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Bodyweight exercises can be great up to a certain point. Likely soon you need equipment to keep gaining a lot of shoulder muscle.
The way you build muscle in places like your shoulders is by straining and damaging your muscles. This may seem counterintuitive but this makes it so your body starts processes to repair them and build a little extra to be better prepared for similar efforts in the future.
Generally the more weight you have to move, the easier it becomes to strain your muscles enough for muscle growth in a short amount of time.
Initially, bodyweight exercises may be enough to build the anterior (front) and middle part of your deltoids (the main shoulder muscle). However, at some point, you likely need to do shoulder exercises with equipment to keep seeing a lot of muscle gain.
The posterior part of your deltoids is hard to work out without equipment. One of the things your posterior deltoids help with is keeping a good posture. If you do not train this part of your shoulders this can lead to slumped shoulders. Especially if you do train your front deltoids.
In short, you will likely benefit from implementing some of the equipment on this list in your shoulder workouts. Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.
At-home equipment for shoulders
Most people know that you can build muscle at the gym. Luckily you don’t need the full setup of an entire gym to get in a good shoulder workout. One or two relatively inexpensive pieces of fitness equipment are often enough.
One-handed free weights
One-handed free weights are basically the free weights category excluding the barbell, medicine ball, and EZ curl bar. This distinction is important when talking about shoulder exercises. By being able to hold the weight in one hand you are able to do many more different exercises.
Some examples of one-handed free weights are dumbbells, kettlebells, the right types of weight plates, certain exercise sandbags, wrist weights, etc. These types of equipment are convenient for many exercises for a wide variety of body parts, including your shoulder muscles.
Another benefit of free weights is that they generally last an extremely long time. One dumbbell can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades. On top of that, many free weights do not really lose their value.
This means that if you decide to stop using dumbbells or other free weights you can likely sell them for a very similar price as what you put into them.
The disadvantage is that free weights often require a slightly bigger investment compared to more short-term fitness equipment like resistance bands. That being said, they are still relatively low in price compared to for example an exercise bike.
Most people prefer dumbbells for shoulder exercises but the other one-handed free weights are great too. Even a heavy backpack or grocery backs could be used for shoulder exercises although these are not optimal for a training program.
Resistance bands are an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. You can use this piece of exercise equipment to do a variety of resistance band shoulder exercises.
Some of the benefits of resistance bands are that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable. They can also be used in other exercises to train your arms, abs, back, and chest muscles.
One downside is that resistance bands, even the good ones, are not the type of gym equipment you can use for the rest of your life. At least every few years you will need to invest in new resistance bands.
Some exercises will also require you to anchor your resistance bands somewhere. Sometimes you can attach them to objects that are already around the house. Even so, it is likely safer to get an inexpensive resistance band anchor to avoid any problems.
Two-handed free weights
Two-handed free weights are basically the barbell, medicine ball, and EZ curl bar. If needed you can load the bars with extra weight plates. There are great two-handed exercises for your anterior and intermediate (front and middle) deltoids.
The issue is mainly that it is harder to get in a posterior (back/rear) deltoid workout with equipment options like the barbell, medicine ball, and EZ curl bar.
Your rear deltoids help with keeping a good posture. If you do not train this part of your shoulders this can lead to posture issues like slumped shoulders. Especially if you do train your front deltoids. In short, you don’t want to forget this part of your shoulder muscles.
An advantage of these two-handed free weights is that you can use them in a wide variety of exercises for a wide variety of other body parts. Another thing is that similar to one-handed free weights, two-handed free weights generally last a very long time without much reduction in value.
A disadvantage is that the barbell, EZ curl bar, and weight plates often require a slightly bigger investment compared to more short-term fitness equipment like resistance bands.
Gym or home gym shoulder equipment
It is also possible to train your shoulders with certain gym machines. There are generally not as many shoulder gym machines compared to other body parts since free weights are already so convenient to train shoulders.
That being said there are still a few options if you want to use gym machines to train your shoulders.
The cable machine is a type of gym machine where a steel frame holds weights and pulleys. Thanks to the cable going through these pulleys and attached to these weights you can do many types of strength training exercises for a wide variety of muscles.
Thanks to the option of using one-handed grip attachments you can do cable shoulder exercises for all three main parts of the deltoid shoulder muscle.
If you only want to focus on your rear deltoids you would use the cable machine to do a bent-over rear delt fly. For this, you need two D-grip handle attachments and two pulleys at a low setting.
After that, stand bent-over, about 45 degrees to the ground, in the middle of the two pulleys with each hand holding the grip of the opposite side’s pulley.
Next, slowly raise your hands with the handles out to the side until they are at shoulder height. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the movement. After that, return to the previous position in a controlled motion.
Shoulder press machine
The shoulder press machine is basically a regular seated shoulder press in machine form. This makes it so the upward movement is fixed.
In turn, this leads to more focus on your shoulder muscles and tricep muscles and less on other stabilization muscles.
An added benefit of doing the shoulder press seated is that it becomes harder to use other body parts to lift the weight. Again this can lead to more focus on your shoulder muscles and less on other muscles.
The exercise for this machine is rather straightforward. Make sure you adjust the machine setting so you can do the exercise safely and well.
The smith machine looks similar to a squat rack but there are a few differences that make the smith machine more of a machine.
First of all, the barbell is attached to a rail system. This makes it so it can only move up or down alongside these rails and not forward or backward.
Secondly, it has a system where you can rack the barbell at any height.
These differences can be helpful for individuals who lift without a spotter and individuals who want to make barbell shoulder exercises less compounded and more isolated.
An example of a shoulder exercise you can do with the smith machine is the upright row. For this exercise, you want to start with the bar just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands.
Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward and unrack it. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
After that, slowly raise the barbell straight upward in a controlled manner until your hands are at about shoulder height.
Lastly, lower the bar back to the starting position in a controlled motion and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.