There are so many exercises you can do, to target the front delts and one of the most popular exercises is a front raise. You can do it either with dumbbells or barbells or with a plate. Many bodybuilders and athletes do this exercise to strengthen their front delts and to build the overall size of the shoulder.
However, I have seen so many people having issues with this exercise. One of the major problems is that it causes some pain or discomfort in the shoulder joints. Also, most people have overdeveloped front delts. So you can skip this exercise if you have pain or discomfort with this exercise.
So in this article, I will share with you some of the best front raise alternatives which are safer and more effective than a front raise. Also if you are looking for some more unique exercises, you can find them here. But before starting you should know more about the problems with front raises.
Problems With Front Raises
When you perform the front raise, you might have had felt some pain or discomfort in your shoulder joint, especially at the top part of the movement. This is because there is an internal rotation occurring at the shoulder joint. Along with that, the weight is directly putting stress on the shoulder so if your front delts are weak, then most of the stress will be directly on the scapula.
If you are a beginner, your muscles are already not developed, and on the other hand, you are putting extra stress on the joints, which can lead to injury. So rather than doing front raises at the beginning, you should focus on compound movements like the military press and dumbbell press.
So instead of front raises, you can do many other exercises that will target the same muscles and will give you even better results than the front raise. So let’s discuss those alternative options here!
Front Raise Alternatives
1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The study conducted by ACE showed that the dumbbell shoulder press was one of the best exercises to target the anterior/ front part of the deltoid. So you must include this compound exercise in your workout to build and strengthen your front delts.
What can be a better alternative than this! Dumbbell shoulder press not only is the best front delt exercise, but it is also a compound exercise that engages your core and other stabilizer muscles which will not be activated much during front raises.
How to do
1. Pick two dumbbells and sit on a bench with your head and back supported on a bench. Your dumbbells should be on your thighs.
2. Lift each dumbbell up using your thighs to bounce it up. Your palm should face forward and dumbbells should be at shoulders height.
3. From this position, lift both the dumbbells up and focus on squeezing your delts at the top.
4. Return back to the starting position and then repeat the movement.
Before lifting, make sure that your wrist is under the elbows. Also when you move the dumbbells up, your arm will go slightly backward.
Always keep the dumbbells on the lap after completing your set to avoid any injuries. Don’t just throw the weights away!
You can also do this exercise while standing with both feet at about shoulder-width apart.
2. Arnold Press
This is another great alternative exercise that not only targets the front delts but the entire shoulder. You can do this as a prime compound exercise to add size to your front delts.
How to do
1. Grab two dumbbells and sit down on a bench, or a flat chair if you are at home.
2. Raise the dumbbells up toward your shoulder level where your palm is facing towards you. This will be your starting position.
3. Now start moving the dumbbells up by rotating your wrist and then squeeze your shoulders at the top.
4. Slowly return back to the starting position the same way you went up.
During the starting position when your arms are in front and when you rotate your arms to lift the dumbbells, that’s where your front delts are activating the most.
Arnold presses are very effective to build big and strong shoulders. You can go heavy on this. But do not overarch your lower back as you go heavy.
3. Standing Military Press
Another awesome exercise you can replace with front raises. Standing military press is a foundational exercise to develop an amazing shoulder.
This will engage your core more and will be a great exercise, to begin with. Do this as a compound exercise for your front delts and then isolate each head with other isolation exercises. You can find some other shoulder isolation exercises here
How to do
1. Grab the bar and bring it up towards your shoulders. Your hands should be slightly wider than the shoulders. Your elbow should be under the wrist and this will be your starting position.
2. Start pushing the bar up while contracting your shoulders and fully extending your elbows at the top.
3. The bar should be in line with your ears when you reach the top. Don’t stop when the bar is in front of the head.
4. Return back to the starting position and repeat the movement.
Your core should be engaged throughout the exercise to keep the lower back in a stable position. If you had any shoulder injury or impingement then consult the physical therapist before doing this exercise.
4. Landmine Shoulder Press
Another great pressing movement for your front delts. It’s a functional movement that engages your core more into the movement. It also requires balance, stability, and coordination.
If you have pain or discomfort when you do front raises, then you should do this exercise. Landmine presses will be a much safer exercise and you will not hurt your shoulder joints with this exercise.
How to do
1. Place one end of the bar at the corner of the wall and sit down at the half-kneeling position.
2. Hold the bar and pull it up towards the shoulder height and this will be your starting position.
3. With your back straight and abs tight, start pushing the bar up and extend your elbows at the top. Your hips should be engaged during the movement.
4. Bring the bar down towards the starting position and repeat the movement.
This exercise can also be done with both hands but make sure that your elbows are in and the chest is up before starting the exercise.
5. Pike Push-Ups
Pike push is a great bodyweight exercise to train your front delts. The movement pattern is similar to that of a military press you do with a barbell. This can be a great alternative to front raises especially when you are at home without any equipment.
How to do
1. Place your hands on the floor with both hands slightly wider than the shoulder. Place your legs at the back and move your hips up.
2. Your hands should be in line with your head and your hips should be raised such that your body looks like an inverted V from the sides.
3. Now start bringing your head down without moving your hips and pause when it’s almost touching the floor or mat. Your elbow should be at about a 60° angle.
4. Push on the ground and bring your head back to the starting position. Always look at your feet during the movement.
Make sure that you do this exercise with proper form and technique. Also, keep your focus on front delts when you execute the movement.
6. One-Arm Overhead Press
This is probably one of the best exercises you can do with a dumbbell. The single-arm overhead press will not only hit your overall shoulders but will also engage abs and other core muscles to stabilize your body during the movement. Therefore you are training lots of muscles with a single exercise which is a plus! So do this in place of front raises.
