13 Best Barbell Shoulder Press Alternatives: Exercises For Shoulders With Alternating Arm
As a home gym owner, I know doing close-to-bodyweight barbell shoulder presses can be tough.
Unless you are packing some serious strength and muscles and a power rack, it will be tough to do.
But since I am imagining you like me who just want to look good and stay fit – you have tons of replacement exercises to do instead of barbell shoulder presses.
No matter what you do, you should not miss the compound shoulder workout. It will make you super strong and look wide.
Is the overhead bb press workout bad for your shoulders?
While the overhead press is not inherently bad for the shoulders, it does place some strain on the infraspinatus and put the lifter in a restricted position that can limit the safe range of motion and put the lifter at risk of injury.
And I have seen many people doing ohp presses with bad form for years and still have no injuries.
But we aren’t depending on that much luck, are we?
Therefore, it is important to ensure proper form and technique when performing the exercise, as well as make sure to have proper shoulder mobility and experiment with different grip widths, elbow positions and ranges of motion to ensure comfort and reduce risk of injury.
As long as you are in control there is nothing wrong.
💛 Best barbell shoulder press alternatives: Useful for muscle imbalance, variety, shoulder pain and doing safely in a home gym
- Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Landmine Press
- Bradford Press
- Face Pull
- Machine Shoulder Press
- Pike Push Ups
- Single arm Dumbbell Press
- Handstand Push-Up
- Dumbbell Arnold Press
- Leapfrog Push Ups
- Lateral Raise
- Cuban Press
|Incline Barbell Bench Press||5/5|
|Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press||5/5|
|Machine Shoulder Press||4/5|
|Single arm Dumbbell Press||4/5|
|Dumbbell Arnold Press||4/5|
|Pike Push Ups||2.5/5|
Incline Barbell Bench Press
The incline barbell bench press is an effective exercise to be incorporated into chest day routines.
It is a compound lift that targets the triceps, pec major, and deltoids. Compared to a regular bench press, performing it on an incline angle activates more of the delts and triceps, making it a great alternative to the overhead press.
It is perfect for hypertrophy and building mass and strength, due to the high weight and high volume it can be trained with.
Sometimes I do regular bench presses and incline presses back to back until failure.
Changing the angle of the lift, it allows the lifter to target specific muscles for progressive overload, improving pressing and overhead strength.
The ideal angle for the incline bench is 45 degrees, as it provides the best chest and shoulder engagement.
The flatter the bench gets, the more it moves toward a regular bench press, while a higher angle moves towards a shoulder press.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The seated dumbbell shoulder press has advantages for muscle imbalances and shoulder pain, as well as providing variety to an exercise routine.
Often in home gyms, doing seated db presses is the easy thing to do. I have done them while seating on the bed as well.
Seating like that made my core work harder.
It is a unilateral exercise, which means it allows each arm to move independently, which helps to correct and prevent muscular and strength imbalances.
The following reasons make it the best alternative for your home gym:
- Since you are using dumbells, this is cost-effective.
- You need less space.
- The neutral grip (palms facing each other) will help if you have shoulder pain. Often with a barbell, we push with one arm more, as a result, that shoulder becomes painful after some time.
- DB presses are easy on shoulder joints.
To perform the dumbbell shoulder press, you will need a pair of dumbbells and an adjustable bench. Adjust the bench to the highest setting, grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip, sit down on the bench, plant your feet on the floor, and position the dumbbells on top of your legs. Kick the dumbbells up to your shoulders, then press the weight overhead.
The landmine press is a great option for those looking to build muscle, increase strength, improve overall stability, and increase athleticism and coordination.
It also provides an effective solution for those with shoulder mobility issues.
You can also do kneeling barbell landmine shoulder presses – it will challend your core to the max.
So the Landmine requires the barbell..so why use this?
- The landmine press involves pressing a weight in front of the face rather than directly overhead, allowing for a safer and more controlled movement.
- It also has the additional benefit of allowing you to train your right and left sides independently, meaning that any existing muscular or strength imbalances can be corrected.
- You can develop hand speed too.
