Five exercises that are better than the dumbbell press for boulder shoulders

Increase mass and build boulder shoulders with these alternative exercises

Man performing dumbbell shoulder press
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The dumbbell press may be a staple in your push programme, but there are other effective exercises out there that can help you achieve boulder shoulders. That's not to say they're not an excellent exercise (they are) but if you feel your training has become a little monotmous, then it's time to mix things up.

Our deltoids are made up of three muscles the front, middle and rear head so, if you want to add size to your shoulders, you need to make sure you're including a variety of exercises that hit all three. Here are five of our favourites to try during your next shoulder session...

1. Arnold press

Man performing Arnold press

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Named after Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, this variation of the dumbbell press involves wrist rotation to hit all three deltoid heads to stimulate better muscle growth. It can be performed either standing, or seated on a weight bench, for added stability if you’re new to the exercise. Despite it being a bilateral movement, you can also perform it unilaterally, focusing on one arm at a time, just incase you need to address any muscular imbalances.

2. Pike push-ups

Man doing pike push up

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This bodyweight exercise will leave your shoulders on fire. Performed in an upside-down V-shape, the pike push-up works predominantly the front deltoids, as well as the triceps, upper chest, lats, biceps, core and serratus anterior (a fan-shaped muscle that sits on the side of your rib cage below the armpit). Like any type of push-up it’s not exactly the easiest exercise out there, but it’s scalable so, depending on your experience, you can make it work for you. 

3. Poliquin raises

Man performing Poliquin raises in his home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We recently wrote about why we love Poliquin raises, which takes your standard lateral raise to a whole new level. Unlike regular lateral raises, the Poliquin raise requires you to hold your dumbbells in two static positions, before slowly lowering them back down to your sides. This increases time under tension and also stops you from cheating the movement (which is common with 'swinging' lateral raises). You can also lift slightly heavier, which is a bonus when looking to add mass.

4. Z press

woman sat by a barbell

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The Z press is another mighty move that targets multiple muscles, including the front delts, triceps, traps, and upper chest. It’s similar to your standing shoulder press, but instead of standing you perform it sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. This not only helps to isolate your shoulders more, but it’ll challenge your core too. The good thing about this exercise is that it can performed with various bits of equipment, such as an Olympic barbell, dumbbells, or even two kettlebells.

5. Push press

Woman doing dumbbell shoulder press

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although very similar to your standing shoulder press, the push press also uses leg drive, so you can move more weight and overload your deltoids. This compound exercise targets your traps, triceps, glutes, quads, and core muscles, so you’ll also get a good leg workout from it. Again, you can use a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell to perform the push press. Plus, as well as building strength and muscle, it’s also excellent for developing explosive power and overhead stability that you can transfer to other overhead movements. 

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.