Calisthenics is great for building strength in your muscles, and they’re one of the most versatile forms of exercise because you can do them just about anywhere.
When you start adding resistance to your calisthenics routines by using weight vests or free weights, you can build some truly impressive strength.
The best part?
Because it’s all bodyweight resistance, you don’t need to go to the gym to get in your routine – all you need is some space and the ability to do push-ups, pull-ups, and dips!
Calisthenics shoulder exercises are an important part of any calisthenics workout routine.
Not only do they build muscle and burn fat, but they also help strong shoulders.
The 16 exercises in this article are all essential compound movements for bodyweight training and should be included in any calisthenics shoulder workout.
While there are many exercises that target the shoulders, the following 16 are the best to get you started with this type of training.
Each of these exercises will add some variety to your regular calisthenics workout routine, helping you build bigger shoulders and avoid injury at the same time.
How Do You Train Your Shoulders With Calisthenics?
If you’re looking to strengthen your shoulders through calisthenics, you need a plan.
You could just head out to start doing various exercises for shoulder day, but you probably won’t see results or get an effective workout.
When people train their shoulders through calisthenics, they generally focus on their deltoids.
Calisthenics moves can be grouped into two categories: push and pull.
The best way to train your deltoids is by incorporating both groups of exercises in one session.
The following are some great examples of how to use each category when it comes to training your delts.
Push-ups come to mind first when thinking about calisthenic exercises for shoulders because these chest-based moves also help with arm development.
However, performing them with your hands positioned further apart will target your delts more than the chest.
To perform wide-grip push-ups, kneel on a mat (or sit if you’re using parallel bars) so that your arms are fully extended between two bars set at chest height.
Keeping your hands wider than shoulder-width apart and aligned underneath your collarbone, lower yourself until elbows form 90 degrees, then press back up while keeping arms locked straight throughout; repeat until failure.
Another variation is normal-width push-ups, which will hit your chest muscles as well as your triceps and anterior delts.
This exercise trains the same muscle groups as wide grip push-ups except you keep your hands close together instead of widening them slightly from shoulder width—it’s really that simple!
Normal grip push-ups may not feel as intense on your shoulders as extra-wide grips, but they still do a good job targeting that area without overworking another part of your body as running does for calves.
To add intensity to traditional push-ups, try adding weight to increase resistance—like holding dumbbells in place next to your hips or wearing weighted vests—in addition to making sure the technique remains spot on.
How Many Exercises Should I Do On Shoulder Day?
Depending on your goals, you might be able to get away with just a few exercises for your shoulders.
For example, if you’re only after a more athletic build, then two or three calisthenics shoulder exercises will likely suffice.
However, if you want big delts that can be showcased in a tank top and swimsuit, then three to five exercises are probably ideal.
Also keep in mind that since we all have asymmetries and weaknesses, different areas of our delts are going to respond better to specific movements.
You’ll want to hammer these trouble spots at least twice per week as part of an upper-body split routine where you train shoulders directly on their own day.
Do Pull-Ups Work Shoulders?
This exercise mainly works your latissimus dorsi and deltoids (shoulders), as well as your forearms.
So yes, they are a good bodyweight shoulder exercise.
To do a pull-up correctly, face away from a bar (or another stable structure), slightly spread your legs shoulder-width apart, and wrap your hands around it at shoulder width.
The grip can be wide or narrow, depending on which muscles you want to target more.
Pull yourself up so that your chin passes over or comes close to touching the bar.
Lower back down slowly until your arms are fully extended again but don’t let go of the bar.
Do 8 to 10 repetitions in one set, resting for 30 seconds between sets if necessary.
Check out this all-in-one home calisthenics station.
You train your shoulders and more with this pretty crazy piece of equipment.
In fact, most of the exercises listed below can easily be done it.
The 16 Best Calisthenics Shoulder Exercises
Calisthenics is exercises done with no equipment at all, usually a bar or pull-up bar and your own body weight.
Some say that if you can do calisthenics, you can get in shape wherever you go.
This may be true to an extent, but a set of resistance bands won’t hurt!
So what are some of my favorite calisthenics shoulder exercises?
Let’s take a look.
1. Regular Push-Up
You probably know what a push-up is:
Lie on your stomach, extend your arms, lower yourself and then push back up.
Push-ups are one of those classic calisthenics exercises that can be used to build muscle.
To work shoulders, include wide-arm push-ups in your routine; with wide arms, you engage more shoulder muscles than with regular push-ups.
For an even more targeted shoulder workout, do narrow-grip push-ups from a ledge or bench.
You’ll focus on working just one portion of your deltoid (your upper arm) rather than working all three at once.
At first glance, it might seem like pull-ups are better suited for a bodybuilder or someone looking to increase their biceps.
In reality, they’re far more versatile than that.
Pull-ups focus on all three heads of your shoulder muscles and give them a great workout.
If you want to work on building muscle mass, then do an extra set of 10 reps after completing regular sets of 10 reps with perfect form.
However, if you just want to target your shoulders (and back), then try increasing your total number of pull-ups by 10 each week or by one rep every time you train.
While it is more viewed as a back exercise it still gives your shoulders a great workout as well.
3. Shoulder Taps
To start, step your feet back so that you’re in a push-up position.
Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and directly under your shoulders.
Keeping your core engaged and body still, lift your left arm up toward and tap your right shoulder before returning to starting position.
Then repeat on the opposite side by lifting the right arm and tapping the left shoulder with it before returning to start.
That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps on each side for three sets total.
4. Mountain Climbers
This might be one of your favorite high-intensity interval training exercises, but it’s also one of your best ways to burn calories and firm up those shoulders.
If you don’t have a gym membership, these calisthenics shoulder exercises will tone your deltoids without equipment.
