodyweight shoulder exercises:

Remember to always use proper form and technique when performing these exercises to avoid injury and maximize your results.

1. Push Up

The push-up is a bodyweight exercise that primarily works the chest, triceps, and shoulders. To perform a push-up, start in a plank position with your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart and your feet together. Lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your core engaged and your back straight.

Once your chest touches the ground, push yourself back up to the starting position by straightening your arms.

Push-ups are a highly effective exercise for strengthening the muscles of the shoulders, specifically the anterior deltoids. When you lower your body towards the ground, your shoulders work to stabilize your arms and control the movement. When you push yourself back up, your anterior deltoids are engaged to extend your arms and bring your body back to the starting position.

In addition to strengthening the shoulders, push-ups also provide several other benefits. They can help to improve posture, increase upper body strength, and build muscle mass in the chest, triceps, and shoulders. Push-ups can also be modified to increase or decrease the level of difficulty, making them accessible to people of all fitness levels.

Overall, the push-up is a simple yet highly effective exercise that can benefit the shoulders and many other areas of the body. By incorporating push-ups into your regular workout routine, you can improve your strength, posture, and overall fitness.

2. Pike Press

The pike press is a bodyweight exercise that targets the shoulders and triceps. To perform a pike press, start in a downward dog yoga pose with your hands and feet on the ground, hips lifted towards the ceiling, and your body forming an inverted V-shape. Slowly lower your head towards the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your core engaged and your back straight. Once your head touches the ground, push yourself back up to the starting position by extending your arms.

The pike press is a highly effective exercise for strengthening the shoulder muscles, specifically the anterior deltoids. As you lower your head towards the ground, your shoulders work to stabilize your arms and control the movement. When you push yourself back up, your anterior deltoids are engaged to extend your arms and bring your body back to the starting position.

In addition to strengthening the shoulders, the pike press also targets the triceps, which work to extend the elbows during the movement. The exercise also engages the core muscles, which help to stabilize the body and maintain proper form.

The pike press can be modified to increase or decrease the level of difficulty. To make the exercise easier, you can perform it with your hands elevated on a bench or step. To make it more challenging, you can perform it with your feet elevated on a bench or with one hand raised off the ground.

Overall, the pike press is a highly effective exercise that can help to strengthen and tone the shoulder muscles, while also targeting other areas of the body. By incorporating the pike press into your regular workout routine, you can improve your upper body strength, posture, and overall fitness.

3. Handstand Push Ups

Handstand push-ups are an advanced bodyweight exercise that targets the shoulders, triceps, and upper back. To perform a handstand push-up, start by kicking up into a handstand position against a wall. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and your body should be in a straight line from your head to your toes. Slowly lower your head towards the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your core engaged and your back straight. Once your head touches the ground, push yourself back up to the starting position by extending your arms.

Handstand push-ups are an excellent exercise for strengthening the shoulder muscles, specifically the anterior and lateral deltoids. As you lower your head towards the ground, your shoulders work to stabilize your arms and control the movement. When you push yourself back up, your shoulder muscles are engaged to extend your arms and bring your body back to the starting position.

Handstand push-ups are an advanced exercise that requires significant upper body strength and balance. Before attempting this exercise, it is essential to have a solid foundation in push-ups, pike push-ups, and other shoulder-strengthening exercises. It is also important to use proper form and technique to avoid injury.

Handstand push-ups are a challenging yet highly effective exercise that can help to strengthen and tone the shoulder muscles, while also targeting other areas of the body. By incorporating handstand push-ups into your regular workout routine, you can improve your upper body strength, posture, and overall fitness.

4. Shoulder Taps

Shoulder taps are a bodyweight exercise that target the shoulders, core, and stabilizer muscles. To perform shoulder taps, start in a plank position with your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart and your feet together. Engage your core and lift one hand off the ground, reaching across to tap the opposite shoulder. Return your hand to the ground and repeat with the other hand.

Shoulder taps are an excellent exercise for strengthening the stabilizer muscles of the shoulders and core. As you lift one hand off the ground, your shoulder muscles work to stabilize your body and prevent your torso from rotating. Your core muscles are also engaged to maintain a straight line from your head to your heels.

In addition to strengthening the stabilizer muscles, shoulder taps can also help to improve shoulder mobility and coordination. The exercise requires you to move your arms independently while maintaining a stable plank position, which can help to improve neuromuscular control and body awareness.

5. Shoulder Circles: an Effective Warm Up Exercise

Shoulder circles can be a good warm-up exercise for upper body training, as they help to increase blood flow to the shoulder muscles and improve range of motion. To perform shoulder circles, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging at your sides. Slowly raise your shoulders up towards your ears, then roll them back and down in a circular motion.

