Barbell Substitutes – Series 5 – Overhead Barbell Press Edition

The standing overhead barbell press is a great exercise that works more than just your shoulders, but it is a technical lift that if not done properly can cause injury. If you don’t have a lot of lifting experience or you don’t have access to a barbell you shouldn’t have to miss out on all the benefits of this lift.

In series 5 of the Barbell Substitutes workouts I will go through exercises that can be done in place of the overhead barbell press or as training to work your way up to it.

If you want to check out the rest of the series you can click the links below.

Barbell Substitutes – Series 1 – Deadlifts Edition

Barbell Substitutes – Series 2 – Bench Press Edition

Barbell Substitutes – Series 3 – Barbell Row Edition

Barbell Substitutes – Series 4 – Squats Edition

The main muscles worked by the standing overhead barbell press are the three heads of the shoulder and the triceps. Those aren’t the only muscles helping you to complete this lift though, you also recruit your abs, back, glutes and hamstrings.

We will focus on exercises to target the shoulders, since that is typically what people will be targeting with an overhead barbell press.

Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The easiest substitute to make when getting away from a barbell is to execute the same exercise with a set of dumbbells. The dumbbell shoulder press can also be a safer alternative to the barbell version for inexperienced lifters, having the ability to rotate your hands during the exercise rather than a fixed position on a bar can prevent shoulder injuries.

The standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press is one of the most well-known shoulder exercises and for good reason, it is very effective in working the shoulder muscles. The standing position also forces you to tighten your core muscles to stabilize the body as an added benefit.

  • With your feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell in either hand raise them up to just above resting on your shoulders.
  • Keeping your core tight press the dumbbells up and slightly back as you squeeze your deltoid muscles.
  • In a slow controlled manner lower the dumbbells while keeping the core tight and some tension on the deltoids.

Push Press

The push press is very similar to the standing overhead press with one difference, the use f the lower body to help move the weight upward. This allows you to load the exercise up with more weight and increase strength and power even more. The control of the eccentric portion of the exercise will help achieve muscle damage which you know from my weight training tips for beginners is one of the methods to bring about muscle growth.

  • With your feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell in either hand raise them up to just above resting on your shoulders.
  • Drop into a quarter-squat by bending your knees and flexing your hips back slightly. Keep your head, spine, and pelvis in line so your back is flat and your eyes and head are forward. Keep your core tight throughout the exercise.
  • Extend your hips and knees explosively to stand up straight, driving through your heels, and simultaneously press the weights straight overhead.
  • Lower the weights back to your shoulders and drop your hips to immediately move into the next rep.

Cuban Press

This shoulder exercise works the shoulders in several ways, which makes it great for a quick home workout. To complete this exercise you will need a set of dumbbells.

  • Stand shoulder width apart while holding a set of dumbbells.
  • Perform an upright row until your arms are level with your shoulders
  • Externally rotate the dumbbells so you are in an overhead press position
  • Press the dumbbells overhead, pause at the top and reverse the movement to return to the start.

Arnold Press

This take on the overhead press comes from the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, he developed this exercise when he was competing in Mr. Olympia to help target all three heads of the deltoids.

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arm bent, as in the top of a biceps curl, so your palms are facing you.
  • Next, spread your arms to each side laterally, then press your arms up and twist your hands so your palms face forwards.
  • Push your head forwards as you press the dumbbells overhead so your biceps are close to your ears.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells while rotating your hands so you return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Lateral raises are the go to exercise to target the middle delts. To maximize the gains from this exercise go as heavy as you can and when you start to fail use a bit of a swing or cheat to get the weights raised and then control them as you lower them.

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart holding dumbbells touching in front of your body with your arms hanging.
  • Raise the dumbbells up straight out on either side of your body as high as you can raise them.
  • Let your thumb be the highest part of your hand so you do not create internal rotation of the shoulder joint while raising your arm.
  • Control the weights as you lower them back down to the starting position

Dumbbell Front Raise

Front raises will be used to hit the last part of the delt, yeah, you guessed it, the front delt. This will give you the big round shoulders from the side profile.

  • Start standing with your feet hip width apart with a set of dumbbells in each hand at your sides.
  • Without moving your torso raise the dumbbells up straight in front of you so your hands are slightly higher than shoulder level.
  • In a controlled manner lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Well developed shoulders can give you a wide muscular looking figure or make you look toned, they will stand out even when you have a shirt on and can help make the arms look more defined when you are in a tank top.

Both men and women can benefit from having well-defined shoulders, so don’t pass up on these barbell substitutes because you are worried you will look too buff. I’d love to hear in the comments if you are working one of these in to your workout routine.

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