6 Ways To Sculpt Your Shoulders Using Nothing But Your Body Weight
Just because summer is coming to an end doesn’t mean we don’t care about rocking super sleek and sculpted shoulders. In fact, toned and defined shoulders are what make us feel sexy whenever we rock a little black dress on a special night out, get a little trendy with an off-the-shoulder fall sweater or wear a new sporty tank top to our favorite yoga class. Those rounded shoulder caps aren’t just pretty — they’re a clear sign that we’re seriously strong, which makes us feel confident AF.
The struggle is that a lot of the popular shoulder and upper body workouts out there require the use of heavy weights in a gym, and not all of us are blessed with a pricey membership to take advantage of this equipment. (And even if we are, those weight rooms can be so freaking intimidating that we’re afraid to even try). So we put together the best bodyweight exercises you can do from the comfort of your home — no equipment necessary (with the exception of a yoga mat for comfort). Even the tiniest studio apartment will do. When performed correctly and mindfully, these six shoulder exercises can help you achieve both the strength and definition you hope to see in your upper body.
1. Incline Push-Ups
Many people prefer pike push-ups, but we recommend incline push-ups instead because they put the brunt of the work on your various shoulder muscles and are a slightly easier starting point when it comes to stability. Find a sturdy platform you can use — the side of your couch, the edge of your coffee table, a little bench you use for decor, whatever will help you stabilize your body weight. Start in a high plank position with your hands along the edge of your chosen platform, your core engaged, your legs active and your heels pressing toward the open space behind you. As you inhale, slowly lower into a push-up position, being mindful that your elbows don’t splay out beyond a 45-degree angle from your body. As you exhale, push yourself back up to the starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times and, as you build up your strength, work up to 20 reps.
2. Plank Lateral Arm Lifts
No workout is complete without a plank, right? Start in your standard high plank position, with your wrists, elbows and shoulders all stacked in one vertical line and your heels pressing toward the wall behind you. Engage your core for balance, pick up your right hand and extend it out to your right side until your entire arm is level with your shoulder. Bring your right hand back down to your mat. Pick up your left hand and extend it out to your left side until your entire arm is level with your shoulder. Bring your left hand back down the mat. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times and, over time, work your way up to 20 reps.
Most people think of dips as a crucial triceps exercise, but did you know that they also work your deltoids, a major set of muscles in your shoulders? Find a sturdy platform you can use — the side of your couch, the edge of your coffee table, a little bench you use for decor, whatever will help you stabilize your body weight. Turn around to face away from the chosen platform and place your hands on the edge of the surface so that your fingers are facing your torso. Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the floor and lift your hips up. Now, carefully bend at your elbows, sending them directly behind you rather than splaying out to the sides. Then slowly straighten your arms back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times and, eventually, work up to a set of 20 reps.
4. Downard Dog Push-Ups
This push-up variation channels your inner yogi and, if you ask us, is a welcome shift from the traditional push-up format. To begin, pike your hips up into the air and come into your downward-facing dog position. Press your hands and toes firmly into your mat as you lift your hips high into the air. Keeping your gaze toward your feet, bend your elbows and lower the tops of your shoulders toward your mat. The full range of motion of the exercise is achieved when you tap the top of your head on your mat, but it’s okay if it doesn’t touch at first. Straighten your arms to return to the starting position and complete one rep. Repeat 10 times and, over time, work your way up to 20 reps.
5. Crab Walks
This move reminds us of Field Day games we played as kids, but man, does it make our shoulder muscles burn. From a seated position, lift yourself up into a reverse table-top position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your fingers facing the same direction as your toes. Keeping your hips lifted as high in the air as you can, lift your right hand and left foot and bring them forward. Then lift your left hand and right foot and bring them forward, creating a walking motion. Shuffle forward four times, and then back up four times. Repeat this movement for 30 seconds before dropping your hips down to your mat and resting. As you build shoulder strength, work your way up to 60 seconds of crab walks.
6. Wall-Supported Handstand
If you’re not afraid of a little inversion, this is the best isometric exercise for strengthening and stabilizing your shoulders and core. Plus, it’s fun! Line the short edge of your mat up with a free wall (no hanging pictures or artwork, please). Start on your hands and knees. With your hands shoulder-width apart, lift your hips up into the air but keep your knees bent. Stagger your right foot slightly further back than your left foot so you can create power when you kick up. As you spring off of your left foot, kick your right leg straight up and toward the wall like a lever, and bring your left leg up to meet it. Rest your heels on the wall as you center yourself, pressing your hands into your mat, lifting out of your shoulders and engaging your core and leg muscles. Balance here for as long as your comfortable and play with taking one foot away from the wall at a time and then maybe both of them together. When you’re ready to rest, slowly let your feet drop down toward your mat, bend your knees and rest in child’s pose for a moment before sitting up. (Sit up too fast and you’ll experience a major head rush.)
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