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Home Shoulder Workout


bradley lawson Written by Bradley Lawson: BA(Hons), Level 2&3 Personal Trainer.

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A shoulder exercise is a staple activity performed in most fitness regimens; used to train a muscle group that is focal to an athlete’s performance as well as to the average person’s longevity, health, and fitness.

If you wish to learn about the shoulders, the home workouts you can do for them and why it is important to maintain strong, healthy shoulders, then please keep on reading.

Shoulders of Strength

military muscle review

No matter the movement be it a push, pull, static hold, lift or through daily choirs and laborious work, the shoulders are crucially engaged as a primary or stabilising muscle.

They dictate a lot from sports performance to daily posture, to the prevention of injuries that come about via age, strenuous physical activity, and modern sedimentary lifestyles.

Anything that involves your upper limbs requires you to put your shoulders to work. For this reason, the shoulder joint is very mobile, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.

This mobility offers us the ability to wind up and throw objects with speed, the ability to drive a paddle through water with a motion optimal to moving and directing a kayak, and the ability to reach up high and lock your grip around a cliff edge to pull yourself atop of it.

Most sports and fitness pursuits need your shoulders to be healthy enough to bare a physical load, and to be mobile enough to move your arms in a dexterous manner.

What about if you’re not a fitness enthusiast or sportsperson? You will still benefit from healthy shoulders. The rounding and dropping of the shoulders can set off a series of chain reactions in the Musculo-skeletal system that result in poor posture, back problems, shoulder related injuries and ultimately, a decline in a person’s health and well-being.

And lastly, the sensitivity and expression of androgen receptors in the shoulders means that their physical development can lead to anabolic effects in the body, such as increased rates of protein synthesis, skeletal muscle fibre hypertrophy and a decrease in fat mass. For these reasons you should certainly not be neglecting your shoulder workouts. [1]

This article will cover:

  • Workouts and Exercises Usually Performed in the Gym
  • Shoulder Physiology
  • Home Shoulder Workout
  • Calisthenics
  • Substitutional Weight Training Exercises
  • Common shoulder Injuries and Postural Issues
  • Shoulders in Sport
  • Importance of Shoulders in Your Physique
  • Testosterone and Shoulder Growth
  • Conclusion

The strengthening of the shoulder muscles in rugby players found an improvement in glenohumeral joint stability, and thus a reduction in joint injury. [2]

Studies also point towards a correlation between ample shoulder strength, and a reduction in injuries from collisions in contact sport and injuries born out of muscular fatigue. [3]

The United Kingdom's National Health Service recommends exercise of the shoulders, particularly the rear deltoids to correct muscle imbalances that can develop into a ‘flat back’ or fixed sagittal imbalance.

Healthy shoulders can avoid this reduction of the lumbar spine, and the unfortunate physical rehabilitation, posture-training equipment or surgery required to fix it. [4]

Shoulder Workout At The Gym 

home shoulder workout

Exercises for the shoulders are present in full body workouts, bodybuilder split days, push workouts, and in sports specific training.

A typical 'shoulders day' workout is as follows:

  • Barbell Overhead Press
  • Convergent Shoulder Machine Press
  • Dumbbell Press
  • Rear Delt Row
  • Rear Delt Fly
  • Smith Machine Shoulder Press
  • Lateral Raise
  • Front Raise

These are the shoulder exercises that typically dominate a gym setting. However, if you have no or little access to a gym, want to alternate from the bodybuilder centric exercises and/or try out different training methodologies... perhaps a home shoulder workout is for you.

Shoulder Joint Physiology

shoulder joint physiology

Before we get to the home shoulder workouts let us quickly dissect the anatomy of the shoulders.

The first thing we see in a person’s shoulders is the deltoid.

This is a large and key muscle of the shoulder that is made up of three muscle heads. They are the anterior deltoid (front), lateral deltoid (middle/side) and posterior deltoid (rear).

Next are the stabilising muscles of the shoulders.

The shoulders possess four rotator cuff muscles which are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor.

In a perfect coalition these create a cuff in your shoulder, securing the ball-and-socket joint.

It is important that the rotator cuffs are treated with care and are not jeopardised through exercise but are in fact strengthened through exercise with proper form, intelligent training, and adequate recovery. This can then help prevent your shoulders hurting after sleeping, or when you run. 

Shoulder Workout at Home

home shoulder workout

Sometimesyou can't always go to a gym, you may live too far away, you may not be able to afford it, or you haven't got the time.

Alternatively, you may be worried about COVID-19 or just hate the atmosphere or the attitude of some people there. Here's a little guide on how you can exercise your shoulders whilst at home, in the office or in the garden.

