Here’s a title many gym rats would consider a real blasphemy, right?
"There’s no way to build big muscles without weights and hard work in the gym,“ they’d say. I can almost hear them talk this.
But, calisthenics can develop fantastic shoulders, and there are hundreds of examples for this feat. When you put your whole weight on them, shoulders can have quite a workout. The possibilities are many, and here I’ll demonstrate a shoulder calisthenics routine that will put any gym rat to the serious test.
On the other hand, if you’re not strong enough, you can lower down the intensity and perform less-demanding variants of the exercises I’ll showcase today. That’s the beauty of calisthenics – you don’t have to push yourself too hard!
Start With The Good Old-Fashioned Burpees
The staple of conditioning, strength, and balance, the burpee is an exercise that will challenge your entire body. Perform standard burpees with or without jumps (based on your fitness level) and make sure to emphasize the shoulders while dropping down. Perform two sets of 20 burpees.
YTWL Shoulder Circuit
This is the first exercise to perform, putting your shoulders and upper back to work. It will start the blood flow, and warm up your muscles significantly. To perform YTWL exercise, you must bend while maintaining your back straight, form the letters with your body and hands.
First is the letter "Y,“ where you put your hands upwards and release them down in a timely manner. When you raise your hands up, keep them in the „Y“ position for two seconds, and tighten your muscles(focus on this). Perform ten repetitions inhaling on your way up and exhaling on your way down.
Proceed with the letter "T,“ stimulating your upper back and rear deltoids. Again, squeeze your muscles in the top position and maintain proper form. Inhale on the way up, exhale on the way down.
The letter "W“ is next, and you must bend your elbows and lower them a bit to form a proper letter. This one will stimulate the muscle fibers and nerves between the triceps and the shoulder significantly. As always, perform ten repetitions, two sets, maintain proper form, squeeze the muscles, and watch your breathing.
The letter "L“ is a bit different, and it’s performed through rotation of your elbows and locked hands, while the shoulders will perform all the work. This one rounds up the movement and provides a full shoulder exercise. The rules for reps and performing are the same – just keep in mind the proper form.
This variation of the pushup will target your entire shoulders and force you to work harder on getting down while focusing on your triceps on the way up. Perform two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps, depending on your fitness level. Breathing is quite important for this exercise, as you need to inhale and exhale a bit slower and throughout the whole movement, simply because it’s more demanding than a regular pushup.
If you aren’t clear, see the video on how to do.
The center of the workout and the hardest exercise for today, handstand pushup will make your shoulders work the hardest. Your whole weight is on your hands and shoulders, and it’s quite necessary to be well prepared and warmed up for this one.
Always perform handstand pushups backed against the wall, due to the exercise’s difficulty and demanding requirements.
You can use your legs while pushing up to propel yourself upwards, using the momentum. The width between the hands should be a little bit wider than your shoulders, and you must double-check the firm grip.
The sets of 5 to ten reps are good, as long as you perform them correctly. You should inhale on the way down, and exhale vigorously while pushing yourself up.
Breathing might get a bit tricky if you’re a beginner, due to the nature of this exercise; you have to maintain the balance and engage your core, your legs and synchronize your entire muscle system to master this movement.
If this one is just too demanding for you, you can have an easier variation such as TRX-assisted handstand pushups, or even handstand itself, where you hold your entire body without getting to the ground. The rules for the sets and repetitions are the same, as well as for breathing.
The endurance variation of this exercise can be handstand walks, where you drop to your hands and maintain the balance to walk for a specific distance. It’s quite demanding as well, and requires more than shoulder strength, but relies on these muscles a lot.
You may see this video on how to do a handstand push up
To finish the pushing section of this workout and wreck your shoulders, perform pike pushups. I
n this exercise put yourself in a regular pushup position and then shorten the distance between your arms and feet by bending at your hips while keeping your legs straight and raise your butt as much as possible, allocating your body weight to shoulders.
Paying attention to head positioning is quite important here since you need to take care how low you go. If you’re a beginner, keep your head straight and lower yourself to the point where your head touches the ground, and use your hands and shoulders’ strength to raise yourself slowly.
Perform 10 to 12 repetitions per set, and two to three sets, depending on your fitness level and how tired you are. This exercise comes as a great finisher of the workout and affects the shoulder muscle threads very efficiently.
As with handstand pushup, breathing can feel a bit different while performing this exercise, but it’s not as difficult as it is on the handstand pushup. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up.
You may see this tutorial on how to do pike pushup
When your workout is complete, stretch your shoulders gently and progressively, using static stretches. Allow your muscles to relax, and you’re done.
And congratulate yourself, as this workout will surely burn your shoulders significantly.
Try this shoulders calisthenics workout next time when it’s shoulder day and let me know how it went!
Would you change something in this routine, add or remove an exercise, or something else?
Let me know in the comments below!
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