11 Dumbbell Front Raise Alternatives (2022)


The Dumbbell Front Raise is an extremely popular supplemental exercise for shoulder development. It’s easy to learn, beginner-friendly and is one of the most effective exercises for focusing on the anterior deltoid.

However, sometimes you may find yourself needing an alternative for Dumbbell Front Raises.

Maybe you don’t have dumbbells or maybe you’re just looking to add some variety to your workouts.

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for an exercise to substitute for Dumbbell Front Raises then you’re in the right place. I’m about to share with you 11 of my favorite front raise alternatives including a few different front raise variations and lifts using different equipment.

Alternatives to Dumbbell Front Raise

The first few alternatives on the list are slight variations to front raises or front raise alternatives done with different pieces of equipment.

The back half of the list I included a few exercises that still target the front delts, but are completely different than a Dumbbell Front Raise.


Incline Dumbbell Front Raise


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Adjustable Bench

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders – Anterior and Medial Delt Emphasis

How To

  • Set up an adjustable bench to roughly a 45-degree angle.
  • Lay your chest down on the bench with your head just off the top edge of the bench.
  • Inhale in, brace your core and raise your arms straight out in front up to shoulder height
  • After a quick pause at the top, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, exhaling out on the way down.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

The angle of the bench will determine the amount of emphasis placed on the different muscles of the shoulder. The more upright the angle, the more emphasis that will be placed on the anterior part of the deltoid. The lower the angle, the more the medial (and possibly even the posterior) delt will come into play.

Easily the biggest mistake I see with Incline Dumbbell Front Raises is swinging the dumbbells at the bottom of the movement and using momentum to raise them back up. Stay in control of the weight throughout the movement.

If you feel you need to swing the dumbbells to lift them then the weight is too heavy. Lower the weight so you can use proper form.


Plate Raise


Equipment Needed

  • Weight Plate

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders – Emphasis on Anterior Delt

How To

  • Hold a weight plate in front of thighs, hands at 3 and 9.
  • Arms should be straight, elbows very slightly bent.
  • Knees should be slightly bent, core tight.
  • Raise the plate straight up in front of the body, keeping arms straight, until it reaches about eye level.
  • Return to the starting position using the same movement path.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

Elbows should not be completely locked out during Plate Raises as this puts an unnecessary strain on the elbow joint. Instead, keep a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement.

Return the plate to the front of the thighs each rep, but do not ‘bounce’ the plate off the thighs at the bottom. Keep the weight under control throughout the movement.

Speaking of ‘under control’, do not rock. If you find yourself rocking back and forth to help you lift the weight – the weight is too heavy. Use a lighter plate and keep your torso still during the lift.


Barbell Front Raise


Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Weight Plates (optional)

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders – Emphasis on Anterior Delt

How To

  • Hold a barbell in front of the thighs with an overhand grip.
  • Arms should be straight, elbows very slightly bent.
  • Raise the barbell straight up in front of the body, keeping arms straight, until they reach about eye level.
  • Return to the starting position using the same movement path.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

If you don’t have dumbbells, but you do have a barbell – Barbell Front Raises can work as a great Dumbbell Front Raise alternative.

Elbows should not be completely locked out as this puts an unnecessary strain on the elbow joint. Instead, keep a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement.

Return the barbell to the front of the thighs each rep, but do not ‘bounce’ the bar off the thighs at the bottom. Keep the weight under control throughout the movement.

Speaking of ‘under control’, do not rock. If you find yourself rocking back and forth to help you lift the weight – the weight is too heavy. Take weight off the bar and keep your torso still during the lift.


Band Front Raise


Equipment Needed

  • Resistance Band

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders – Emphasis on Anterior Delt

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand on a resistance band and grab the top of the band with a shoulder-width grip.
  • Arms should be straight, elbows very slightly bent.
  • Raise the band straight up in front of the body, keeping arms straight, until they reach shoulder level.
  • Return to the starting position using the same movement path.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

Elbows should not be completely locked out as this puts an unnecessary strain on the elbow joint. Instead, keep a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement.

Return the band to the front of the thighs under control each rep, do not allow the band to yank your arms back to the start.

