Shoulder Exercises Without Equipment

Fitness young woman doing push ups on beach
The push-up is a shoulder exercise utilizing only bodyweight (Image: CentralITAlliance/iStock/Getty Images)

If you want lean shoulders that look oh-so-tantalizing in a sleeveless shirt, there are certain exercises that should be included in your workout regime. The shoulders, also known as the deltoids, can be exercised using only bodyweight. Whether you don’t enjoy lifting weights or don’t have access to a gym, you can easily work out your deltoids with a few essential bodyweight exercises.

The Humble Push-Up

Though typically thought of as a chest exercise, the push-up is a simple exercise that recruits all of your deltoid muscles. According to the American Council on Exercise, the push-up is at the top of the list of exercises sans equipment that activates your deltoids.

Step 1

Place your hands on the ground underneath your shoulders. Place your feet behind you with the balls of your feet on the ground and your legs fully extended into a plank position.

Step 2

Squeeze your core and glutes while gluing your elbows to your sides as you lower your chest to the ground.

Step 3

As soon as your chest touches the ground, push away from the ground and extend your elbows.

Incline Push-Up

According to the book, "The Closed Chain Exercise," maximum muscle activity in the posterior deltoid and anterior deltoid are particular high when performing the push-up or a push-up at an angle.

The incline push-up is a variation on the original push-up. The incline is slightly easier than the regular push-up because there is not as much weight distributed on your hands

Step 1

Place your hands on an elevated surface such as a bench. Place your feet behind you with the balls of your feet on the ground and your legs fully extended into a plank position.

Step 2

Squeeze your core and glutes while gluing your elbows to your sides as you lower your chest to the bench.

Step 3

As soon as your chest touches the bench, push away from the elevated surface to return to the starting position.

Decline Push-Up

The decline push-up is an advanced variation of the traditional push-up.

Step 1

Place your hands on the ground with your shoulders over your hands. Place your feet on an elevated surface such as a bench with the balls of your feet touching the surface.

Step 2

Fully extend your legs so that you are in an elevated plank position. Squeeze your glutes and core and slowly lower your chest down to the ground, keeping your elbows glued to your sides.

Step 3

As soon as your chest touches the ground, push away from the ground and extend your elbows.

Dips

Dips are a bodyweight exercise that heavily recruit your deltoid muscles. According to the American Council on Exercise, dips are the second-best shoulder exercise without equipment.

Step 1

Grab a chair or a bench and sit down on the edge. Place your hands next to your glutes with your fingertips facing forward. Place your legs out in front of you with your heels on the ground.

Step 2

Scoot your glutes off the front of the chair. Bend your elbows and lower your body down so that your glutes almost touch the floor. Your elbows should reach a 90-degree angle.

Step 3

As soon as your elbows reach a 90-degree angle, push off of the chair and extend your elbows to straighten.

Handstands

Handstands are a gymnastics exercise that stabilizes the shoulders and core. If you’re a beginner, modify a handstand by performing it against a wall for extra support.

Step 1

Place your hands on the ground and kick your feet up to the air (or to the wall if you are modifying).

Step 2

Push the ground away from you while gripping the ground with your fingers. Keep a tight core and hollow body position while you’re inverted.

Step 3

Step down one foot at a time or with both feet together to come down from the handstand.

Handstand Push-Ups

Handstand push-ups are a more advanced move for the shoulders and should be performed only if you can hold a handstand.

Step 1

Place a mat on the ground and kick up into a handstand on a wall so that your feet are balancing you against the wall for support.

Step 2

Bend your elbows and lower your inverted body to the ground until your head touches the ground.

Step 3

Engage your core and glutes as you push the ground away from you and extend your elbows, returning your body to a handstand position.

The Bear Crawl

This shoulder exercise is a compound movement that works your entire body with a focus on shoulder activation and stabilization.

Step 1

Place your hands on the ground underneath your shoulders. Place your knees behind you as though you were getting on all fours. Place the balls of your feet on the ground and lift your knees off of the ground with a flat back.

Step 2

With a flat back, pick up your right hand and left foot off of the ground and move them forward, keeping your knees close to the ground. Alternate your hands and feet so that you are crawling forward with your knees elevated.

Step 3

Repeat this movement by crawling backward.

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