To start you want to be in a high plank hold, and you going to bounce from foot to foot driving each knee up towards your chest as you do so.
Perform 30 seconds of mountain climbers with 30 seconds rest between each rep—for three sets total.
A great exercise to get ripped with a gym!
5. Elbow To High Plank
This is a great exercise to strengthen and stabilize your shoulder, core, and upper back muscles.
It also helps you learn how to maintain good form for other exercises such as push-ups.
You are basically moving through plank to high plank.
It seems simple at first but it’s going to burn your shoulder out!
Do five reps in a row then rest for 30 seconds; repeat three times.
This move targets your shoulders so use light weights for high repetitions if you’re just getting started with calisthenics training.
6. Plank To Down Dog
Very similar to the last exercise but with an extra step.
Starting in a plank position press yourself up into a high plank.
From there you want to press back as you lift your glute up into a downward dog pose (a common yoga movement).
This whole movement is going to require a lot of movement through your full shoulder.
7. Laying YTW
To build wide, powerful shoulders, start with a traditional push-up.
Lay on your stomach and place your hands directly beneath your shoulders.
Now stretch them out in front of you so your body makes the letter Y.
Keeping your chest and hands off the floor for the entire movement, move your arms out to the side to make the letter T.
Next you want to pull your elbows back to make the letter W then lower back to the start position.
8. Inverted Row
For this exercise, you will need a low bar, about hip height, or a set of rings.
You can even set up a barbell in the squat rack.
Set yourself up under the bar with your feet straight out in front of you.
Now with either an overhand or underhand grip row your body up towards the bar.
You can make this movement more difficult but raising your feet up onto something.
And you can make it easier by bending your knees. You can even do these at home under your dining table!
9. Invert Face Pull
Similar to the inverted row expect you will set up a little closer to the bar and when you row yourself up you want to pull your elbows back towards your ears.
This change in motion will force you to pull your face up to the bar rather than your chest in the row.
10. Pike Pushup
The pike pushup is an advanced calisthenics shoulder exercise because it targets your triceps while also challenging your grip and upper-body strength.
The pike pushup improves arm strength and balance, as well as overall core stability.
This move strengthens your arms and shoulders, which could help prevent injuries.
To do a pike pushup, begin in a traditional pushup position but walk yourself in closer so your bum is way up in the air.
You want to form a triangle with your body. With hands directly below shoulders, slowly lower down until your forehead touches the ground in front of you to make a triangle with your hands.
At that point, slowly press back up to return to starting position.
The standard dip is done on parallel bars, but it can also be performed with two benches or chairs.
If you use parallel bars, place them at waist height.
Grab onto one of the bars with both hands and push your body away from the bar until your arms are straight, then bend at your elbows to lower yourself back down toward your chest.
Make sure you don’t dip too low; otherwise you can strain your shoulders or neck muscles.
If using a bench or chair, hold on to one of them as you would a parallel bar and perform dips as described above.
The most advanced dip variation is ring dips, they require much more core strength and shoulder stability.
12. Decline Push-Ups
The most common push-up variation is a decline push-up, which targets your shoulders, chest, and triceps.
To perform a decline push-up, place your feet on an elevated surface like a bench or box that’s between 12 to 24 inches high.
This forces you to work harder than you would if your feet were on the floor.
Ideally, try to find something that’s exactly 12 inches high—then lower yourself until your chest touches it.
This creates a 90-degree angle at your elbows, which is when you should be at failure and able to complete no more reps.
You can either perform regular push-ups from there or add some variety with these other moves.
Check out this video where I did 1000 push-ups in a day! I got them all done before lunch actually!
13. Handstand Hold
The handstand hold can be practiced by anyone and works your core, shoulders, and grip.
To begin, stand with your back against a wall and walk your feet forward until you’re in a high plank position.
Make sure to keep your arms straight with palms flat on the floor.
Once in position, slowly kick up one leg at a time until you are balancing on your hands with feet off of the ground.
If it helps to balance yourself further by bending one or both elbows slightly so that you can use them as support for your wrists rather than just bearing all of your weight on them.
Hold for 10 seconds then slowly lower down to starting position once more.
14. Handstand Push-Ups
One of the most difficult calisthenics movements.
In a handstand position, start with your arms slightly bent and hands about shoulder-width apart.
Your feet should be pointed directly away from you and flat on the ground.
To perform push-ups, bend your elbows and slowly lower yourself until your chest is roughly two inches from the floor.
Then quickly press back up to straighten your arms while keeping good posture.
Avoid letting your hips sag during these exercises.
There are many variations of handstand push-ups—you can narrow or widen your grip, move closer or farther away from a wall for more or less difficulty.
But they’re all great exercises that can strengthen shoulders and core muscles as well as build upper body strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance.
For beginners though start by performing and handstand against the wall.
If this is still too difficult then perform pike push-ups with your feet up on a box.
15. Archer Push-Ups
Archer push-ups are another difficult push variation that isolates each arm more.
It’s a great stepping stone to one-handed push-ups.
Begin by getting in a standard push-up position but move your hands out 2 steps.
Now lower yourself down to your right hand as your left arm extends out straight. Press back up to the start position.
Now lower yourself down to the left and let your right arm straightens out.
Repeat for reps.
16. Wall Walks
Lay down on your belly so that your feet are touching the wall and your body is coming out at a right angle from the wall.
Push yourself up into a push position and you being to walk your legs up the wall. As your legs go high walk your hands in towards the wall.
You will end up in a handstand facing the wall. Now walk yourself back out to the starting position.
Building bigger shoulders can be done very easily with calisthenics and a balanced diet.
You no longer need a gym membership to build the body you want. Check out this article on how you can get stronger at home!
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