How to do
1. Grab a dumbbell with one hand and take it up, just above the Shoulders. Keep your neck and back straight. This will be your starting position.
2. Lift the dumbbell with the help of your shoulders without bending your back. Make sure to engage your core throughout the movement.
3. Stop until the dumbbell is at the top and come back slowly down to the starting position.
4. Do the same with the other hand and that will be your complete set.
You can also do the dumbbell push press which is similar to this. The only difference is that you will use your legs at the beginning to push the ground to generate force and power. Watch this video and you will understand better.
You can do this exercise very easily at home. Having dumbbells at home is always beneficial as you can perform various exercises at home without traveling to the gym.
You can go for heavy dumbbells for this exercise but make sure that you don’t bend your lower back too much and always engage your core during the movement.
7. Reverse Grip Shoulder Press
If you want perfectly defined front delts, then you should do this reverse grip shoulder press. This is a perfect alternative to front raise because it directly targets the anterior part of the shoulder.
So if your front delts are weak and want to add some new ways to train those front muscles, then you must try this exercise.
1. Grab both dumbbells and sit on the bench. Keep your feet on the floor and bring the dumbbell towards the shoulder level.
2. Hold the dumbbell with an underhand or reverse grip while keeping your back straight. This will be your starting position.
3. Start the exercise by pressing the weights up. You can either keep both dumbbells together or at about shoulder-width apart.
4. Stop at the top when the delts are fully contracted. Then return to the starting position and then repeat the movement.
You can also do this exercise on a smith machine while holding the bar with a supinated grip. That will be another great variation you can add if you have access to smith machine.
8. Kettlebell Clean And Press
Clean and press are great unilateral exercises you must do to improve your strength and power. You can do this with either a kettlebell or a dumbbell. This is an athletic move that engages your core, quads, and arms, which makes it an amazing compound movement.
This exercise is safe for your joints and elbow if you do it with proper form and technique. If you do these compound exercises effectively, then you will not need front raises. Front raises are engaged a lot when you do these pressing movements.
How to do
1. Hold a kettlebell from one side and stand at about shoulder-width stance. Bend down while keeping your back straight and chest up. Keep the other hand behind the body.
2. Bring the kettlebell down and then press with your legs to generate force and then bring the kettlebell to the side while rotating the kettlebell.
3. Rest the kettlebell on your shoulder. Now lift the kettlebell and extend your elbows at the top.
4. Now bring the kettlebell down again to the starting position and then repeat the movement. Do the same from the other side.
You can also use a dumbbell to do this exercise instead of a kettlebell. It can be easily done at home if you have a dumbbell or a kettlebell. Make sure that your form is correct and stop the exercise if you feel pain or discomfort.
9. Pseudo Planche Pushups
If you haven’t done this before, then you will love it. This is a great bodyweight exercise for your front delts. Make sure to properly warm up your shoulder joints before jumping right into the workout.
How to do
1. Get down on the knees and place both hands on the ground with your fingers facing out. Now take your legs back and keep it straight with both feet together.
2. Now start rearranging your setup by moving your body forward so that your hands are under the mid stomach or navel.
3. Keep your hips tight and start moving your body down. Stop when your chest is almost touching the floor.
4. Push your body up with the help of your shoulders and extend your elbow at the top. You should lean forward throughout the movement.
This can be a good alternative to front raises for those who want to add some new unique exercises to their workout program. So I won’t recommend this exercise for beginners.
Progress gradually by first starting it with your head in contact with the wall for some support and slowly build from there. You should not feel any joint pain during the exercise. Stop it whenever you feel any kind of pain.
10. Supinated Dumbbell Front Raise
This is a great variation of regular front raises. By keeping your arms at a supinated position, it becomes a little challenging as compared to a regular front raise. So try this alternative option if you are already doing regular front raises for a while.
How to do
1. Hold two dumbbells on both hands and stand at a shoulder-width stance. Your palm should face forward while holding the dumbbells. This will be your starting position.
2. Raise the dumbbell up with both arms until it reaches eye level. There should be a slight bend in the elbow as you move up.
3. Hold the top position for a second and feel your front delts getting fired!
4. Bring your hands back to the starting position and then repeat for the prescribed amount of reps.
Your back should be straight while performing the exercise. Also, remember that there should be a slight bend in the elbow and not too much.
It should not look like you are punching someone. You should raise the dumbbells rather than push them up.
There are many other front raise variations that you can do apart from this and I have discussed that in one of my articles. So you can find some more different ways of doing front raises. Click here to read that article.
Some Frequently Asked Questions- FAQ’s
What muscles are worked during front raises?
Front raise is one of the popular exercises to target the front or anterior part of the deltoid muscle. Along with that, some secondary muscles like trap and core muscles are also used to assist during the movement.
Are Front Raises Necessary?
Front raises are not as necessary as other major exercises like military press, dumbbell press, and other compound exercises because it is an isolation exercise that engages fewer muscles compared to other compound movements.
However if your front delts are not fully developed or if it’s weak, then you must do exercises to target and strengthen the front delts, and one of the exercises you can do is front raise.
Should you go heavy on the front delts?
I will only recommend you to go heavy on this exercise until you can maintain proper form without any pain or discomfort in the joints. If you are just swinging the weights up and down without contracting the right muscles, then there is no point in going heavy. You should choose a moderately heavyweight which you can perform with proper form.
So these were some of the best alternatives to front raises. All of these exercises will engage your front delts and are more effective compound movements. So you can do these instead of front raise.
However, make sure that if your front delts are weak, then doing just compound movements like military press and dumbbell presses is not enough. You must do some isolation exercises to develop a mind and muscle connection and strengthen the front delt muscle. Otherwise, your front delts will get weaker. You can try some of the front raise variations here
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Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He has worked as a personal trainer in gyms and is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com. He is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.