Calisthenics

A school of physical training that uses your own bodyweight, very little equipment and does not require you to have a gym membership.

This is a fantastic way to treat your body like a temple and develop strength, body awareness and control.

Your shoulders can benefit majorly from a plethora of calisthenic exercises that have been used in martial arts, the military, combat sports and body practices for years.

Substitutional Weight Training

Many of the exercises that would be usually performed for the shoulders in a gym setting can be done at home without access to weights.

With a creative mind, you can use bottled water, buckets, or milk jugs as dumbbell alternatives to complete the shoulder press and its variations.

In addition, you can complete many exercises such as lateral raises with a sandbag or carrier bag of household items for weighted resistance. You could even buy a weighted vest which are now very cost effective.

Resistance Band Training

Cheap, light, and easy to store. If you are a frequent traveller, bands can go with you so you never miss a workout.

Bands can be used in your home workout to complete resistance training that targets the shoulders.

Lateral raises, front raises and the rear delt fly can all be done with a resistance band and to great effect.

Let's touch back on calisthenics...

Here's some reasons why you might wish to explore calisthenics for use in your home shoulder workout.

Benefits
  • Using your own bodyweight through calisthenics has been shown to be an effective physical activity for the improvement of postural sway, strength-endurance and has a positive effect on body composition, significantly reducing body fat mass. [5]
  • Increasing muscular strength and endurance with calisthenics can allow you to engage in activities like opening doors, lifting boxes, or chopping wood without exhausting yourself.
  • It can also produce healthier, stronger muscles and bones in the body. [6]

One of the main joys of calisthenics is that you do not have to go to a gym or use exercise equipment, you can perform calisthenic exercises at home, outside or in that hotel room.

For this reason, it might fit easier into your tight work schedule or appear less daunting that going to a swarmed gym.

Another joy is that calisthenics walk the line between movement art and exercise; filled with beginner to advanced progressions of exercises that can help you become more functional and skilful in the use of your own body.

Improvements in Lean Mass and Strength

Calisthenic exercises and workouts utilise high rep ranges which studies indicate that because of the high-volume training will result in superior improvements in lean mass and strength. [7]

Regular Exercise and Testosterone Production

Calisthenics can be done regularly and safely wherever you are. This study identified that regular physical activity is linked to an increase in testosterone, and a host of health benefits bred from the vital hormone. [8]

Training Frequency

Calisthenic exercises could be completed in a home shoulder workout once or twice a week with proper rest days in-between and a healthy balanced diet for optimal recovery.

If you are new to some of the movements start off with some of the beginner variations and slowly progress to more advanced versions.

Calisthenic Exercises For Shoulders

push-up

Here's some free exercises that you can try yourself.

The Push-Up

This may be called the push-up or the press-up, what we know is that it is a great base to start. It is also foundational to many calisthenic push-up variations that put the focus on the shoulders over the chest.

The push-up is a great fundamental exercise that beginners especially can benefit from learning before continuing onto more shoulder specific variations. [9]

You can read (and see) more about the push-up and its variations to get a full chest/shoulder/arm workout, here. It's so effective, it is no wonder it has been the core of many military fitness programs for years.

Bear Plank

A beginner might wish to try the bear plank.

The bear plank is a quintessential static hold that trains the shoulders, legs and core.

These can help develop shoulder strength and stability through time under tension.

It can be achieved by starting on the toes with bent knees parallel and hands flat against the ground shoulder width apart.

Your head should remain straight and level, facing the ground.

Straight arms pressing into the earth will activate your shoulders, while your core will work to keep your spine straight and your knees from touching the floor.

You may want to start with 30 – 60 seconds for each repetition, resting for 15-20 seconds before starting another repetition. It is advised to do around 12 – 15 repetitions, and to do two sets.

Advanced Progression

If you can comfortably perform the bear plank you might prefer the advanced progression: the bear crawl.

Bear Crawl

Instead of a static hold, the bear crawl requires you to move across the floor while maintaining the bear plank form – crawling as you would naturally: right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.

In terms of rep ranges you can do three bear crawls forward, three bear crawls back sets of five.

This bodyweight mobility exercise is a great functional exercise for the body that will work the shoulders, quads and core. Because it helps elevate your heart rate, the bear crawl is a perfect to warm into a shoulder workout.

home workout for shoulders

The Pike Push-Up

A more difficult variation of the push-up, make sure you are well acquainted with the push-up before giving this a try.

Why is this variation worth doing?

