Try These 9 Bodyweight Exercises to Build Stronger Shoulders

Try These 9 Bodyweight Exercises to Build Stronger Shoulders

Want to invest in the functional fitness of your future self? Start by incorporating bodyweight shoulder exercises into your fitness routine. Healthy shoulder muscles are critical — just try to get through a day without lifting, reaching, hoisting, or carrying something. Yet, the shoulders become increasingly vulnerable as we get older, says Sara Mikulsky, PT, DPT, FNS, CEAS, owner of Wellness Physical Therapy in New York City.

“Keeping our shoulder strength is important for preventing rotator cuff injuries,” she says. “Research shows that as we age, we are at a greater risk of developing rotator cuff issues that can lead to limited range of motion, inability to reach overhead, and pain while sleeping.”

Regularly doing bodyweight shoulder exercises is one way to help safeguard against shoulder pain.

“Keeping both the shoulders and shoulder blade muscles strong can help prevent the degeneration of this joint complex over time,” Mikulsky says. Plus, many bodyweight exercises engage multiple muscle groups, offering full-body benefits in just one move.

Here are nine super-effective bodyweight shoulder exercises to try at home — no equipment required. Aim for three sets of 15 reps of each movement.

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1. Bear Crawl

  • Get on all fours with your arms straight, hands directly below your shoulders, and your knees bent 90 degrees below your hips. Lift your knees so that they’re hovering a few inches above the ground. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, move forward using a “cross-crawl” pattern, simultaneously moving opposite hands and feet together (i.e., left hand and right foot, right hand and left foot).
  • Continue moving forward with your opposite hands and feet in unison for the specified number of steps, and then reverse the movement to work your way back to where you started.

 

2. Seated Triceps Dip

  • Sit on the floor with your legs together, knees bent, feet flat, and palms on the floor behind your butt with your fingers facing forward.
  • Lift your hips off the floor. This is the starting position.
  • Bend your elbows to lower your butt to within an inch or two of the floor, but don’t let it touch.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position.

 

3. Pike Plank

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands on the ground directly below your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged, drive your hips up and back into an upside-down “V” position — similar to downward dog, except you don’t need to try to get your heels flat on the ground in a pike position.
  • Try to keep your head in line with your arms as you gaze through your legs.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position.

 

4. Inchworm

inchworm exercise demonstration | bodyweight shoulder exercises

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Keeping your core engaged and back flat, hinge forward at your hips and place both palms on the floor. Bend your knees slightly, if necessary.
  • Walk your hands forward into a high-plank position. Keep your wrists directly under your shoulders and your body straight from head to heels.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, walking your hands back toward your feet.

 

5. Crab Walk

crab walk exercise demonstration | bodyweight shoulder exercises

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat and hip-width apart.
  • Reach both hands behind you and press your palms into the floor with your fingers facing forward.
  • Use your glutes and core to lift your hips into a “tabletop” position with your body as flat as possible from shoulders to knees.
  • Keeping your hips lifted, step forward with your right foot and left hand, followed by your left foot and right hand.
  • Continue to walk forward with opposite hands and feet for the prescribed number of steps, and then reverse the movement and return to where you started.

 

6. Sit-Through

sit through exercise demonstration | bodyweight shoulder exercises

  • Assume a bear crawl position with your arms straight, your hands below your shoulders, and your knees bent 90 degrees below your hips. (Only your hands and toes should touch the floor.)
  • Keeping your back flat, core braced, and right hand on the floor, lift your left arm and right leg, and rotate to your left, pivoting on your left foot as you thread your right leg beneath you and extend it straight on the floor. (You should now be sitting.)
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side, lifting your right hand and left leg, and pivoting on your right foot.
  • Continue alternating sides.

 

7. Mule Kick

mule kick exercises demonstration | bodyweight shoulder exercises

  • Get on all fours with your arms straight, your knees bent 90 degrees a few inches above the floor, and your back flat.
  • Keeping your core engaged, shift your weight onto your hands, and kick your feet up into the air behind you, spreading them wide as you extend your legs.
  • Land softly, reset, and repeat.

 

8. Diamond Push-Up

diamond push up demonstration | bodyweight shoulder exercises

  • Assume a push-up position and bring the tips of your thumbs and index fingers together to form a diamond shape below your shoulders. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked, lower your torso until your chest lightly touches the backs of your hands. (Or, go as low as you can go without compromising form.)
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

 

9. Burpee

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Push your hips back, bend your knees, and squat down, placing both palms on the floor.
  • Jump your feet back to a push-up position.
  • Lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor, and then quickly push back up.
  • Jump your feet back to your hands, and then explode upward, jumping into the air.
  • Land softly and immediately begin your next rep.
Jenessa Connor

About

Jenessa Connor has written for Men’s Journal, Shape, Runner’s World, Oxygen and other health and fitness publications. When it comes to exercise, she’s a bit of a dabbler, but she always comes back to running, CrossFit and yoga. Follow her on Twitter.

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