21 Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises (To Target All Three Deltoids)

Are you looking for the best bodyweight shoulder exercises?

You are in the right place.

Here are 21 different exercises, each focusing on a specific muscle of the shoulder complex.

The best part is you can do all these bodyweight exercises from home.

Let’s get started.

best bodyweight shoulder exercises cover

Shoulder Anatomy – The 3 Different Deltoid Muscles

The shoulder is composed of three major muscle groups.

  • The Anterior Deltoid
  • The Medial Deltoid
  • The Posterior Deltoid

The anterior deltoids (aka front deltoids) sit in front of your upper arm and work to bring your arms in front of you.

The medial deltoids (aka lateral deltoids) sit on the side of your upper arm and work to bring your arm away from your body, towards your sides, and overhead.

Lastly, the posterior deltoids (aka rear delts) sit in the back of your upper arm and work to bring your arms behind you. Common posterior deltoid exercises include rowing-type exercises and posterior shoulder flys.

picture of anterior, medial, posterior deltoid muscles

What About The Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is also part of the shoulder complex.

It is composed of four small muscles that move your shoulder joint in multiple directions (abduction, internal rotation, and external rotation).

The rotator cuff muscles are secondary movers in almost all shoulder exercises.

Now, let’s get to the exercises.

Beginner Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

This next section will break up the shoulder exercises into beginner, intermediate, and advanced variations.

Each exercise will have a video demonstration, a short description, and a difficulty score.

Pike Pushups

Pike push-ups are the quintessential bodyweight shoulder exercise and the calisthenics version of the overhead press.

How to do it:

  • Walk your feet toward your hands until you make a V at the hips.
  • You can feel free to go on your tip toes.
  • From this position, bend at the elbows and tuck your elbows to a 45-degree angle from your body. 
  • (I.e., point your elbows toward your toes rather than to the side)
  • Bring the top of your head/forehead towards the ground, slightly in front of your hands.
  • Push back up to the starting position.

Muscles worked:

  • Medial deltoids, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 6-12 rep range


Push-ups & Push-Up Shoulder Taps

The next calisthenics shoulder exercise is the good ole regular push-up. We won’t cover it in great detail here since we already have a comprehensive push-up tutorial which you can find here.

The push-up shoulder tap is another simple bodyweight shoulder exercise that you can easily add to your routine.

How to do it:

  • From a push-up position, shift all your weight to one hand and lift the other to touch the opposite shoulder.
  • Slowly return down to a push-up position and repeat with your other hand.
  • Make sure to keep your glutes tight, and your core engaged the entire time.

Muscles worked:

  • Anterior and medial deltoid, triceps, core, glutes

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of Higher reps (10+).


Single Arm Side Plank Rotations

This next bodyweight exercise combines the standard plank and the side plank and trains your shoulder via rotation.

How to do it:

  • Start in a regular plank position with your forearms on the ground.
  • Rotate to a side plank while lifting your other arm straight up into the air.
  • From here, rotate back down as if you were going back to a regular plank, but before you reach the bottom, you will rotate back up again.
  • Focus on driving the movement from your shoulder joint as if you were abducting your arm away from your body.

Muscles worked:

  • Medial deltoids, rotator cuff, core

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions per side.


Crow Pose

I first saw this exercise in yoga circles and later in the calisthenics world. It is a great introductory exercise to learn more advanced movements like the handstand or the planche.

It teaches you how to support your entire body on just your arms (which is a lot easier said than done.)

How to do it:

  • Start by crouching and placing your hands on the floor, palms down, shoulder width apart.
  • Next, bring your knees up towards your armpits and above your elbows. Your elbows are naturally going to bend.
  • From this position, begin leaning forward until your feet come up off the ground.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can

Muscles worked:

  • Anterior and medial deltoids, rotator cuff, core strength

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds

Did I mention that this exercise also requires a great deal of balance?


Planche Leans

Rounding out the beginner exercises is the planche lean. It looks straightforward, but it is anything but.

