The general overhead press is best known to all of us, the figure 1 is its representative image. In this article, I will be telling you the 10 most useful variations of the Overhead Press Alternatives in recent times by the world’s best experts, gym trainers, and athletes.
In an overhead press, the posture is such that it looks as if we are using our bodies, especially upper bodies-arms and shoulders as the rack for the dumbbells. This is a weight training exercise and is considered one of the most difficult ones. But if you have mastered it. Then you might want to know some of the best overhead press alternatives there are.
The main points in this compound dumbbell exercise is to know how to lock your elbows and balance your body in the racking position. It works your core muscles, gives stability and balance to this power and strength building exercise. It works all the heads of your deltoids. The trunk and legs stabilize the weight while your shoulders, upper chest and arms give strength to perform the overhead press.
Although, some of it you will need time to master as you will increase the weights progressively and you will become better at it and build a fit body. Just don’t be scared of the large barbells or dumbbells. These will prove to be your best friends for your overall health in the long-term.
What makes an effective overhead press alternative?
An overhead press alternative allows lifters to modify their grip. Sometimes using a slightly neutral grip (palms facing each other) can alleviate shoulder pain or feel more comfortable. Balance is key in an effective overhead press.
It’s the best movement for building overall body strength. You will work your large muscles in the upper body, including the: pectorals (chest) deltoids (shoulders) triceps (arms). Take each movement as a meditative stance and don’t rush into it. There are several overhead press alternatives but below are some of the best.
10 Overhead Alternatives To Do
Doing these 10 best overhead press alternatives will give your body more stability andthe muscular strength and stamina required to perform a given exercise for a longer duration and with more force.
Balance training is not stressed upon as seriously as it should be. It’s all about “stamina, stamina, stamina”. If you follow these simple overhead press alternatives will improve your 1) balance training and body awareness, 2) decreases the likelihood of injury. 3) Coordination – amongst your entire body parts that work together.
1. Incline Barbell Bench Press – 135 reps
This exercise will help you build a stronger and bigger upper body. It is a strength training exercise and also will stabilise your balancing abilities. In most cases you will need a Smith machine or a bench that is adjusted to between 15 and 30 degrees on an incline. The angle at which the bench is titled determines the muscles that will be worked. For example, anything higher than 30 degrees mainly works the anterior deltoids (shoulders). Beginners should use at least 5 pounds on each side for this exercise. Your aim is to contain 80 kgs in total during this exercise.
- Slide into the bench or the Smith machine that is inclined
- Make yourself comfortable while lying straight on your shoulders
- Wrap your fingers around the bar and your grip should be where your elbows make a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your arms shoulder-width apart and grip with your palms facing away from you.
- Keep your elbows behind your palms making a 90 degrees
- Inhale, tighten your abs and core for support
- Raise your barbell as high as possible and hold for at least 1 or 2 seconds before you lower it back
- Lower your hands to 90 degrees and bring the barbell handle to your chest
Pro tip (Other suggestions)
- Choose to keep some rubber cloth stuck on the bench in case you start slipping from the bench while doing the incline barbell bench press
- You are not using your shoulders weight to pick up the barbell as you will be increasing the weights
- A lose core while performing the exercise will not help as you will need to put all the weight on your shoulders
- Reset every time you miss a point to maintain proper form and continue with the reps
2. Landmine Press – 12- 20 reps
You can do this exercise seated, standing or even kneeled down on a mat. In this you will be using a barbell with weights placed only on one side. In the landmine press we are targeting out chest muscles using both hands to press an angled barbell. We can also do this with one single arm. As we know the main idea is to build strength through training our deltoids and trunk. This overhead press alternative better works the shoulders (delts), scapular stabilisers (shoulder blades), and the triceps.
- Pick up one barbell with at least 5 pounds weight and hold it with strong grip between both your palms interlocking your fingers.
- Stand with back neutral- hips, back and shoulders in line.
- Take a deep breath and tuck your core inside
- Raise your t barbell above your head.
- Exhale and lower your t barbell till your chest
Pro Tips (Other suggestions)!
- You may not have a pulley barbell like the one in the gym for this the best is to use a Cosco ball and make a hole in it. Then force one end of the barbell into it. It will be revolving and rotating from that point when you place it in a safe corner.
- Keep your back straight. Don’t hunch forward or take your hips back. Stand stable and comfortably on your flat feet.
- Make sure when you are lowering your arms that your elbows are not going back as during the shoulder wing exercise and your upper arms reach only till your sides.
3. Z-press – 10-15 reps
This is one of the most difficult exercises you will come through in your workout routine. The moves are similar to barbell overhead presses, but you are not going to use any equipment. Which makes this exercise a total strength workout. You work your shoulder, upper traps, and upper back muscles in this overhead press alternative.