It is an effective shoulder press alternative for those who struggle with overhead mobility issues, as they can still target the same muscles without placing too much strain on their shoulder joints. The landmine press is therefore an ideal exercise for those looking to train safely and effectively in a home gym.
The Bradford Press is an advanced shoulder exercise that is similar to the traditional barbell shoulder press but with one distinct variation. With the Bradford Press, you bring the barbell down behind your head instead of in front.
This provides a fuller range of motion than the standard overhead press and helps to build an insane amount of mass through the tension and torsion applied to the shoulders.
It is a great finisher exercise for maximum glycogen depletion and burn, and it is the perfect alternative for those who are plateauing in shoulder growth and need to shake up their routine.
Due to the higher chance of injury, it is not recommended for beginners, however, it is a great exercise to add to your routine if your goal is to add mass to your shoulders.
Cons of Bradford Press
- It is generally considered a finisher.
- You should do this if you have time after doing some heavy shoulder workouts. If you are a busy person then it will be hard to do so.
The Face Pull is an exercise that uses a cable or band to target the upper trapezius and rhomboid.
It is a good barbell shoulder press alternative because it targets the same muscle groups, but with less pressure on the shoulder joints than the barbell shoulder press.
Furthermore, it can help to build some muscular strength and endurance in the shoulder area, and can also be used to improve posture and alignment. By strengthening the muscles in the shoulder area, the Face Pull can help to reduce shoulder pain and prevent shoulder injury.
Machine Shoulder Press
The machine shoulder press is a great alternative to the barbell shoulder press for those looking to isolate their shoulder muscles while limiting the involvement of other muscles.
This exercise is performed on a machine with a cable or plate-loaded mechanism which allows for constant tension on the deltoids and less use of stabilizer muscles.
It also allows for one-arm training which helps to correct muscular imbalances.
This exercise can be used as a primary or accessory movement during the shoulder, push, or upper body workouts. When performed correctly, with the seat and handles adjusted for the user, the machine shoulder press is a great way to isolate and target the shoulders and triceps.
Why Machine Shoulder press is a bad choice for a home gym!
- A machine shoulder press requires a..duh.. machine. Even a power rack lever arm costs a lot – it is not feasible for most of us to do in the home gym.
Pike Push Ups
This exercise is performed by getting into a quadruped position (like a push-up) and lifting your booty to form an inverted V which shifts more weight onto the pushing muscles, such as the delts, chest, and triceps, compared to a standard push-up.
To make the exercise harder, your feet can be placed on a box, bench, or something similar.
Pike push-ups are a great alternative to the barbell shoulder press as they can be done with minimal equipment and no access to weights.
Additionally, they target more muscles than the barbell shoulder press, making them a more comprehensive exercise.
Why you should not depend on Pike Push-ups:
- You can not go for progressive overload with them..
- Pikes are not easy to do if you are overweight and weak.
Standing Single arm Dumbbell Press
The single-arm dumbbell press is a great alternative to the barbell shoulder press that allows for greater overload for a single arm. It incorporates a dip of the hips and knees before forcefully driving the body upwards, pushing the weight overhead.
It also allows for independent work of each arm, which can help to correct any imbalances between the right and left sides.
To perform the single-arm dumbbell press, you should start by standing with a dumbbell just outside your shoulders.
Then, you should dip your knees into a quarter squat, and then drive your body upwards explosively while pressing the weight overhead. Once your arm is locked, you should slowly return it to your shoulders with a count of five seconds.
The single-arm dumbbell press is a great way to build strength, balance, and coordination, as it requires superior motor control and balance.
Why Standing Single Arm DB Press is a good alternative:
- It will eliminate all the imbalances.
- It does look more functional since you are standing on your legs.
- You can convert this to a push press and move more weight than usual.
A handstand push-up is a challenging bodyweight-only exercise that can be used as an alternative to the barbell shoulder press.
It requires pressing against one’s bodyweight in an upside-down or handstand position and works the shoulder muscles, including all three shoulder heads and the rotator cuff muscles.
The handstand push-up also targets the core muscles and total body stabilization, making it a great exercise for building overall strength, as well as muscular deltoids.
Steps to do handstand push-ups:
- To do a handstand push-up, stand a couple of feet away from a wall and bend your upper body down to place your hands on the floor.
