It's important to build strong shoulders for functional reasons such as every day tasks and posture. Big strong shoulders also look good, everyone love the look of a nice round deltoid!

There are many exercises that targets the shoulder muscles differently, with front raises targeting the front deltoid, or the anterior deltoid.

The dumbbell front raise isn't suitable for everyone so I have put together 7 of my favorite dumbbell front raise alternative exercises.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body and can move through a large range of motion. The deltoid is the biggest muscle in the shoulder that covers your glenohumeral joint, where your upper arm inserts into your shoulder socket. The deltoid muscle, or 'delt' can can be trained in a variety of ways.[1]

Front raises primarily target the anterior deltoid (front) and lateral deltoid (side). To target these muscles better read on for my best front raise alternatives to switch up your workout routine.

1. Resistance Band Front Raise 

Man Doing Resistance Band Front Raise Exercise

This exercise is similar to a dumbbell front raise but uses resistance bands instead, which is a cheap and easy option. This can be incredibly handy for those with little space, no home gym, or who are traveling.

Resistance bands are great for building muscle when used properly since they can target both primary “mover muscles” and stabilizers.

Resistance bands provide optimal resistance and using dumbbells might be too much on your front delts.


  • Easy to do at home or anywhere.
  • Follows the natural strength curve of your muscle due to the band stretching and increasing in resistance.
  • Helps reduce cheating and using momentum.

How to perform resistance band front raises: 

  1. Hold the band in each hand at arm’s length and ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart. Place the body of the band under the soles of your feet and keep your hands shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Slowly bring your arms up until they are even with your shoulders. 
  3. Slowly lower your hands to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat, ensuring that you keep your arms straight throughout each rep.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you don't lean back during this exercise. For the optimal position you must be upright with a nice stable torso.  

2. Barbell Front Raise 

Barbell Front Raise

Barbell front raises are a great dumbbell front raise alternative exercise and can be performed with your palms facing down or up; up requires much more wrist strength, so bear that in mind.

This exercise is an excellent way to isolate your front deltoids and feel the burn. 


  • Great exercise to build size. 
  • Effective in improving strength and power in the shoulders.
  • Good for people who are more advanced and require more weight.

How to perform barbell front raises: 

  1. Stand up straight with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Slowly raise the bar until it is shoulder level, keeping your elbows slightly bent the entire time. 
  3. Pause at the top before bringing the bar down in a controlled manner. 
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Ensure you are bringing the barbell all the way up to shoulder height to get the most out of this excercise. 

3. Incline Barbell Front Raise 

Man Doing Incline Barbell Front Raise in The Gym

This alternative exercise is a great way to shake things up and get your core involved in your workout.

We recommend lying back on an incline bench at the gym for this one, but some choose to lie on their front to help them maintain a straight back throughout. 


  • The incline bench set up reduces momentum and keeps the exercise strict. 
  • Adds size and strength to the front and side deltoids.
  • Can use different variations to target the delts slightly differently. 

How to perform an incline barbell front raise: 

  1. Set your bench to incline at a 45-degree angle. Lean on it with your upper body either facing up or down.
  2. Hold the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. 
  3. Raise the barbell to your shoulders, keeping your elbows slightly bent throughout. 
  4. Slowly lower the barbell and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Focus only moving from the shoulder joint and choose a weight that allows you to go slow and controlled. If you can't reach the top position then you have gone too heavy.  

4. Lying Lateral Band Raise 

Man Doing Lying Lateral Band Raise Exercise

The lying lateral band raise is an excellent exercise that works your lateral head without straining your shoulder joint or spine.[2]

Remember to focus on your form and choose a lighter band. 


  • Perfect for those with a back injury
  • Being in a stable lying position ables you to put more focus into the shoulders.
  • Resistance can easily be modified. 

How to perform a lying lateral band raise: 

  1. Lie down on the floor with a resistance band across the bottom of your feet and holding onto the ends in each hand.
  2. Pull your elbows away from you, keeping your arms straight, and raise your hands up to shoulder height. 
  3. Pause for a second.
  4. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat for desired reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

You should be able to bring your hands to shoulder height maintaining a good body position. If you can't the resistance is too much and you'll need an easier band. 