The shoulder has the largest range of motion of all the joints in the human body. Pike push-ups can put the shoulder through a larger range of motion than a regular push-up, this is especially true with the elevated pike push-up.

Start in a downward dog position. With bent toes and straight leg, you will fully extend your arms so your body will be much farther from the floor than the regular push-up.

To complete the exercise, slowly lower your head to the ground using your shoulders and maintaining a tight core. Keeping elbows tight to your sides press off the ground in the concentric phase to really hit the shoulders.

You can complete 2-3 sets of 15 – 20 repetitions depending on how challenging you find the motion.

The pike push-up is an effective exercise for loading the shoulders with bodyweight that can be done for high volume to develop lean muscle and strength in the shoulders, serratus anterior, upper back and triceps.

Advanced progression

If you didn't think that was hard enough, why not try this variation?

Elevated Pike Push-Up

The same as a pike push-up except, the elevated pike push-up benefits from having your feet on a higher level such as a bench, step, curb, garden patio or a box.

The higher your feet are positioned the farther the range of motion your muscles will go through in completing the pike push up.

More muscles and fibres are recruited because of the higher ROM (range of motion), increasing in further development in muscular strength. [9]

The pike push-up is used an intermediary exercise in progressing to a handstand push-up, so it is a worthy movement in your journey to build your shoulders whilst you mature in strength and confidence in calisthenics.

Handstand Wall Walk

For beginners, this is a fundamental exercise in learning handstands and the push-up variation.

First you plant your hands on the ground shoulder width apart, lift your hips and walk your feet up a flat wall.

Once you are in the assisted handstand position, you can hold yourself here.

This static hold that will start assisted with your legs and feet high against a wall will target the following muscles:

  • deltoids
  • latissimus dorsi
  • rhomboids
  • trapezius
  • triceps
  • forearms
  • core

This exercise is an excellent way to use your bodyweight to primarily develop your shoulders through time under tension.

You can hold this for up to 3-5 seconds as a beginner, or 5-15 seconds as a more intermediate exercise.

You may begin with as many as 5 – 10 repetitions as a beginner and work up to 10 – 20 repetitions.

Advanced Progression

As with all of these exercise, it is great to explore how you can develop your physique even further and facing up to a greater challenge.

Handstand Push-up

Once you are familiar with the push-up and its harder variations you might be thinking about progressing to the wall-assisted handstand push-up.

This is an exercise that is the bodyweight equivalent of an overhead press and can be exceptional for building round, strong and stable shoulder muscles.

Place your hands comfortably about two to three hands distance away from the wall and walk your way up via the handstand walk.

Tighten your abdominals and keep your lower back from arching, then slowly control the eccentric movement down until the crown of your head meets the floor.

If you find it is too difficult to go all the way to the floor leave about half a foot between your head and the ground until you have trained the stability and strength required to complete full ROM.

Begin with 3 sets of 5 repetitions, making sure to have good adequate rest between each one.

Later, you might find that you can aim for a higher rep range, working up to 10 reps per set.

Since this is an intense exercise it is advised you take approximately 2-3 minutes rest per set.

Inverted Row

This will require something to pull on such as rings, a pull-bar, desk, wall, ledge, cycle stand, goal post or TRX.

You start beneath what you are pulling on with a straight, flat body and your heels are the only contact with the ground, with your toes pointed up.

Then you can start by retracting the scapula and pulling your body partially off the ground.

Keeping the body straight, you will pull your chest close to the bar and hold this position for a few seconds before lowering.

Really engage the rear deltoids by pulling your shoulders back and drawing your chest as close as possible to the bar or ledge.

The inverted row primarily hits the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rear deltoids with engagement of the biceps and core are also worked in this movement.

This can be done for 6-12 repetitions for up to 3-5 sets depending on how comfortable you are with the exercise.

Substitution Weight Training

home shoulder workout

"What can I lift instead of weights?"

Most of the conventional exercises for the shoulders on the 'shoulder day exercises' list can be put into your home shoulder workout in some way or another.

You might not be able to go at heavy, but you can create resistance and lots of it using household items.

For dumbbell and barbell shoulder press you can supplement a weight from the gym with several or more items:

  • Bottled water
  • Jerry cans of water (you can change the weight by removing or adding water)
  • Sandbag or a suitcase (you can add and remove weight by putting items like books, bike locks and chains inside of it)
  • Wooden chair by holding two legs on one side and pressing it over ahead
  • Paint cans, milkjugs or boxes
  • Power bags
  • Scaffold poles
  • Chains

The aim is to find weighted resistance in an object or item that is stable and safe enough to use – and isn’t going to fall apart or break while you’re using it.

