Alternate Dumbbell Press for Baseball Players

STACK Expert Tammy Kovaluk prescribes the Alternate Dumbbell Press for baseball players who want to add velocity to their throws and avoid shoulder injuries.

Dumbbell Press

To throw as powerfully and accurately as you need to in baseball requires a delicate balance of mobility and stability. Throwing places a great amount of force on the shoulder joint. When delivering a 90-plus-mph fastball, for example, the anterior shoulder (at the end of the cocking phase) can exert up to half your bodyweight force on your shoulder's glenohumeral joint.

Developing sufficient strength to support such an explosive movement without causing unnecessary trauma or injury to the shoulder joint is extremely important for baseball players. Instead of spending your time doing the Bench Press, which may harm you more than help you (see Why Baseball Players Shouldn't Bench Press), try the Alternate Dumbbell Press. It combines both dynamic strength and stability.


  • Better range of motion (ROM). Throwing requires both a large ROM and stability and strength throughout to perform at your best. With this exercise, you work throughout a greater ROM, maintaining your mobility and increasing your strength.
  • Increased core activation.¬†Holding one dumbbell up while pressing the other requires your core to work. Your power comes from your core. Your arm is just the tool for delivery.
  • Increased stability. The exercise requires a combination of strength and stability at the shoulder joint. Increased stability leads to both increased power and reduced risk of injury. A stable joint allows all of your energy to go toward delivering a powerful throw instead of toward the joint trying to stabilize itself.
  • Scapular movement. The scapula (shoulder girdle) is an important but often-overlooked component for both injury prevention and throwing. You can do all the rotator cuff strengthening exercises in the world, but if your scapula does not perform correctly, your rotator cuff will have to compensate and will likely get injured. Unlike bench pressing with a bar, the Alternate Dumbbell Press allows you to retract the scapula holding the dumbbell stationary while the opposite arm prompts the scapula to move like it does with the throwing motion.

Alternate Dumbbell Press How To

  • Lie flat on a bench holding two dumbbells
  • Press both dumbbells up from chest level, keeping your shoulder (scapula) retracted.
  • Your shoulders should maintain contact with the bench.
  • Lower one dumbbell to chest level, then raise it back up to starting position while keeping the other dumbbell fully extended. Keep the scapula of the stationary arm retracted.
  • Repeat with the opposite dumbbell.
  • Sets/Reps: 3-4x6-10

If you want to emphasize strength and power, stay in a low repetition range. If you want to emphasize strength-endurance, use a higher repetition range. You can also add a drop set. Do 2 sets of 6 repetitions with 90 seconds rest. For the final set, perform 6 repetitions, reduce the weight by 25 percent and immediately perform an additional 6 reps. Baseball players need strength and strength-endurance to perform throw after throw, and the drop set is a great exercise for promoting both.

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