The most common shoulder exercises like the shoulder press, flyes or lateral raises require weights do be performed. In fact, there are few shoulder exercises that can be done without weights of some kind, simply because the shoulder muscles are mainly involved in vertical pushing motions. But we’re not here to make excuses, we’re here to find ways to train your body under any circumstances. So here’s a full bodyweight only workout for those shoulders.

Handstand

For this workout we will create a circuit that will target lateral, front and rear shoulder muscles and find equivalent bodyweight exercises for each dumbbell exercise that you would normally do at the gym. Because of the difficult nature of shoulder training without equipment these exercises are rather unconventional.

Handstand Pushups

We’ll do handstand push ups against the wall to replace the dumbbell shoulder presses. By doing this exercise you’re effectively pushing your whole weight, so it may be too difficult for some guys (or girls). You should always go for it even if you can do just 1 or 2 reps, but you can replace it with pike push-ups for an easier alternative.

Handstand pushups

 

Bodyweight Side Laterals

This exercise replaces dumbbell side laterals and targets lateral delts. Basically, instead of side raising your arms, you’re fixing your arm on the floor and rotating your body up to perform the same muscle movement.

Bodyweight side lateral

 

Reverse Iron Cross Pushups

Moving on to the rear delts you would do bent over dumbbell lateral raises, to replace this exercise we’ll do reverse iron cross push-ups. Iron cross push-ups are done by spreading the arms as wide as possible, so we reverse the push-up by laying on our back to target the rear delts.

Reverse iron cross pushup

 

Pike Circles

Usually the above three exercises would be enough as they target the three groups of shoulder muscles, but to make it harder for advanced guys and girl we’ll add a couple more exercises for explosive movements. You may have done shoulder tap presses with a dumbbell or kettlebell, the exercise in which you press the weight from shoulder to shoulder. A bodyweight alternative to that are the pike circles performed as regular pike push-ups with a modification of shifting your weight to the opposite shoulder in lowered position and pushing up from there, moving in continuous circles this way.

Pike push ups

 

Handstand Kickouts

Eccentric muscle contraction is very important in muscle training, that’s why we move the weights in controlled motion, especially when lowering down. However, with weights it’s very easy to let them fall faster in your hand than we’d ideally like, to get enough eccentric contraction. There’s a technique to improve this movement where you would let the weight drop from your hand at the peek and then quickly catch it. This toss movement creates the biggest eccentric muscle contraction as you have to spontaneously stop the weight mid-air and decelerate it.

An alternative, and perhaps even better and safer way as you don’t have to toss weights around, to train your muscle ability to decelerate heavy objects (as far as shoulders go) is the handstand kick-out exercise. You perform this exercise by kicking your legs out from the handstand position back to a standing position thus adding explosive pressure to your shoulders.

mule kick

 

The Complete Workout

So now that we have the exercises let’s create the workout. We’ll do this at 3 levels of difficulty.

Level 1 Workout

  • Pike push-ups (to failure)
  • Bodyweight side laterals (to failure)
  • Reverse iron cross push-ups (to failure)
  • Rest 2 minutes and repeat as many times as you can.

Level 2 Workout

  • Handstand push-ups (to failure)
  • Bodyweight side laterals (to failure)
  • Reverse iron cross push-ups (to failure)
  • Rest 2 minutes and repeat as many times as you can.

Level 3 Workout

  • Handstand push-ups (to failure)
  • Bodyweight side laterals (to failure)
  • Reverse iron cross push-ups (to failure)
  • Pike circles (to failure)
  • Handstand kick-outs (to failure)
  • Rest 2 minutes and repeat as many times as you can.
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