The 5 Hardest Shoulder Exercises You Can Do at Home — No Dumbbells Needed

Give your at-home, upper-body routine a makeover with these challenging shoulder exercises.
Image Credit: Drazen_/E+/GettyImages

If shoulders are your favorite muscle to train, you're probably a fan of the tools your gym has to offer. After all, not much can compare to the challenge of the barbell military press or dumbbell lateral raise. But if you're stuck at home with no access to weights, you can still target your shoulders using your own body weight.

Tired of plank shoulder taps and swimmers? Mathew Forzaglia, a New York-based certified personal trainer, offers these challenging shoulder exercises to inspire some creativity and motivation. Your upper-body muscles, including your back and arms, will get a nice burn from doing variations of push-ups and press offs. The only additional thing you'll need is a long resistance band.

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Move 1: Handstand Hold

Move 1: Handstand Hold
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Advanced
Body Part [ "Shoulders", "Arms", "Abs" ]
Goal [ "Improve Balance", "Build Muscle" ]
  1. Stand about a leg's distance away from a wall.
  2. Place your hands just outside shoulder-width distance on the ground and keep your gaze between your hands.
  3. Kick up into a handstand, allowing your heels to rest against the wall.
  4. Lock your arms out, brace your core and flex your glutes and thighs to hold the pose.

Tip

"You want to make sure that your ankles, hips and shoulders are stacked one on top of the other over your hands," Forzaglia says. "Focus on pressing your hands through the floor, which will activate your lats and keep you stable."

Move 2: Handstand Push-Up

Move 2: Handstand Push-Up
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Advanced
Body Part [ "Shoulders", "Arms", "Abs" ]
Goal [ "Build Muscle", "Improve Balance" ]
  1. Stand about a leg's distance away from a wall.
  2. Place your hands just outside shoulder-width distance on the ground and keep your gaze between your hands.
  3. Kick up into a handstand, allowing your heels to rest against the wall.
  4. Lock your arms out, brace your core and flex your glutes and thighs to hold the pose.
  5. Slowly bend your elbows to 90 degrees, lowering toward the ground.
  6. Once your head gently touches the ground, push back up into the starting position.

Move 3: Pike Push-Up

Move 3: Pike Push-Up
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Advanced
Body Part [ "Shoulders", "Back" ]
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists at shoulder-width distance.
  2. Walk your feet toward your hands, raising your hips toward the ceiling until they're above your shoulders.
  3. Push your shoulders forward and elbows back like a regular push-up.
  4. Simultaneously bend your elbows and lower your head to the floor.
  5. Once your head taps the ground, press back up and straighten the elbows.

Tip

The starting position of this exercise is similar to a downward facing dog, but your weight should lean forward to target your shoulders, Forzaglia explains.

Move 4: Banded Pull-Apart

Move 4: Banded Pull-Apart
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Body Part [ "Shoulders", "Chest" ]
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start standing and hold one end of a long resistance band in each hand, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Tighten your core and pull the two ends apart, leading with your rear shoulder muscles.
  3. Pause for a moment when the band is fully stretched and your arms are at your sides.
  4. Return to the starting position with control.

Move 5: Banded Standing Overhead Press

Move 5: Banded Standing Overhead Press
Image Credit: Mathew Forzaglia/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Body Part [ "Shoulders", "Abs" ]
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with one end of the long resistance band anchored under your feet, and hold the other end of the band with both hands.
  2. Bring the band up to shoulder height in a rack position, palms facing out.
  3. Brace your glutes and core, and on an exhale, press the band overhead, finishing with your biceps by your ears.
  4. Pause for a moment here.
  5. Slowly lower the band back to shoulder height.

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