A trainer told me not to bother doing front dumbbell raises, as my front delts get plenty of work from shoulder- and chest-pressing movements. Is that true?


Front dumbbell raises are the best exercise to isolate the anterior deltoid head, and in my opinion the only way to completely fatigue it. I used them extensively later in my career to help continue my Mr. Olympia reign.

The assumption that front deltoid raises are unnecessary — the logic being that the anterior head is already getting all the work it needs from military presses and benches, so adding front delt raises would only result in overtraining — is bogus. Presses are compound movements that enlist too many ancillary muscles to fully fatigue the anterior delt heads. Other muscles will likely fail long before anterior delts reach max stimulation.

Many lifters I’ve observed butcher the performance of front raises, and so a lot of those guys brand the exercise as worthless. Any front dumbbell raise, to be effective, must fully contract the anterior delt head, a task more demanding than simply hoisting a weight up and out to the front. Targeting this muscle requires a much lighter weight than other shoulder exercises, as extreme control is imperative throughout the full range of motion. If his ego can’t accept that — how many could? — a bodybuilder will grab a dumbbell that weighs way too much. He’ll tend to lift it by using every muscle in his upper body except his front delts. Here are a few pointers.

  • If your front delts are lacking, hit them first. I often do mine at the beginning of my routine, before side laterals and rear delt exercises.
  • Keep your body upright. Don’t lean backward to counterbalance for the sake of using a heavier dumbbell. That only reduces your range of motion, and puts you at risk for a lower-back strain.
  • Keep your working arm(s) slightly bent. I bend my arm — only slightly — and maintain it firmly in that position.
  • Don’t rock or generate a rhythmic swing. Raise the dumbbell straight out to the front, slowly and with concentration.
  • Don’t alternate reps during unilateral raises. I do all reps in a set with one arm, then I switch. I think alternating reps allows for too much rest within a set.
  • Reach total failure. On my last set, after failing with full reps, I continue with partials until I can’t move the weight an inch.
  • Try going all the way up. Most bodybuilders stop the raise when their arm is horizontal, but I take it all the way up, until my arm is a few degrees short of vertical overhead. I can still feel that front head burning and tightening far above horizontal, so why stop?

If you’ve been neglecting front delts, try my front delt shock routine, or insert front barbell or dumbbell raises into your current shoulder regimen. In any case, next time someone tells you that there’s no need to do specific front delt work, remember my up-front words of advice.


  • Front Dumbbell Raises | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-10
  • Seated Barbell Presses | SETS: 4 | REPS: 6-10
  • Seated Dumbbell Presses | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8-10
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12


Front Raise

Dumbbell Front Raise

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