The 7 Best Upper-Body Exercises for People Who Hate Push-Ups

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If you can't stand push-ups, grab a resistance band and try a few different upper-body exercises.
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.COM

You might think of the push-up as an arm exercise, but this do-it-all move also works your shoulders, back, chest and abs. So if you hate push-ups (or if you're just sick of them), it's important to swap in the right exercises to reap similar benefits.

These seven upper-body exercises aren't only great alternatives to push-ups, they're also a great addition to any workout routine. Mix up your workout routine with these incredibly effective moves.

1. Alternate-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

1. Alternate-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Region Upper Body
  1. Lie on a weight bench with your feet flat on the floor, pressing them firmly into the ground for stability. Alternatively, you can lie on the floor with your knees bent and pointing up, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand above your shoulders with your arms straight.
  3. Slowly lower one of the dumbbells until your elbow goes just below your torso (or touches the ground if you're on the floor). At the bottom position, keep your elbow at roughly a 45-degree angle to your torso.
  4. Press the dumbbell back up directly above your shoulder.
  5. Repeat this action with the other arm.
  6. Continue to alternate arms by pressing one arm while the other arm remains straight.

2. Band Step and Press

2. Band Step and Press
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Resistance Band Workout
Region Upper Body
  1. Face away from a cable machine or resistance band attached at shoulder height to a stable structure or inside a doorjamb. Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hold a handle in each hand with your upper arms at a 45-degree angle to your sides and your forearms parallel to the floor. Lean your torso slightly forward.
  3. Step forward with one leg as you press forward with both arms. Maintain your slight forward torso lean. Allow your rear heel to come off the ground.
  4. Then reverse the move: Step your lead leg back to the starting position while allowing your arms to come back as well.
  5. Alternate legs and explode into each rep as if you were shoving someone.

Tip

In addition to strengthening the chest, shoulders and triceps, this exercise also trains your abdominal muscles to remain strong and stable. And it improves coordination between your upper and lower body.

3. One-Arm Band or Cable Press

3. One-Arm Band or Cable Press
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Resistance Band Workout
Region Upper Body
  1. Face away from an adjustable cable column or resistance band attached at roughly shoulder height.
  2. Stand in a split stance with your left leg in front and the handle of the cable or band in your right hand. Lean your torso slightly forward. Keep your upper arm at roughly a 45-degree angle from your body.
  3. Without allowing your torso to rotate, drive your arm straight out in front of you.
  4. Slowly bring your arm back to complete one rep.
  5. Perform all reps on one side before switching arms and reversing your stance.

Tip

Keep your back heel off the ground throughout this exercise. This move forces your body to be strong and stable to resist the pull of the cable or band while strengthening the chest, shoulders, triceps, hips and abs.

4. One-Arm Incline Band or Cable Press

4. One-Arm Incline Band or Cable Press
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Resistance Band Workout
Region Upper Body
  1. Face away from an adjustable cable column or a resistance band attached at a low position (below knee level).
  2. Stand in a split stance with your right leg in front and the handle in your left hand. Your torso should be upright.
  3. Without allowing your torso to rotate, press your arm out in front of you at a 45-degree angle and in line with the cable or band.
  4. Slowly bring your arm back to complete one rep.
  5. Perform all reps on one side before reversing your stance and switching arms.

Tip

Keep your rear foot straight and your back heel off the ground throughout this exercise. This exercise is performed in basically the same manner as the one-arm band or cable press. The only difference is that the cable or band is attached lower down, which changes the angle of your press so you work your shoulders and chest in a different way.

5. Angled Barbell Press

5. Angled Barbell Press
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Barbell Workout
Region Upper Body
  1. Stand in a split stance with your left leg in front.
  2. Place one end of a barbell in a corner or inside a landmine device. Hold onto the other end of the barbell with your right hand. Your forearm should form a 90-degree angle with the barbell.
  3. Press the barbell up and away from you while keeping your torso upright and stable.
  4. Slowly reverse the motion.

Tip

The angled barbell press is much easier on the shoulders, so many people who have problems with conventional overhead pressing exercises can perform this one with no discomfort. Just make sure to keep your hand in line with the same-side shoulder as you press the barbell up and out.

6. Kettlebell Shoulder-to-Shoulder Overhead Press

6. Kettlebell Shoulder-to-Shoulder Overhead Press
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Kettlebell Workout
Region Upper Body
  1. Stand tall with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grasp the kettlebell with both hands and hold it above one shoulder.
  2. Press the kettlebell overhead. At the top of the move, the kettlebell should be directly above your head.
  3. Slowly lower the kettlebell to your opposite shoulder.

Tip

Holding a weight on one side of the body (as you do during each rep of this exercise) increases the involvement of the obliques (side abdominal muscles) in order to maintain a strong and stable torso position. So really focus on maintaining an upright torso (not leaning forward or back) throughout.

7. Dumbbell Rotational Shoulder Press

7. Dumbbell Rotational Shoulder Press
Image Credit: Ken Stachnik/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Region Upper Body
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a dumbbell in front of each shoulder.
  2. Press one dumbbell into the air as you rotate to the opposite side. To better allow your hips to rotate, raise your heel off of the ground as you turn.
  3. Reverse the rotational direction and press up the other dumbbell as you lower the first one.
  4. Repeat.

Tip

This exercise strengthens your shoulders your abs and hips. Rotating as you press the weight up adds an extra challenge for your core, especially your obliques.

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