When you’ve been a part of the fitness industry for as long as I’ve been, you start recognizing trends with clients the moment they enter your gym. One of the most common ‘types’ you see is the people who have spent a lot of time bulking up their biceps and triceps and consequently ended up with shoulders that don’t look the part.
To be clear, there’s no successful bodybuilder in the world who has underdeveloped shoulders.
And yes, even for regular folks. shoulders that are big and strong can do a lot for the body. In normal clothes, they make your upper body look strong and impressive.
The superficial muscle that gives your shoulder its rounded shape is the deltoid.
The anterior (front), lateral (middle), and posterior (rear) deltoids are the three primary fibers that make up the deltoid muscle in your shoulder.
Together, the deltoid’s three heads stabilize the shoulder joint and allow the arms to move in a variety of directions.
Did you know that your front deltoids, also known as your anterior deltoids, are the largest of the three deltoid heads, and with enough training, they can grow up to five times larger than individuals who lead inactive lifestyles? The front deltoids have this potential because they are important in many big, compound upper body moves. All pressing exercises, like push-ups, bench presses, and overhead presses, work your front delts.
So, if you want to be able to bench more weight, you should also work on your overhead press. In this article, you will learn about front delt muscle anatomy and some of the best front delt exercises!
Anatomy Of Deltoid Muscle
You don’t have to know a lot about functional anatomy to build bigger shoulders. However, if you know a little more about how these muscles work, it may be easier to choose the best exercises for your front delts.
Shoulders or deltoids, are made up of three groups of fibers called heads. Even though they all work together, you can focus on one head at a time with certain exercises and movements. The three heads of the deltoid are:
- The anterior deltoid (In front)
- Lateral deltoid (at the side)
- Posterior deltoid (behind)
The anterior deltoid or the front deltoid
The anterior deltoid, which is the topic of this article, is a muscle on the front of your shoulder. It allows the shoulder joint to bend forward, bend to the side, and turn inward. Most of the time, the front deltoid head is the largest and most noticeable.
The medial deltoid or the lateral deltoid
This deltoid head is on the side of your shoulder joint and is in between the back and front deltoid. Its only job is to lift your arm out and away from your side. This is called abduction of the shoulder joint. Some exercises that work the medial deltoid are side raises with a cable and side raises with dumbbells.
The posterior deltoid
This muscle is also called your rear deltoid because it is on the back of your shoulder. Its jobs include extending the shoulder, extending it horizontally, and rotation of the shoulder joint. This head is the exact opposite of the anterior or front deltoid. Band pull-aparts and reverse cable crossovers are two exercises that target this head.
Now that you know more about how the deltoids work, it should be clear that you need to pay more attention to this muscle if you want to get good 3D shoulders.
This article tells you everything you need to know to make your front delts stronger and more intimidating.
Let’s learn the top 10 best exercises for the front of the shoulder. Try to choose three or four exercises that you can add to your shoulder workouts as needed.
1. Barbell Front Press
When it comes to shoulder training, the classic overhead press is as close to a cure-all as you can get. Your front delts are no different. In fact, this is ‘the’ exercise you need to do if you want bigger shoulders. Pressing a barbell over your head is a great way to make your shoulders and triceps bigger and stronger. It’s also a classic strength test.
This is probably one of the best exercises for the front delts because it works them at the right angle and for a long time.
If you want to build up your front delts, it doesn’t matter if you sit or stand, use a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Just do what feels right for you.
Overhead presses work not only your front delts but also your side delts and rotator cuffs.
2. Dumbbell Front Raise
Front raises are the best way to work your shoulders, so pick this one if you can only do one of these exercises in your routine.
The dumbbell front raise is the closest thing to a single-muscle exercise for your front delts that you can do. If you want to train your front delts, resist the urge to cheat in this exercise by swinging the weights up.
Start with light weights and pay attention to your form and muscle contact with your front delts. Throughout the move, keep your shoulder blades tucked down.
You could also use a (light) barbell or just hold on to a weight plate.
3. Incline Dumbbell Press
The incline dumbbell press is a great way to work your front delts and upper pecs.