If you find that this is too easy, you can use a high-volume approach and use for example 4 sets of 15-20 repetitions for dumbbell shoulder press with two water bottles.

It is important to focus on the muscle during these higher volume, low resistance exercises to really make the most of your ‘mind muscle connection’ to properly target the correct muscles (in this case the shoulders) and to make this type of training really count.

Resistance Band Training

Band training is a phenomenal way to achieve hypertrophy and depending on the band tension you can do this with low or high rep ranges.

Exercises such as lateral raises can easily be performed by placing an oppositional foot on one end of the band and pulling the other end of the band across the torso in a trans planar motion up to a 90-degree angle.

Exercises such as the rear delt fly can be performed with a smaller or stricter grip on a resistance band, pulling apart the hands from inside the chest out wide or at 90 degrees so that the scapula and rear deltoids are tightly contracted.

Depending on the band tension, repetitions range from 10-12 to 10-20 for sets of 3-4 per band exercise.

Bands are exceptional for a home shoulder workout, as they mimic many of the cable machine actions and can be made harder by using a stricter grip, or a band with more resistance.

Common Shoulder Injuries and Postural Problems

A modern sedentary lifestyle encourages habits such as hunched back and text neck which can all result in poor posture and weakness in the neck, shoulders, and spine.

The National Health Service of the UK recommends shoulder and upper back strengthening exercises, along with stretching to correct some of these issues before they worsen over time.

Other common shoulder issues can be caused by poking your chin forward towards a computer screen for hours at a time or rounding your shoulders while slumped in a seat or driving for long periods.

These poor posture habits can lead to muscular imbalances, which again, can be corrected by strengthening your shoulder muscles and tightening up your whole shoulder girdle resultantly. [4]

Shoulder Pain and Rehab

Following an injury always seek out a medical professional or physiotherapist for an assessment on the severity and rehabilitation of an injury. You can also consult our guide on how to work out while recovering from injuries. 

Why will strong, developed shoulders help you?

The shoulders are mostly stabilised by muscles therefore it is pivotal to build a strong foundation of strength around the joints to protect them and buffer them against injury and muscular weakness.

Shoulders in Sports

home shoulder workout

Your shoulders are put to work in plenty of sports such as climbing, swimming, racquet sports, football, rugby, gymnastics, and combat.

In these arenas they are either compressed, put under physical loads, or endure constant physical motion.

The shoulders are vulnerable to rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement, dislocation, labral tears and more. It is then significant that we try to make sure they are strong, protected, and able to sustain the impacts of performance in a sport by training these shoulder muscles or seeking out advice for more closely related sports-specific training.

Antagonistic Training

Antagonistic is the idea that you should build up a muscle group that opposes another group of muscles to prevent muscle imbalance and strengthen the primary muscle group important to the person exercising.

This becomes relevant in sports, such as climbing where the movement objective is mostly pulling.

It is then considered helpful to train pressing movements to work muscles such as the shoulders, chest and triceps that are antagonistic to the agonist muscles – the biceps, the back muscles, the wrist.

Antagonistic training for the shoulders is worth noting in the pursuit of keeping a healthy body, free of muscular imbalances which can cause postural problems further down the line.

Warming Up

The shoulders should be treated with care, and as such they can benefit supremely from a good warm up before starting your home shoulder workout.

Your shoulders love circles. Yes. Arm circles are a fantastic to your shoulders. They promote blood flow, and after 2-3 minutes of wide and small arm circles can get the synovial fluid moving in your shoulders that is indispensable in lubricating the joint and getting them ready for exercise.

You might also do a very light set of whatever exercise you are doing for the shoulders both to drill the movement and to ease yourself into the workout. The idea is that getting your muscles warm will prevent injuries. [10]

Lack of Flexibility

Another major cause of injury is a lack of flexibility in a muscle. The shoulders like any other muscle group can suffer from being tight and inflexible.

On your off days, rest days, in the morning or evening, you may want to consider a 2–3-minute stretching routine.

Raising your shoulders up and down, shoulder rolls, arm circles, the cross-over arm stretch or doing revolutions of bringing a resistance band to the front of your shoulders to the back are all light and helpful shoulder stretches that can reduce shoulder stiffness and mitigate injury from inflexibility.

Shoulders and Your Physique

home shoulder workout

Henry VIII was renowned for his prominent shoulders and broad shoulder padding. It gave him a commanding presence, and a look physically appealing to the eye.

The shoulders of the human body are indicative of confidence and attractiveness.

Tall, raised shoulders indicate good posture, assertiveness and a lack of shyness or trepidation.

