Best Calisthenics Shoulder Workout (10 Exercises)

The calisthenics workout is an efficient and effective way to build shoulder strength and mobility using your body weight only.

Sturdy shoulders help improve your posture, reduce the risk of pain and injury in your neck, back, and rotator cuff, improve upper body appearance, and enhance athletic and lifting performance.

You can do various calisthenics shoulder workouts with little or no equipment at home and the gym to build strength and lean mass.

In this article, I’ll share the ten best calisthenics exercises for shoulders for all fitness enthusiasts, from beginner to intermediate. Depending on your fitness level, you can do some or all of them.

Why Should You Do Shoulder Calisthenics Exercises?

Calisthenics Shoulder Workout handstand

Calisthenics training is an efficient way to develop sturdy and healthy shoulders without using equipment like dumbbells, barbells, and machines.

They are adaptable, you can do it anywhere and anytime, even when you are on vacation and have no equipment.

Calisthenics exercises are easy to customize. You can add resistance to increase the intensity of the movements and adjust the grip, for example.

Calisthenics workouts not only increase strength but also improve posture and body composition, as demonstrated in a study published by the Isokinetics and Exercise Science. 1The effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength, and body composition – Isokinetics and Exercise Science (Research Gate)

Overall, calisthenics workouts should be a part of your training for developing strength, mobility, and flexibility in your deltoids and rotator cuff.

How to Build Strong Shoulders with Calisthenics Workout?

Building stronger and healthy shoulders with calisthenics workouts requires great effort and consistency.

To build burly shoulders, you must target each shoulder’s muscles, such as the front, medial and rear deltoid, upper traps, and rotator cuff.

You can perform numerous exercises, such as pike pushups, bodyweight row, planche pushups, lateral raises, dips, and wall walks, to bolster these muscles and develop brawny shoulders.

The Best Calisthenic Shoulder Exercises

Do the following movements if you’re a beginner:

  • Kneeling Pike Pushup (more knee pushups)
  • Standing IYT raises
  • Crab walk
  • Bodyweight Lateral Raise
  • Rear Delt row
  • Shoulder Tap
  • Shoulder Vertical Pulses

Integrate these calisthenics shoulder workouts into your bodyweight training program if you’re an intermediate or elite fitness enthusiast.

  • Handstand pushup
  • Feet Elevated Pike pushup
  • Planche pushup
  • Shoulder Dip
  • Handstand Walk

Here’s a combined list of calisthenics shoulder exercises for beginners and advanced.

  1. Standing IYT Raises
  2. Pike Pushup
  3. Handstand pushup
  4. Bodyweight Lateral Raises
  5. Bodyweight Rear Delt Row
  6. Planche pushup
  7. Feet Elevated Pike Pushup
  8. Wall Walk
  9. Static Handstand
  10. Shoulder Vertical Pulses

Let’s see how to perform each calisthenics shoulder exercise with step-by-step instructions.

1. Standing IYT Raises

The Standing IYT raises is a bodyweight compound movement that works on all three deltoids.

It may not help you build muscle mass but improves shoulder mobility and strength.

It is low-impact exercise suitable for all fitness enthusiast.

You can also use IYT raises as a dynamic stretching exercise on your shoulder training day.

Here are the steps to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms straight at your sides with your palms facing the body.
  2. Brace your core and maintain a flat back. That’s the start.
  3. Raise your arms straight over your head until your fingertips are facing the ceiling, pause and then lower your arms to the start. That’s the “I” raise.
  4. Keep your arms straight and raise them slightly outward in a “Y” shape until your fingers face toward the ceiling. Hold for a moment, and then lower your arms to the start. That’s a “Y” raise.
  5. To do the “T” raise, raise your arms straight out to the sides until they are parallel to the ground. Pause for a moment, squeeze your deltoids, and then return your arms to the start. Now, you have completed 1 repetition.
  6. Do three sets of 6 to 8 repetitions each with 1-2 minutes rest between sets.

You can also use a weight or resistance band to make it more effective.

2. Pike Pushup

The pike pushup is one of the fundamental bodyweight shoulder exercises that can be included in a calisthenics workout program.

It primarily targets the front deltoid and helps increase strength and muscularity.

The pike pushups engage not only your shoulders but also your triceps and chest muscles, making it an effective upper body workout.

If you’re a beginner, you can do it on your knees, otherwise, do it on your toes for better results.

