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How To Train Shoulders At Home Without Equipment

Shoulders are one of the body parts that many guys (and some girls) want the wide, round shoulders. How can you get this at home? 

The shoulder muscles lift the arms to the side, front and rear of the body. By lifting the elbows a little above the shoulders in different directions with proper resistance will train the shoulders. The best exercises for this are: Shoulder press, Lateral raise, front raise and rear belt raise.

Let’s find out what the shoulders do and what the best home exercises are to train and grow them. 

What Targets Shoulders? 

To train a muscle group properly, we have to know where they are and what the muscles do. Ok, everyone knows where the shoulder muscles are but not everyone knows that the shoulders actually consist of three different muscles: 

  • Deltoid Medial: The main muscle in the shoulder. It sits on the side of your shoulder and when grown gives you that wide look. It raises the arm up to the side. 
  • Front deltoid: Sits on the front of your shoulder. Lifts your arm in front of the body. 
  • Rear deltoid:  Sits on the rear of the shoulder. It rotates the arm backwards and outwards. The front and rear deltoid don’t necessarily make you look wider but they are very important for functionality and do make a difference in how thick and round your shoulders look. 
Diagram of the deltoids

You ideally want to train all those different muscles and there isn’t one exercise that hits them all at once. Two out of three is possible but three out of three is not because the front and rear deltoid do pretty much the opposite thing. 

So it’s pretty easy to see how to train your shoulders. Just start with your arms next to your body and lift them up to the side, front or rear. To the side and front is pretty obvious how to do this, to the rear is a touch more complicated. 

Let’s see what the best exercises for shoulders are. 

Home Shoulder Exercises

Without any equipment, it’s possible to train shoulders but it’s going to take longer because you have to do a lot of repetitions. However, it’s quite easy to find something to create some resistance. For most shoulder exercises you don’t need a lot of weight so a bottle of water is enough in most cases. And pretty much anyone has some bottles laying around or can get them easily. Water is the best option since it’s the easiest to clean up in case it starts leaking. 

Get yourself two bottles/jugs of water that are large enough to hold a good amount of weight while also being easy to hold. If you need more weight; plastic milk jugs are a decent option. Of course if you’ve got some dumbbells, that’s a very good option too. Once you got that, here are the best shoulder exercises you can do at home. 

Shoulder press

The most well known and basic of the shoulder exercises. And for good reason; it’s effective. It can be done standing up or sitting down and targets both the side and front shoulder muscles. 

Grab whatever weights you have (or just make a fist if you don’t use any weight) and flare out your elbows and bring the weight next to your shoulder. Then push up to the ceiling. And then let the weights come down to the starting position. 

The downside with shoulder presses at home is that most people can move quite a bit more weight than a milk jug so it gets too easy quickly.

Lateral raise

This exercise really isolates the deltoid medial. It’s a little difficult to isolate that single muscle and this is the exercise to do so. You simply stand up with your hands next to your body. Then simply lift both your hands sideways. Only a light weight is needed because this muscle is actually weaker in most people than you might expect. 

You can do this exercise both with straight arms or bent elbows. Both work well but with straight arms you need less weight since it feels heavier. Either way, just make sure your elbows are slightly above your shoulders at the highest point. 

Front raise

To target the muscle on the front of the shoulder, you can do exactly the same exercise as above but instead of lifting your arms to the side, you lift your arms to the front. The same guidelines go for this exercise as well; Start light and lift your elbows to slightly above your shoulder. 

Plate front raise

This pretty much targets the same muscle as the previous front raise but in a slightly different way. You grab a weight plate (or something else that’s easy to hold with two hands). Stand up straight while holding the weight. Lift it straight up and down. You start with the weight in the crotch area and lift it to about eye level. 

You can add a literal twist to this exercise to make it extra challenging. Hold the weight in front of you and twist it 90 degrees like turning a steering wheel. Twist left, twist right and then lower to the starting position. 

Rear delt raise

The previous exercises were pretty obvious and straightforward. For the little muscle on the back, it’s a touch more complicated. Besides your weights, you’ll need a chair with solid seat. 

Sit down on the edge of the chair and bend your upper body forward while keeping your back straight. Try to get your back as close to parallel to the floor as you can. It’s not a big deal if you can’t get there all the way though. 

Now grab your bottles or weights and start by holding the weights under your legs with your arms outside the legs. Now lift the weights up. A little bend in the elbows is ok. Try to get your elbows AND wrists in line with your shoulders. Pointing your thumb backwards can help. You end up making kind of a W shape with your arms. 

Shoulder external rotation

Finally, this exercise is not a mass or strength building but it’s a good one for shoulder health and mobility. You don’t have to do this with heavy weight, the muscles used are quite small. It’s good for a warmup and to slightly strengthen the supporting muscles in the shoulder to keep everything tight and healthy. 

Simply stand up straight and lift your elbows to the same height as the shoulders. Make a fist and point your knuckles to the wall/mirror. Now, while keeping your elbows in the same position, twist your arm so your knuckles point to the ceiling. And then return to the starting position. 

Resistance Bands

You can adapt most of the exercises above to be done with resistance bands. Resistance bands are some of the best bang for buck workout equipment you can buy for at home. They’re compact, easy to store, cheap and effective. 

The exercises above can be adapted to resistance bands by standing up and looping one end of the band under your feet and grabbing the band at hip height with the hands. From there you can perform most of the exercises listed above. This is a lot easier in most cases than filling water bottles. 

Home Shoulder Workout Example 

Here is an example workout for your shoulders you can do at home. 

If it’s too difficult, reduce the amount of sets for every exercise by one. So instead of three sets, try two sets per exercise for the first one/two weeks and increase after that. If it’s too easy, adding a set and increasing resistance is a good idea. 

Suggested: How many sets is optimal for shoulder growth?

You might notice the word ‘superset’ in the chart. That means you do one set of both (or more) exercises directly after each other before taking a rest. So you do 1 set of exercise #1, then immediately one set of exercise #2, take a rest and repeat. This helps make workouts more time efficient and less rest between sets can potentially result in more muscle growth. Do take a longer rest after finishing a superset.

Below you can see a workout schedule for one week. Three workouts in a week is a good way to grow your shoulders although two is enough if you’ve got a lot of other body parts to train.

Workout 1Workout 2Workout 3
1. External rotation3×103×123×15
Superset 1
2a. Shoulder press3×153×203×25
2b. Lateral raise3×83×103×12
Superset 2
3a. Front raise3×83×103×12
3b. Rear delt raise3×83×103×12