- Kick your feet up towards the wall to come into a handstand and then lower your head down to the floor by bending your elbows until they reach a 90-degree angle.
While the handstand push-up is an advanced exercise and should not be attempted by beginners without proper form, but if you are confident you can try this at home, but with caution.
Dumbbell Arnold Press
The Arnold Press is an exercise developed by the bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This exercise is a variation of the traditional dumbbell shoulder press which specifically targets the medial (side) deltoid, activating it to a greater degree compared to the regular shoulder press.
Your palms should rotate from facing you to facing outside while lifting your arms up.
This exercise engages all three deltoids – anterior, lateral, and posterior – as well as the forearms and triceps, making it an effective and comprehensive shoulder exercise.
To perform the Arnold Press, sit on a bench and hold the dumbbells up at shoulder height with your palms facing towards you. Then press the dumbbells upwards and over your head whilst rotating your palms so that by the end of the press your palms are facing forwards.
It is recommended to begin with 3 sets of 12-15 reps at a weight lighter than you would use for the traditional dumbbell press.
Therefore, the Arnold Press can be used as an alternative to the traditional barbell should press, targeting more of the side deltoid and engaging more muscles, resulting in a more comprehensive shoulder exercise.
Leapfrog Push Ups
Leapfrog push ups are a combination of muscle-building and explosive plyometric exercises that can be used as an alternative to the barbell shoulder presses.
Considerations for Leapfrog push up:
- May not develop much strength.
- May develop explosiveness.
- Can be hard to do, if you do not have much strength already.
The exercise is done by starting on all fours with palms and feet making contact with the floor and then rising up to form an inverted V position.
The arms should be slightly bent and hands just outside of shoulder width, and the user should then push their hands into the floor on the return of the push up, propelling the body into the air.
This exercise will help to build strength and muscle in the delts and chest, as well as boost the upper body’s explosive power output.
The Lateral Raise is a great exercise to target the mid and side deltoids, and helps to build broader shoulders.
This exercise can be performed either seated or standing with a light dumbbell in each hand, and involves lifting the weights out to the sides.
Often a BB shoulder press shoulder workout is coupled with lateral raises.
The Cuban Press is an exercise that strengthens the muscles around the scapula and rotator cuff.
It is a decent alternative to the barbell shoulder press because it works the same muscles, but with less risk of injury.
But again it will not make your strength gain optimum – so if you have shoulder issues then you can opt for cuban press until you feel great.
Or you can do cuban press on alternative days when you are not doing heavy ohp.
The Cuban press allows for more dynamic movement which activates the stabilizer muscles around the shoulders and focuses on strengthening these muscles rather than relying on momentum to lift the weight.
Cuban press helps improve strength and mobility in the shoulder joint, making it a great option for both athletes and those looking to improve their overall shoulder health.
🤩 What factors should you consider when choosing alternatives for overhead barbell press?
- It is important to think about what equipment you have access to; this could be anything from a barbell to dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells, a workout sandbag, etc.
- You should be aware of the differences between shoulder presses with free weights and those done with a barbell or machine.
- It is important to consider the safety and effectiveness of the alternative exercises you decide to go with. Be sure to use caution before jumping into a movement and make sure it is the right one for you.
Benefits of the Barbell Overhead Press
1. Core Stability
A minor benefit of BB OHP is core stability.
Core stability helps to maximize the benefits of overhead pressing because it allows you to target the larger chest and shoulder muscles without straining the lower back.
Core stability helps with protective tension, which is a mechanism used by the body to prevent injury (1).
It ensures that the body is strong enough to handle the weight of the load without compromising form or technique.
By having a strong core, you can trust that your body is capable of safely lifting loads overhead.
2. Shoulder Mass
The shoulder mass of the overhead press is made up of the anterior and medial deltoid, traps, rhomboids, and the thoracic spine.
This exercise is primarily used to strengthen the upper body pushing power, and so it should be used early on in the workout.
To effectively train the shoulders, one should use a weight of 85-95% of their one rep max for 3-5 sets of 1-5 reps.
To further increase shoulder muscle mass, it is recommended to pair the overhead press with dumbbell exercises such as the standing dumbbell press or Arnold press for 3*10 sets of reps.
