People often neglect shoulder workouts because of misconceptions about incorporating shoulder training into your upper-body workout.
If you want to include shoulder exercises into your routine but are unsure how to target the shoulder area without weights, you have come to the right place. We will explore the ten best calisthenics shoulder workouts you can do to train your shoulder muscles.
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Having worked with many trained professionals, I concluded that it is crucial to establish what muscles you should target to reach your goal before tackling any suggested exercise.
Sweat website explains that the main target when building well-defined, strong shoulders is the deltoid muscle group, which surrounds and protects the unstable shoulder joints.
The deltoids consist of the anterior (front), medial (side), and posterior (rear) deltoid. By targeting the deltoids, like most shoulder exercises luckily do, you can be sure to reap the full benefits of shoulder training.
Not only will the training of your shoulders benefit your physique, but solid and trained shoulders hold many other benefits more important than aesthetics. Firstly, strong shoulders are essential for everyday activities such as carrying groceries and cleaning.
Training shoulders also hugely benefit your posture. A bad posture could lead to daily postural pains and long-term defects, so having strong shoulders will assist in minimizing the likelihood of living your old days with chronic pain.
Another benefit includes that stronger shoulder muscles aid better in protecting the mobile shoulder joints, making it less likely to become seriously injured in this area.
This post discusses the following shoulder workouts:
- Plank-to-down dog
- Lateral wall pull-downs
- Incline (wall) push-ups
- (Decline) Up Downs
- (Decline) Shoulder taps
- (Decline) Push-ups
- (Decline) Pike Push-ups
- (Decline) Push-back push-ups
- Wall walks
- Handstand hold
Let’s look at each of these individual calisthenics exercises more in-depth by explaining how to do them, how they will strengthen and tone shoulder muscles, and suggestions on incorporating them into your workout routine.
We start with beginner/ intermediate exercises and gradually move to more advanced exercises to the end.
- 1 What Are the Most Efficient Calisthenics Shoulder Workouts? 🤔
- 2 Conclusion 💪
What Are the Most Efficient Calisthenics Shoulder Workouts? 🤔
Take a look at this list of some efficient and highly suggested body-weight shoulder exercises you can do to strengthen and define your shoulder muscles.
1. Plank-To-Down Dog
The plank-to-down dog is usually used as a warm-up exercise and is often present in yoga routines.
This exercise efficiently enhances shoulder flexibility, making it a great movement to stretch before your main shoulder workout.
Although this exercise can be considered a warm-up exercise, expect your shoulders to catch on fire with this movement!
Take your time with slow, controlled movements while constantly engaging your shoulder muscles.
Keep your fingers spread out and your back straights throughout the whole routine.
A good target would be to do about 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps each.
How to do plank-to-down dog step by step:
- To take on the starting position of the plank-to-down dog, stand on your hands and feet and position your palms flat on the ground. Your fingers should face the front and be spread wide apart for maximum support and stability. Straighten your arms and place them shoulder-width apart. Extend your feet behind you and let your weight rest on the ball of your feet.
- While keeping your back straightened and your core and arm muscles engaged, slowly push back on your arms. Lift your hips to the ceiling/sky while moving your body weight backward, creating an upside-down “V” with your body.
- Hold the V-shaped position for two counts.
- Lower your hips and move your body weight forward to return to the starting position. Hold this position for two counts.
- Continue with this movement until you feel the burn in your shoulder area- remember to push yourself! After completing each set, take a small break and repeat for the desired amount of sets.
Watch the video below for further guidance through a visual illustration of the plank-to-down dog movement.
2. Lateral Wall Pull-Downs
The lateral wall pull-downs are simple yet effective, especially in improving posture and adding flexibility to your deltoids.
Although this exercise does not put much weight on the shoulder muscles, it is a great exercise to tone your shoulder muscles to give you a defined upper body physique.
Repeat this movement for 15 to 20 repetitions− 2 or 3 sets.
According to Runtastic, if this exercise feels too easy, you might be doing it wrong, or your shoulder muscles are already highly flexible.
