I’ve often wondered how to build shoulders without weights.
I mean, you can hit just about every other muscle with bodyweight exercises, but when it comes to getting massive boulder shoulders you can be left a little stumped.
At the gym a typical workout can include barbell and dumbbell shoulder presses, lateral raise variations, and upright rows.
However, it’s not exactly easy to recreate these movements without weights.
So, I wanted to look into how to work the shoulders and perhaps create an ultimate bodyweight workout for shoulders.
The Standard Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises
I guess the most famous of all shoulder bodyweight exercises is the handstand push up, but considering I can barely hold a handstand for more than 3 seconds it’s an exercise I avoided for a long, long time.
However, as it turns out the vast majority of people perform the handstand push up with their feet supported against a wall.
This makes a lot of sense, as performing them “wall-free” is an extremely advanced exercise and it would probably help if you’re an Olympic athlete too (don’t worry, I know many “normal” people out there can perform them too) .
Next we have the pike push up, which I’d typically perform with my feet on a raised platform, such as a bench or a Swiss ball.
With that said, as a beginner you can complete pike push ups with your feet on the floor. You would initially start off in the yoga-inspired downward facing dog position.
From here I also discovered the push back push up.
With a standard push up you always keep your body horizontal and perpendicular to the floor, but with the push back push up, as the name suggests, you push back and almost end the move in a hybrid downward dog position.
Now these are all great exercises, but there’s a lot of basic pushing going on here, so you would mainly be working the front shoulders and to some extent the lateral head as well.
Don’t get me wrong, performing just these 3 bodyweight exercises for your shoulders will no doubt produce a great set of delts, but you’re not really hitting every head of the shoulders.
I’ve also seen various exercises, such as the “Y”, “T” and “L” positions, which will work the rhomboids, plus the upper and lower traps.
With that said, these exercises in my mind are more specifically stretches. So, they may produce some separation and definition, but I’m not so sure about building muscle and size.
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Build Shoulders Without Weights – Workout 1
For the first shoulder workout without weights I thought I’d turn to one of my favourite YouTubers, namely, Jeff Cavaliere.
Jeff, of Athlean-X fame, is someone who I have followed for a number of years now and I have definitely learned a lot from him.
His Athlean-X program is all about a complete body transformation in 90 days, and in my mind his exercises and workouts are aimed at the intermediate to advanced person (although he does provide some great information and exercises for beginners too).
I will admit that Jeff does have a tendency to “chat a lot” of his YouTube videos and I’ve often seen comments bemoaning this fact, BUT the guy knows what he’s talking about, so I say, let him speak.
I have completed many of his workouts (with or without weights) over the years and have absolutely loved them.
There are still various exercises and workouts that I first learned from him many years ago that I still perform to this day.
Plus, when you look at Jeff’s body composition, especially for a guy in his 40’s, it’s a testament to how good his stuff really is.
I’ve included a video below from Jeff, which is only about 4 and a half minutes long (so clearly without his usual amount of excessive talking).
He’s included 3 shoulder exercises to hit the front, middle and rear delts.
I can best describe the exercises as a push back push up, a type of single arm plank with rotation, and a reverse iron cross.
Build Shoulders With Weights – Workout 2
For the next bodyweight shoulder workout I have turned to another favourite of mine, stack.com.
Once again, I have followed, read, and watched literally thousands of videos produced by Stack over the years.
This is definitely a website that provides lots of great information and I have tried many of their workouts for myself.
They have listed many of the exercises that I already knew about (and provided videos for you to follow as well).
The handstand push up, the pike push up, the push back push up, a YTL circuit, plus an exercise that I’d never considered before, but one that makes a lot of sense – the reverse burpee.
The Reverse Burpee
You can check out the full workout here.
Build Shoulders Without Weights – Workout 3
For the third bunch of bodyweight shoulder exercises I’d like to introduce, Austin Dunham.
Admittedly, even though Austin has been producing great YouTube videos for many years, has a ton of subscribers, and literally millions and millions of YouTube views, I have only very recently come across him.
However, from what I have seen of him so far, he provides some great workout tutorials and he encompasses training for beginners, intermediates and even for those of you who are advanced (definitely not me, but I’m getting there).
Austin has provided his list of best bodyweight shoulder exercises, and although you are a few familiar “faces” in there, you’ll also find some new exercises.
I especially like how he has incorporated some work for the rear delts that don’t simply involve what I call stretching movements.
These are various row variations, and whereas you may consider these lat exercises I can definitely see how they work the back of the shoulders, the rhomboids and traps as well.
Here’s Austin’s video for his best bodyweight shoulder exercises:
BONUS: The Angry Cat Walk
I’m not going to lie, but the name of this shoulder exercise, “The Angry Cat Walk” is what first attracted me to it.
In fact, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’d actually ignored watching videos on this for a number of years because I thought it was just going to be a compilation of aggressive felines attacking their owners – how wrong could I be?
I must admit that after trying the angry cat walk it is something that I have incorporated into my shoulder workouts, as I find it a great way to fire up my delts.
For many years I wasn’t really a fan of bodyweight training, but I think (just like many people) that’s because I typically stuck with the most basic variations of exercises.
I didn’t actually have enough knowledge and imagination to come up with my own exercises and I wrongly assumed that you’d never be able to build any muscle or strength through bodyweight exercises.
This was especially true when it came to training shoulders.
However, I’ll hold my hands up and admit I was very wrong – I stand corrected.
I hope you enjoy trying out these great variations of bodyweight exercises for your shoulders.