Shoulder workouts without equipment: 16 best bodyweight exercises

Have you ever noticed how strong, well-defined shoulders can transform your entire upper body’s look?

Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes, and building shoulder strength isn’t just about appearance – it plays a crucial role in our everyday movements.

Let’s be honest, exercises with barbells and dumbbells are great, but not everyone has access to a gym.

I know from experience that bodyweight exercises can provide excellent results without requiring costly gym equipment.

In this guide, I’ll share 16 effective ways to train your shoulders using just your body weight.


1. Push-Back Push-Up Deltoids, Core – Intermediate
2. Bridge Push-Up Lower Pecs, Shoulders – Advanced
3. Inclined Wall Push-Up Chest, Triceps – Beginner
4. Pike Toe Taps Shoulders, Core – Intermediate
5. Walkouts Core, Full Body – Intermediate
6. Plank to Downward Dog Core, Shoulders – Intermediate
7. Plank to Pike Jump Core, Lower Body – Advanced
8. Side Plank Obliques, Shoulders – Beginner to Intermediate
9. Tuck Planche Hold Core, Shoulders – Advanced
10. Pseudo Push-Up Chest, Triceps – Advanced
11. Single-Arm Plank Core, Balance – Advanced
12. Up-Down Plank Core, Shoulders – Intermediate
13. Korean Dip Chest, Triceps – Advanced
14. Wall Handstand Kick Up Shoulders, Core – Advanced
15. Superman Rows Back, Glutes – Intermediate
16. Plank Shoulder Taps Core, Shoulders – Beginner to Intermediate


Shoulder anatomy


Here’s a thought: the shoulder, or the glenohumeral joint, isn’t just another part of our body; it’s one of the most intricate and versatile joints we have.

Imagine the capabilities: as a ball-and-socket joint, it allows for a remarkably extensive range of motion, more than any other joint in our body.

This functionality is what makes our shoulders so unique.

Trust this: Understanding these muscular dynamics is crucial for optimizing your workout routines and achieving the best results.


  1. Trapezius Muscle: This muscle is a real game-changer in shoulder movement. When the trapezius contracts, it lifts the clavicle and, as a result, the entire shoulder. This action is crucial for many upper-body movements.
  2. Infraspinatus and Pectoral Muscles: Talk about a dynamic duo! These two muscles are competitors in function. The infraspinatus, located at the back, connects the scapula and humerus via tendons. On the other hand, the pectoral muscle, situated on the bust, links the sternum, humerus, and collarbone. Together, they facilitate the arm’s back-and-forth movement, playing a pivotal role in various exercises.
  3. Deltoid Muscle: Connected to the scapula, collarbone, and humerus, the deltoid muscle is key for moving the arm away from the body. It’s like the powerhouse of the shoulder, engaged in various movements, whether you’re pushing (like in push-ups) or lifting objects frontally, sideways, or even swinging your arms backward.


Each shoulder muscle engages differently depending on the movement’s direction.

So, whether you’re doing bodyweight exercises or carrying out daily activities, these muscles are constantly at work. 

By targeting these muscles effectively, you can develop strength and flexibility that not only enhance your physical appearance but also contribute to overall shoulder health and functionality.


1. Push-Back Push-Up

Ever wondered how to spice up your calisthenics routine?

Let me introduce you to the push-back push-up.

This isn’t just another push-up variant; it’s a shoulder powerhouse with the chest in a supportive role.

Let’s break down how to perform this exercise:

  • Start like a standard push-up, hands a bit wider than shoulders.
  • Now as you descend, instead of the usual push, shift your body backward, bending your knees.
  • Then, straighten and shift forward.


2. Bridge Push-Up: 

Talk about a full-body workout!

Picture targeting your shoulders, back, hamstrings, and glutes all in one go.

But here’s what I love: it’s a magic potion for shoulder flexibility and upper back strength.

From my experience, if you’re looking to level up your bench press, this is your secret weapon.