Unlike the crow stand, where your arms are bent- the planche lean requires straight arms.

How to do it:

  • Get into a standard push-up position with hands turned out and slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Next, push your hands into the ground and protract your shoulder blades as much as possible. This movement will round your upper back, creating a hollow body position.
  • From here, lean your body as far forward as possible while keeping your hands flat on the floor and your elbows locked out.
  • Maintaining the hollow body posture throughout the entire exercise is essential.

Muscles worked:

  • Anterior deltoids, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • You can do this exercise for time or reps, i.e., leaning forward, holding for a three count, returning to the starting position, and leaning forward again.

DIFFICULTY SCORE: Depends on How Far You Can Lean

Intermediate Exercises

Next up, we will cover more challenging variations of the exercises we listed above.

Let’s get started.

Incline (Pike) Shoulder Taps

The pike shoulder tap is precisely like the push-up shoulder tap.

This variation will stress your shoulder joints more than the push-up shoulder tap because 1) you are supporting much more of your body weight and 2) the angle at which your arms are positioned.

How to do it:

  • Elevate your feet onto a bench or a chair while keeping your hands flat on the ground.
  • Pike yourself into a V position by walking your hands close to your feet.
  • Begin alternating shoulder taps by reaching your hand to touch the opposite shoulder.
  • As always, take your time and take your time with this exercise.

Muscles worked:

  • Medial and anterior deltoids, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions per side


Incline Pike Push-ups

The incline pike push-up is a more advanced variation of the standard pike push-up.

How to do it:

  • Elevate your feet onto a bench or a chair and place your hands flat on the ground at shoulder-width
  • Create as much of a V shape in your hips as possible by walking your hands toward your feet
  • The remainder of the incline pike push-up is the same as the standard pike push-up

Muscles worked:

  • Medial and anterior deltoid, triceps, core

Sets and reps:


Handstand Holds

alex and brittany doing handstands

Handstand holds are an excellent way to train your shoulders and several other muscle groups.

It requires a decent amount of wrist flexibility and shoulder mobility.

How to do it:

  • It would help if you did this exercise against a wall so that you don’t have to worry about the balance component when starting.
  • Stand 6 inches away from a wall, place your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and crouch down with your non-dominant leg bent and your dominant leg straight out behind you.
  • Use the bent leg to kick up and propel your body toward the wall. 
  • It may take a few practice attempts, but it is a skill you will pick up relatively quickly.
  • During the handstand position, focus on squeezing your glutes together and maintaining your elbows locked out. 
  • Lastly, do not let your lower back arch.

Muscles worked:

  • Medial deltoids, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • 2 sets of 30+ seconds. Hold this position for as long as you can.


Wall Walks

The wall walk is another fun shoulder exercise that adds a dynamic component to your handstand training.

How to do it:

  • Get into a push-up position with your feet up against a wall.
  • Walk your feet up along the wall while you walk your hands back, bringing your chest closer to the wall.
  • Be careful not to walk too close to the wall, or you risk falling over.
  • Reverse the movement back down to the starting position and repeat.
  • At the top, completely lock your shoulders overhead to engage a full range of motion.

Muscles worked:

  • Medial and anterior deltoids, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps per set should be sufficient.


Neutral Grip (Standard) Dips

The last up is the standard dip.

Everyone knows this exercise due to its simplicity and effectiveness.

The one downside to this exercise is that it does require you to have access to tall parallel bars. If not, you can do them with some sturdy chairs or two desks.

How to do it:

  • Position yourself between two dip bars
  • Jump up to support your entire body weight in just your hands with your arms straight.
  • Feel free to bend your knees or cross your legs behind you.
  • Keep your chest proud and your shoulders back by retracting your scapula (shoulder blades).
  • Next, depress your scapula by moving your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Begin bending at the elbows and allow your upper body to lean forward some.
  • Only go as low as you can maintain your shoulder joint back in its socket.
  • Once you see your shoulder rolling forward, you are going too low for your mobility, or you need to practice maintaining a neutral shoulder position.