How to do regular pike pushup step by step:

  1. Sit on your knees, place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, and lift your knees off the floor and hips upward, so your body forms an inverted V position.
  2. Keep your abdominal muscles tight; hold up your hips and thighs. This is your starting position.
  3. Lower yourself toward the floor between your hands until your head nearly touches the ground. You’ll feel the contraction in your shoulders.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds, focus on your shoulders, and then press through your arms to return to the starting position. That’s one rep!
  5. Do as many reps and sets as possible.

3. Handstand Pushup

Handstand push-up, a shoulder calisthenics workout

The handstand pushup is one of the advanced calisthenics workouts you can do to develop a strong shoulder.

It bolsters several muscles at once, such as the shoulder, forearms, triceps, and core, and helps build a firm torso.

The handstand also helps improve balance, muscle coordination, and wrist mobility.

However, it is challenging, and only elite calisthenics athletes can do it.

Here are steps to perform a handstand pushup:

  1. Stand on your hands (keep your hands shoulder-width apart) with your arms straight. That is your starting position.
  2. Brace your core, thighs, and glutes, and slowly lower your head toward the ground as low as possible.
  3. Pause for a moment, then press back to return to the start. That’s on rep.
  4. Do as many sets and reps as possible.
  5. Perform each repetition in a slow and controlled fashion.

4. Bodyweight Lateral Raises

The bodyweight lateral raises work on the side delts and help build defined shoulders.

 Generally, we do lateral raises with a dumbbell and cable. However, if you’re a calisthenics lover, you can do the same exercise with the help of your own body weight.

The bodyweight lateral raise seems easy, but it will challenge your strength when you do this.

How to do a Bodyweight Lateral Raise:

  1. First of all, grab a soft towel and place it over your right elbow.
  2. Stand straight with your right shoulder facing toward the wall.
  3. Slightly lean at your right side, bend your elbow and place it on the wall at your stomach level, your entire right arm will be on the wall. That’s the start.
  4. Engaging your lateral deltoid, slide your arms up to your shoulder height. You’ll feel the contraction on your deltoids.
  5. Pause for a moment at the top and slide reversely to return to the start. That’s one rep.
  6. Do three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions each.

5. Bodyweight Rear Delt Row or Incline Row

The rear delt towel row hits the posterior delt and upper traps and improves shoulder muscle symmetry.

Steps to do a rear delt body row using a towel:

  1. Anchor the towel firmly on top of the closed door.
  2. Standing in the hip-width stance, grab the ends of the towel with a neutral grip.
  3. With your back straight, slightly lean backward with your arms straight in front of you and palms facing each other. This is starting position.
  4. Pull the towel as you row your body in the forward position. You’ll feel the contraction in your upper back and rear delt when pulling yourself in a rowing motion.
  5. Pause for a couple of seconds, then return your body to the start. That’s one rep!
  6. Do three sets of 8 to 10 reps each with as little rest as possible between sets.

6. Planche pushup

The planche push-up is one of the advanced calisthenics exercises for the shoulders.

It develops front shoulders as well as bolster triceps, forearms, and abdominal muscles.

The planche pushup is an excellent exercise but requires great balance, strength, and flexibility.

If done correctly, this can help you build a muscular trunk.

How to do:

  1. Lie prone on the floor with your arms straight at your sides, palms on the floor, and hands beside your hips.
  2. Rotate your wrists, so your fingers face slightly outward.
  3. Press into the floor through your hands until your arms are straight and your body is in an “up” position of a pushup.
  4. Brace your abdominal muscle, and pressing into the floor, raise your legs. Now, you’re in a planche position.
  5. Bend your elbows and lower your torso as low as possible toward the ground.
  6. Pause for two seconds, feel the contraction, and press back until your arms are straight. That is your one repetition.
  7. Do as many sets and reps as possible.
  8. Perform each repetition in a slow and controlled fashion.

7. Feet Elevated Pike Pushup

The feet-elevated pike pushup works on the front deltoid and helps build athletic shoulders at home.

However, to perform this movement, you need a bench, chair, or an elevated object to place your feet.

Follow these steps to perform a feet-elevated pike pushup:

  1. Place your feet on an elevated surface and arms on the ground, and raise your hips high, so your body forms an inverted V position.
  2. Lower yourself towards the floor (feeling the tension in your shoulders) until your face nearly touches the floor.
  3. Hold for a moment, rise back up, and repeat this movement for the desired number of sets and reps.
  4. Perform each rep in a controlled manner and focus on your deltoids during the entire movement.

