The 5 Best Shoulder Exercises for Beginners in Calisthenics

best shoulder exercises in calisthenics

If you are new to calisthenics you properly wonder how to get broad shoulders with your bodyweight. Since you don’t have weights to do shoulder presses or shoulder abductions you need to get creative. Is there another shoulder exercise you can do? Actually, there are a lot of shoulder exercises in calisthenics! As always, we keep things realistic and simple for beginners. We provide you with the 5 best shoulder exercises in calisthenics.

About Your Shoulders

The shoulder consists of the deltoid muscle (front, middle and back part) and your shoulder blade (scapula). To get broader shoulders you must train both. The deltoid and trapezius (upper, middle and lower part) are the most superficial layers of your shoulders. If you train them you’ll look broader. With the needed exercises you train other muscles as well. If you suffer from injuries or want have more stabilized shoulders check out our blog about the six best shoulder exercises for injuries.

Shoulder Exercise 1: Pike Push-Ups 

Starting Position 

Start in a push-up position. Lay on the ground with your face towards the floor. Place your hands next to your head around shoulder width. Fingers face forward and your elbows are aligned and point in the direction of your feet. Now lift up your hips as high as possible and make a straight line with your body from your hips to your hands (no arching). Form a stretched line from hips to feet. Make sure your abdomen are contracted and your shoulders retracted.

How to Perform the Exercise 

Bend your elbows as far as you can. You can bend them in the direction of your feet or outwards. If you bend them outwards you contract your deltoids more. Your head should lower between your hands until it almost touches the ground. Now push yourself back up until your arms are stretched. You should feel this in your neck (upper trapezius) and shoulders. 

How to Progress 

Try 3 x 15 reps at first. If it gets easy, start performing elevated pike push-ups. The only difference is the placing of your feet. You’ll place them on a higher platform (like a chair) to get more ROM (range of motion). This makes shoulder exercises harder. Using paralletes also increases your ROM and difficulty. 

Shoulder Exercise 2: Side Plank Push-Ups 

Starting Position 

Lay on your side. Stretch your body like you would do with a side plank. Keep your legs stretched with your feet on top of each other. Lean on your forearm. The arm should be at a 90 degrees elbow flexion. Contract your trunk and lift up your hips. Shoulders are retracted. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

Push your body up and down by making a light shoulder abduction. The rest of your body will help with this movement. But focus on your shoulder so you abdomen do not take over and you slide into a dynamic side plank. 

How to Progress 

Try 3 x 10 reps for each side. To make this more difficult try to push yourself up with a stretched arm. In this position it’s easier to make the abduction, but the exercise is a lot more difficult. You can start with your knees bend to progress slowly in-between these exercises. 

Shoulder Exercise3: Pseudo Push-Up 

Starting Position 

RELATED:  The 6 Best Shoulder Exercises to Recover from Injuries

Start in a push-up position. Now change your hand positions so your hands are turned outwards. Your fingers should now point to your feet and your thumb outwards. Place them under your shoulders. Make sure you tuck your toes and contract your abdomen.

How to Perform the Exercise 

It may feel weird at first, but now bend your elbows (they’re pointing towards your feet) and come up again, just like in a regular push-up. Your elbows will point backwards. Start with a small ROM to get used to the exercise. During the exercise your upper body wants to move forward. Make sure to lean as far as you can, but take it easy. The further you go, the more difficult this exercise will get. This targets the front of your deltoids, biceps and a bit of your back. 

How to Progress 

Start with 3 x 5 reps. If you’re used to do these pseudo push-ups you can increase the number of reps. To make things more difficult you can place your hands lower, around your middle. This increases difficulty a lot.

Shoulder Exercise 4: Wall Handstand Hold  

Starting Position 

Put your hands around 10 cm from a wall. Kick-up your legs against the wall to do a handstand. Now push your arms and shoulders out forming a strong hold. Make sure you contract your belly button to not arche your back. You can also bend 1 knee and push your body straight with your foot. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

Simply hold on to your starting position. That’s an easy shoulder exercise in calisthenics, right? 

How to Progress 

Progress by holding your position longer, for example 30 seconds. Next, try to push yourself off the wall and hold the handstand without wall support for as long as possible. If this gets easy, try regular handstands. 

the handstand is a shoulder exercise too
resistance bands can help you during a shoulder exercise

Shoulder Exercise 5: Resistance Band Retraction 

Starting Position 

Grab a resistance band and hold it in both hands. Stretch your arms in front of your chest at 90 degrees anteflexion. The band should be tensed. Make sure to retract your shoulderblades. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

Now keep your arms stretched and retract both arms as wide as you can. Make sure to squeeze the shoulder blades together, like you want to hold a pencil between them. Normally you could pull until your arms are just behind the shoulders. If you cannot, the resistance band is too tight for you. If you can easily stretch your arms far behind your shoulders, it is not tight enough.  

In case the band is too strong, grab a looser band. If it is too light, fold it for more tension or grab a stronger band. 

How to Progress 

Try to progress in reps to 4 x 15. As said before, grabbing a tighter band or folding your resistance band will create more tension to overcome. Make sure your ROM is always full.

With all these exercises you will build really stond shoulders. Take it easy at first and progress as you become more familiar with these shoulders exericses. Click here to check out our blogs about calisthenics exercises for your back, legs, biceps, triceps and much more.

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