The shoulders are large, powerful muscles that drastically affect your performance and appearance. If you truly want to master some of the more advanced calisthenic movements, direct shoulder work is an absolute must. Likewise, if you want to obtain that broad, v-tapered look, you need to have dedicated shoulder days in your routine.
In this guide, we will take you through the ideal calisthenics shoulder workout that you should be doing for optimal results. For each exercise, we will break down how to do it and discuss how it works on your shoulders.
Calisthenics Shoulder Workout
This whole workout should not take you more than an hour. Before jumping in, be sure to warm up your shoulders, wrists, and elbows. A good way to do this is through push-ups and arm circles. You may need some basic calisthenics equipment to do some of these exercises.
1. Pike Push Ups
Pike push-ups work the anterior (front) deltoid and the upper chest and triceps in the same way that overhead pressing does.
3 x 8-12
How To Do Pike Push Ups
Start in the regular push-up position
Walk your feet up towards your hands. The more you walk your legs forward, the harder it will be.
Keep your legs and arm straight. Tighten your core.
Lower your head towards the ground by bending your elbows
Explode back up by pushing through your hands
Repeat for reps.
2. Inverted Rows
Inverted rows target the posterior (rear) deltoid, helping to balance out the shoulder muscles, and also engage the upper back and biceps. Too often shoulder workouts focus too much on the front and lateral delt, ignoring the rear delt. But the truth is that if you want a rounded, healthy shoulder, your rear delt needs to be developed as well.
3 x 8-12 reps
How To Do Inverted Rows
Set up a horizontal bar around waist height. You can use a barbell on a squat rack or dips bar as an example.
Lie down beneath the bar so that it is directly over your chest.
Grip the bar with an overhand grip at around shoulder-width.
Extend your legs out, they should be straight and have their weight resting on the back of your foot. Engage your core.
Pull yourself towards the bar by pulling from your elbows.
Slowly lower yourself back down.
3. Side Plank With Arm Raises
While exercises that involve vertical pushing will always be the bread and butter of a shoulder workout, isolating the lateral head of your shoulder should still be a priority. Side planks with arm raises are a great way to develop your side delt while also challenging your core.
3 x 15-20 reps
How To Do Side Plank With Arm Raises
Get into a side plank position on your left elbows. Your body should be in a straight line with your leg stacked.
While maintaining a rigid position, extend your right arm above your shoulder. Do your best to force the load on your shoulder and squeeze the lateral head of your shoulder at the top of the rep.
Slowly lower your right arm in front of your body until it is parallel to the floor.
Repeat for reps.
Switch sides and repeat.
4. Wall Handstand Push-ups (Or Handstand Push-ups if advanced)
Handstand pushups are going to be the main shoulder builders in the routine as they will place the most load on the shoulders. Unlike other calisthenic exercises which often require higher reps to still be effective, the handstand pushup is very difficult even for more advanced calisthenic athletes.
3 x 8-10 reps
How To Do Wall Handstand Push-ups
Face a wall in a standing position
Place your hands on the ground and kick your feet up onto the wall into a handstand position. Your body should be vertical with your toes touching the wall.
Slowly your head towards the ground by bending your elbows.
Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat for reps.
YTWs will help strengthen your entire shoulder as well as your scapula. This will give you greater stability and strength on other shoulder exercises as well.
3 x 8-12 reps
How To Do YTWs
Lie facedown on the ground with your arms extended above your head to form a “Y” shape.
With your head neutral, raise your arms and chest off the ground squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Lower back down, then move your arms to form a “T” shape and repeat the movement.
Move your arms to form a “W” shape and repeat again.
Repeat for reps.
What If I Cannot Do Some Of The Exercises In The Calisthenics Shoulder Workout?
Some of the exercises included in this workout can be challenging. Especially the handstand push-up. If you cannot do them with proper form, you are better off doing easier variations until your build up the required strength.
Also, if you are an absolute beginner you may be better off focusing on general push workouts compared to isolated shoulder days. You will still build should strength with the push-up, dip, etc. However, more of the movements will be done since you are getting additional help from your chest muscles.
Regardless, here is a more beginner-friendly version.
Beginner Shoulder Calisthenics Workout
Incline Push Ups 3 x 8-12
Scapular Shrugs 3 x 10-15
Side Lying Lateral Raise 2 x 8-12
Can You Build Great Shoulders With A Calisthenic Shoulder Workout?
A common misconception is that you cannot build large muscles with only calisthenics. This is of course not true, There are many athletes that have built amazing physiques using just calisthenics.
Furthermore, the shoulders are one of the areas of your body that even advanced athletes can still properly load using just their body weight. Advanced calisthenic athletes can perform exercises like push-ups and pull-ups for dozens of reps. Meanwhile, doing more than 15 handstand pushups is always going to be difficult.
This means that you should have no issues reaching your full strength capacity through a calisthenic shoulder workout.
Benefits Of Shoulder Workout Calisthenics
There are several reasons why you should consider adding the calisthenics shoulder workout to your routine:
Helps reduce neck and back pain by reducing strain on other muscles
Develops shoulder proper shoulder mobility across all planes
Stronger shoulders are less likely to be injured during other pushing/pressing movements
Creates a wider, aesthetic look
Shoulder calisthenics will translate to other pulling/pushing calisthenic exercises
Calisthenics Shoulder Workout Conclusion
Regardless of your experience or strength level, you should be able to do some of these exercises for stronger and healthier shoulders. With minimal equipment required, they are easy to fit into any routine.
Try adding just of these exercises and notice the gains you make!