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Front Deltoid Raises for Huge Shoulders

Rob Riches is a fitness producer, host & author based in Los Angeles, California.

Front Deltoid Development 

The front deltoid (anterior) is the largest of the 3 deltoid heads that make up the shoulder, and is therefore one of the most trained shoulder muscles, assisting in many arm-curl movements, chest exercises, and shoulder press-type movements. Therefore, for many people, their front deltoids are often greater developed than the other deltoid muscles.

Should this mean that you shouldn’t train them? Not necessarily. The primary function of the front deltoids is to raise the arm forwards in front of the body, and to bring the arms around in front of the body (like a bird flapping their wings).

Unless the front deltoid is a weak point for you, they typically only need a few sets of front arm raises to train them. Performing front raises as part of a circuit (drop sets with lateral raises is a common pairing), or at the very end of the shoulder workout, so as to give priority to weaker shoulder muscles.

The front deltoids get involved in a lot of chest and shoulder exercises in general, so you may not need to work them as much as the other deltoid heads.

Front Deltoid exercise example


The Front Raise Technique

In a standing, (or seated) position, hold a dumbbell in each hand with the arms ar the side of the body. Start by slightly shrugging the shoulders (lifting them upwards by a few centimeters), and pulling them backwards.

This is now the starting position for the exercise. Most people prefer to perform one arm at a time (for better balance). Raise one arm out in front of you, keeping your arm straight, continue to raise the arm until it’s parallel with the floor.

Pause momentarily to eliminate any swinging of the weight, and then lower the arm back to the starting position, resisting the weight from dropping back.

Some people prefer to rotate their wrist inwards as the raise their arm up (so that the knuckle is pointing upwards), whilst others prefer to keep their hands fixed in the neutral position (palms facing inwards).

Front Bar Raise

Front Deltoid Bar RaisesPerforming a front arm raise with a bar as opposed to dumbbells, allows you to be able to manage more weight. However, as the front deltoids are worked in a number of other non-shoulder exercises, it’s unlikely your focus is to grow these any bigger).

The front bar raise is perhaps an easier exercise to start with, compared to dumbbells, which require an extra level of coordination and motor skills.

One advantage a barbell might offer over dumbbells, is that you can vary your grip width from narrow to wide. These slight variations will allow you to train through a full range of angles that dumbbells or a machine wouldn’t allow for in the same way.

Another preference I see with people is whether they wrap their thumbs around the bar or not. By keeping an open grip (thumbs gripped alongside fingers on the bar), your forearms are involved more.

Cable Raise

Cables can be used for a variety of different front-arm raises. You can also perform many of these exercises either facing the cable machine or with your back to the machine (and the cable coming between your legs). Both variations will apply different stress to the muscles, so experiment with both.

Try alternating some front arm cable raises, using a straight bar, a rope, and single handles. These also work well as part of a super set exercise, after a pressing or side lateral movement has been performed.

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