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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, 9 Great Shoulder Exercises with No Equipment

9 Great Shoulder Exercises with No Equipment

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2023-06-14


The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. It is responsible for many different muscle actions. These include adduction, abduction, flexion, extension, and external rotation. The main function of the shoulder is to provide range of motion in the arm. Bones such as the scapula, clavicle, and humerus help support all shoulder movement.

There is no shortage of shoulder exercises. Though not having gym equipment still becomes an obstacle for clients. Some clients use this as an excuse to not workout. Fortunately, you do not need equipment to build strength and muscle. Try implementing bodyweight training into your client’s workout program. Learn how these exercises for a bodyweight shoulder workout can help clients achieve their goals.

Top Benefits of Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

Bodyweight shoulder exercises offer a convenient and accessible way to develop resilient and strong shoulders, without the need for equipment or a gym membership. From enhanced upper body strength and joint stability to improved posture and functional movement, there are numerous advantages of incorporating these exercises into your fitness routine.

  1. Convenience and accessibility: Bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere, without the need for specialized equipment. You can do them at home, outside, or while traveling, making them highly convenient and accessible.

  2. Improved shoulder strength: Bodyweight exercises engage the shoulder muscles effectively, helping to build strength and endurance over time. This is particularly helpful for individuals who may not have access to or prefer not to use weights or machines.

  3. Enhanced joint stability: Bodyweight shoulder exercises often involve stabilizing the shoulder joint, which can improve its stability and reduce the risk of injuries, such as dislocations or strains.

  4. Functional movement patterns: Many bodyweight exercises mimic everyday movements, such as pushing, pulling, or lifting, which improves functional strength and mobility. This translates to better performance in daily activities and sports.

  5. Core engagement: Bodyweight shoulder exercises often require engaging the core muscles to maintain stability and proper form. This helps strengthen the entire midsection, improving overall posture and stability.

  6. Increased flexibility and range of motion: Certain bodyweight shoulder exercises, such as wall slides, can help improve shoulder flexibility and range of motion. This is important for maintaining joint health and preventing stiffness.

  7. Scalability and progressions: Bodyweight exercises can be modified to suit different fitness levels. As you gain strength and proficiency, you can progress to more challenging variations, ensuring continued development and growth.


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Shoulder Muscle Anatomy

Before diving into a bodyweight program, you must know the shoulder anatomy. The shoulders consist of many muscle groups, but three main muscles: 

  • Anterior deltoid

  • Medial deltoid

  • Posterior deltoid 

Due to the location of each muscle, they are sometimes referred to with different names. The anterior deltoid is often referred to as the front deltoid. The medial deltoid is called the side or lateral deltoid. The posterior deltoid is often called the rear deltoid. These terms are used interchangeably. The names are derived from the origin of each muscle.

The anterior delts are located on the front part of the upper arm. They assist in arm flexion and internal rotation. The medial delts are located on the outside of the upper arm. These help with overhead pressing and adduction. Lastly, the posterior delts are found on the back of the upper arm. They help the arm extend and laterally rotate. 

These are the primary muscles involved in shoulder strength and power. Especially when the main goal is to improve their physique and body composition. It is important to teach clients the role that the shoulders play in everyday life. All arm movement incorporates the shoulders in some aspect. 

Protecting the shoulder joint with strength exercises is critical to overall health and fitness. Learn more about strengthening the rotator cuff in this ISSA blog.

Top Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

Bodyweight training is effective and can be implemented into any workout program. No equipment is required for this shoulder workout, and exercises can be performed anywhere. Clients who might travel for work or want a home workout will benefit from these exercises. Some of these exercises are for more experienced clients, so be sure to regress or progress accordingly. 

Pike Push-ups

Start the pike push-up in a push-up position with your arms straight and hands shoulder-width apart. Lift your hips in the air and create an upside-down V shape. From here bend your elbows and lower the top of your head to the ground. Just as you would perform a push-up. Push your body back up until your arms are straight. If this is easy for you, you can try handstand push-ups.

Handstand Push-ups

Begin this shoulder exercise by standing in front of a wall. Kick your feet up and achieve a handstand position against the wall. Maintain a tight core and squeeze your glutes to maintain position. Then, lower yourself down towards the ground. Once you are as close as you can get to the ground, push back up. Focus on keeping your legs straight and core muscles engaged. If the handstand push-up is too challenging for your client, start with wall walks.

Wall Walks

For wall walks, you will start in the same position as the handstand push-up. Your body will be up against the wall. Begin by walking your hands away from the wall. At the same time allow your feet to walk down the wall. Once you are in a push-up position, walk your feet back up the wall. Walk up until you are flat against the wall in a handstand position.

Incline Push-ups

Incline or decline push-ups provide an alternative to being in a vertical or upside-down position. For incline push-ups, start in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart on a bench. Lower your chest down to the bench and push back up. For decline push-ups, start in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart. This time have your feet elevated on the bench or box. Lower your chest down to the ground and push back up.

Shoulder Taps

Start in a push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms fully extended with your back flat and toes on the ground. Bring one hand up off the ground and tap the opposite shoulder. Rotate back and forth tapping both arms. When performing the shoulder tap exercise keep the core tight and avoid excessive movement at the hips.

Bear Crawls

A bear crawl is a bodyweight exercise that targets shoulder strength and mobility. Start in an all-fours position and lift your knees off the ground. Maintain a flat back and keep arms shoulder-width apart. Move one hand forward and follow with the opposite foot. Alternate sides, stay low to the ground, and repeat the movement for distance.

Plank Rockers

Achieve a push-up position with feet hip-width apart. Push your body back towards your heels. Allow your legs to bend and sit your glutes on your heels. The end position should mimic a child's pose. Though keep your legs off the ground. Return to the starting position. Keep your arms straight throughout the entire motion.

Plank Walks

Start in a plank position on your elbows. Place one palm down and begin pushing the body up off the ground. Follow with the other hand and arm pressing the body up to a position push-up. Once in a push-up position, slowly lower the body back down to the elbows, one arm at a time.

Superman (I, Y, & T)

For the superman exercise, lie flat on the ground in a prone position. Keep your arms extended and out to the side. Start by raising your arms up in front of the body, above the head, to create an “I” shape with both arms. Bring them back to the starting position. Then, raise your arms up and out to the side of the head, creating a “Y” letter shape. After returning to the starting position, finish by raising your arms to the side creating a “T” shape.

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