This is a biology lesson, so pipe down at the back – you’re only wasting your own time, Simpkins. The shoulder comprises three heads: the front (anterior), middle (medial) and rear (posterior) deltoids. When you’re looking to build your front delts, there is no better exercise than the front raise. All you need is a pair of dumbbells, though it can be done with other free weights and gym machines.

There are two ways to do the dumbbell version – the double-arm front raise and the alternating, one-arm front raise. Here’s how you perform both exercises.

Double-Arm Dumbbell Front Raise

Begin by holding both dumbbells of equal weight in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body (a pronated grip). Keeping your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart, lift the dumbbells in front of you in a controlled manner until your hands are in line with your shoulders. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Front Raise

Follow the form guide above for the double-arm version, but instead of raising both dumbbells at once, lift one to shoulder height, lower and then repeat with the other arm and keep alternating.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Lifting Above The Shoulders

Going any higher is unnecessary. It’ll provide no extra stimulation to the front delt, but will increase the risk of injury to the surprisingly delicate shoulder joint.

Using A Heavy Weight

Check your ego (for this exercise and everything else). The front portion of the shoulder is such a relatively small muscle that light weights provide adequate muscular tension and will lower the chance of injury.

Front Raise Variations

Cable Front Raise

At one end of a cable cross-over station, set the straight bar attachment to the lowest pulley increment. Hold the attachment with palms facing your body (a pronated grip), your back to the cable station, feet shoulder-width apart and the pulley running between your legs. Lift the bar to shoulder height keeping your arms outstretched, pausing at the top of the movement, then slowly lower again.

Plate Steering Wheel Raises

Take a weight plate that you can safely raise for 15 to 20 reps. Grasp the plate in the same ten-to-two position that you use with a steering wheel. With your feet shoulder-width apart and back straight, raise slowly in front of you, arms outstretched, until your hands reach shoulder height.

Barbell Front Raise

Select a barbell of appropriate weight – the fixed weight barbells that you typically find on a stand are a great choice for this variation – but if in any doubt, go lighter. With your feet shoulder-width apart, position your hands shoulder-width apart on the bar (any wider can injure the shoulder joint) and bring the bar to the front of your thighs. Lift slowly under control until the barbell reaches shoulder height. Slowly lower back to the start.


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