I am a house call personal trainer. I go to my clients' homes and train them there. I bring along the equipment which consists of a foam roller, a mat, valslides and resistance bands.

At first I would have my clients use the bands to perform overhead presses to work the shoulders. The problem is that they would always complain about the buckle or clip is irritating them on their backs and upper arms. This is a valid complaint. I also noticed that the bands do not make a good substitute for free weights for this particular exercise. I have tried it myself and it felt all wrong.

Instead I decided to work their shoulders by doing side and front raises. I figured that since I have them doing rows and pull downs which work their rear delts, plus I have them doing push ups which work their front delts, I can have them do side raises to work the sides.

I recently stumbled upon an article that stated that these exercises cause more harm than good. I am at a loss really, and not really sure how to proceed with training the shoulders of my clients.

Any help would really go a long way!

  • How about good-ol' overhead shoulder presses with dumbbells? The front raises and upright rows hurt my wrists but I have no such problems with presses. That's just my anecdote, though. Of course, then you'd have to lug the dumbbells, but I'm guessing your clientele wouldn't be using terribly heavy weights. Feb 5, 2014 at 19:53
  • As of now I do not have any dumbbells to lug around to all my clients' homes. This is why I have the bands instead. Feb 5, 2014 at 19:54
  • 2
    You could look at the bowflex dial a weight dumbbell sets, or powerblocks. Those would be invaluable to a traveling personal trainer, and allow you to carry a "rack" in your trunk to do presses.
    – JohnP
    Feb 5, 2014 at 21:34

2 Answers 2


I think the most versatile shoulder exercise is the handstand push-up (HSPU) or a variation of it. The benefit of this movement is that no equipment is required. I understand that as a personal trainer, your clientele may not have the ability to perform this exercise, so there are quite a few options for scaling based on the fitness level of the trainee.

Likely the most accessible variation of the HSPU is a pike push-up with knees on a box (or couch, chair, etc):

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**Note that this exercise can be modified to either decrease or increase the range of motion (see subsequent exercises for ideas)*

Another variation that may be a bit more difficult is the pike push-up:

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The handstand hold is another option. In this exercise, the athlete kicks up onto a wall and holds the handstand for time, for a number of sets:

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Finally, there are a number of ways to scale the HSPU itself, such as:

  • Partial range HSPUs, where a block or pad is placed under the head:

       enter image description here

  • Defecit HSPUs, where the range of motion is greater:

       enter image description here

  • Kipping HSPU, where the hips and legs are involved in order to involve momentum with the movement, which propels the athlete upward:

       enter image description here

  • Thanks. As you guessed many of my clients wouldn't be able to perform the unmodified version of this exercises. I will certainly try to have them do the knees on chair modification. Feb 5, 2014 at 19:28

Why do you want to "train shoulders"? Are your clients bodybuilding? If they're doing movements that involve the shoulders, e.g.:

  • push-ups (with hands on a chair or stool if regular push-ups are too hard)
  • pull-ups (with assistance if necessary),
  • and dips

...then why the need to hit yet another deltoid? Unless they're bodybuilding clients (in which case I question their use of tools), I would find it unnecessary and an odd thing to make a priority.

You could also buy a kettlebell or dumbbell to take with you. Even just one 25 or 35 pound KB is sufficient for just about all the resistance you'd need for a beginner to work their upper body.

  • I agree for he most part with you are saying and that was actually what I was thinking to myself before I posted this question. My thought process however, is that since I have them doing pull downs, I should have them doing the antagonistic movement of that which would be shoulder presses. Ultimately, what I would like to know is if I have them working all heads of the shoulders, but indirectly, will that be balance enough and not lead to injury? Feb 5, 2014 at 21:15

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