5. Cable Front Raise 

Man Doing Cable Front Raise

The cable front raise exercise does a great job at providing constant tension that is harder at the beginning but gets easier towards the end of each rep. 

This is another excellent isolation exercise and that is suitable for all fitness levels. 


  • Increases muscle hypertrophy and improves muscular endurance.
  • The cable machine provides constant load, or more time under tension, which is ideal for increasing size.
  • Safe and efficient exercise.

How to perform a cable front raise: 

  1. Set the cable on a cable pulley machine to your mid-thigh. Stand one foot away from the machine with your back to it. 
  2. Hold the handle in one hand in an overhand grip at your side using a full arm extension.
  3. Bring your arm up to shoulder level in a controlled manner, don't let your upper body swing help you in the movement. 
  4. Lower it back down slowly and repeat. 
  5. Switch hands and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Try not to bounce at the top of the front raise, allow the shoulders to flex then lower with control. Focus on form and muscle contraction rather than weight for the cable front raise exercise. 

6. Knee-Up with Overhead Reach 

Man Doing Knee-Up With Overhead Reach Exercise

For those who can’t get enough cardio, knee-ups with overhead reaches could be an excellent way to shake things up.

This is a plyometric cardio workout that works your whole body while building your shoulders. 


  • Increases mobility in the hips and shoulders.
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness.
  • Challenges balance and coordination.

How to perform a knee up with overhead reach: 

  1. Stand in front of a step or block, holding a weight plate in front of you with both hands. 
  2. Put one foot on the step and extend your arms over your head. 
  3. Drive the opposite knee up to your hip, bringing the weight down to meet it in one motion. 
  4. Return to your starting position. 
  5. Swap sides and repeat. 
  6. Repeat these on each side for the desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

If this is your first time trying this front raise exercise, do it without holding any weight first of all then you can add weight as you get familiar with the movement.  

7. Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises With Hold 

Man Performing Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises With Hold Exercise

Alternating dumbbell front raise is one of the best exercises that will improve the size and strength of your shoulders. Using lower weights is also an excellent way to build strength without overdoing it. 

You can also do this exercise resistance bands if you are traveling or don’t have free weights at home. 


  • Ideal for improving muscular imbalances. 
  • The isometric hold increases time under tension which is ideal for increasing muscle hypertrophy.
  • Builds strength and definition in the shoulders. 

How to perform alternating dumbbell front raises: 

  1. Sit on an incline bench or chair. With your palms facing down, hold a light weight in each hand at your side. 
  2. Engaging your core, raise the weights in front of you until they are level with your shoulders, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. 
  3. Keep one dumbbell in this position as you slowly lower the opposite one and do your desired number of reps. 
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

When doing an alternating dumbbell front raise, remember to keep your core braced and focus on perfecting your form.

Benefits Of Alternative Exercises Over Dumbbell Front Raises

There are a variety of reasons why you may need to find an alternative to performing dumbbell front raises. Maybe you're traveling and only have resistance bands, or you don’t have a fully stocked home gym. 

Using alternative methods like these can help inspire you, avoiding that old mindless routine that is so easy to fall into.

These exercises provide a different feeling with similar effects, engaging your mind as well as your body.

Beginners and veterans alike can find something to love if dumbbell front raises just aren’t cutting it anymore. 

Frequently Asked Dumbbell Front Raise Questions

Are dumbbell front raises dangerous? 

Not at all, dumbbell front raises are not dangerous. Make sure to listen to your body and take care of yourself. Slowly increase the resistance level over time and keep the moves in line with your shoulders. Maintain proper form and rest well to see your desired results. 

What is the easiest exercise on our list? 

This is a tricky one to answer without knowing your fitness level. However, we do recommend giving these a try if you can – experiment with different reps, holding times, and weight levels to see what challenges you without overdoing it. 


The dumbbell front raise exercise is not for everyone. Whether you find them stale or want to use different equipment, there are plenty of alternative front raise exercises for any fitness level.

Give these a try for stronger and more functional deltiod muscles.




Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website