The shoulder is a crucial upper body muscle that is involved in various activities, including the push and pull movements.
The muscular shoulder helps you look tall and attractive from the front and side views.
However, building broader shoulders without weights can be difficult, especially for beginners.
Still, I’ve shared some bodyweight shoulder exercises that can help you bolster your delts at home without equipment.
Whether you’re a CrossFit or Calisthenics athlete, you can integrate these exercises into your training program to build sturdy, defined, and healthy shoulders.
Shoulder Muscles Anatomy
Understanding the shoulder anatomy will help you target each shoulder muscle efficiently.
The shoulder comprises three deltoids (anterior, medial, and posterior) and a rotator cuff.1 Shoulder Muscles: Anatomy, Function & Common Conditions – Cleveland Clinic
Deltoids can be seen easily from the outside, while the rotator cuff muscle is situated within the shoulder joints.
The front delt works when you raise your arms in front of you, the side delts are engaged when you extend your arms to your sides, and the posterior delt works when you pull the weight toward your face or raise your arms out in a bend-over position.
Bodyweight exercises such as pike push-ups, wall-supported handstand push-ups, dive bomber push-ups, and lateral raises can help you increase shoulder strength without weights and equipment at home.
10 Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises to Build Muscle
- Feet Elevated Push-ups
- Pike Push-ups
- One-Arm Push-ups
- Wall Handstand push-up
- Plank To Push Up
- Push-Back Push-Ups
- Archer Push-Up
- Dive-Bomber Push-Up
- Wall Walk
- Side Lateral Raise on Forearms
Let’s see how to perform each exercise step-by-step.
1. Feet Elevated Push-up
The feet-elevated or decline push-ups strengthen the anterior deltoid and upper pecs and improve the upper body’s muscular appearance.
Steps to do a decline push-up:
- Place your feet (hip-width apart) on the bench, and get into the “up” position in push-up with your hands shoulder-width apart and arms straight.
- Keep your core tight, your arms straight, and your hands firmly on the ground. That’s the start.
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor until your chest hovers over the floor.
- Hold for a second, then push your body away from the floor until your elbows are straight.
- Focus on your shoulders during the movement.
- Keep your body straight and firm during the push-ups.
2. Pike Push-up
Pike push-ups are harder than standard and feet-elevated push-ups, but they work more effectively on shoulders.
It bolsters shoulders and triceps, enhances upper body strength, balance, and endurance, and provides a bodyweight alternative to overhead pressing.
Steps to perform a pike push-up:
- Start with getting into an inverted V position with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Try maintaining the inverted V position by keeping your hips high and heels low.
- Brace your core; tighten your hips and lower your head toward the floor between your hands until your shoulders contract.
- Hold for a second, then raise yourself to the starting position by extending your arms.
- Engage your core and maintain a straight line from head to heels.
- Do two to three sets of 6 to 10 reps each.
3. One-Arm Push-up
The one-arm push-up is one of the most difficult push-ups to do. It needs proper technique, good balance, and enough strength.
It is great for arms and shoulder development. It targets all parts of the shoulders – the front, middle, and rear deltoid.
It also improves torso stability and muscle coordination.
Steps to perform a unilateral push-up:
- Place your left hand on the floor under the shoulder and keep your right arm on the back of the thigh.
- Your feet are about wider than shoulder-width apart in such a way that most of your body weight relaxes on the arm.
- Brace your core and tighten your lower body as well.
- Bend your elbow and lower your chest toward the floor as much as you can.
- Hold for a moment and then return to the starting position. That’s one rep!
- Place one hand behind your back or on your hip.
- Spread your feet for balance.
- Engage your core and glutes.
- Avoid if you have insufficient wrist and shoulder mobility.
4. Wall Handstand Push-up
The wall-supported handstand push-up is an advanced exercise requiring excellent balance and strength.
It helps build strong shoulders and triceps and enhances torso strength, stability, and balance.
Many elite fitness enthusiasts use this bodyweight exercise to train their shoulders at home.
Steps to perform a wall-supported handstand push-up:
- Stand on your hands with the support of a wall.
- Keep your arms extended, but do not lock your elbows.
- Maintain a straight body line from head to heels.
- Breathe in and start lowering yourself by bending your elbows.
- Hold for a moment, then slowly push back with your hands until your arms are straight.
- Ensure your hands are about shoulder-width apart, not too far or close.
- Keep your core and glutes tight throughout the movement.
- Avoid if you have poor wrist and shoulder mobility.
5. Plank to Push up
The push-up to plank strengthens the core, arms, and shoulders simultaneously.
It doesn’t directly target the shoulders but is effective for overall torso development.