Here is a step-by-step guideline for doing lateral wall pull-downs:
- Stand with your back against a flat, empty wall. Spread your arms out sideways and bend your elbows so that your hands point upwards. Your whole body should remain in contact with the wall.
- With slow movements, slide your arms up the wall to straighten them above your head.
- Slide them down to return to your starting position.
- Continue this movement for the recommended amount of repetitions and sets.
If you want to double-check that you are doing the movement correctly, watch the video below for a virtual illustration.
3. Incline (Wall) Push-up
Do not let the word “push-up” upset you.
There are no calisthenics shoulder exercises more beneficial for shoulder strength and development than a push-up in all its variations, and no other activity will be able to give you such quick results.
Incline wall push-ups are just like regular push-ups, but you do them with your hands pressed against a wall.
According to Runtastic, having your upper body in a higher position than your legs during push-ups ensures maximal engagement of the anterior deltoid muscles in the shoulders.
Do not arch your back, and ensure that you engage your core during this movement.
Complete 10 to 15 reps and 2 or 3 sets, depending on your fitness level.
Here is a step-by-step run-through on how to do inclined push-ups:
- If you prefer starting with wall push-ups, position yourself in an upright position next to a wall, facing it. If you use an object with an elevated surface, have it close by.
- Get down on your hands and feet. Your wrists should be slightly more than shoulder-width apart and your feet extended to the back. Hold your body in the air like with a standard push-up.
- Slowly bend your elbows to lower yourself towards the wall/elevated object. Keep this movement controlled, and tuck your arms close to your body as far as possible. Lower your upper body as far down as possible, and hold that position for one to two counts to maximize the efficiency of each rep.
- Push yourself away from the wall/object to return to your starting position. When you reach the starting position, you conclude with one repetition.
- Repeat this movement until you complete the recommended amount of reps and sets. Rest between each set.
Check out how to do the incline push-up against a wall below. Alternatively, click here to see how to do inclined push-ups using an elevated surface instead.
An elevated surface you can use is called a medicine ball. They are stable and great for exercise. See our top three recommended medicine balls below.
4. (Decline) Up-Downs
Up-down exercises are very multi-functioning, targeting the arms, core, and shoulder muscles. Up-downs mainly target the anterior (front deltoid muscle).
Adding a declining element to your up-downs increases the intensity of the workout, especially regarding the tension in your shoulders.
Just with all other push-ups, it remains crucial to keep your back straight and core engaged as much as possible.
If you struggle to do regular up-downs, an alternative that does not require as much core strength is to rest your knees on the ground.
Spotebi suggests that once you are comfortable with the form and movement of up-downs, do 15 to 20 repetitions.
You can also time yourself for one minute and try and do this movement continuously. Do 2 to 3 sets of this exercise.
Here is a step by step guide on how to do up-downs:
- If you choose to do declined up-downs, have an item with an elevated surface nearby.
- Place your forearms flat on the ground. Extend both your legs to the back and rest on the balls of your feet (on the elevated surface). Hold your upper body up in this position.
- Lift your right arm and slowly push yourself with your right hand away from the ground. Your wrists should directly align with your shoulders when you extend your arm fully.
- Repeat the same process with your left arm.
- Now, place your forearm back in its original position (flat on the floor).
- Repeat this step with your left arm to retake the starting position.
- Repeat this exercise for the recommended amount of reps/ time, take a breather, and then complete the suggested number of sets.
See the video below for a tutorial on the movement of up-downs. See our top three recommended Yoga blocks below.
5. (Decline) Shoulder Taps
Shoulder taps are often viewed exclusively as a core workout, yet they have many benefits. Shoulder taps do not only target the core but work the arms, glutes, and shoulders as well.
Shoulder taps are also great for improving your posture and help to reduce pain in the lower back area.
Concentrate on keeping your hips as still as possible throughout the whole workout.