Muscles worked:

  • Pectoralis (chest), anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, triceps

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 5-15 reps per set


Advanced Exercises

Okay, now it’s time to increase the difficulty even more.

Here are the most advanced calisthenics shoulder exercises you can do.

Handstand Push-ups

The first advanced exercise is the back to wall handstand push-up.

How to do it:

  • Get into the handstand the same way as you did in the previous exercise (kicking up with your dominant leg with your hands already planted on the ground at a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.) 
  • Watch the video above for a demonstration.
  • From here, bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your body until your head touches the floor.
  • Press back up while maintaining a neutral spine. 
  • If this exercise is too strenuous for you, place a mat under your head to shorten the range of motion.

Muscles worked:

  • Medial deltoids, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 4-10 reps per set are sufficient.


Chest To Wall HSPU

Another advanced bodyweight shoulder exercise is the chest to wall handstand push-up. The chest to wall handstand push-up is almost the equivalent of a bodyweight shoulder press.

It is performed exactly as it sounds.

How to do it:

  • To get in the proper position, face away from the wall in a push-up position.
  • From here, you will need to walk your feet up the wall while walking your hands back, bringing your chest closer to the wall with each step.
  • Bring your head down in front of your hands and then push back up to neutral (unlike the standard handstand push-up where you travel straight up and down).
  • This variation is much more difficult and requires much more concentration to get the most out of this exercise.
  • To get back down, you can either walk your way back down or offset one of your hands to give you enough room to lower down, as shown in the video.

Muscles worked:

  • Medial deltoids, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 4-10 reps


Pseudo Planche Pushups

The pseudo planche pushup is a beast of an exercise.

How to do it:

  • Remember the planche lean from before? That is the starting position for the pseudo-planche push-up.
  • When starting this exercise, turn your hands out, so your thumbs face forward.
  • The goal is to lower down into a push-up while leaning as far forward as your shoulder strength allows.
  • Do not be surprised if you could only do a handful of repetitions. This is a very advanced push-up variation that really targets the shoulders and even your biceps.
  • Don’t forget- you must maintain a rounded hollow body position throughout the movement.

Muscles worked:

  • Anterior deltoids, rotator cuff, triceps, core

Sets and reps:

  • 6-10 reps per set is a good goal.

DIFFICULTY SCORE: Depends On How Far You Can Lean

Straight Bar Dips

The straight bar dip is another excellent bodyweight exercise for the shoulders.

It is more well-known in the calisthenics realm because it is the second half of the muscle-up exercise (a movement that combines a pull-up and a dip in one fast motion).

How to do it:

  • Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder width on a straight bar.
  • Jump up and support your body weight through your outstretched arms.
  • Depress your scapula and maintain this position throughout the exercise.
  • Begin the movement by bending at the elbows and bringing your lower chest down towards the bar.
  • Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body.
  • Your upper body will naturally bend forward to meet the bar.
  • Once your upper abdomen makes contact, press back up and lock out your elbows.

Muscles worked:

  • Anterior deltoids, medial deltoids, triceps


Ring Dips

The ring dip is the last of the dip variations we are going to cover.

Performing the dips on rings increases the movement’s demands significantly because it adds a substantial stability component to the exercise.

In addition, your hands will be free to rotate, allowing for a more natural range of motion.

How to do it:

  • The ring dip technique is the same as a standard dip
  • The only difference is that you must stabilize the rings. Just be careful. You may notice that your hands will be very shaky when first doing this exercise.
  • Keep the rings close to your body and keep all of the muscles in your core and upper body engaged.
  • The remainder of the exercise is the same.

Muscles worked:

  • Anterior deltoids, medial deltoids, chest, triceps, core


Corrective (Rehab) Shoulder Exercises

In this last section, I will cover corrective exercises for your shoulders.

In other words, these exercises will help keep your shoulders healthy.

They primarily train the posterior deltoid and the rotator cuff, two muscle groups that are often neglected in shoulder muscle training.