Although you can also try isolation training with this move and also weight training. The catch is in the technique. There is also some major confusion whether you must sit on the hip or the hamstrings. Clearing this out that does not matter. You just should not use any support for resting or leaning your legs or shoulders in this one.
- Hold the barbell or dumbbell of 5 pounds at least over your head.
- The grip should be tight using the thumb palms facing away from you.
- Take the sitting position with legs hips-width apart
- Keep your back neutral
- Inhale, tuck in your core abs
- Exhale, lower your arms till your chest
- Inhale, raise your arms over your head again
- Exhale, this time lower your arms and take the barbell towards the shoulder blades (behind the neck press).
- Come to the starting position
Pro Tips (Other suggestions):
- Legs can be kept close with glutes and abs tight for further impact
- If you are using dumbbells instead of barbells you will need to use more trunk strength when lowering your arms to the back.
- Try to start with barbells overhead instead of cleaning.
- The only problem most people face with this overhead press alternative is the proper form. You have to sit flat on the floor at 90 degrees throughout
- Reset and start again if you have ruined the form. There is no point in doing 225 reps of this exercise in the wrong form.
- The chin and face comes in the way too often, but that is basically the test of your stability and balance – you have to be cautious and play with Z-press.
4. Dumbbell Arnold Press – 3 sets 10-12 reps
This overhead press alternative is good for your muscles and joints. Hollywood actor and social activist Arnold Swaggeneger popularised this exercise and that is why it’s named after him. It adds a rotation to the classic overhead press and puts pressure on the three shoulder heads – anterior, lateral and posterior. This is an all-in-one shoulder exercise.
- Stand with legs hips-width apart.
- Keep your back neutral to the spine.
- Hold the dumbbells each of at least 2.5 pounds by palms facing in.
- Now, glutes, ribs, shoulders and core abs should be tight.
- Inhale, curl outwards and raise your arms over your head to get a full arm extension
- Exhale, with full control lower your arm reversing the pattern by your arms
- As you come back in, bring the elbows tight to your ribs
- Repeat the motion
Pro Tips (Other suggestions):
- You can alternate with one hand to increase the amount of time of the exercise
- You can use kettlebells for this exercise too. Then you will hold the handle of the kettlebell with one hand and your thumb will be touching your biceps and the hands will be at the sternum area.
- As you lower your hand back down you will technically have to be in a standing plank position.
5. Machine Shoulder Overhead Press – 4- 5 sets 12 reps
This is a beginners’ overhead press alternative. This exercise works towards the overall thickness of your shoulders. You will be working with a Parth Fibrotech Double Chest Cum Seated Puller or Welcare Incline Chest Press which is mostly found in the gym.
This is a compound exercise and is used to tone the shoulders, build strength, mobility and muscle mass in the upper body. You have to make sure the weight is felt on the muscle mass of the shoulders and nowhere else.
- The machine has a side handle (the front handle is for biceps) which is for shoulder press and you have to grip it with your palms facing outwards.
- Be seated incline at 30 degress on the machine bench
- Inhale, hold your breath and mimic the dumbbell overhead press.
- Exhale, while you push out the weights
- Inhale as you lower your arms till your chest.
- Arms should be at an angle to your body.
- Elbows should be tilted while going up and down.
Pro Tips (other suggestions):-
- Don’t press your hands and shoulders backwards while doing this press.
- Always maintain a neutral position during the machine shoulder overhead press.
- Lower your arms to your own comfort level and don’t stretch down too much as it may cause your rotator cuffs to injure or tendons to break down.
- Since this exercise can be done with dumbbells too, it’s not advisable to invest in a $500 equipment in the home gym.
6. Dumbbell Raise Combo – 2 sets 15 reps
As the name clearly says this is a combo exercise for your shoulders’ deltoids, anterior and posterior muscles. If you are a beginner you should start with 2- to 3-pound dumbbells in each hand and perform single-arm rows, lateral raises, upright rows, hammer curls, biceps curls and triceps extensions.
Pay attention to the form as you will be pushing out sideways and frontwards up during this overhead press alternative. You can do this both seated and while standing. Below is a version of standing dumbbell overhead press raise combo.
- Stand with your back neutral to the spine.
- Have little distance between your legs
- Relax your arms and have a firm grip on the dumbbell handles.
- Inhale, hold your breath and tuck in the abs and core.
- Push your arms out sideways and look in front
- As you lower your arms don’t pause maintain momentum
- Pause for effect as you raise your arms to push outwards
- Repeat motion
Pro Tips (other suggestions):-
- Keep your elbows at angle and not stretched straight that way there will be no pressure on the shoulders.
- Don’t squeeze in too much when you are lowering your arm if your arms are stiff you will not be able to see any results.
