Strong shoulders are essential for nearly all athletes, particularly those who play sports involving throwing or contact. If your shoulders are weak, they are susceptible to injury from overuse or contact that occurs when falling, getting tackled or crashing into the boards.
Your first inclination when selecting shoulder exercises might be to perform overhead pressing movements, like the Shoulder Press. However, these can do more harm than good if you don’t have a solid strength base around the joint. Instead, when starting a shoulder-strengthening program, stick to bodyweight exercises to build the foundation necessary for more advanced lifts.
The following bodyweight shoulder exercises will strengthen each portion of the deltoid and other supporting muscles. Choose two or three exercises below and perform them once a week during your upper-body workout.
The Killer Shoulder Workout
Single-Leg Arm Circles
This exercise warms up the shoulder muscles, making it an excellent one to perform at the beginning of a workout or before a practice or game. It also strengthens core muscles and improves balance.
- Stand on one leg with arms extended to sides at shoulder level
- Rotate arms forward to create small circles, large circles and then small ones again for specified time
- Perform second set standing on opposite leg, rotating arms backward
Sets/Reps: 1×60 seconds (20 seconds each circle size) each leg
This variation of the Push-Up will increase deltoid strength and shoulder stability while building overall upper-body strength. For an additional shoulder challenge, perform this exercise with your feet elevated or with a single arm during the holds.
- Assume top of Push-Up position
- Lower two inches and hold for 30 seconds
- Perform five fast Push-Ups
- Hold bottom position of last rep for 10 seconds
Sets/Reps: 2x entire sequence
Dips are a great upper-body exercise; they strengthen many of the muscles that act on the shoulder, including the deltoids, pecs and triceps. A common tendency is to perform Dips leaning forward; however, a more upright position will further challenge the shoulders.
- Grasp handles of Dip machine and support body with straight arms
- Lower body with control until chest is at hand level
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Push body up until arms are straight
- Perform five half reps, holding last rep in halfway down position for 10 seconds
Sets/Reps: 2x entire sequence
Side Planks primarily increase core strength, particularly the obliques. However, they also force your shoulder to stabilize and balance your body, strengthening the small muscles around the joint to keep it strong and healthy. For an additional challenge, perform with your arm fully extended or feet on a physioball or in TRX straps.
- Lie on side with elbow tucked under body
- Rise into side plank position so only elbow and side of foot touch ground
- Raise upper arm to ceiling directly over shoulder
- Hold for specified time
- Perform set on opposite side
Sets/Duration: 2×30 seconds; rest 10 seconds, perform for another 20 seconds