Plus, these exercises are also great for improving the mobility of the shoulder joint as well as your thoracic spine.

Include these exercises in your warm-up or as rehab/prehab exercises to keep the shoulders structurally balanced.

Here are the best exercises.

YTI Shoulder Complex

The YTI exercise is one of the best corrective bodyweight shoulder exercises that you can do.

How to do it:

  • Find a bench on which you can lie face down (or lie on the floor, which works equally well).
  • When in position, lift your arms directly overhead, creating an I shape, with your thumbs facing up towards the ceiling.
  • Lift your arms as much as you can while keeping your elbows straight.
  • Your range of motion won’t be very large, but you will feel your posterior shoulder getting activated.
  • Hold the position for a two count and return back to the starting position.
  • For the next part of the exercise, you will keep your arms overhead, but you will bring your hands further apart from each other until your shoulders are in a Y shape.
  • Keep your thumbs up and lift your shoulders as you did in the previous part.
  • For the last part of the exercise, bring your arms directly out laterally, creating a T shape with your body.
  • Again, make sure that your thumbs are pointing up towards the ceiling.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Muscles worked:

  • Posterior deltoid, rotator cuff, rhomboids

Sets and reps:

  • 2 sets of 5-8 repetitions in each position.

Prone Swimmers

The prone swimmer is another excellent shoulder corrective exercise that trains internal shoulder rotation, external rotation, and flexion.

How to do it:

  • Lay face down on the floor with your hands behind you, resting on your low back and palms facing the ceiling.
  • From here, retract your shoulder blades together by trying to make your elbows touch each other.
  • Next, swing your arms out laterally and then overhead in one smooth, controlled motion.
  • Reverse the movement by bringing your hands back together on your low back.

Muscles worked:

  • Posterior delotid, rotator cuff

Sets and reps:

  • 2 sets of 8 repetitions per set.

Bridge Press Ups

The bridge is a nice addition to your shoulder calisthenics toolbox because it serves two purposes.

First, it is a great mobility exercise that improves the range of motion of your thoracic spine, shoulders, and hips. 

Second of all, if you perform this exercise for repetitions (by pressing up into a bridge and lowering back down to the floor), you get a great deal of shoulder activation.

How to do it:

  • Lay flat on the floor with your knees bent and your hands over your head.
  • Place your palms face down by your head with your fingers pointing away from you.
  • From here, squeeze your glutes, elevate your hips, and press hard into the floor with your hands.  
  • This is the starting position.
  • Begin the exercise by bending the elbows until your head makes contact with the ground.
  • Pause for 1 second and press back up.
  • Ideally, your elbows should lockout.  But don’t worry if you can’t- it is much harder than it looks. 

Muscles worked:

  • Medial deltoids, posterior deltoids, triceps

Sets and reps:

  • Go for 6-10 repetitions per set.

Crab Walks

The crab walk is a lot harder than it looks. This exercise will strengthen your rear deltoids while improving shoulder mobility in an extended and externally rotated position.

How to do it:

  • Sit with your knees bent, your hands flat on the floor at your sides, and your fingers pointing backward. 
  • Start the exercise by squeezing your glutes and elevating your hips toward the sky while keeping your hands flat on the floor.
  • You will feel a nice stretch along your shoulders and chest.
  • While maintaining your hips in an extended position, you will walk slowly by marching your feet and hands forward.

Muscles workers:

This exercise will target your posterior shoulder as well as your rotator cuff.

Sets and reps:

  • 2 sets of 20 seconds

Bodyweight Rear Delt Fly

Last but not least is the rear shoulder fly.

This exercise is extremely effective at targeting the posterior deltoid. While the range of motion of this exercise is not very big- it requires a great deal of force.

How to do it:

  • Lay on the ground with your arms out to your side, thumbs facing up toward the ceiling.
  • From here, press your fists down hard as if you are trying to pick your upper body off the ground using only your fist.
  • Keep your elbows locked out and your arms straight throughout the entire exercise.
  • Your body will come off the ground a couple of inches – hold this position for one count and return back to the starting position.