Steps to Perform a Plank to Push Up:
- Get into the plank position with forearms on the floor underneath your shoulders.
- Brace your core and keep your body as straight as possible from top to bottom.
- Bend your right hand to bring the elbow and forearm to the floor.
- Bring the left hand down so you return to the forearm plank position.
- Keep your wrists, elbows, and shoulders aligned.
- Avoid sagging hips or piking during push-ups.
6. Scapular Push-up
The scapular push-ups strengthen and stabilize the shoulder blades from a different angle and help enhance shoulder health and posture.
You can add it to your shoulder bodyweight exercises arsenal if you want to hit your delts at home.
Steps to do a Scapular Push-up:
- Start in a high-plank position with your arms straight and hands directly under your shoulders.
- Push your shoulder blades apart to lower your chest slightly toward the floor.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together to lift your chest.
- Focus on engaging the shoulder blades, not bending the elbows.
- Keep your torso straight.
- Squeeze the shoulder blades together during the upward phase.
- Avoid bending your elbows during the movement.
- Perform each rep in deliberate motion.
7. Archer Push-Up
The archer push-up is an upper-body compound exercise involving several muscles, including the shoulders.
It improves the strength of the chest, shoulder, and triceps, enhances upper-body muscle definition and balance, and allows one to train each side individually.
Steps to do an Archer Push-up:
- Get into a high plank position with your hands and toes wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your core tight and your body as straight as possible from head to heels.
- Bend your right elbow and bring your body weight down at your right side until your left arm is fully straight.
- Keep your right elbow close to your body to engage shoulder muscles. If you flare your elbow to the side, your shoulder won’t engage properly.
- Pause for a couple of seconds, and then bring your body weight down at your left side until your right arm is fully straight
- You can do it on your knees if doing it on your toes is difficult.
- Perform each rep in a slow and controlled fashion.
8. Dive-Bomber Push-Up
The dive-bomber push-up is a challenging and effective exercise for torso development. It engages multiple muscles simultaneously, such as the chest, shoulders, arms, core, lower back, and hamstrings.
You can also include it in your bodyweight shoulder training to hit your anterior deltoids.
Steps to do a Dive Bomber Push-up:
- To perform the dive bomber push-up, get into a downward dog or inverted V position with your face facing the floor and knees slightly bent. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your spine as neutral as possible.
- Bend your elbows and bring your chest forward between your hands.
- Once your torso is parallel to the ground, raise your chest up until your arms are fully straight and your face is facing forward.
- Reverse the steps to return to the start and repeat for the desired number of times.
- Keep hands slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Maintain a tight core throughout the movement.
9. The Wall Walk
You can strengthen your shoulders with the help of wall walk exercises. It allows you to hold your body weight on your arms and helps build firm shoulders.
The wall walk exercise increases stability, balance, and overall upper body strength. It can also help you scale up for wall handstand push-ups.
Incorporating this movement in your shoulder bodyweight exercises can be useful for strength and stability purposes.
Steps to do Wall Walks:
- Stand on your hands (shoulder-width apart) with your feet on the wall for support.
- Keep your core tight and your hands firmly on the ground. That’s the starting position.
- Walk forward slowly as far as you can with the help of your arms; you’ll also feel the contraction in your shoulder muscles.
- After that, return to the start and repeat the desired number of times.
- Your core and lower body should be tight throughout the exercise.
- Avoid going too far from the wall.
10. Bodyweight Lateral Raise
The bodyweight lateral raise is one of the best bodyweight exercises for the shoulder, suggested by famous YouTube trainer Jeff Cavalier. He explained how you could target your side deltoid when you don’t have equipment.
Steps to perform Bodyweight Lateral Raises:
- Get into a plank position with your forearms resting on the ground below your chest and palms facing each other.
- Keep your back straight and your body in a straight line from top to bottom. That’s the start.
- Pushing into the floor with your right forearm, lift your left arm off the floor and rotate your body to the right until your chest is facing forward.
- Pause for a moment and then return to the start. That’s one rep.
- Focus on your deltoid during the entire movement.
Training all the deltoid muscles effectively isn’t possible without weights. Still, you can do various bodyweight shoulder exercises, such as pike push-ups, wall-supported handstand push-ups, dive bomber push-ups, scapular push-ups, and lateral raises to forge your front, lateral, and posterior deltoid and enhance your shoulder health and muscle definition.
Bodyweight exercises are adaptable, efficient, and effective. Most of the exercises don’t require any equipment, and you can do them anywhere and anytime you like.
Along with bodyweight exercises, I suggest resistance exercises for shoulders if you want to build strength and size.
- 1Shoulder Muscles: Anatomy, Function & Common Conditions – Cleveland Clinic