You can adjust the difficulty of Band Front Raises by standing on the band with either one foot or two and by adjusting your grip on the band higher or lower. The more tension created, the more challenging the resistance.


Single Arm Cable Front Raise


Equipment Needed

  • Cable Machine

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders – Emphasis on Anterior Delt

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Slide the pin of a cable machine to the bottom of the beam. Attach a single-arm handle attachment.
  • Grab the handle, face away from the machine and step forward enough to lift the weight off the stack.
  • The working arm should be straight, elbow very slightly bent.
  • Raise the handle straight up in front of the body, keeping the arm straight, until it reaches shoulder level.
  • Return to the starting position using the same movement path.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps and then switch arms.

Coaching Points

Single Arm Cable Front Raises are a great way to add some variety to your shoulder training. They also can come in extremely handy when the only piece of equipment in the hotel gym is a universal cable machine.

Elbows should not be completely locked out as this puts an unnecessary strain on the elbow joint. Instead, keep a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement.

Return the handle to the starting position under control each rep, do not allow the cable to yank your arm back to the start.


Bus Drivers (Shoulders)


Equipment Needed

  • Weight Plate

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders – Emphasis on Anterior Delt

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Hold a weight plate in front of thighs, hands at 3 and 9.
  • Arms should be straight, elbows very slightly bent.
  • Knees should be slightly bent, core tight.
  • Raise the plate straight up in front of the body, keeping arms straight, until it reaches about eye level.
  • Now turn the plate 45 degrees so that your right hand is on top and your left hand is on the bottom.
  • Now rotate the plate 90 degrees in the opposite direction so that now your left hand is on top and your right hand is on the bottom.
  • Continue rotating back and forth until all reps are completed.
  • Once all reps are completed lower the plate back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Elbows should not be completely locked out as this puts an unnecessary strain on the elbow joint. Instead, keep a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement.

Keep the core engaged and refrain from arching the low back. You’ll use a much lighter plate for Bus Drivers than you would for Plate Raises.


Kettlebell Swing


Kettlebell Swing

Equipment Needed

  • Kettlebell (you can also use a dumbbell by grabbing the end of it)

Muscles Worked

  • Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes, Erectors (Low Back), Core, Shoulders

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Approach the kettlebell with a stance slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Take a deep breath, slightly bend the knees, hinge at the waist, and squeeze the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Maintain a neutral spine, eyes focused on something just in front of you.
  • Initiate the movement by pulling the dumbbell off the ground and into the “power position”.
  • The power position is where the hips are flexed (loaded), knees are slightly bent, and you are now going to drive the kettlebell forward.
  • Extend the hips and knees, driving the kettlebell forward.
  • The kettlebell will drift from the hip extension to about shoulder height but should not go any higher.
  • Gravity will bring the kettlebell back down.
  • Actively “pull” the kettlebell back to the power position. You should never feel loose or out of control as you swing.
  • As you pull the kettlebell and prepare for the next rep, remember to keep a tight abdomen and upper back.
  • This movement is fast and works on rapid force development via hip and knee extension.

Coaching Points

Kettlebell Swings make a great front raise alternative because they not only work your shoulders, but they are almost a total body lift. You also get the added benefits of power development, increased core involvement and the coordination of the upper and lower body.

Remember to always keep a neutral spine (DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK).

Choosing the proper kettlebell weight is important – heavier is not always better. Because of the rapid nature of the kettlebell swing, the emphasis should be on velocity, speed, and power.


Big 30


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders – Anterior, Medial and Posterior Heads

Step-By-Step Instructions

  • Start in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells in hand.
  • Begin by doing 10 Dumbbell Front Raises.
  • Once those reps are completed immediately transition into 10 Dumbbell Lateral Raises.
  • Once those reps are completed immediately transition into 10 Rear Delt Raises.

Coaching Points

The Big 30 is a giant set involving three very popular dumbbell shoulder exercises – Front Raises, Side Raises and Rear Delt Raises.