For a more advanced workout, try decline shoulder taps by elevating your feet on an object with a raised surface– the higher the surface, the more difficult this movement will be and the more the pressure on your shoulders will be.
One set consists of 5 to 12 taps on each side.
Alternatively, time yourself for one minute and continue doing shoulder taps until this time runs out—complete 2 to 3 sets.
Instructions on how to do (decline) shoulder taps step by step:
- If you choose to do decline shoulder taps, get yourself something to elevate your feet on or position yourself near an elevated surface so you can rest your feet on there.
- Place your palms on the ground. Hold your upper body in the air by extending your arms to form a straight line from your shoulders and wrists. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Extend your feet backward and rest the ball of your feet on the floor or the elevated surface. Keep your back straight and maintain this position for the workout duration.
- Slowly and with controlled movements, lift your right arm and bend your elbow so you can touch with your right hand on your left shoulder. Hold this position for one count and slowly lower your arm again.
- Repeat this step with your left arm to touch your right shoulder with your left hand, hold it for one count and then lower it back to the ground. You are now back in the starting position.
- Alternate between your left and right until you finish the recommended reps per set. Take a small break, and then continue with your next set.
Yoga blocks are excellent devices to elevate yourself during various exercises. See our top three recommended Yoga blocks below.
See below the shoulder tap’s correct form and movement.
6. (Decline) Push-Ups
While regular push-ups already do a great job targeting the shoulder muscles, decline push-ups more aggressively target the shoulder area, making it even more efficient to strengthen and tone your shoulders.
Decline push-ups focus intensely on the anterior deltoids (front shoulder muscles). To activate these muscles to their fullest, you have to engage your core and keep your body in one straight line.
The more advanced you are, the more you feet can elevate for this exercise.
The higher you elevate your lower body, the more strain you will put on your shoulders.
Since the difficulty and efficiency of the exercise will vary between people of different levels of elevation and strength, HealthLine suggests doing 2 to 4 sets consisting of 8 to 20 reps, depending on what your fitness level allows.
How to do (decline) push-ups step by step:
- Grab yourself a raised surface to elevate your feet on or position yourself near some stairs, a bench, or anything you can use to rest your feet upon. If you are new to declining push-ups, do not immediately start with a high surface; instead, use something about the height of a curb.
- Position your hands flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and straighten your arms to hold your upper body up. You should align your wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Extend your feet backward. Rest the ball of your feet on the elevated object.
- While keeping your core, glutes, and quads engaged, bend your elbows to lower your upper body to the ground. Try to keep your elbows tucked in to your body as far as you can. Go as far down as possible to maximize the efficiency of this movement.
- Push yourself away from the floor as you straighten your arms to return to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement for the suggested amount of reps, take a break and continue with the remaining sets. Do not bend your back, and discontinue if you experience pain in your wrists or elbows.
See below a short YouTube clip illustrating a proper decline push-up.
7. (Decline) Pike Push-ups
As previously established, push-ups are one of the most effective upper-body workouts.
Like all push-ups, elevating your feet maximizes this movement’s potential, targeting the anterior (front) and medial deltoid (side) muscles.
The pike-push-up is a fantastic workout as it places even more weight on your shoulders than regular push-ups.
Starting by resting on your knees will allow you to build the necessary strength to advance to regular pike push-ups and ultimately decline pike push-ups.
It is crucial to refrain from arching your back throughout the whole exercise. Try to maintain the downwards-facing V-shape until you complete the entire set.
Greatist suggests doing 5 to 8 slow, controlled reps of pike push-ups. Try to repeat this for 2 to 3 sets.
How to do perfect (decline) pike push-ups step by step:
- If you choose to do decline pike push-ups, get yourself something to elevate your feet before starting.
- Get down onto your hands and feet. Extend your feet behind you and rest on the ball of your feet. Position your hands straight underneath your shoulders, with your palms on the ground. Push your hips up to form an upside-down V-shape with your body.
- Bend your elbows slowly to lower your body to the ground, staying in the upside-down V-position. Hold this position for two counts. With each rep, your head should nearly touch the ground.
