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Shoulder Push-ups

RealJock Staff

This exercise provided courtesy of Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.

If you can already do full handstand push-ups, you probably already have rippling shoulder muscles. If you can't, don't despair, because you can build up to handstand push-ups using these introductory shoulder push-ups, which work the shoulders hard but not too hard by applying only some of your body weight.

Muscles Worked
Shoulders (front and middle deltoids)

Starting Position
Begin in piked-up position on the floor, with your hips in the air, your palms flat on the floor a little more than shoulder-width apart in front of you, your legs as straight as possible, your feet hip-width apart with heels slightly off the ground, and your body supported by your hands and the balls of your feet. Keep your neck in line with your spine throughout this entire movement. The more you are able to keep your hips up high over your shoulders throughout the movement, the easier it will be to progress to the more advanced variations of the exercise (see Photo 1).


  1. From the starting position, slowly lower down your body into a push-up until your the crown of your head almost touches the floor (see Photo 2).
  2. Reverse the motion and push your upper body back up to the starting position. Your shoulders should do the majority of the work (see Photo 3).
As you build shoulder strength over time, try these variations to build up closer to the true handstand push-up:
  1. From the starting position outlined above, lift one leg up behind you before you go down into your push-ups. This will increase the amount of weight on your shoulders (see Photo 4).
  2. For an even more challenging variation of the shoulder push-up, try putting your feet on a flat bench and your hands on the floor. This will put even more weight on your shoulders (see Photo 5).
  3. Finally, when you've mastered those variations, try combining them by placing your feet on a flat bench and lifting one of your legs up before going down into the push-ups. Once you've mastered these, you're probably ready for full-fledge handstand push-ups.
About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, which was voted the best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. A competitive swimmer and triathlete in his own right, Polson has over 15 years of experience working as a coach and trainer, and was recently named by Men's Journal Magazine (December 2005) as one of the Top 100 Trainers in America.