Here’s how to do a Bridge Push-Up:

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands on the floor beside your shoulders, fingers pointing towards your feet.
  • Push through your palms and lift your hips off the ground, making your body look like a bridge. Keep it straight, like a board.
  • Now, drop those hips back down towards the floor, and bend your elbows like you’re doing a mini-push-up.
  • Push those hips back up into bridge mode.


3. Inclined Wall Push-Up: Ideal for Beginners

Starting with push-ups can be daunting, right?

That’s where inclined wall push-ups come in.

Think of it as the friendlier cousin of the floor push-up.

But it’s not just a simpler version; by adjusting your feet’s distance, you control the intensity.

Here’s the drill:

  • Stand facing a wall, hands wider than shoulders.
  • Lean in, head nearly touching the wall, then push back.

It’s perfect for beginners or anyone looking to step up their game gradually.


4. Pike Toe Taps

Trust my words, discovering Pike Toe Taps truly revolutionized my workout routine.

Its real charm?

It hones in on those tricky deltoids while improving hamstring flexibility.

How to do Pike Toe Taps:

  • Begin in a high plank position, like you’re about to do a push-up. Keep those arms straight and strong.
  • Now, here’s where the magic happens. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, making an upside-down V shape with your body. Imagine trying to touch your toes to the sky.
  • While you’re in that pike position, reach one hand towards the opposite leg. So, if you’re lifting your hips, use your right hand to tap your left leg, and vice versa.
  • Return to the high plank position and repeat, alternating sides.


5. Walkouts

Now, let’s talk about Walkouts – the all-in-one exercise you shouldn’t overlook.

They target your core, upper, and lower body all at once.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Begin in a standing position, then lean forward and place your hands on the ground.
  • From there, walk your hands out until you’re in a stretched, plank-like position.


6. Plank to Downward Dog

Ever wondered about blending strength with serenity?

The Plank to Downward Dog exercise, a staple in my routine, does just that.

It may sound like a typical yoga move, but it’s a dynamic, full-body workout that enhances shoulder flexibility, particularly in the rotator cuff.

Alright, here’s how you do it:

  • Start in a plank position, like you’re about to do a push-up.
  • Push your butt up towards the sky while keeping your hands and feet on the ground.
  • You’ll look like an upside-down V.
  • Hang out in that position for a second.
  • Then, go back to the plank.
  • Keep doing this back-and-forth, kinda like a yoga flow.


7. Plank to Pike Jump

Let’s dive into the Plank to Pike Jump – more than just a core workout, it’s a full-body marvel.

Now, let’s break it down:

  • Start in a plank position – you know, like the top of a push-up.
  • Now, get ready to jump – but not too high!
  • Bend your hips, bringing your butt up towards the ceiling.
  • At the same time, bend your knees a bit and jump your feet toward your hands.
  • Land softly with your feet near your hands.
  • Then, hop back to that plank position.
  • Repeat the sequence as needed. Jump, land, hop back – you got this!

This exercise is not only a great calorie burner but also a killer for your core, and shoulders, and even a little cardio action.


8. Side Plank

Have you ever given the Side Plank a shot?

It’s like discovering a secret superpower.

This exercise is phenomenal for engaging shoulder stabilizers, obliques, glutes, and abs.

How to Do:

  • Start by lying on your side, legs straight, and your elbow directly under your shoulder.
  • Lift your hips off the ground, keeping your body in a straight line.
  • Make sure to engage your core – it’s like you’re trying to balance a soda can on your side.
  • Hold that position for as long as you can. Aim for at least 20-30 seconds, or longer if you can.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

This exercise is all about strengthening your side muscles and improving your stability. It’s a core classic, so give it a go.


9. Tuck Planche Hold

Here’s an exercise that’s not for the faint of heart but delivers great rewards!

It’s critical for advanced skills like the Press Handstand, engaging everything from abs to glutes.

