The trouble for most of us is finding time to work out when we don’t always have time for the gym. So, what’s the solution? Developing your shoulders from the comfort of your own home. Strong shoulders are key for everyday life and are often not thought about. That’s why it’s important to do shoulder workout at home or in the gym to ensure you’re continually building your shoulder strength. We’re going to look at the best shoulder workout and exercises for you to do at home.
Shoulder exercises, when done properly, strengthen muscles that can improve posture. They do, after all, hold up your neck and head, which is critical when you’re sitting slumped over all day. Plus, they’re extra important for functional movements in every day life, like lifting things and reaching high places. In addition, they compliment full range of motion at the shoulder joint, and are the primary drivers for overhead movements. They are incredibly mobile joints and have a huge range of motion. However, this can make them vulnerable to injury.
The reality is, shoulders are kind of the unsung heroes of your upper body’s anatomy. You may not put a lot of thought into their use or purpose, focusing more on the muscles of your chest or upper back. But without these incredibly complex joints and the muscles that supports their movement, life wouldn’t function the way you’ve grown accustomed to.
Since most upper-body movements involve your shoulders in some way or another, you only need to do one exclusive shoulders workout per week. Your shoulder muscles are delicate, so consider it A-ok to start with light weights (like, three or five pounds) and resistance bands.
The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the entire body. It moves in every plane of motion: lifting, lowering, rotating, abducting (moving away from the body), and adducting (moving closer to the body) at innumerable joint angles. This range of motion allows you to do all of the daily tasks you largely take for granted without skipping a beat.
It’s important to have a structured shoulder workout that’s designed to target each arm independently while hitting all three heads of the deltoid in compound and isolation exercises. This type of structured routine can help you correct side-to-side differences in muscle strength and mobility. It’ll also correct imbalances that may exist between the front and back sides of your body.
Building shoulder strength at home is easier than you think as you can use your bodyweight. Bands can be a great help and are really easy to store in a draw so won’t get in your way and can accelerate your progress!
The Best Home Shoulder Workout
Straight Arm Circles
This unintimidating warmup gets your blood moving and can help to build muscle tone in your shoulders, triceps, and biceps.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms parallel to the floor.
- Circle your arms forward using small controlled motions, gradually making the circles bigger until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
- Reverse the direction of the circles after about 10 seconds.
The Pike Push Up, or Pike Press, is a modified version of the standard Push Up. The key difference between the Pike Push Up the standard Push Up is the orientation of the torso in relation to the arms. With the regular Push Up, the body is straight and near parallel with the ground. The legs are much closer to the arms in the Pike Push Up, which elevates the hips until they’re almost overhead.
- Assume a pushup position on the floor. Your arms should be straight and your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
- Now lift up your hips so that your body forms an upside down V. Your legs and arms should stay as straight as possible.
- Bend your elbows and lower your upper body until the top of your head nearly touches the floor.
- Pause, and then push yourself back up until your arms are straight.
The decline pushup is an advanced upper body exercise that targets the muscles of the chest, shoulders, back, and arms. In addition, maintaining the proper rigid body position requires a fair amount of strength and stability through the entire core, legs, and back.
The pectoralis major is the prime target of this exercise, however, the height of the bench slightly changes the focus. A higher bench engages the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, but not the sternal head of pec major. A lower bench focuses on the sternal head of pec major, but it also engages the clavicular head of pec major as a synergist and helps with the movement.
- Start on your hands and knees, place your hands on the ground, about shoulder-width or a little wider. Be careful not to have them too wide or you will severely limit your range of motion on the descent. Carefully move your feet in position by extending your body, and propping your feet up on the bench, or step, one at a time. Realign your body so that it is in a straight line for shoulders to hips to toes, without sagging or arching at the hips. Reposition your hands if necessary, making sure your elbows are extended.
- Lower your chest by bending your elbows. Maintain an aligned body position and use a smooth controlled motion. As you lower to the ground, you will need to look up slightly to allow full range of motion and avoid banging your nose or forehead on the ground. As soon as you lift your head, you will want to arch your back but resist this temptation. Arching your back during this move is not helpful and could set you up for an injury.
- Push up until your elbows are straight, but not locked, returning to the start position.
- Repeat as many reps as you can do without compromising your form. When you can’t complete another high-quality repetition, stop.
Incline pushups are easier than regular or decline pushups,” Williams says, adding this makes them “great for someone who struggles with normal flat pushups.” Regular pushups are great for working the upper body and core, but if you’re focusing on building strength, the incline significantly reduces the amount of weight you’re pushing.
