Broad shoulders are the staple to a more aesthetic physique. They make you look bigger, while also making you appear leaner – through their contribution to the V-taper (where broad shoulders and a wide back give out the illusion of having a narrow waist).
It’s not just cosmetics, though. Your delts harness quite a lot of power and contribute a lot of it to other exercises such as dips and the bench press.
Great! Now all you have to do is do lateral raises and shoulder presses, right? But what about those who don’t have the time to visit the gym, or just don’t want to.
The solution? Working out your shoulders from the comfort of your own home.
In this article I am going to list the best shoulder exercises that you can incorporate into a flexible home shoulder workout.
How to make the best of your workout
While nobody’s saying that it’s unheard of developing broad shoulders through bodyweight exercises, every muscle group will benefit more through a workout at the gym. Why? Simply because you can add more weight and have a higher variety of exercises you can use.
So what can one do to contribute to muscle growth when you lack expensive equipment? Well, good news is that progressive overload does not just mean lifting heavier – it involves anything you can do during your exercise that will strain your muscles more than what they are used to.
In our case with a body weight shoulder home workout, that would involve 1) more volume: doing more reps or sets of an exercise (but within reason, as over exceeding 8-12 repetitions will lead to an endurance workout, rather than a growth workout; and 2) prolong the time under tension (TUT) – focusing on a 4 second descent when doing squats, instead of the traditional 2 second one.
So every other week try and increase either one of these two components.
Whilst applying those two elements to your workout you need to focus on one more that I deem even more important – the mind-muscle connection. There are studies (study, study, study) that showcase that the better “muscle focus” (i.e. focusing on using a specific muscle during a given exercise) the better the muscle activation and the better the results.
In other words, what I’m asking of you is to visualize using your shoulders when doing these exercises.
Lastly, to maximize on protein synthesis, train your shoulders twice a week. On average, a muscle group takes 48 hours to fully rest after a workout. What that means is that if you train a muscle only once a week you’re missing out on twice the amount of protein synthesis – i.e. twice as less muscle growth.
Great upper body exercise in general, regardless of fitness expertise. While a lot of people associate push-ups with your chest and triceps, we must not forget about its involved into your front delt development.
1. Get in a plank position with your back straight and legs straight. Aim to not raise your butt in the air or slouch. Your goal is to make a straight diagonal line from your head to your feet.
Position your hands at about your lower chest level with your palms either open or in a fist.
2. Keep a slight bend in your elbows otherwise you’ll be taking away the pressure from your shoulders and your triceps and applying it on your elbow joint.
3. Inhale and slowly lower yourself to the floor. Descend to the point where you are just about to touch the floor with your chest.
4. Exhale and push yourself back to your starting position (remember to not lock your elbows).
You should be striving for 8-15 repetitions (depending your level of fitness) with about 3-5 sets.
2. Inchworm To Push-Up
1. Stand straight with your feet closer than shoulder width apart.
2. Bend over and place your hands on the floor whilst trying to keep your legs as straight as possible. This will be your starting position.
3. Walk your hands away from your feet and move into a plank/push-up position.
4. Complete a single push-up rep.
5. Walk your hands back toward your feet and return back to your starting position.
You can either choose to stand up or not. I would recommend not standing up as that takes away the muscle tension.
Aim for 8-12 repetitions within 3-5 sets.
3. Archer Push-Up
1. Get in a push-up position with your hands wider than shoulder width apart.
2. When you lower yourself down by leaning towards one side. One arm is going to be your “pushing arm” or “working arm” and the other a “supporting arm”.
Lean towards your working arm where that arm’s elbow is close to your body. Keep your assisting arm fully extended.
Alternate between your arms. Aim for 8-12 repetitions within 3-5 sets.
1. Start in a push-up position.
2. Do 1 push-up rep.
3. At the top of the exercise, rotate your entire body to the left face from your working right arm and simultaneously lift and fully extend your left arm.
4. Inhale and slowly return to the starting position.
During your rotated position (side plank) allow your ankles to touch the floor.
Aim for 8-15 repetitions within 3-5 sets.
5. Bear Crawl
1. Start on all fours with your hands at shoulder width, knees bent (at about a 90 degree angle) and under your hips whilst standing on your toes. Keep your back straight and core tight throughout the movement.
2. Crawl forward by moving your left hand and right foot forward together (a short distance), and repeat for the opposite side to imitate a crawling motion.
3. Once you crawl 3-5 steps forward, crawl back to your starting position.
6. Handstand Press-Ups
This one’s a bit harder than the rest. I would recommend building up some triceps and shoulder strength through the other exercises on the list before moving on this one. That being said, handstand press-up is probably one of the best muscle building bodyweight shoulder exercises.
1. Start by doing a handstand against a wall – keep your legs and arms fully extended and your feet resting on a wall or a door. Make sure your hands are at about shoulder width apart. Keep your core tight throughout the movement.
2. Lower your head down to the floor by bending your elbows.
3. Hold the descended position for a second before pushing yourself back to your starting position.
It is up to you whether you want to be facing or facing away the wall.
7. Handstand Wall Walks
1. Get in a handstand against a wall (facing it away) with your core tight, arms and legs fully extended and your feet resting on the wall.
2. Walk sideways against the wall by leading with one hand and following with the other. Make sure that your feet are against the wall to provide support.
8. Shoulder Taps
1. Start from an up position of a push-up with your arms extended and your hands at your lower chest level.
2. Bring one hand up to tap the opposite shoulder (left hand to right shoulder and vice versa).
Your body will naturally slightly shift from one side to the other to maintain balance.
9. Bodyweight Side Lateral Raise
1. Get in a plank position with your core tight, back straight, feet close to each other. You are going to be on your elbows, instead of your hands.
2. Similarly to the T-Press up you are going to rotate your body up and away from your arm and simultaneously raising the arm that is on your rotating side up until full extension.
3. To add more intensity to the exercise, instead of returning back to your starting position constantly stay on one arm without using your opposing one for support. Furthermore, bend your body inward towards your working arm to really put your shoulders to the test.
1. Start from a plank position with your upper body resting on your elbows while your arms are bent.
2. Exhale and take your right arm and put it where your right elbow was.
3. Push through and repeat the same for your left arm.
4. Inhale and return to your starting position by doing one arm after the other.
1. Start in a push-up position with your feet against and close a wall.
2. Walk your feet up the wall whilst simultaneously walking your hands back towards the wall. Remember to keep your core as tight as possible.
3. Keep walking until you are as flat to the wall as you can get.
4. Walk your hands away from the wall and your feet down from the wall until you are back into a push-up position.
Optionally, you can add an extra push-up rep in there to increase the intensity of the exercise.
Well there you go, a full list of exercise you can apply to your next home shoulder workout.
Something you have probably noticed is that a lot of the shoulder exercises incorporate a pushing mechanic. What this means is that most of these exercises will activate your chest and triceps. With that being said, when designing your home workout make sure that you count these three muscle groups together and not try and hit chest, triceps and shoulders on separate days as you’re probably going to over train the muscles.