Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises: How You Can Build Big Shoulders Without Weights

bodyweight shoulder exercises

Ripped abs and bulging biceps are great T-shirt muscles, but they won’t turn any heads when you’re bundled up this fall and winter. Broad shoulders, on the other hand, can stand out from beneath even the chunkiest sweaters and overcoats and arguably do more than any other muscles to bolster your physical presence. Use this simple body-weight program to build an imposing set for yourself, and worry about abs next spring.

How it works

Working out without weights, or body-weight training has many advantages, the first of which is you can do it anywhere. Second, it’s safe. When you train shoulders with free weights, you can progress faster, but you pay a higher price for sloppy form—namely, injury—and then there’s the fact that the shoulder joints are the most unstable and injury-prone in the body.

With body-weight training, increasing the difficulty of an exercise can be as simple as adjusting the angle. Raise your feet on a pike pushup and you instantly feel a greater challenge. You can also have more fun; moves like the crab walk may look silly, but they’ll work your shoulders just as well as presses, and you’ll have fun doing them.


Use this program in place of your normal shoulder routine for four weeks. Perform the workouts with at least two full days between them (avoid any other upper-body training in between). A great follow up to this program is The 21-Day At-Home Shred.

The exercise pair in Day I (A and B) is done as a superset—complete one set of A, then B without rest. Continue until all sets are complete. The routine on Day II is done as a circuit—perform one set of each move back-to-back without rest and then rest 90 seconds. Do as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes. Note that this is the entire length of Day II’s workout (you’re done in 10 minutes).

The Workout

Day I

1. Feet-elevated pike pushup
Sets: 4 Reps: 12 Rest: 60–90 sec.
Get into pushup position and rest your feet on a bench or box. Bend your hips, raising your butt toward the ceiling so that your torso is vertical. Lower your body to the floor until your head is between your hands. Press back up.

2A. Wide-grip inverted row
Sets: 5 Reps: 10 Rest: 0 sec.
Set a barbell at hip height in a rack, or set up a pipe or similar object if you’re not in a gym. Hang beneath it and squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your body up to the bar.

2B. Dip
Sets: 5 Reps: 10 Rest: 0 sec.
Suspend yourself over parallel bars and lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor.

Day II

1. Feet-elevated pike pushup
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 6
Repeat the pike pushups you did on Day 1.

2. Wide-grip pullup
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 5
Hang from a chinup bar with hands much wider than shoulder width and palms facing forward. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.

3. Crab walk
Sets: As many as possible Reps: Walk for 30 sec.
Sit on the floor and plant your hands under your shoulders. Place your feet flat and bend your knees. Extend your hips so they rise an inch or so above the floor—this is crab position. Next, walk forward on your hands and feet, moving your right leg and left arm in tandem and vice versa. Keep your hips low and chest up.

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