- Choose an elevated surface (a bench, block, etc.) for your pushups, noting the higher up you are, the easier the pushups will be.
- Begin in front of your surface, placing your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Step back one leg at a time to come into a high plank. Find stability here, with the back of the legs active and the core engaged to protect the low back. Bring your gaze slightly forward to keep the neck straight. The body is in one straight line.
- Slowly start bending your arms, elbows squeezing slightly toward the body, and lower your body until you’re hovering just above your bench. Keep core and legs active.
- Straighten the arms to come back up to your high plank.
- Aim for 3 sets of 10 incline pushups.
Banded Face Pull
Face pulls are a great exercise for the rear deltoids, trapezius, and upper back muscles.2 Robert Herbst, a 19-time World Champion powerlifter, personal trainer, and wellness coach says, “They help keep the shoulders squared and back so someone doesn’t get the pulled-forward look from doing too much chest and front delt work. They also help build a thick upper back as a base to arch into for a power bench press.”
Strong shoulders are critically important for everyday activities of lifting, pressing, pulling, and rotating your arms. The deltoids are the powerhouse muscle group of the shoulders—responsible for all overhead actions (putting items up on high shelves, lifting a child onto your shoulders, or even shooting a basketball).
How to do it
Tie a heavy resistance band around a sturdy post at roughly the same height as your head. Stand back from the post, holding the ends of the resistance band with both hands so the band is taut. Keep your arms fully extended in front of your chest, palms facing down.
Bend your knees slightly. Tighten your core to help prevent your lower body and torso from moving as you perform the exercise.
Take a breath in. As you exhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the band directly toward your face, bending your elbows and engaging the back of your shoulders to perform the movement. Just before the band touches your face, stop and hold for a second.
After a beat, very steadily reverse the movement, extending your elbows to the starting position. The benefit of working with resistance bands is you experience the greatest resistance at exactly this part of the movement.
Perform 10 to 15 repetitions. The last one or two reps should be hard, but not impossible, to perform with perfect form. Complete a total of two to three sets.
How to: Start kneeling on the floor with knees slightly wider than hips holding a dumbbell in both hands directly in front of chest, elbows pointing down at sides. Keep both arms bent and slowly circle the dumbbell around head and back in front of chest. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps in each direction. Repeat twice more for a total of three sets, resting only as needed. From there, continue on to your next move. (You’re doing 10 total.)
The Band Pull-apart also known as the BPA is a great exercise that must be in your program for the reasons listed below. The exercise is very straightforward as far as the instructions go because all you have to really do try your best to pull the band apart and then squeeze your upper back once your body looks like a T while your posture is perfectly upright.
- Hold the ends of a resistance band in each hand. Your hands will not be at the very end of the band, but at least the length of a ruler in from the end of the band. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Begin with your arms extended in front of the body, roughly in line with the shoulders. Slowly begin to move your hands laterally away from one another. The band will begin to stretch, and you will feel resistance as you bring the hands away from the body.
- Stop when the band has been stretched across the entire wingspan and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the movement for the required amount of reps and sets.
Handstand Wall Walk And Holds
In order to stay in a handstand for any amount of time, you need to be able to actually hold yourself upside down—meaning you’ll be bearing your full weight on your hands for an extended period of time.
And yes, it can be pretty tiring, but they’re worth it: handstands strengthen pretty much every muscle in your arms, shoulders, and upper body, making them one of the most beneficial upper body exercises you can do.
The upper body muscles that come into play in the pushup are the deltoids of the shoulders, the pectoral muscles of the chest, the triceps and biceps of the upper arm, and the erector spinae of the back. The abdominal muscles used to hold the body rigid during the pushup are the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis. As the pushup involves multiple joints, it is a compound exercise.
- Assume a push-up position with your feet hip-width apart, your body straight from head to heels, and your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders.
- Keeping your elbows tucked, lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor.
- Pause, and then push back up, rotating up to your left and pivoting onto the sides of your feet as you raise your left arm straight towards the ceiling (your body should form a sideways “T”).
- Return to the starting position and repeat, this time rotating up to your right. Continue alternating sides.
The crab walk works your arms, shoulders, core, glutes, hamstrings, and quads,” says Thieme. The move engages nearly every muscle from your shoulders to your toes — so you don’t have to do as many exercises to work your whole body. Total-body movements also create a bigger oxygen demand than isolation moves, which means they burn more calories per minute. That kind of efficiency is important to anyone who’s pressed for time
- You need to sit down on the ground and then bend your knees so that your feet are on the ground.