- With slow and controlled movements, push your body away from the ground. This movement ends in the starting position.
- Repeat this movement until you finish the recommended amount of reps, take a break, and then get to work with the next set.
A yoga mat is essential for doing various floor exercises as it is sturdy and will prevent you from slipping. See our top three recommended Yoga Mats here.
Check out below a YouTube demonstration of the pike push-up.
8. (Decline) Push-Back Push-ups
Push-back push-ups are another variation of push-ups that primarily target the shoulder area.
Like all other push-up variations, it is vital to keep your back straightened and engage your core and glutes when doing your reps.
Decline push-back push-ups increase the weight on your shoulders, maximizing the efficiency of your shoulder workout.
Do 2 to 3 sets consisting of 5 to 10 reps per set, depending on your fitness level.
Guideline on how to do (decline) push-back push-ups step by step:
- If you decide to do decline push-back push-ups, move to an elevated surface or ensure that you have an object nearby that you can use to elevate your feet.
- Get down on all fours. Position your arms slightly further apart from one another than shoulder-width and extend your feet backward (standard push-ups position). Ensure that your hands press on the floor directly beneath your shoulders and that your fingers face the front.
- Bend your elbows. Keep your elbows tucked into the body as far as possible while lowering yourself to the ground.
- Instead of pushing up as you would with a regular push-up, push your body back. Bend your knees and lift your hips to extend your arms fully.
- Extend your legs again to return to the starting position.
- Repeat this exercise for the recommended number of reps, take a quick break, and start with the next set until you have finished all the recommended sets.
See a YouTube video below illustrating the correct form and movement of the push-back push-up.
9. Wall Walks
Get ready for the ultimate burn! The wall walk is literally what its name says (here is your excuse to live out your Spiderman dreams).
This exercise is fun and targets multiple muscles in the shoulders, making it an excellent activity to strengthen those shoulders.
This exercise requires some core strength. If you cannot walk your legs up so that your body is fully vertical, climb your feet to a comfortable height.
Do 5 to 10 reps, and repeat this for 2 to 3 sets. Stop if you experience any pain in your wrists or elbows during this movement.
How to do wall walks:
- Lie down with your stomach on the ground and your feet extended to press against a wall (a clear wall, preferably).
- Slowly walk your feet up the wall. Walk your hands closer to the wall at the same time.
- When your reach a comfortable height, stop and hold for one count.
- Steadily walk your feet back down the wall.
- Repeat these steps for the desired amount of reps and sets.
Watch the video below to see how this exercise should look.
10. Handstand Hold
Getting your body vertical to the ground might look intimidating to many, but this workout is efficient no matter how high you can walk your feet up the wall.
If you prefer to keep it one meter up the wall, that is fine. As long as your entire body is higher than your shoulders, your shoulders will still feel the burn!
The handstand holds the target muscle groups, including under more, the triceps, hamstrings, and deltoids.
This movement is similar to the wall walk but requires you to stay upside-down for a while.
Do 2 or 3 sets of holding the wall handstand position for 15 to 30 seconds.
How to do the handstand hold:
- The first few steps are identical to that of the wall walk. Lie down on your stomach with your feet pressing against a clear wall.
- Carefully walk your feet up the wall while simultaneously walking your hands closer to the wall.
- Stop when you reach the height you feel safe with or where your fitness level allows you to go up.
- Hold yourself in that position for sets of 15 to 30 seconds each.
- Slowly walk your feet down the wall again. At the same time, walk forward with your hands until you can comfortably stand up.
- After each set, rest and then repeat for the recommended amount of sets.
Watch the video below to see how to do the wall handstand correctly.
These ten best calisthenics shoulder workouts will assist you in achieving your upper body goals, whether that is having a better posture, being more toned, or simply becoming stronger.
It is crucial to remember that many factors could influence muscle development, such as nutrition, body type, hormones, etc.
Other than that, progress does not happen overnight- consistency is key!
Last update on 2022-10-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API