Shoulder Calisthenics

Whether you’re just getting started training bodyweight style, or a seasoned gymnast, you’re probably looking for more (or better) ways to target your shoulders, one of the most desirable parts of any toned physique.

Below are several shoulder calisthenic movements for ANYONE. From beginner to world-class gymnast, there are exercises for everyone including the top three overall bodyweight shoulder movements.

Before we get started it is important to note that when training or working out your shoulders nothing is more important than warming up properly.

Nothing can put you out of training longer than a nagging shoulder injury. Even worse, shoulder injuries tend to linger if not treated or healed properly causing more nagging trouble for much longer than necessary.

Some incorrectly assume that warm-ups can be skipped or glossed over when doing a bodyweight only program.


All of us, regardless of strength or experience level, should be warming up for at least 5-10 minutes before doing any of the main shoulder movements listed below. As a general rule, the older or more beat up (history of shoulder injuries) you are, the longer your warm up should be.

Here are some excellent warm-ups intended to target specifically the shoulders calisthenics.

Arm Circles


Shoulder Dislocations (with band or broomstick)

Top Three Overall Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

For the overall top three movements, I’ve tried to include movements that can easily be altered or modified to fit any experience level.

I’ve also included only exercises that I personally have used with great results. So without further ado, here are my top three bodyweight shoulder exercises.

1) Handstand Push-Ups (Advanced)

Handstand Push-Ups are EASILY the most effective bodyweight shoulder movement there is. No other exercise comes close to simulating the same shoulder-pressing movement that builds strong shoulders.

In fact, who needs weights when you can simply press YOUR own body?

Handstand Push-Ups can be done freestanding (extremely advanced) or with the aid of a wall. The video below shows complete detail, but essentially what you do is set your hands about 3-4 inches away from the base of a wall (note: make sure it’s a wall that you’re not too worried about scuffing up).

Once you have your hands placed, make sure that your fingers completely spread apart to maximize your base. Then from a crouching position kick your legs up into the air so that you are doing a handstand with your back against the wall for support.

Once you have steadied yourself (this may take a few tries to get used to it), continue with pressing yourself up and down. How many can you do?

2) Feet Elevated Pike Push-Ups (Intermediate)

For those who are not yet able to get into the handstand position, or who can’t complete many (if any) Handstand Push-Ups, you can’t go wrong with Feet Elevated Pike Push-Ups.

Despite the long name these are simpler than they sound. Very similar to #1 in that you are aiming to simulate a shoulder press movement. However, in this instance you place your feet up onto a bench or chair removing some of the weight or resistance (i.e. you are not pressing your entire bodyweight).

See the video below to get a better idea on how to properly execute this movement.

3) Decline Push-Up (Intermediate)

Decline Push-Ups are the halfway point between regular Push-Ups (which work primarily the chest muscles) and Handstand Push-Ups (which work primarily the shoulder muscles).

Decline Push-Ups are an excellent bodyweight shoulder movement because even a lot of beginners can still complete a fair amount of them.

Like the Elevated Pike Push-Ups, for a Decline Push-Up you place your feet back on a chair, bench, stoop, whatever, but instead of angling your body at your hips you maintain proper Push-Up form (back straight) while you complete the movement.

To make sure that you avoid a lower back injury, do not allow your hips to sag (arching of the back). Squeezing your abs and glutes (butt) as tight as you can while you do the movement will prevent an injury from occurring.

For more detail see the following video.

Beginner Shoulder Exercises

Maybe you just read the top three overall shoulder calisthenic exercises and are feeling frustrated because you can’t yet do any of them.

No worries.

Below are bodyweight shoulder exercises for beginners to help build up strength so that you’ll be doing Handstand Push-Ups in no time.

1) YTWL’s

Here is an exercise that ANYONE can do to build up shoulder strength.

YTWL’s are done by lying face down on a flat or incline bench and then making the letters Y-T-W-L with your arms.

Typically they will be done in circuit fashion. So 10 Ys, 10 Ts, 10 Ws, 10 Ls rest and repeat. Just make sure to alternate the side with which you form the Ls (see video for details).

2) Modified Push-Ups

Another excellent way to build yourself up to doing Push-Ups & Handstand Push-Ups is to do Modified Push-Ups.

These are essentially the same as doing a regular Push-Up, but instead of having your feet on the ground you use your knees instead. This effectively decreases some of the weight you will be “pushing” up, making the movement slightly easier.

As with normal Push-Ups you want to be sure to keep your abs & glutes tight as a drum so that you are sure to protect your lower back against injury.

3) Push-Up Plank

Finally, an amazing exercise to strengthen the stabilizing muscles in the shoulder is the Push-Up plank.

In this movement, instead of resting on your forearms, like you would in a traditional plank, you will simply hold yourself in the top or extended position of the Push-Up for as long as possible.

Strengthening the stabilizer muscles in the shoulder will work you up to being able to perform normal Push-Ups and Handstand Push-Ups.

I probably sound like a broken record by now, but it is CRUCIAL to protect your lower back in any type of Push-Up centered movement. Make sure that you stop the Push-Up Plank as soon as you feel your hips/lower back start to sag.

Your back will thank me later!

Advanced Shoulder Exercises

Maybe you’re bored doing Handstand Push-Ups, or maybe you’re just looking to continue to challenge yourself with bodyweight movements.

Whatever your motivation may be, the advanced exercises below are a good place to start. If you can master these, then pat yourself on the back, you’re well on your way to becoming a bodyweight beast!

1) TRX or Ring Handstand Push-Up

These are exactly the same as Handstand Push-Ups, but instead of using a wall for support you place your feet carefully into TRX straps or gymnastics rings so that you are more freestanding making the Push_Up that much harder.

Basically this adds another degree of freedom to your torso which only adds another level to the degree of difficulty.

Bonus Challenge: For an extremely advanced movement, try freestanding Handstand Push-Ups with no support.

2) Supported One Arm Handstand

Please note, this is an extremely difficult movement that will take a lot of time and practice to master. Take extra special caution to avoid injury, and don’t get discouraged if you cannot complete the exercise at first.

To perform a Supported One Arm Handstand you will line up next to a wall in much the same way that you would for a Handstand Push-Up, but on one side of you place a bench or a chair for the “off” hand to rest while you perform the One Arm Handstand.

Raise yourself into a two arm handstand, and once you are in place and in solid position, simply take one hand off the ground and place it onto the bench/chair for support. Hold yourself in this position for as long as possible, and then switch hands.

3) One Arm Push-Up

The ultimate beast move!

To perform a One Arm Push-Up spread your feet as far apart as possible giving yourself a wide base. Assume the top, or extended position of a Push-Up stance with both arms extended to prepare yourself.

When you’re ready, remove one hand from the ground and place it behind your back, near the base of the spine. Lower yourself slowly using the working hand and push yourself back up.

If you find your lower back arching too much, or if you are unable to do many reps (if any), simply work up to the movement by doing the “modified” version where your knees are on the ground instead of your feet.

Uhah ! Thats a lot of awesome moves here! Do you have your favourites which I didnt mentioned? Do comment! Best ones I will add to the list.

So now you know all the calisthenics exercises for Iron Shoulders! Its time for a workout

Click Here for Iron Shoulders Calisthenics Workout!  »

Go Back to All Calisthenics Exercises Here!


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