Good Bodyweight Exercises that Target the Shoulders

Body Weight Exercises that Target the Shoulders

The shoulder (deltoid) muscle is an important muscle as it is the main abductor of an arm. This muscle is an essential element of the shoulder's appearance, and it helps to get a v-shaped torso. The three heads of the deltoid muscle are attached to the upper part of the arm bone. Working out the deltoid muscles can help you build up your shoulder area and increase your upper body strength.

Here are some bodyweight exercises that work the deltoid muscles safely.

Arm Circles

Thought of as a warm-up by many, this exercise can be performed for an extended duration of time & repetitions in order to stimulate a serious burn in the lateral head of the deltoid. It’s a rather simple exercise that can lead to serious gains in the long run. If this is too simple for you, don’t shun it quite yet- Arm Circles can serve as a great warm-up routine for more intensive exercises to come.

How to do it: Simply hold out your arms to your sides in a 180-degree locked-out position. Without bending your elbows, use your shoulder muscles to rotate your arms in small, repeating circular motions. Perform this motion until a deep burn is felt in the shoulders- when this occurs, reverse the pattern of motion and move your arms in backwards circles. Perform this until the muscles are too tired to maintain the proper 180-degree angle.

Handstand Push-Up

Considered a Franken-lift of sorts, the Handstand Push-Up is a conglomerate of two of the most revered bodyweight exercises known to man- the handstand and the push-up.

How to do it: Simply go into a handstand with your arms fully extended above your head (but not locked out). Stabilize your core and slowly lower your body until your head touches the ground, then push through your shoulders and propel your body back into the starting position. If this is too difficult, consider attempting this exercise while leaning against a wall in order to provide support. If you want a greater challenge, you can attempt to perform this exercise while balancing on a Bosu Ball- just be sure to have a spotter or a padded mat to fall on in case you fall!

Pike Push-Up

If you simply cannot perform a handstand, have no fear! This is where the Pike Push-Up comes into play. The more stabilized position allows you to place more emphasis on the deltoids and aim for a higher rep range in order to stimulate the muscles to a greater degree. This is a good bodyweight exercise targeting the shoulders because it is suitable for beginners and advanced.

How to do it: Place your feet together in a pike on an elevated table, bench or chair. Keep your legs straight and bend your hips at a 90-degree angle, balancing on the palms of your hands and keeping your arms fully extended above your head. Slowly lower your body until your head touches the ground, then push through your shoulders and propel your body back into the starting 90-degree angle.


More of a balancing technique rather than a lift, the Planche is the epitome of stabilization, utilizing both your deltoids (primarily the frontal head) and the abdominal wall. The longer you can hold this exercise, the more benefits you will reap – try to last as long as possible! Just make sure to steadily breathe as you go!

How to do it: Assume the starting position on your hands and knees. Leaning forward and positioning your arms at a straight palms-out 30-degree angle, follow through by lifting your legs up with your core and keeping your spine in a 180-degree alignment with the rest of your body (i.e. head, back, legs & feet). Stabilize your core and maintain your balance via the stabilizer muscles in your deltoids and abs – the longer you can hold it, the better!

Pull ups

The pull ups exercise is one of the most popular exercises to have ever been invented. The pull ups exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in the upper and middle back, biceps, triceps, forearms and the deltoids (shoulders). It even works the glutes and abs, albeit to a somewhat lesser extent.

How to do it: You are only going to need a good pull up bar that you can hang from to execute this movement. It is essential to grip the bar correctly to do it properly. If you can use a power rack with a pull up bar at the gym, it would be better or even a doorway pull up bar should do fine.

Look up at the bar that you intend to grip. Grip the bars tightly with your palm facing away from you and elbows straight. This is your starting position. Take a deep breath while you are still down because it is easier to breathe in this position. With a firm grip on the bars, you will try to pull your entire body weight upwards. Make sure that your chest rises ahead of the shoulders. It is unhealthy for your rotator cuff and shoulder joint if you let the shoulders go forward. Start the pull with your chest up and shoulders retracted. Lower Yourself- The downward movement is the final part of the rep. It is essential to ensure that you do not use jerky movements while performing the "negative" rep. Your downward movement should be slow and controlled. Just letting your weight go can prove detrimental to your elbows.

Repeat; now is the time to refill your lungs with some oxygen and get ready for the next repetition.

Crab Walk

Not just for crustaceans, the Crab Walk is a great exercise for igniting that deeper burn in the shoulders. Utilizing both the stabilizer muscles and the more prominent deltoid heads makes adding the Crab Walk to your shoulder-training arsenal a no-brainer. Try to walk as far as you can for as long as you can. For an even greater challenge, try attempting this backwards!

How to do it: Begin by sitting with your hands firmly planted behind your shoulders. Lift your hips so that your glutes are above the ground, your knees are bent and your body is supported by your hands and feet. Proceed to walk forward (or backward!) by simultaneously moving your left arm with your right leg then following through with your right arm with your left leg. Be sure to maintain the proper positioning and form as you walk by bracing your shoulders – that’s where the effort should be made, after all!