A recent study showed that both the front of the shoulder and the upper pec were more active when pressing at an inclined angle than when pressing on a flat bench.
A more recent study showed that pressing at an incline makes the upper chest grow more than pressing on a flat bench. The growth of the front delt muscles wasn’t measured in that study, but it’s very likely that pressing on an incline makes the front delts grow. This is because the front delts are very similar to the upper pec in terms of function and location.
Many people would rather do this exercise with dumbbells than with a barbell. Not only might they make it easier to get into position, but they might also give you a wider range of motion, which is likely good for your muscle growth.
4. Bench Press
Ah, the good old-fashioned bench press – workout of the champions. Well, the bench press is a great way for most people to work their front delts. But the devil is in the details, and if you arch too much, maybe with a super-wide grip, you might lose much of the training effect on your front delts and instead work mostly your middle and lower pecs.
If you bench press with a small arch and a long range of motion, it is undoubtedly a better exercise for your front delts. If not, you might want to add one of the three exercises above to your front delt exercises.
5. Dumbbell overhead press
Even though the barbell overhead press is a classic exercise for the front of the shoulder, some lifters find that keeping their hands in the same spot hurts their shoulders. When you use dumbbells, you can change the range of motion to fit your body, which makes your workout more comfortable. You can do dumbbell presses sitting down, standing up, or even with kettlebells, just like you can with barbell presses.
6. Arnold Press
The Arnold press is a variation of the shoulder press that has you rotate your arms more. This works more of the shoulder muscles because it makes you turn your arms more.
Start by standing up with a dumbbell in each hand, as if you were at the top of a regular biceps curl.
As you start to raise your arms, turn your elbows outward. About halfway through, your palms should be facing forward, and you should keep going until your arms are fully stretched.
It sounds harder than it really is, but I would still start with a lighter weight so you can get into the rhythm of the exercise.
Remember that if you want to lift more weight, you might feel more comfortable sitting on a bench.
The Z-press is a hard variation on the overhead press. It was made and named after the legendary strongman Žydrūnas Savickas, also known as Big Z. Sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you, you can do this exercise. That means you won’t be able to use your legs to lift the weight. Instead, you’ll have to use your core to keep your lower back stable.
The Z-press can be done one arm at a time with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells.
The push press is another classic exercise that you can do with a barbell, but you can also do it with dumbbells or kettlebells. With the push press, you use your legs to help push the weight up and over your head.
Some people might think this is cheating, but it’s a legitimate way to lift heavier weights or keep going after your set is over. Make sure you slowly lower the bar to get the most out of your shoulders.
People often think that these exercises only work the traps, but you’ll be surprised at how well they also work the deltoid.
Holding dumbbells in each hand next to your body is the easiest way to start. While holding the squeeze at the top, you pull your shoulders up and a little back.
To work the deltoid muscle a little bit more, you can also lift your hands up a little and bend your elbows.
Some people might feel that using a barbell makes this easier. The barbell also puts your arms a little bit in front of your body, which makes it easier to work the front delt muscle.
You might think you can do a lot of reps here, but you should definitely slow down, pick up a heavier weight, and remember to hold the squeeze at the top.
10. Decline Push-ups
For these, you’ll need some flexibility, and it’s also advisable to use a set of push-up stands. They will make you more flexible, make your wrists less sore, and give you a wider range of motion.
The downward dog position is one way to do these. Bend your elbows to lower your upper body toward the ground while keeping your legs perfectly straight.
From there, push back up to the starting position to finish the move.
You could also put your feet on top of a bench and do a push-up so that you are facing down. Your chest should be slightly lower than your ankles so that your deltoid muscles have to work harder.
Almost every upper-body exercise that involves moving your arms in front of your body works your front delts. That means that if you already do bench presses, overhead presses, and incline presses, you are already doing a great job of working your front delt muscles.
In this case, training your front delts on their own might not be necessary and could increase your risk of getting hurt from overuse.
You can effectively build up your front deltoid muscles by doing two or three good front delt exercises with a rep range and training volume that are good for building muscle.
Having said that, the workouts listed above are the most effective ones for building up the size of your front deltoids.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.