The Shoulder Press and a Dumbbell Alternative

With a pair of dumbbells, you can effectively develop strength and tone in the muscles involved in the shoulder press. The shoulder press exercise can cause pain and discomfort in the shoulders due to the susceptible position that your shoulders are placed in as they push the weight up over the head. However, there are exercises just as effective that don't place stress on the shoulders.

Shoulder Press

The shoulder press exercise involves holding weights at your shoulders and then pushing them overhead while extending your arms fully. The exercise can be done with a pair of dumbbells or a barbell. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, exercises that involve repetitive overhead movements can lead to impingement, which is when an area of your clavicle rubs against the tendon of one of your rotator cuff muscles. This can irritate the tendon and cause inflammation and pain.

Shoulder Press Muscles

The shoulder press exercise targets the anterior portion of the deltoid muscle, which is the front of the major muscle in your shoulders. Your lateral deltoid, at the center of your shoulder muscle, is also involved. Together, these muscles lift your arms as you push the dumbbells over your head. Also as you push, your elbows go from a bent to a straight position, and it's your triceps brachii muscle at the back of your arms that is responsible for that joint movement.

Deltoid Dumbbell Exercise

According to, the front raise is a dumbbell exercise that develops the anterior and lateral deltoid. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and stand with your feet set to shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells down in front of your thighs so that your palms are facing your legs. Keep your elbows straight as you lift your arms in front of you until they're level with your shoulders. Control your arms back down and then repeat. You can also do the alternating version of the exercise, which involves performing the exercise with one arm at a time and switching back and forth with repetition. Avoid lifting your arms higher than your shoulders, as this places excess stress on the joints and can cause impingement.

Triceps Dumbbell Exercise

The front raise exercise doesn't recruit the triceps brachii muscle because there's no movement at the elbows. However, you can target the triceps by performing dumbbell lying triceps extension. Lie on your back on a flat bench while holding the dumbbells over your head with your arms straight. Your palms should face in toward each other. Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells to the sides of your ears, and then straighten them to bring the weights back up.


The dumbbells that you'll use for both front raise and lying triceps extension will likely be lighter than the ones you would use for shoulder press. Recruit a friend to act as a spotter while you're performing the lying triceps exercise to lower the risk of injury from dropping the dumbbells on your head.