This is an incredibly efficient and effective way to get in your shoulder supplementary work (and they will torch your shoulders). The key to the exercise is to do each exercise back-to-back-to-back with no rest in between and without sitting the dumbbells down until all reps are completed.


Bench Press


Bench Press

Equipment Needed

  • Multi-purpose lifting rack
  • Bench
  • Barbell
  • Bumper or Iron plates

Muscles Worked

  • Chest, Shoulders and Triceps

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Set the height of the barbell so that when you unrack the barbell, you are only doing a very short upward concentric movement.
  • Lie flat on your back on the bench.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor. (Some do find it comfortable to pull the feet back toward their butt as they arch).
  • Keep your butt on the bench.
  • Pull your shoulder blades together and keep the back of your head on the bench. You will slightly arch your back. Keep your core tight and keep the shoulder blades pulled back tight.
  • Take a thumbs-width grip from the knurling and completely close your grip. Keep your knuckles pointing toward the ceiling and squeeze the barbell.
  • Unrack the weight and take a deep breath.
  • Control the barbell down during the eccentric movement and draw the barbell in, keeping the elbows at about a 45-degree angle away from the torso.
  • The barbell will make contact with your torso right at the nipple line on the chest.
  • Once contact is made, drive the barbell back up to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Bench Press isn’t specifically a shoulder exercise. However, the anterior delts are heavily involved in the lift. And, if we’re simply talking about developing the shoulders as part of a complete upper body plan then Bench Press should be heavily considered anyway.

Safety Tip: Make sure to always use a spotter when bench pressing with a barbell regardless of the weight being used.


Pushups


Equipment Needed:

  • None

Muscles Worked

  • Chest, Shoulders and Triceps

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Lie face down on the floor.
  • Pull your toes in so that you’re on the tip of your shoes.
  • Eyes should be focused straight down or slightly up.
  • Pull your hands close to about the nipple line of the chest and bring them out about 2-3 inches away.
  • Take a deep breath, engage the core and brace.
  • Push yourself up in one unit. There should be no sagging of the waist. The entire body from head to toe should move up and then back down in unison.
  • Feel your scapula upwardly rotate and make sure the antagonist muscles (Back and biceps) are fully engaging.
  • Lock out your push-up and pause.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down and get ready for the next repetition from just above the ground. Do not fully relax at the bottom of the push-up unless your program specifies.

Coaching Points

Take your time and master the Push-up. The benefits of doing sound push-ups will pay dividends for your shoulder health and the potential to maximize your upper body strength.

Keep the elbows at a 45-degree angle. For maximal chest, shoulder, and rotator cuff engagement, do not let the elbows flare out away from the middle. Also, do not let the elbow hug right next to the torso.


Dips


Dips (1)

Equipment Needed

  • Squat Rack
  • Dip Attachment
  • A Dip Station can be used as well if you have access to one.

Muscles Worked

  • Chest, Shoulders and Triceps

Step By Step Instructions

  • Attach your dip rack to your rack. This process will vary based on your rack and dip attachment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
  • Set your dip rack just above waist height. This will allow enough room for your feet not to hit the ground while doing reps, but not so high you feel you have to jump up into your first rep.
  • Starting position is hands on bars, arms extended, knees slightly bent and feet crossed (crossing feet is optional but does help with unwanted swinging in my experience.
  • Descend down by bending the elbows and slightly leaning forward.
  • Lower yourself under control until the triceps become parallel with the ground and then drive yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Dips is poor range of motion. If someone is struggling to be able to do reps, the easiest solution is to simply not lower yourself into a full rep, but this is incorrect. If a lifter cannot perform a full rep they should switch to one of the variations listed below.

The other issue I see my athletes run into is unwanted swinging front to back while doing reps. Stay under control, keep a consistent rep path, bend the knees and cross the feet. These are all solutions that I have seen help eliminate swinging while doing Dips.

Final Thoughts

The Dumbbell Front Raise is an excellent exercise for developing strong shoulders, but sometimes front raises just aren’t an option. You may not have the proper equipment available to you or at other times you might just be looking to add some variety to your shoulder routine.

In these situations, you’ll need a front raise alternative and I hope that at least one of the exercises I’ve listed here fits what you were looking for.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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