If there is any body part that just screams “alpha male”, it would have to be the shoulders. Big, broad, cannonball shoulders are the most noticeable feature of a well-defined upper body, and having them will do wonders for the looks you get from young, fertile women.
Not only that, but strong shoulders are a must for any sort of functional movement, whether it be lifting something above your head, throwing, punching, or anything else. If you want to be athletic and fit, you are going to have to have strong shoulders—period.
“How do I strengthen my shoulders?” you might be asking. Well, there are many, many exercises to do so. I personally recommend lifting weights, as they’ll offer the most resistance and thus the biggest opportunity to grow your muscles. If you want to be jacked, you have to lift weights.
But, sometimes it isn’t possible to lift weights. Maybe you don’t have enough money for a gym membership. Maybe you’re on vacation and need a quick workout to to while you’re in the hotel. Hell, maybe you just don’t want to go to the gym, because it’s thirty minutes away. Whatever the cause may be, here’s my top five bodyweight shoulder exercises.
The tried and true pushup, an exercise that everybody on the planet is familiar with. While it is predominantly associated with exercising the chest and underarms (the triceps), the humble push-up will also provide a great workout to the shoulders (more specifically, the actual pushing-up motion hits the shoulders).
I shouldn’t have to need to tell you how to do a push-up, but for the sake of completeness: get down on the floor on your hands and outstretched feet. Make sure your hips and glutes are down and your back is straight. Bend your arms and lower your body to the floor, making sure that your chest and pelvis touch the floor gently. Then press up to the start position.
Like most exercises worth doing, the push-up has dozens of variations that will work a variety of different muscles in the upper body in different ways. There are fingertip pushups (to work the forearms and hands), decline pushups (an easier variation for those who cannot do a true pushup), and incline pushups, all of which are useful.
Speaking of push-up variations that will hit the shoulders with a greater strain than the standard push-up…
“What the hell is that, Jon?” you might be asking yourself. And truth be told, I didn’t know about this exercise either until very recently, when somebody in the gym I was working out in at the time showed it to me. This is yet another example of my axiom that you should always keep your eyes and ears open and always learn new things.
So what is the “push-up plus”? Well, it is an unusual movement that, if done properly, will hit the shoulders tremendously and in a different way than you would expect. Not only will it hit the big “cannonball” deltoid muscle, but also the rotator cuff and the smaller support muscles and tendons. It will also hit the muscles of the middle back as well.
To do the push-up plus, first begin doing the standard pushup, just as was discussed in the first section. When you reach the apex of the push-up, begin pushing your shoulder blades up towards the ceiling. It will not be a particularly large rise; you will only rise up another couple of inches. But you will certainly feel it in the shoulders and rotator cuffs.
Studies have shown that the pushup plus hits the shoulders 38% more than the standard pushups! And it’s barely any more difficult than the regular push-up, so get to it.
The dip is an exercise that will work the chest, triceps, shoulders, and lats. It is also the easiest of these bodyweight exercises to add weight to for even more resistance. In fact, it’s an integral component of my “Body of an Alpha” routine, particularly on the “Day 1: Upper Body Strength” workout.
There’s a couple ways that you can do this—weighted and unweighted. For the sake of bodyweight shoulder exercises, we’ll only discuss the unweighted version here. All you’ll need is two parallel bars, kitchen tops, or tables of some sort. If you can’t find these, a low-rising table will do (or a bench, such as pictured above).
Grab two parallel bars that are wide enough for you to comfortably rest your bodyweight on your hands, and lower yourself down. Bend until your elbows are at 90 degree angles, and then rise up until the arms are straight and vertical again. Repeat. Fighting against gravity is perhaps the oldest form of resistance there is, so it would behoove you to learn how to do this exercise.
The only exercise on this list that you will need a partner for (either that or an exercise ball), the wheelbarrow walk works the shoulder muscles in a similar way to the handstand pushup, but in more of a endurance context rather than a pure strength context.
While it is not quite as strenuous (or effective) as the handstand pushup, it is worth doing on occasion to shake up your workout. Get into a pushup position, and have a friend grab your ankles. Have said friend lift your ankles up to roughly chest/shoulder height. Then start walking, you on your hands and the friend in the normal fashion. Do this until failure.
And here it is: the gold standard of calisthenic shoulder exercises. The handstand pushup is an exercise that directly hits the deltoids and gives you massive practical strength and ability. It also looks pretty damn cool to anyone watching, and as a bonus, it can be done anywhere at anytime (no equipment needed).
In addition to that, it can be made progressively more difficult in a variety of different ways, such as moving your hands closer together, removing a hand, or doing a “free handstand” rather than a wall handstand. For beginner purposes, we will do a wall handstand—we don’t want anyone falling over and hurting themselves!
Post up in front of a wall, kick your legs up, and do a handstand. Then lower your head to the floor gently, push back up, and repeat. Simple as that, but a lot more difficult in practice than it seems in writing. If that’s too easy, go on platforms to get a deeper range of motion, or put your hands into a diamond, or try a one-handed handstand pushup.
All in all, learning to do some of these bodyweight shoulder exercises is a great way to add some variation to your daily routine. I personally aim to do tons of free weight exercises, which is how I sculpt a shredded physique. When I’m traveling though, I do a lot of calisthenics since I don’t always have access to a gym.
If you want to get a full workout in, you can also combine these bodyweight shoulder exercises with other forms of bodyweight exercises. You can do tons of pistol squats, air squats, situps, crunches, and more, to get that full body effect everyone is so desperately looking for.
For those of you who are willing to pay a little bit extra, I lay down all of the nitty gritty, dirty details in my “Body of an Alpha” package. It comes with three free eBooks, plus access to a special Facebook mentorship group. I also cover everything from nutrition to supplements to working out to recovery. It’s my bodybuilding bible.
To my long time readers—I hope that you guys enjoyed the article. This is a pretty basic guide to bodyweight shoulder exercises, and while you may have only picked up a few extra tips, sometimes that’s all it takes to bring your physique up a few notches. If you have any questions be sure to leave them down below, and as always, I’ll see you next time!
Jon Anthony is a world renowned dating coach and the founder of Masculine Development, a website specifically dedicated to helping men improve their personal, dating, and financial lives. After years of training men how to attract women, build muscle, and make more money, Jon created the "7 Strategies" program to help kickstart your journey to success. Jon firmly believes that every man should have control over his own life, and he created Masculine Development to share his passion with men who want success in all areas.