Body Weight Shoulder Exercises

All You Need To Build a Strong Shoulder Workout

Shoulder Exercises - Boot Camp Fitness Guide

Body weight shoulder exercises are all you need to build strong, solid shoulder muscles.  When you think about a shoulder workout, you may automatically think about weights.  The common exercises that come to mind are the military press with the barbell or shoulder presses with dumbbells.  But you don’t need weights or a gym to build strong shoulders. 

We can replicate the same pressing motion and get a great shoulder workout using bodyweight exercises instead of weights.  And we can do it in a few different ways to adjust the intensity, i.e. the weight, you are working with.

These body weight shoulder exercises are perfect boot camp exercises because you can do them anywhere and anytime.  No equipment, no setup time, just start doing them.

Just start doing them after a little bit of a warm up that is.  Take a little time to do this.  You don't want to have to deal with shoulder issues later because you didn't warm up.  If you've ever had to recover from something like a strained or dislocated shoulder you know what I mean.

That's when you realize you use your shoulders ALL the time.  It's a drag when it hurts to reach for the phone, steer the car, get your keys out of your pocket, or scratch your head.

To avoid all of that, one of the best warm up shoulder exercises is the basic shoulder rotation.  Extend your arms out to your sides so they are at shoulder level and parallel with the ground.  Make little circles with your hands.  Make forward circles for 30 seconds then backward circles for 30 seconds.  Repeat making different size circles.

Good?  Good.  Let's get to the exercises.

Pike Push Ups

The pike pushup is one of the great body weight shoulder exercises.  It's a great starter because it is adaptable to almost any strength level - and handstand pushups are probably a lot to ask for anyone who isn’t already pretty strong. 

Do these instead.  Basic movement is the feet on the floor.  Start in a pushup position and walk your hands back to a pike position.  Legs straight, butt up in the air, upper body mostly straight, and do a pushup. You’ll be pushing through the shoulders. 

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Decline Pushup

A regular pushup will work the front of the shoulders.  Change your body position to shift the work the middle of the shoulder muscles.  Elevate the feet and keep the body straight like a normal pushup position.  Position your body at least at a 45 degree angle to get your shoulders doing the work instead of your chest. 

Yes, my angle in the picture is less than 45 degrees, but sometimes you have to use the only cement wall you have available.

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Handstand Pushup

This is the daddy of bodyweight shoulder exercises.  This is just like doing a shoulder press with weights, but your doing a hand stand and the weight is your body.  Try these when the pike pushups get too easy. 

Unless you are an experienced gymnast or a platform diver, do handstand pushups against a wall (or a tree) to balance yourself.  In fact, get comfortable with holding yourself in the handstand position before you start trying to do handstand pushups.

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Plank-Deltoid Exercise
(Shoulder Rotation)

The plank is normally a stability exercise, but the motion from an elbow plank to a side plank causes an abduction motion in the deltoid muscle. That means rotation your shoulder so your arm moves away from the center of the body. 

The idea is to start in an elbow plank position, rotate up to a side plank.  Read more to see how to do a great rotational body weight shoulder exercise.  Notice that the rotation of the shoulder is the same whether you do this motion on a machine at the gym, or on your own at the park.

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Pushup with Shoulder Press

Pushups are good for the front of the shoulder. Presses are good for the middle of the shoulder. Try doing a combination of pushups and air presses over your head. Do a certain number of pushups and then pop up to your knees and do double the number of air presses.  

If you are used to lifting weights, you are going to feel silly doing this at first.  But trust me that feeling won’t last.  Your arms will definitely start to feel heavy.

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Mountain Climber Exercise

The basic mountain climber exercise is a calisthenic exercise that is great for the core.  You are moving the legs while holding your weight with your arms and shoulders.

It is also a good body weight shoulder exercise because while the lower body is "climbing", the shoulders and back muscles have to keep your upper body off the ground.

To get the benefit, remember to keep your butt down.  Check out the page to see how to do them right.

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Plank and Side Plank

The plank isn’t just a great exercise for the core.  It is also good for the shoulders, particularly the front of the shoulder.

The side plank works a lot of other muscles in and around the shoulder.  A lot of the focus of the side plank is on the core, particularly the obliques, but you are using a lot of shoulder muscles to keep your body balanced and stable.  This is especially true when you are in the side plank position and you raise the upper leg.


You can see how flexible these body weight shoulder exercises are.  There are more to come.  For a little preview, get in the straight arm plank position, go down to your elbows, and then back up to straight arm.  Also, do a pushup and extend the right arm out straight at the top.  Do another one and extend the left arm out straight.  Continue to alternate that way through a set of pushups.

As you build your powerful shoulders with the exercises above, don't forget about shedding the excess fat from your body to get the most benefit from all that good work.  You work hard, right?  You might as well look your best.

For more information about burning away excess fat and building lean muscle using bodyweight exercises, check out the Bodyweight Burn program.  It's one of the best programs available for burning fat and building lean muscle, and I highly recommend it.

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