I must admit, it felt nearly impossible at first.

But with persistence, the sensation of lifting with contracted shoulders and tucked knees became exhilarating.

It’s an affirmation of our body’s ability to adapt and conquer, offering immense benefits for those willing to embrace the challenge.

Here’s the Lowdown:

  • Start in a push-up position.
  • Now, here’s the tricky part: lean forward and shift your weight onto your hands. Your feet should lift off the ground.
  • As you lean forward, tuck your knees into your chest. Your goal is to balance your hands with your body in a tucked position.
  • Hold that tuck like a champ. Start with short holds and work your way up to longer ones.
  • When you’re ready, try to straighten your arms, extending your legs out in front of you while maintaining that tuck.


10. Pseudo Push-Up

Ignite your triceps and chest with the Pseudo Push-Up, an exercise that’s all about building strength and definition!

Get ready for this arm-pumping exercise:

  • Start in a push-up position with your hands a bit wider than your shoulders.
  • Instead of going all the way down, focus on bending your elbows while keeping them close to your sides.
  • Lower yourself just a few inches while keeping the tension in your chest and triceps.
  • Push back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for the desired number of reps.


11. Single-Arm Plank

I must admit that I’ve found it to be a game-changer for my balance.

Here’s How to Roll with It:

  • Begin in a traditional plank position with your forearms on the ground, elbows under your shoulders, and body forming a straight line from head to heels.
  • Lift one arm off the ground and extend it straight in front of you. Your body should remain stable without tilting to either side.
  • Hold this position for the desired amount of time or repetitions.
  • Don’t forget to switch sides and give the other arm a shot!


12. Up-Down Plank

Sometimes, your routine needs a bit of shaking up, and this exercise is perfect for that.

It’s a serious workout for your shoulders, particularly the front delts.

It’s demanding, sure, but incredibly effective for boosting overall strength and endurance.

I know the sensation well, experiencing the intense burn as you switch between planking and pushing up – it’s an all-encompassing workout, targeting not just the shoulders and arms but also the abs, lower back, quads, and glutes.

Here’s How to Catch the Up-Down Plank :

  1. Start in a forearm plank position with your elbows under your shoulders and your body in a straight line.
  2. Ready to go up? Place your right hand on the ground where your right elbow was.
  3. Push through your right hand as you straighten your arm.
  4. Follow with your left hand, so you’re now in a high plank position.
  5. Time to go down. Lower your right forearm where your right hand was.
  6. Then, lower your left forearm, returning to the forearm plank.
  7. Repeat this up-and-down movement for the desired number of reps or times.


13. Korean Dip

Curious about an exercise that excels in improving shoulder mobility and stability?

Look no further than the Korean Dip.

Truth be told, when I first tackled this exercise, its intensity caught me by surprise.

You’ll need a Dip Bar and a focus on warm-up exercises to prepare your shoulders.

The technique?

  • Begin by sitting on the ground with your legs extended in front of you.
  • Place your hands on the ground behind you, fingers pointing toward your feet.
  • Lift your hips off the ground, supporting your body weight with your hands and heels.
  • Lower your hips toward the ground, keeping your elbows pointed backward.
  • Push through your hands to raise your hips back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for the desired number of reps.


14. Wall Handstand Kick Up

The Wall Handstand Kick-Up is a skill that demands practice and finesse.

Initially, I thought handstands were only for gymnasts, but this exercise proved me wrong.

For those at an advanced fitness level seeking a challenging shoulder workout without equipment, this is your go-to.

Here’s How to Wall Handstand Kick Up:

  • Stand about arm’s length away from a sturdy wall, facing away from it.
  • Place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart.
  • Kick one leg up, aiming to reach the wall with your feet.
  • As your kicking leg touches the wall, use it as support to swing your other leg up.
  • Find your balance in a vertical handstand position against the wall.
  • Hold the handstand for as long as you can, engaging your core and shoulder muscles.
  • Carefully descend back to the starting position, one leg at a time.

