Gymnast Shoulder Exercises

Young Gymnast Doing Handstand on Balance Beam

Gymnasts are some of the most versatile athletes in the world. They are strong yet flexible. They can fly through the air and land gracefully as well as hold themselves in incredibly challenging positions that most people couldn't even get into.

Both men's and women's gymnastics requires a surreal amount of shoulder strength, and their training reflects that. For example, female Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman performs rope climbs using only her arms. While training with gymnasts might be out of your comfort zone, you can simplify some of the things they do to create your own shoulder workout.

How Gymnasts Train

Gymnasts mainly do bodyweight training that's specific to their sport. They practice the events that they have to do in competition over and over. If they do train with weights, they have to make sure that they don't gain too much muscle. Muscle adds weight, which makes all of the events slightly more difficult for gymnasts because they are constantly lifting and moving their own body weight.

To avoid getting too bulky, gymnasts need to avoid training like bodybuilders, which means that they should focus on either performing their competition exercises or use heavier weights for lower reps. This increases strength without adding too much muscle, notes an article in Sport Science.

Gymnastics-Inspired Shoulder Workout

All gymnastics events use the shoulders to some degree. Some of the men's events, like the pommel horse and the rings, use a tremendous amount of shoulder strength. The amount of strength needed to do these events is too much for the average person. However, you can take elements of each event and create a workout from them. From the rings event, get inspired to do pull-ups and TRX push-ups; use parallel bars to do triceps dips; and perform handstands, as is done in floor routines, to create a more realistic shoulder workout for non-competitors' needs.


The pull-ups are one marker that indicate how a gymnast will do in competition, according to a study published in the International Journal of Physical Therapy in 2012 which looked at different measures of fitness in gymnasts. Improving pull-ups makes you stronger, and more successful in the sport. Do three sets of as many repetitions as possible.

How To: Grip a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. Pull your shoulders down and chest up towards the bar. Keep pulling until your chin is over the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down. That counts as one repetition.

TRX Push-Up

The TRX push-up is a variation that mimics the instability of gymnastics rings. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions.

How To: Lower your TRX strap until the handles are two feet above the floor. Grab the handles and walk your feet back into a push-up position. Bend your elbows to lower yourself down until your chest is in line with your hands. Push yourself back up to the starting position.

Tricep Dips

A combination of a triceps and shoulder exercise, triceps dips are a valuable body-weight move. Perform three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

How To: Sit on a weightlifting bench, gripping the sides of the bench with your hands. Turn your fingers to face your feet. Walk your feet out, with your legs straight, until your hips are in front of the bench. Bend your elbows and lower yourself down as low as possible. Bend your elbows to at least 90 degrees. Press yourself back up using your arms until your elbows are straight.


This is a staple of gymnastics and requires shoulder flexibility and strength in your upper body and your core.

Man doing handstand

Gymnasts have incredible shoulder strength.

How To: Find a safe, soft spot on the floor in case you fall. Reach towards the floor, about one foot in front of you, and kick your right leg up as high as possible. Plant your hands on the floor as you bring the left leg to meet the right. Look at the floor and squeeze your inner thighs together. Balance yourself with your legs up straight and elbows locked out.

If you need to, start by leaning against a wall with your feet in the handstand position.