Repeat the movement, rolling your shoulders forwards and up, then down and back in a circular motion.

Shoulder circles help to warm up the shoulder joints and activate the shoulder muscles, preparing them for upper body exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, and overhead presses. The exercise can also help to improve shoulder mobility and flexibility, reducing the risk of injury during upper body training.

It is important to perform shoulder circles with proper form and control, avoiding any jerky or sudden movements that could cause injury. You should also pay attention to any discomfort or pain in the shoulders, and adjust the range of motion or intensity of the exercise as needed.

Overall, shoulder circles can be a good warm-up exercise for upper body training, helping to prepare the shoulders for more intense exercises while improving mobility and reducing the risk of injury. By incorporating shoulder circles into your warm-up routine, you can improve your overall workout performance and shoulder health.

6. Inverted Rows

Inverted rows are a bodyweight exercise that primarily work the muscles of the upper back, including the rhomboids, trapezius, and rear deltoids. To perform inverted rows, set up a bar or suspension trainer at waist height. Lie underneath the bar or handles and grab onto them with an overhand grip, with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your body in a straight line and your feet on the ground. Pull your chest up towards the bar or handles, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Lower your chest back down to the starting position and repeat.

Inverted rows work by engaging the muscles of the upper back and shoulders to pull the body up towards the bar or handles. The exercise helps to strengthen the muscles that are often weakened by sitting and slouching, improving posture and reducing the risk of shoulder and neck pain.

Inverted rows can be modified to increase or decrease the level of difficulty. To make the exercise easier, you can perform it with your feet closer to the bar or handles, or by using a higher bar or handles. To make it more challenging, you can perform it with your feet on a raised platform or by adding weight to your body.

Overall, inverted rows are an effective bodyweight exercise that can help to strengthen the upper back and shoulders, improving posture and reducing the risk of pain and injury. By incorporating inverted rows into your regular workout routine, you can improve your upper body strength and overall fitness.

How Can you Avoid Shoulder Injuries?

Shoulder injuries are common, but there are several things you can do to help avoid them:

Warm up: A proper warm-up before exercise is essential to prepare the muscles and joints for activity. Focus on dynamic stretching and range of motion exercises for the shoulders, such as arm circles, shoulder shrugs, and internal and external rotation exercises.

Strengthen the muscles: A well-rounded strength training program that includes exercises for the shoulders, as well as the surrounding muscles, can help to improve shoulder stability and prevent injury. Focus on exercises that target the rotator cuff, deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, and serratus anterior.

Use proper form: When performing any exercise, it is essential to use proper form to avoid injury. Pay attention to your posture and alignment, and use light weights or resistance bands when starting a new exercise.

Gradually increase intensity: To avoid overuse injuries, it is important to gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. Avoid doing too much too soon, and listen to your body if you experience pain or discomfort.

Rest and recover: Giving your body time to rest and recover is important to prevent injuries. Take rest days between workouts, and pay attention to any pain or discomfort you experience during exercise.

Seek medical attention: If you experience persistent pain or discomfort in your shoulder, seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent further injury and promote faster recovery.

Overall, taking steps to improve shoulder strength, using proper form, and avoiding overuse can help to prevent shoulder injuries and keep you healthy and active.

Why are Bodyweight Exercises Effective?

Bodyweight exercises can be highly effective for building strength, increasing endurance, improving flexibility, and enhancing overall fitness. Here are some reasons why bodyweight exercises are so effective:

Convenience: Bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere, without the need for equipment or a gym membership. This makes them an ideal choice for people who prefer to work out at home or who travel frequently.

Low cost: Bodyweight exercises are typically free or low-cost, as they do not require any equipment or special gear. This makes them an affordable option for people who want to get fit without breaking the bank.

Customizability: Bodyweight exercises can be easily modified to suit different fitness levels and goals. For example, you can adjust the number of reps or sets, or vary the intensity of the exercise to make it more challenging.

Functional strength: Bodyweight exercises focus on using your own bodyweight as resistance, which helps to develop functional strength that translates to everyday activities.

Variety: There are countless bodyweight exercises to choose from, ranging from simple movements like push-ups and squats to more complex exercises like handstand push-ups and pistol squats. This variety helps to keep workouts interesting and challenging.

Compound movements: Many bodyweight exercises are compound movements that work multiple muscle groups at once, making them efficient and effective for building strength and improving fitness.

Overall, bodyweight exercises can be an excellent way to build strength, increase endurance, and improve overall fitness, without the need for equipment or a gym membership.

By incorporating bodyweight exercises into your workout routine, you can achieve your fitness goals and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

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