Dumbbell Front Raise vs Shoulder Press (Which is Better?)

When it’s time to hit shoulders, there are a ton of different options in the weight room. Two of the most popular options for shoulders are the Dumbbell Front Raise and Shoulder Press.

Both work the shoulders, but is one exercise better than the other?

Is one movement better at building strength? Do they work the exact same muscles? Is a Dumbbell Shoulder Press or a Front Raise easier for beginners?

In this guide, I’m going to explain exactly how to do each exercise along with its benefits and then compare the two against each other to give you an idea of which exercise you should be doing and when.

First, the Dumbbell Front Raise.

Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells


  • Hold dumbbells in front of thighs, palms facing in.
  • Arms should be straight, elbows very slightly bent.
  • Raise dumbbells 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

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

Return the dumbbells to the front of the thighs for each rep. Letting them swing down beside the body will create momentum and reduce the emphasis on the shoulders.

Speaking of momentum, do not rock. If you find yourself rocking back and forth to help you lift the weight – the weight is too heavy. Grab lighter dumbbells and keep your torso still during the lift.

RELATED –> 11 Dumbbell Front Raise alternatives to work your Anterior Delts

Benefits of Dumbbell Front Raises

  • Front Raises help to build strength in the anterior deltoids, which can help improve overall shoulder stability and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Strengthening the anterior deltoids can also improve athletic performance by providing additional stability and power in movements such as overhead lifts, presses and throws.
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Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Single Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press (1)

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is a great movement for upper body strength. The dumbbell implement allows the shoulders to move very naturally and engages the stabilizing musculature to keep the shoulders healthy.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Muscles Worked

  • Anterior delts (Primary concentric movers)
  • Medial and rear delts (Primary eccentric and isometric stabilizers)
  • Lats and biceps (Secondary eccentric and isometric stabilizers)
  • Triceps (Lockout)
  • Abdominal and lower back muscles (Stabilizers in most compound movements)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Stand with the dumbbells next to you.
  • Hinge and the waist and bend the knees until you can grab the dumbbells.
  • Keep a neutral spine, and a nice flat back, and lift the dumbbells into your pressing position.
  • I recommend palms face away or toward each other (whichever feels more comfortable).
  • Brace the abdominal muscles and engage the upper back.
  • Press the dumbbells directly overhead. The dumbbells should not track forward.
  • Lock the reps out and pause for about 1 second with each repetition.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position to prepare for the next repetition.

Coaching Points

Keep the core engaged as you press. If you feel you are arching your back as you reach closer to lockout, consider going down in weight.

Remember this is not a push press. This is a purely upper-body pressing movement. If you are using your legs, even slightly, this would be called a Push Press. The push press is a great movement as well BUT a shoulder press should be focused on the shoulders, no cheating.

Dumbbell Front Raise vs Shoulder Press: Which is Better?

Now that you’re well-versed in both exercises, let’s compare the two exercises directly.

Which is Better at Developing Strength?

Dumbbell Shoulder Presses are better at building strength. Shoulder Presses are a compound exercise that gets more muscle groups involved and the movement itself is a pressing action that stays much closer to the midline of the body.

Front Raises, on the other hand, is an isolation exercise that primarily uses the anterior delts to raise the dumbbells. The movement itself takes the dumbbells far away from the midline which is a much weaker position.

Because of these reasons, Shoulder Presses allow the lifter to involve more muscle groups and use more weight which makes them much better at developing strength.

Are The Muscles Worked the Same?

Yes and No.

Both exercises work the shoulders but in very different ways.

DB Shoulder Presses work the entire shoulder (all three deltoid muscles – anterior, medial and posterior) but also get other muscle groups involved like the triceps. Front Raises primarily focus on the front delt.

If you’re looking for overall shoulder development, go with Shoulder Presses. If you want to isolate the anterior delt, go with Front Raises.

Which Should I Be Doing?


This is the beauty of strength training. There is no need to have to pick between the two exercises. I utilize both Dumbbell Shoulder Presses and Front Raises in my programming on a consistent basis.

In fact, oftentimes I’ll have both exercises programmed on the same day.

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Final Thoughts

If you’re purely looking to build strength, I recommend going with Dumbbell Shoulder Presses over Front Raises.

If you’re taking a bodybuilding approach to your workouts and want to really focus on the anterior delt, then Front Raises are a great option.

However, there is no reason you can’t be doing both exercises within your strength training. Both Dumbbell Front Raises and Shoulder Presses are excellent exercises for shoulder development and both can have their place in your training program.

Finally, if you want to do Dumbbell Shoulder Presses, but you’re not able to (lack of equipment, etc), here are 15 Dumbbell Shoulder Press Alternatives you may be able to try instead.

More Links and Info

Check out how Dumbbell Front Raises compare against some other popular shoulder exercises:

Dumbbell Front Raises vs Plate Raise

Dumbbell Front Raise vs Lateral Raise

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