In this way, you are training for strength and for hypertrophy.
3. Improved Bench Press
The overhead press improves the bench by strengthening the front deltoids, allowing lifters to handle heavier weights and therefore increase their bench press numbers.
Furthermore, the Bradford Press, which is a variation of the overhead press, provides a fuller range of motion, leading to greater gains in muscle strength and power.
You know what it means right?
BB OHP also trains your upper chest so you do not need to do a chest workout every day!
What are the benefits of doing barbell shoulder press alternatives? What are the reasons to choose an overhead press alternative
The benefits of doing barbell shoulder press alternatives include:
1. Increased ease of use, as you can use a lighter weight or use a different type of fitness equipment.
2. Reduced shoulder strain, as there are fewer direct shoulder involvement movements.
3. Added variety to your shoulder workouts, as you can work multiple muscle groups in different ways.
4. Access to different types of exercises, which can add a new challenge to your workouts and help you progress.
5. Improved posture, as some alternatives can help you build stability and strength in your core and back muscles.
6. Improved overall strength and muscle development, as you can target various muscle groups in each exercise.
What muscles do barbell shoulder press exercises target?
The barbell shoulder press is a great exercise for targeting your shoulder muscles and improving upper body pushing power (2).
It primarily targets the pushing muscles, including the deltoids and triceps, while also activating your upper back for stabilization and your biceps as the antagonist to the triceps.
Specifically, the anterior deltoids get the highest EMG readings during this exercise, as their main function is shoulder flexion. The medial deltoids and triceps also get considerable activation during this exercise.
The posterior deltoids and upper chest (clavicular head) are activated to a lesser degree.
This exercise is best done with weights of 85-95% 1RM and 3-5 sets of 1-5 reps. While it can be used on your pushing or shoulder session, it should be done towards the beginning of the workout and paired with a dumbbell exercise for shoulders such as the standing dumbbell press or the Arnold press.
Alternatives to the barbell shoulder press can include the dumbbell shoulder press, Arnold press, landmine press, Z-press, and incline barbell bench press.
These exercises all target the shoulder muscles similarly to the barbell shoulder press. Other alternatives to the smith machine are also available, including dumbbells, a barbell, resistance bands, kettlebells, and a workout sandbag.
Are there any safety considerations when performing barbell shoulder press exercises?
Yes, there are some safety considerations when performing a barbell shoulder press.
It can cause the shoulders to internally rotate, which can limit the safe range of motion under load and increase the risk of injury.
You will also need some good core stability to prevent the lifter from overarching their back and put too much strain on its.
Lastly, those with pre-existing shoulder pain or lack of mobility should take extra precautions when performing this exercise as it can increase the risk of injury.
How many reps and sets should be done when performing barbell shoulder press alternatives?
When using barbell shoulder press alternatives, it is recommended to do 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Depending on the type of exercise you are doing, you may need to adjust the number of reps and sets to target your specific muscle group and goals.
For example, if you are doing a Handstand Pushup, it is recommended to do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. You can adjust the difficulty level by increasing or decreasing the number of reps, sets, or by altering your position.
For a Pike Pushup, it is recommended to do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. You can adjust the difficulty level by changing the range of motion, the number of reps, or the number of sets.
For a Landmine Press, it is recommended to do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. As this exercise is more customizable than the others, you can shift your torso closer or farther away from the load to make it more or less challenging.
For a Machine Press, it is recommended to do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. You can adjust the difficulty level by increasing or decreasing the weight, or increasing the number of reps, sets, or range of motion.
Note: These are my recommendation based on typical hypertrophy understanding. You can also do 5 sets of 3 with 70-80% of your 1 rep max. This is good for strength gain.
The Last Rep!
Finally, it all boils downs to what equipment you have and if you can do the bb press safely.
I do not have a stable power rack yet so I lift the weight from the ground up. And since I am not The Rock, I can lift very little when it comes to barbell ohp.
So I try to do more shoulder work with single-arm db presses.
I believe at least 50% of your body weight is a good barbell shoulder press weight as a home workout.
In that way, the barbell shoulder press should never hurt you.
However, you have to build your strength to that point as well.