Rest assured, perfecting this technique will propel your shoulder strength and stability to remarkable new heights.


15. Superman Rows

Superman Rows are a fun and effective way to strengthen your shoulders and upper back.

This exercise combines the power of bodyweight training with a pinch of superhero flair.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie face down on the ground with your arms extended straight in front of you, palms facing down.
  • Simultaneously lift your chest, arms, and legs off the ground as high as you can. Imagine you’re flying like Superman!
  • While keeping your arms straight, pull them back towards your hips as if you’re rowing through the air. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Lower your arms back down and return to the starting position, still keeping your chest and legs off the ground.
  • Repeat this rowing motion for the desired number of reps. You’ll feel it working those shoulders, upper back, and even your lower back.


16. Plank Shoulder Taps

It’s no secret that Plank Shoulder Taps might appear simple, but they’re a real test of core strength and endurance.

This exercise is often underrated for its ability to build core strength.

What’s unique?

It’s also an anti-rotation exercise, meaning keeping your hips and shoulders steady is key, adding an extra challenge.

Here’s how to do them:

  • Get into a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Engage your core to keep your hips stable and prevent them from rocking.
  • Lift your right hand off the ground and tap your left shoulder, then return it to the starting position.
  • Now, lift your left hand off the ground and tap your right shoulder, then return it to the starting position.
  • Continue alternating between tapping your shoulders, and keeping your body steady throughout.
  • Aim for a set number of taps on each shoulder, or time yourself for a challenging plank shoulder tap session.




Exercises for Sore Shoulders: Relief and Prevention

Shoulders are often subjected to heavy loads, especially in bodybuilding and calisthenics, making them prone to inflammation and injury.

Take it from someone who’s experienced persistent shoulder pain – finding relief is essential.

Here are some straightforward yet effective exercises for soothing sore shoulders:


1# CODMAN Technique: Gentle and Therapeutic

Ever heard of the CODMAN Technique? It’s a classic, involving slow, delicate arm movements to gently mobilize the shoulder joint.

Imagine this scenario:

The swing of your arm creates a compression of the tendon and the supraspinatus muscle, offering relief and mobility to the shoulder.

Despite limited evidence on the exact mechanics, neurophysiological and clinical studies confirm the benefits of this largely passive exercise.

Here’s how to do it:

Lie on a bed with your arm dangling towards the floor, and gently swing it. Repeat about 15 times for 10 sets.


2# Elastic Band Exercises: Simple yet Effective

Let’s talk about using an elastic band for shoulder relief.

Attach the band to a door handle and pull it towards your body, bending your elbow.

This exercise is not just about pulling; it’s about controlled, smooth movements that work the shoulder muscles gently and effectively.


3# Stretching

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. For shoulder pain, stretching is key.

Try this:

Keep your head straight, grab the top of your skull with your left arm, and gently turn your head in the same direction.

Repeat three times and then change direction.

This stretch not only eases shoulder tension but also helps in maintaining neck flexibility, which is often interconnected with shoulder health.

Remember, when dealing with sore shoulders, the goal is to engage in exercises that offer relief and prevent further injury.

All jokes aside, taking care of your shoulders is crucial for anyone involved in physical activities.

These exercises, when done regularly, can make a significant difference in your shoulder health and overall well-being.


RELATED:>>> 24 awesome arm exercises you can do without weights



Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the true goal of shoulder training is to build strength and tone while avoiding injuries.

Let’s face it, well-defined shoulders that are in harmony with your body not only enhance your aesthetic appearance but also significantly improve sports performance.

Even here, let’s not kid ourselves, while these exercises are bodyweight-focused, it’s essential to allocate time for a proper warm-up, especially for the shoulders.

Take it from me, dedicating those extra minutes to warming up can make a world of difference in both preventing injuries and maximizing your workout effectiveness.


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