Unique Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises (Plus 3 Great Bodyweight Shoulder Workouts)

Welcome to my article about bodyweight shoulder exercises.

I’m sure many of you are wondering whether it’s actually possible to get a great set of delts without setting foot in the gym.

I mean, you can hit just about every other muscle with bodyweight exercises, but when it comes to getting massive shoulders you may be left a little stumped.

At the gym a typical workout may include barbell and dumbbell shoulder presses, push presses, lateral raise variations, upright rows, cable raises, basically the list is never ending.

List of Weighted Shoulder Exercises

However, it’s not exactly easy to recreate most of these movements without weights.

So, I wanted to look into how to work the delts without weights and look to create an ultimate bodyweight workout for the shoulders.

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

I guess the most famous of all bodyweight shoulder exercises is the handstand push up, but considering I can barely hold a handstand for more than 3 seconds it’s an exercise I have avoided for a long, long time. A man performing handstand push ups

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.

(Don’t worry, you’ll get to see all these exercises in the video below).

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 and anterior head of the shoulder 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 single 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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Jeff Cavaliere’s Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises – Workout 1

For the first bodyweight shoulder workout 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 about producing 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” in 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.

The Jeff Cavaliere “Fake Weights” Scandal

Now, before I go any further I can’t exactly ignore the Jeff Cavaliere “Fake Weights” scandal that has besieged YouTube and various Social Media platforms during the summer months of 2020.

Jeff was accused of using fake weights when perfoming various exercises, such as the bench press and deadlift.

Many people have posted “proof” that Jeff is using fake weights in many of his AthleanX exercise videos.

I’ve seen people say that some weight plates look at lot smaller when compared to others of the same weight.

Then there’s the fact that the barbell doesn’t make the right kind of impact (or noise) when touching the ground.

We also have “proof” that the bar should bend when performing an exercise with that amount of weight, but it doesn’t.

Any finally, that a man of Jeff’s size and stature, and more importantly, his weight, shouldn’t be performing certain exercises that easily with that amount of weight on the bar, irrespective of how strong he is.

For me, whether Jeff has used “fake weights” or not, well to be honest I don’t really care, and I don’t want to involve myself in all this “controversy”.

As far as I’m concerned, Jeff Cavaliere has been producing superb workout programs and YouTube videos for years.

I have followed through on much of his advice over the years and pretty much everything I have learned from him WORKS.

Plus, he looks in absolutely great shape, and his body would shame the vast majority of guys half his age.

And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

Anyway back to some bodyweight shoulder exercises now.

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 bodyweight 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.


Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises by Stack.com – 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 hundreds 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.

Austin Dunham’s Bodyweight Shoulder Workout – 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 the best bodyweight shoulder exercises, and although there are a few familiar “faces” in there, you’ll also find some new exercises too.

I especially like how he has incorporated some work for the rear delts that doesn’t simply involve what I call stretching movements.

These are numerous 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 bodyweight shoulder exercise, “The Angry Cat Walk” is what first attracted me to it.

Actually, if I’m going to be completely honest, I ignored watching videos about this exercise 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.



Final Thoughts

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 alone.

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 shoulder exercises.

8 thoughts on “Unique Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises (Plus 3 Great Bodyweight Shoulder Workouts)”

  1. A good open and honest review Partha so very useful.

    I was pleased to see that you also commented on Jeff Cavaliere’s programs as like you I follow him and have subscribed to 2 of his programs. From my perspective, I was training for am amateur boxing bout so was religious about following his program. I not only learned quite a bit but I also ended up losing a few % points of body fat, built up my core strength and muscle mass so he gets a tick from me.

    The more I learn about body weight exercises the more I lose interest in the gym so putting out content like this is a definite plus. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Jason,

      Great to hear from you.

      Funnily enough, I also did some amateur boxing (in fact, that’s how my lifelong journey thus far with exercise started).

      However, I was only 7 years old when I first started training, so there was definitely no internet around in those days.

      I totally agree about Jeff Cavaliere and I’ve learned a lot from him, and have also seen some great results following his programs, and even from making little tweaks to my workouts by following his YouTube tutorials.

      Jeff is “The Man” as far as I’m concerned.

      I must admit I am still a “gym-goer”, but I ensure that I have at least one (most likely 2) bodyweight sessions a week.


  2. I have to agree with you, exercising your shoulders without weights, using only your bodyweight actually, is not that easy task. That’s why I keep a set of dumbells (those weight-adjustable ones) in my corner. So when doing bodyweight, I like to press some dummbells to get better results.

    I must say, I haven’t noticed these exercises you’ve mentioned in this post before. Reverse burpee seems like an effective exercise. And I like the video by Austin Dunham as well. So far so good, I will try out a few of these exercises during my next workout. Thanks a lot for sharing another awesome post! Do you have anything for building lower body (legs) without weights?

    • Hi Ivan,

      Thanks for your comments as always.

      Yes, I always struggled with the concept of bodyweight shoulder workouts, although that was before I started to become more knowledgeable about bodyweight training in general.

      I’ve tried all the exercises in the various videos and I can attest to the fact that you do get a great workout just by performing what you learn here.

      In fact, I much prefer working with bodyweight nowadays when it comes to shoulders. With that said, I like to keep my hand in when it comes to military presses and push presses.

      Funnily enough, I will be writing an article based around bodyweight leg workouts for muscle and strength very soon. So, rather than spoil the surprise, I’ll let you know when it’s written and will link to it from here as well. I hope that’s okay.

      Thanks again for stopping by.


  3. Hi,

    Body weight training i something that I have been doing recently. There arent many people Who can do shoulder body weight exercises.

    I can do 15 Reps with body weight shoulder press these days in one set. That has improved from around 3 when I started.

    Im a big fan of body weight exercises. I have even done a workout myself on my website should you want to take a look at some point?

    All the best mate.

    • Hi there,

      15 Bodyweight Shoulder Presses is HUGE, kudos to you. That’s impressive.

      You’ll have to let me know if that’s wall-supported or freestanding, as I still struggle with freestanding shoulder push ups, although that’s more to do with balance than anything else.

      Great to have another fan of bodyweight exercises here, and I’ll definitely check out what you’ve been writing about.


  4. Thanks for the great information and videos.
    I have been doing yoga for many years, so most of my conditioning has been achieved by using bodyweight. I love it, because, it doesn’t matter where you travel, you can always workout with your own weight…… no special equipment required!
    The guy, Austin, has a great video. I’m still working on the press hand stand and hope to be able to achieve at least one by the end of the year. I’ll use some of his exercises to help me get there……. as well as the ‘angry cat walk’, haha!
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thank you so much for your comments.

      I must admit I’ve never actualy tried yoga itself, but I have incorporated a number of yoga poses into my workouts, especially when warming up or stretching.

      It’s something that has definitely been on my radar for a number of years and I think as I get older it’s definitely something that appeals to me more and more.

      I totally agree with you about bodyweight training and conditioning, typically I’m at my leanest when I have been concentrating on bodyweight workouts more.

      With that said, I have come to realise that bodyweight training can also produce great gains in muscle and strength, as long as you focus on the right types of exercises, techniques, and rep schemes.

      I’m okay with handstand push ups, but typically perform them with my feet barely touching a wall, I think more as a safety net than anything else. I guess it’s mind over matter to eventually get myself performing free standing handstand push ups.

      Haha, yes the “Angry Cat Walk” – great name, always makes me laugh, but what a superb bodyweight shoulder exercise.

      Thanks again for your comments Andrew.



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