Muscles worked:

  • Posterior deltoid

Sets and reps:

  • 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps

Other Related Questions

Do push-ups work shoulders?

Yes, the push-up exercise works the shoulders. It primarily focuses on the chest and triceps, but the anterior deltoid is a secondary mover.

However, you can increase the shoulder activation of a push-up by keeping your hands locked in place and leaning forward.

By performing push-ups from this position, you will bias the shoulder muscles more than the chest.

Do dips work shoulders?

Yes, dips work your shoulders.  The degree of shoulder activation is dependent on how much or how little you lean forward.  The more forward you lean during the exercise, the more chest activation occurs, and the more upright you are, the more your shoulders and triceps activate.

It is natural to have some degree of forward lean, which makes the dip more of a shoulder, tricep, and chest-dominant exercise.

What are the benefits of bodyweight shoulder exercises?

Bodyweight shoulder exercises can be an excellent way to build strength, improve posture, and reduce the risk of injury.

The shoulders help dictate almost every single motion in the upper body.

Just think about all of the movements you do with your arms on a daily basis.

How often should you train These Muscles?

Aim to train your shoulders two times per week. 

The shoulder muscles are relatively small relative to other muscle groups. As such, they cannot handle or tolerate a lot of volume or frequency.

Also, remember that there is a lot of overlap among upper-body exercises, and the shoulder muscles are often a secondary mover in most upper-body movements.

A Simple calisthenics shoulder workout

Good shoulder workouts need to train all three heads of the deltoid muscle.

Therefore, we need to include a horizontal pressing exercise (for the anterior deltoid), a vertical pressing exercise (for the medial deltoid), and at least one corrective exercise (for the posterior deltoid).

Always do the most challenging exercise first, which in this case will be the vertical push exercise.

Here are three bodyweight shoulder workouts you can do anywhere.

Beginner Bodyweight Shoulder Workout

ExerciseSets & Reps
Pike Push-ups
– (Immediately followed by shoulder taps)
1 x 12
(1 x 8 each side)
Bodyweight Rear Delt Flys1 x 8
Dips1 x 10
YTI Complex1 x 8 each position

Repeat this sequence three times to complete the workout

Intermediate Workout A

ExerciseSets & Reps
Incline Pike Push-ups
– (Immediately followed by shoulder taps)
1 x 10
(1 x 8 each side)
Prone Swimmers1 x 10
Wall Walk with 3 second Handstand Holds1 x 3

Repeat this triplet three times to complete the workout

Intermediate Workout B

ExerciseSets & Reps
Handstand Push-ups1 x 5
Psuedo Planche Push-ups1 x 8
Crab Walks1 x 15 steps
Side Plank Rotations1 x 10 on each side

Repeat this circuit three times to complete the workout

If this isn’t enough for you, we also have a detailed, comprehensive post on designing a full-body calisthenics workout from beginning to end! Check it out here.

To Summarize:

Here is a quick recap of the bodyweight shoulder exercises we covered and the specific deltoid muscles they emphasize.

Anterior Delt Exercises

  • Push-ups and Push-up Shoulder Taps
  • Wall Walks
  • Planche Leans
  • Psuedo Planche Push-ups
  • Dips (All three variations)

Medial Delt Exercises

  • Pike Push-ups
  • Wall Walks
  • Side Plank Rotations
  • Incline Pike Push-ups and Shoulder Taps
  • Handstand Holds
  • Handstand Push-ups
  • Crow Pose
  • Dips (Neutral Grip and Ring)
  • Bridge Press-ups

Posterior Delt Exercises

  • YTIs
  • Prone Swimmers
  • Crab Walks
  • Bodyweight Rear Delt Fly

Wrap Up

So there you have it. That is our list of the 21 best bodyweight shoulder exercises. What did you think?

Anything you would add to the list?

Anything you would take away?

Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Related Posts On Bodyweight Training For Different Bodyparts


Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.

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