7 Bodyweight Exercises For Stable Shoulders
You can strengthen and build your shoulders from home, and it’s easier than you think.
When you don’t have access to a pull-up machine, a cable machine or a shoulder press, you can still build shoulder strength and stability using your bodyweight.
Bodyweight exercises are generally functional exercises — this means that they mimic everyday movements of your shoulders, like reaching, lifting or supporting your weight. When you complete these exercises using the correct form, you can improve your ability to perform everyday activities, as well as improving your performance when you exercise.
These shoulder exercises will help to strengthen the tendons, ligaments and muscles of the shoulder joint — giving you stronger, more flexible shoulders. This is important for activities like swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, as well as lifting and carrying everyday items.
Bodyweight shoulder exercises to try
Training your shoulders can help to improve your posture, give you stability through your upper body when you walk, run or do any other activity.
First, start with these exercises to warm up your shoulders:
This exercise is great to start with to warm your upper body and mobilise your spine. If you’ve just gotten out of bed or you’ve been sitting throughout the day, use this exercise to prepare your body to move.
1. Start on all fours on a yoga mat. Ensure that your knees are below your hips and your hands are below your shoulders. Set your spine in a neutral position and draw your shoulder blades down and back. Gently draw your ribs to your hips to engage your core. This is your starting position.
2. Inhale. Lift your chin and allow your stomach to sink towards the floor. Create space between your shoulders and ears by drawing your shoulder blades down and back. This is called “cow”.
3. Exhale. Press your hands and knees into the mat, draw your chin to your chest and draw your stomach in to curl your spine. This is called “cat”.
4. Return to a neutral spine and repeat for 30 seconds.
The inchworm exercise helps to activate your whole torso, including the stabilising muscles of your shoulders.
1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and while keeping your legs as straight as possible, place your hands on the floor directly in front of your feet. This is your starting position.
2. Inhale. Without moving your feet, walk your hands forward until your body is in one straight line from your head to your heels, resting on the balls of your feet, ensuring that your legs remain as straight as possible.
3. Exhale. Without moving your feet, walk your hands backwards to return to the starting position, once again, ensuring that your legs remain as straight as possible.
Repeat 8-10 times.
Once your shoulders are activated and warm, you can do these exercises:
Downward-dog & push-up
This push-up variation engages your shoulders and upper back as you move between the two positions. Keep your core switched on throughout the movement.
You can drop to your knees to complete the push-up to make this move easier.
1. Place both hands on the mat slightly further than shoulder-width apart, feet together on the mat behind you while resting on the balls of your feet in a push-up position. While maintaining a neutral spine and stabilising through your abdominals, elevate your hips to create an inverted “V”shape. With knees slightly bent, press your heels into the mat and tilt your tailbone upwards. This is your starting position.
2. Lower your hips into a push-up position, ensuring that your shoulders are stacked over your wrists and your body is in one straight line from head to heels. While maintaining a neutral spine, bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the mat until your arms form two 90-degree angles.
3. Exhale. Push through your chest and extend your elbows to lift your body back into a push-up position. Elevate your hips to return to the starting position.
Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
This exercise is excellent for anyone with a desk job or spending a lot of time driving. It mobilises your shoulder, strengthening your rotator cuff and stabilising your shoulder blades.
1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Hinge forward from your hips so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Bend your knees slightly and extend your arms directly below your chest, keeping your hands in a neutral position (palms facing each other). This is your starting position.
2. Using the muscles in your shoulders and back, slowly raise your hands forward and upward until your arms are in line with your ears and they resemble the shape of a “Y”. You should feel a small squeeze between your shoulder blades.
3. Lower your arms to return to the starting position.
4. While maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, raise your hands outward and upward until they are in line with your shoulders to resemble the shape of a “T”, ensuring that you draw your shoulder blades down and back.
5. Lower your arms to return to the starting position.
6. Rotate your wrists so that you are now holding your palms facing your body. Bend your elbows to bring your hands in towards your lower ribs. While keeping your elbows as still as possible, rotate your hands upward until they are in line with your shoulders to resemble the shape of a “W”.
7. Rotate your palms downward before extending your elbows to lower your hands and return to the starting position.
Repeat 10 times.
This core strength exercise targets the obliques, but it also strengthens the shoulder joint as you hold your body steady with your arm.
1. Start by lying lengthways along a yoga mat. Place your left forearm firmly on the floor, ensuring that your elbow is directly below your shoulder and that your forearm is parallel to (in line with) the short edge of your mat.
2. Extend both legs and, using your obliques, gently raise your hips off the mat. Position your feet one on top of each other or place your left foot on the mat in front of your right — whichever is most comfortable.
3. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then complete 30 seconds on the other side.
If you want to challenge yourself, you can combine push-ups and side planks for a more dynamic exercise.
Commandos challenge the stabilising muscles in the shoulder, strengthening your arms and shoulders together. They also require core strength!
1. Start by placing your forearms (wrist to elbow) on a yoga mat and extending both of your legs behind you, resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.
2. Release your right forearm to place your hand firmly on the mat directly below your right shoulder and push up onto your right hand. Release your left forearm to place your hand firmly on the mat directly below your left shoulder and push up onto your left hand. Ensure that you keep your core activated to prevent your hips from swaying.
3. Inhale. Release your right hand and lower your forearm to the mat, then release your left hand and lower your forearm to the mat to return to the starting position.
4. Repeat this exercise, starting with your left arm. Continue alternating between right and left for 5 repetitions on each side.
If you need an alternative to this exercise, you might try the shoulder tap as a variation.
Find a hallway or a little bit of space for this exercise to strengthen your core, shoulders and overall stability.
1. Starting on all fours on a yoga mat, ensure that your knees are below your hips and your hands are below your shoulders. Set your spine in a neutral position and draw your shoulder blades down and back. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the mat, resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.
2. Take a small step forward with your left foot and right hand at the same time, ensuring that you keep your abdominals engaged to help minimise torso movement and that your torso remains parallel to the floor.
3. Take a small step forward with your right foot and left hand at the same time, once again, ensuring that you keep your abdominals engaged to help minimise torso movement and that your torso remains parallel to the floor.
Continue alternating between left and right for ten repetitions.
Use these bodyweight shoulder exercises to stay strong anywhere
You can still progress your fitness without access to gym equipment using these bodyweight exercises to create your own shoulder workout.
Once you’ve completed your routine, remember to cool down and stretch your shoulders to maintain your flexibility and minimise any soreness.
You might try these bodyweight leg exercises next to ensure you train your whole body throughout the week.
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.