Many marvels of men, from bodybuilders to historical leaders to military personnel are emboldened by their shoulders.

Just think… which garners more appeal to your eyes, slumped, rounded shoulders, or sure, dependable boulder shoulders?

There is a reason we refer to standing on the ‘shoulders’ of giants.

Historically, shoulders are associated with parenthood, the fireman carry, moving heavy loads but most indicatively – they are a sign of being dependable and strong.

Testosterone and Developed Shoulders

In regards to size and muscle strength, testosterone is considered the prime driver of muscle growth and development as it enhances muscle recovery and muscle protein synthesis. [11]

As you age there's a clear, yet completely natural decline of natural testosterone production. This can have a negative effect on many parameters of your health. 

There is an assortment of things you can tick off the list to make sure you have an optimal and healthy level of this vital hormone in your body to develop strong, capable shoulders.

  • Get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night (remember consumption of alcohol and marijuana both hinder REM sleep, so while you might sleep 8 hours you may not receive the effects of 8 hours of good sleep)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t be a vampire, get out in daylight or, if that is not within your means, take a Vitamin D supplement
  • Lower your stress levels
  • Eat T-boosting foods rich in protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates
  • Take a Testosterone booster such as Military Muscle

In Conclusion

military muscle test booster

The path to thicker, stronger shoulders and a balanced, aesthetic physique is one you do not need to skip out on.

A shoulder home workout is not worth foregoing and in fact can elevate your quality of life and success in sport.

The shoulders are profoundly important to health, strength, and fitness. If you can’t train them at the gym, be it because of cost, time or restrictions – train them in a home shoulder workout!

What you can gain:

  • Aesthetics
  • Longevity in Life and Sport
  • Strength
  • Muscular Development
  • Mobility and Flexibility.


Feel free to add some of the exercises above into your home workout, and to email the team if you have any queries or questions.

References:

[1] Bhasin, S. Et al. (2003) The Mechanisms of Androgen Effects on Body Composition: Mesenchymal Pluripotent Cell as the Target of Androgen Action. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 58, Issue 12, Pages M1103-M1110. [Journal Article]: https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/58/12/M1103/591636

[2] Ashworth, B. Et al. (2018) The Athletic Shoulder (ASH) test: reliability of a novel upper body isometric strength test in elite rugby players. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine Archive: Volume 4, issue 1, p. 1-6. [Journal Article]: https://bmjopensem.bmj.com/content/4/1/e000365

[3] Suarez-Garcia, M. Et al. (2021) Improved shoulder stability through plyometric, proprioceptive and strength exercises in rugby players. A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Men’s Health: Volume 17, issue 2, pp. 127-134. [Journal Article]: https://jomh.org/articles/10.31083/jomh.2021.021

[4] National Health Service. (2021) Common Posture mistakes and fixes. Live Well and Exercise advice. [NHS Website]: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/common-posture-mistakes-and-fixes/

[5] Thomas, E. Et al. (2017) The effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength and body composition. Isokinetics and Exercise Science: Volume 25, No. 3, pp. 215-222. [Journal Article]: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317321468_The_effects_of_a_calisthenics_training_intervention_on_posture_strength_and_body_composition

[6] HealthLink BC. (2016) Muscular Strength and Endurance. Physical Activity Advice. [HealthLinkBC Website]: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/physical-activity/muscular-strength-and-endurance

[7] Thomas, M. Et al. (2016) Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training. International Journal of Exercise Science. [Online Journal]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836564/

[8] Vaamonde, D. Et al. (2012) Physically Active men show better semen parameters and hormone values than sedentary men. European Journal of Applied Physiology. National Library of Medicine. [Journal Article]: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-011-2304-6

[9] Pinto, RS. (2012) Effect of Range of Motion on Muscle Strength and Thickness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Volume 26, Issue 8, pp. 2140-2145. [Journal Article]: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2012/08000/effect_of_range_of_motion_on_muscle_strength_and.17.aspx

[10] National Sports Medicine Institute. (2009) Importance of Warming Up before Sport – Sport’s Injury Prevention. Guide to Sports Medicine. [Online Article]: https://www.nsmi.org.uk/articles/injury-prevention/warming-up.html

[11] Wang, X., Smith, G.I., Patterson, B.W., Reeds, D.N., Kampelman, J., Magkos, F. and Mittendorfer, B. (2012). Testosterone increases the muscle protein synthesis rate but does not affect very-low-density lipoprotein metabolism in obese premenopausal women. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 302(6), pp.E740–E746.‌ Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22252942/