7. The Partial Overhead Press – 3 sets 10 reps
Overhead press alternatives are all about the variations you bring. There are more than 40 variations of overhead press alternatives you can try. But the partial overhead press alternative is more of a technique.
With every move of the shoulder overhead press make sure to hold it in a mid position where you can feel the mass burn most. This will work on sculpting your upper body much faster. Because, by shortening the range of motion you are lifting more weight than you normally would.
- Hold the barbells with a firm grip over your head with palms facing away from you
- Be seated with legs stretched with a little distance from each other
- Keep your back neutral to the spine
- Don’t hunch forward or backwards
- Inhale, tuck in abs core and stretch your arms up at the angle
- Exhale, lower your arms mid way by holding your arms at right angles to your body
- After 2-3 seconds raise your arms above your head again in the same manner
Pro Tips (other suggestions):-
- Don’t pick up the barbell after being seated as that will ruin the posture, and not help you take more weights eventually.
- Be aware of your face and chin while doing this exercise.
8. No Weights Handstand Push-Up: 5 sets 100 reps
Below is a beginners guide to start with handstand push-ups. Handstand overhead push-ups have many variations in themselves. A handstand is all about strength, bounce and balance and these three are completely separate components of the weight training and bodybuilding regime.
If you are a beginner you will be excited for achieving this kind of flexibility. Be sure that if you practice this every day you will be able to do a equipment free, no weights, handstand push-up in one year maximum.
- Take an elevated surface platform to rest your feet on them while you are in plank position
- Raise your hips up to a 45 degrees angle
- Perform push-ups but with your head touching the floor
- Inhale and tuck in your core abs
- Go down with weights on your hands and fingers to give resistance
- Exhale, come to the starting position
Pro Tips (other suggestions):-
- You have to train your body to take up the weight in your arms comfortably.
- If you struggle with proper form and keep repeating in the wrong form you are never going to be able to do this one.
- In this you have to train your body to stabilize while you balance yourself in your hands.
- It needs virtues like patience and perseverance to do that.
9. Overhead Dumbbell Press:
So we have already covered dumbbell push-ups, dumbbell raise combos, dumbbell Arnold press which are great calorie burning and strength building exercises. So, what is a simple overhead dumbbell press, you might ask? It is the classic move of the overhead shoulder press.
Two dumbbells alternating, bicep curls and press without the inward rotation while lowering your arms to your chest like in Arnold overhead press.
Step-By Step Guide:-
- Take the dumbbells of at least 2.5 pounds each in one hand
- Stand with your legs with a little distance from each other
- Keep your arms at right angles to your shoulders
- Keep your back straight
- Inhale, tuck in abs core and raise your arms at an angle over your head such that you feel your anterior deltoids
- Rotating your arms lower, exhale, bring them to your side
- Again, inhale and raise your arms above your head
Pro Tips (other suggestions):-
- When you are standing you are using the thigh muscles to take the dumbbell weights and pushing them upwards again
- Do not bring down your arms to your back it should be on the side
- As you raise your arms above your head try to bring the two dumbbells closer
10. Single-Arm Kettlebell Overhead Press: 2 sets 15 reps
This is the most common dumbbell overhead press alternative in weightlifting history. It opens up all the muscles, easy to do. You can also squat while you are doing it. It works your Deltoid Muscles, Tricep Muscles, Latissimus Dorsi Muscles and Trapezius Muscles in your upper chest region. This is sure to build your cardio time, overhead strength, and give alignment to your body.
- Stand with legs hips-width distance apart
- Take the kettlebells of 2.5 pound each in your hands and flex your deltoids to get comfortable
- Hold the kettlebell handles firmly with the palms facing outwards using your thumbs
- Inhale, tuck in your abs core
- To get a full of motion bring your arms till your shoulder, pause
- Take your arms above your head
- Don’t make your hands stiff, keep your elbow to angle not too straight
- Exhale, lower your till your thighs
- Inhale, this time take your arms straight above your head feeling the full range of motion
Pro Tips (other suggestions)
- You can end your full body workout with this technique. It’s always helpful for keeping the mobility button switched on.
- Take up heavier weights slowly as you get comfortable with the movement
- Make sure your back is neutral with the spine
- You can also do these as you are walking around the gym or at home
- Momentum and range of motion are the most important areas to focus on in this movement.
These best overhead alternative exercises are separately divided into the maximum reps you should be able to achieve in a day during a full body workout. If you do all of them at once, or are planning to devote your day to weightlifting, then divide it into two parts once in the morning and once in the evening. Do not train for more than three hours in a day. Focus attention on the movements as only you can decide the best movement for overall shoulder strength building. Overhead press alternatives are mostly forgotten during a workout plan but these are the best to give you that slim looking waist and a fine posture. Try these 10 easy exercise swap for overhead press alternatives and go crazy with weightlifting.