7 Exercises to Build Strong Shoulders Without Weights
Today we’re talking about the shoulders. Now it might seem more intuitive for a man to train his shoulders because “men need and want strong arms,” right?
Wrong! Everybody needs to strengthen their shoulders because, while the shoulder is extremely mobile, it’s also extremely unstable and susceptible to injury.
Some words on shoulder injuries:
Shoulder injuries are really common because the potential range of motion is great, yet not very many people do what it takes to strengthen and work on shoulder flexibility.
If that’s not enough reason for you, strong and defined shoulders can create the illusion of making your waist appear smaller. Now you’re listening…
While many of us aren’t really thinking about the role our shoulders play in everyday activities, let me remind you: bringing in the groceries, lifting up the kids, picking things up off of the floor and putting them in the closet, cleaning up — you’re using your shoulders.
What Exercise is Best for the Shoulders?
You can try out the bodyweight exercises listed below to help build strong shoulders while strengthening all the tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue (of course!). And the great thing, you don’t even need equipment such as weights at all.
Shoulder Muscles Anatomy: What Are the 3 Shoulder Muscles?
Before we start, let me give you a super quick shoulder muscles anatomy lesson. The deltoid is the main muscle in the shoulder.
It is a large, triangular-shaped muscle. Even though it is one muscle, due to its size and different muscle fibers, it is usually talked about in three parts:
- anterior (front) deltoid
- medial (side) deltoid
- posterior (rear) deltoid
The anterior, medial, and posterior parts of the deltoid help move the arm and stabilize the shoulder joint. But they do not work alone. There are many more muscles supporting the shoulder joint. The so-called rotator cuff muscles are a good example. Hidden below the larger deltoid, they are not the first thing you notice when you look at your shoulder. However, these four small muscles on the back of your shoulder play an extremely important part in arm movements and stabilization.
We’re going to hit all of these with the following exercises so you strengthen your shoulders and stay pain- and injury-free.
What Exercises Build Shoulder Muscles? ► 7 Exercises for Anterior, Medial & Posterior Deltoid Muscle Growth
From simple beginner exercises to advanced: Here are shoulder exercises to build your shoulder strength at home, without equipment, no matter what your current fitness level is.
Plus: Don’t miss the bonus postural exercise at the end!
1. Plank-to-Down Dog
How to Do a Plank-To-Down Dog:
This is a great move for shoulder flexibility — especially the rotator cuff. You don’t need to perform this exercise quickly. Take your time. This is actually a good bodyweight warm-up exercise before you start your shoulder training.
2. Inclined Wall Push-Ups
How to Do Inclined Wall Push-Ups:
Having your upper body higher than your lower body in this movement will recruit more of the anterior deltoid. Choose a surface lower than the wall to challenge your shoulder more, like a table or a low stair. Make sure that your core is engaged and your hips, shoulders, and feet are in one line (as in a regular push-up). You want the edge of whatever surface you’re doing this exercise on to come right underneath your chest (or boobs).
3. Pike Push-ups
How to Do Pike Push-Ups:
This exercise is a step on your way to mastering a handstand push-up and is great for the anterior as well as the medial deltoids. Make sure that you look at your legs (not your hands) while keeping your spine neutral and the crown of your head pointing towards the ground.
Ready for the next step?
Elevate your legs on a step, bench, curb, chair, etc. The same rules apply: keep that neutral spine position and the crown of your head pointing towards the ground. If you’re attempting to do this for the first time alone, put a pillow under your head just in case. This is what the advanced exercise should look like:
4. Prone X
How to a Do Prone X:
This exercise is good for the posterior (rear) delts as well as the back muscles. Be sure that your core and glutes are engaged throughout the movement. Focus on using your shoulder blades to pull the arms out to the side. And, like the Plank-To-Down Dog, this is not a race – slower and more controlled is better and safer!
5. Up Downs
How to Do Up Downs:
Are you looking for a Plank variation that will challenge your shoulders? Try Up Downs to really feel your anterior (front) deltoid work.
Place your hands directly under your shoulders. Engage the core to keep the hips square to the ground and avoid rotating the body to the sides. Pressing asymmetrically requires a lot of stability and is not something you usually do with other Plank and Push Up variations. So don’t be surprised if you feel a bit sore!
6. Hindu Push Ups
How to Do Hindu Push Ups
The Hindu Push Up is an advanced Push Up variation that takes shoulders through a bigger range of motion.
Start the exercise by doing a Plank-To-Down Dog. Then dive deeper to the front, keeping the shoulders controlled as possible. The movement should be fluid.
Keeping your elbows away from the floor throughout the movement will engage your deltoid more. If you bring your elbows down closer to the floor, you will feel your triceps work more.
7. Wall Handstand Kick Up
How to Do Wall Handstand Kick Up
Are you an advanced athlete looking for the most challenging shoulder moves to do at home without any equipment? Then handstand variations are the way to go!
Good to know:
Make sure to build up shoulder strength slowly and carefully. Even just climbing up a wall with your legs and holding for a couple of seconds will heavily load your shoulders, so you need to be prepared and already have a strong base.
Keep your upper body aligned (shoulders over hands) and aim to create a 90-degree angle with your hips for the Wall Handstand Kick Up. If you can, lift one leg at a time, keeping glutes engaged.
Bonus Exercise for Better Shoulder Posture
Wall Lateral Pull-Downs
Did you know that your posture affects strength, function, and even the appearance of your shoulders?
Wall Lateral Pull-Downs can help you open up your shoulders, discover a better alignment, and increase confidence. It is especially beneficial for those with forward “rounded shoulders”: This type of posture is common for those who spend a lot of time with their head forward or looking down (example: desk jobs, fine handwork, holding a baby, or even browsing your phone).
If the exercise seems very easy, you are either very flexible or not doing it right!
Tuck your chin. Your arms should be in contact with the wall at all points. Shoulder blades are stable and down. Make sure not to lift your lower ribs up to increase shoulder range of motion. Don’t push it. Try to relax. The range of motion will come with repetitions!
Looking for more exercises you can do to build a strong body without any equipment? Download the adidas Training app and start your complete 12-week personalized bodyweight training plan today!