- Ensure that the soles of your feet are on the ground and that your feet line up with your hips.
- Lift up your hips using both your core muscles and your glutes. You should be in a tabletop-looking position.
- You should have only the soles of your feet and your palms touching the ground at this point.
- Continuing to lift your hips you will want to take your right foot and move forward along with your left hand.
- Step forward now with your right hand and left food.
- The main key to successfully pulling off this exercise is to remember it’s a cross-crawl type of pattern. This means right foot moving with your left hand and left foot moving with your right hand.
- Take 15 steps and then reverse your movement so that you are back in position where you started.
Banded Lateral Raise
Lateral raises are an excellent way to target the medial head of the deltoid. This runs across the top of the shoulder, between the anterior and posterior heads.
Because this exercise isolates one of the heads of the deltoid, you need to use less resistance than you would if you were performing an exercise that targets all deltoid muscles at once, like the Arnold press. This makes resistance bands an excellent (and affordable) way to target the muscle at home.
You can adjust your grip on the resistance band to make the exercise easier or more difficult. Try lengthening or shortening the portion of the band you’re using band as needed. The top of the exercise—when your arm is lifted and extended—is the point at which you’ll experience the greatest level of resistance.
How to do it
Stand with your feet roughly hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent and core engaged. Loop a resistance band around your left foot and hold the ends of the band in your left hand at your side. The band should be tight but not taut. Your palm should face toward the outside of your thigh.
Roll your shoulders back and check your posture. Make sure your ears are aligned with your shoulders, hips, and ankles. Take a breath in.
As you exhale, raise your left arm straight up and out to the side until it is parallel to the ground. Hold for a beat. As you breathe in again, lower your arm back to your side in a slow, controlled motion.
Perform eight to 12 reps before switching sides. Aim to complete two to three sets per arm.
Banded Front Raise
Grab a resistance band, loop it under your feet, and hold it in each hand, with your arms at your sides.
Raise your arms straight in front of you until they’re parallel to the floor and perpendicular to your torso. Your hands should be at shoulder level and the thumb sides of your hands should be facing up. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position.
Push-Up Plank With Shoulder Tap
The great thing about planks with shoulder taps is all you need is your own body weight. The plank with shoulder taps helps to strengthen your core, glutes, arms, and shoulders. This exercise helps to reduce lower back pain, improves your posture, and tighten your midsection
Start in a plank or push up position with your wrists right underneath your shoulders.
Keeping your belly button drawn in and your core engaged touch your left shoulder with your right hand.
Alternate sides touching each shoulder 5-12 times while making sure that you are minimizing the movement in your hips as much as possible.
One of the dive bomber push up benefits is that it’s a really unique exercise that brings together all of the benefits of push ups for building strength and combines them with the benefits of yoga for stretching your body and improving your flexibility.
You might recognise this movement because it’s very similar to a popular Vinyasa Flow yoga move which transitions from a Downward facing dog to an upward facing dog pose.
How-to: Start in Downward Dog, with hands and feet on the floor and hips high. Lower your chest toward the floor, bending at elbows, then pull chest up and extend arms as you bring hips to the floor (similar to Upward Dog). Raise hips back up while bringing chest back to the floor, extending arms to return to Down Dog.
The T Raise is a great shoulder stabilization exercise that can be performed on an incline or flat bench, a swiss ball, or even while lying prone on the floor. By incorporating T Raises into your routine, you can up your shoulder game and gain strong healthy shoulders.
- Lie facedown on the floor with your arms straight out to your sides and your thumbs pointing up. Your body should form a T.
- Keeping your core tight and your arms straight, raise your arms off of the floor. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
Downward-Facing Dog to Plank
Downward-facing dog plank flow is a simple sequence of yoga postures which can be practiced as part of a physical yoga routine.
The flow starts in downward-facing dog, then on an inhale, the torso is drawn forward so the shoulders stack over the wrists and the body comes into plank pose. The spine is lengthened and the heels press away to engage the core and thighs. On an exhale, the belly is drawn in and the hips lift back and up into downward-facing dog.
This flowing sequence can be repeated up to 10 times. The flow has a range of physical benefits, as it includes all the benefits of downward-facing dog and plank poses and movements to strengthen the core, shoulders and arms.
How to: Start in plank position. Lift hips to move into downward-facing dog pose, pointing tailbone up and lowering heels toward the floor. Return to plank. That’s one rep. Complete 12 reps. Repeat twice more for a total of three sets, resting only as needed. From there, continue on to your next move. (You’re doing 10 total.)