8. Wall Walk

The wall walk is an efficient way to develop robust shoulders.

It looks easy but requires decent strength, mobility, and control.

You can also include it in your shoulder calisthenic workout plan to use as a warm-up exercise before you do a handstand pushup.

How to do Wall Walk:

  1. Get into the high plank position with your feet against the wall (soles touching the wall surface).
  2. Start walking up on the wall as you bring your body closer to the wall.
  3. Walk until you’re in a handstand position, if possible.
  4. Reverse the steps to return to the start. That’s one rep!
  5. Do as many sets and reps as you like.
  6. Keep your entire body engaged and back straight, and perform each rep slowly and efficiently.

9. Isometric Handstand

The static handstand is an upper body isometric exercise that bolsters shoulder muscles and helps improve balance and flexibility.

You can use this move to scale up your handstand pushup.

To perform an isometric handstand

All you need to do is lift your body weight on your hands. You might not struggle with hand movement, but you will struggle to balance.

The best way to master a perfect handstand is by using support. Some people start with wall support or support from an individual, while others can do it without support.

For better results, make sure to hold your position for at least 10 to 15 seconds.

10. Shoulder Vertical Pulses

The vertical plus is one of the beginner-friendly calisthenics shoulder exercises you can use to tone and strengthen your shoulders.

This may not produce a significant result, but you can do it as a warm-up exercise.

How to do vertical pulse

  • Stand upright with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart and keep your arms straight out to the sides, parallel to the ground.
  • Make a fist with your thumbs should be out and pointing upside.
  • Keeping your shoulder engaged, move your arms down several times.
  • Once you complete the downward movement, perform upward.
  • Do it as many times as possible.

Can Calisthenics Exercises Build Strength and Mass?

The calisthenics exercises enhance balance and flexibility and help you build firm, defined shoulders.

A study has shown calisthenics push-up training increases torso strength and builds lean mass over 6-8 weeks of workout.2 Hollingsworth JC, Young KC, Abdullah SF, et al. Protocol for Minute Calisthenics: a randomized controlled study of a daily, habit-based, bodyweight resistance training programBMC Public Health. 2020;20(1):1242. Published 2020 Aug 15. doi:10.1186/s12889-020-09355-4, 3Kotarsky CJ, Christensen BK, Miller JS, Hackney KJ. Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness. J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Mar;32(3):651-659. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002345. PMID: 29466268.

Calisthenics is an efficient way to build athletic shoulders. However, they are not as effective as weight training when it comes to putting on mass and shaping muscle.

If your goal is to build sizable shoulders, you should focus on lifting weights. But weight training doesn’t help you achieve better balance and flexibility than calisthenics training.

Calisthenics Shoulder Workout Routine

It’s always good to warm up before jumping onto the advanced exercises. Warming up can help you increase your heart rate, improve blood flow and oxygen supply, and allows your muscle to get ready for the challenge.

Here’s a sample of a calisthenics workout routine that can help you build a muscular shoulder.

Day 1 (Week 1)

  • Shoulder Vertical Pulses: 8-12 reps x 3
  • Standing IYT Raises: 8-10 reps x 3
  • Wall Walk: 15-sec x 3
  • Pike Pushup: 8-12 reps x 3
  • Handstand pushups: 6-8 reps x 3

Day 2 (Week 1)

  • Standing IYT Raises: 8-12 reps x 3
  • Planche pushup: 8-10 reps x 3
  • Feet Elevated Pike Pushup: 8-12 reps x 3
  • Bodyweight Lateral Raises: 8-10 reps x 3
  • Bodyweight Rear Delt Row: 8-12 reps x 3

The Bottom Line

The calisthenics workout is an inexpensive and effective way to build shoulder strength and mobility.

Sturdy shoulders help improve your posture, reduce the risk of pain and injury in your neck, back, and shoulders, improve your torso appearance, and enhance sports and lifting performance.

You can do various calisthenics exercises with little or no equipment at home to build athletic and defined shoulders.

However, make sure to perform each movement with the proper form. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting injured.

When you’re not confident about doing the exercise properly, always seek help from your partners.

Related Exercises:


Photo of author
Murshid Akram
I'm an online personal trainer, fitness blogger, and fitness enthusiast. I love researching and writing about exercise and nutrition. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share to...