Training

The Dumbbell Front Raise Exercise | Form & Technique

When training the shoulders, this typically refers to the deltoid muscles that surround the glenohumeral joint (the ball and socket joint of the shoulder). There are three heads to the deltoids: the anterior, lateral and posterior. 

Compound movements such as the overhead press or isolations such as the lateral raise can be great for developing the lateral head, and posterior flyes or rowing movements can help to develop the posterior head. While the anterior head is used as a synergist (a supporting muscle) in pressing movements such as the bench press, the majority of the load is managed by the pecs and the triceps, minimising the effective loading of the anterior deltoid – and thus limiting its development. 

As with any muscle group, if the goal is hypertrophy, then including isolations for specific muscles is key to developing a well-rounded physique. Since the anterior deltoid is responsible predominantly for flexion of the shoulder, we want to load that movement, using an exercise such as the dumbbell front raise. 

 

 

In this article: 

 

Dumbbell Front Raise Benefits 

Anterior Deltoid Isolation 

The front raise is the best exercise to use when looking to develop size and shape in the front aspect of the shoulder, or the anterior deltoid. Whilst a standard overhead press or variations such as the Arnold press will activate the anterior deltoid to an extent, the dumbbell/barbell front raise is the best exercise specifically load and isolate the anterior deltoid.

 

Bi-lateral and Unilateral Application 

The dumbbell front raise can be performed easily as a bi-lateral exercise, using a barbell or dumbbells synchronously. Alternatively, tempo & loading can be managed unilaterally, minimising the risk of developing muscular imbalances.

 

Pre-Exhaust Method 

A pre-exhaust exercise is where we pre-fatigue a body part using an isolation exercise first before initiating a compound movement. The dumbbell front raise can be an extremely effective isolation exercise in pre exhausting the anterior deltoids, helping to ensure the muscle is being ‘activated’ or stimulated enough for the following compound. This is essentially just another method of ensuring all of the motor units in a muscle are fatigued after a set, thus increasing the effectiveness of our hypertrophy-based training. 

 

How to Perform the Dumbbell Front Raise 

 

  • Whilst standing straight upright, grab two dumbbells and hold them on the front of your thighs with your palms facing towards your body (known as a pronated grip). 
  • Without swinging, lift the dumbbells forwards and to the front whilst keeping your hands facing downwards. 
  • As this exertion part of the movement is being performed, exhale your breath in a controlled manner. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout. 
  • Once the weight is being lifted to around eye level, squeeze the deltoid and pause briefly. 
  • When the muscle has been effectively isolated and squeezed at the top point of contraction (i.e., when the dumbbell/hand is parallel to the ground/level with the shoulder), slowly release the dumbbell back to the starting position. 
  • As one of the dumbbells is lowered to the starting position, continue to repeat the previous exercise performed with the other arm for the designated amount of reps. 

 

Common Mistakes 

Not Warming Up Correctly 

Without a proper warm-up, consisting of light exercise that mobilises the target joint (glenohumeral/shoulder joint), increases blood flow to the target muscles (anterior deltoid) and sends sufficient neurological signals to activate the muscle, then we risk injury along with the exercise not being as effective as it could be. Warming up can improve the range of motion at a joint, increase body temperature, increase muscle elasticity, ultimately reducing the risk of injury and helping us to maximise the effectiveness of the chosen exercise.

 

Swinging and Not Staying Upright 

Don’t neglect proper form just to lift heavier weights. Swinging not only reduces the effectiveness of the exercise, but it also increases the risk of injuries such as muscle strains. To prevent this, maintain a firm base (feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent) or perform the exercises seated on a bench, with the pad supporting your back.

 

Locking Out the Elbow 

It is important to add a slight bend to the elbow joint when performing this exercise as not only will it eliminate any triceps involvement, but locking out will also add extra stress to the elbow joint and this could lead to potential injury.

 

Dumbbell Front Raise Variations 

Double-Arm Dumbbell Front Raise 

  • Whilst standing straight upright, grab two dumbbells and hold them on the front of your thighs with your palms facing towards your body (known as a pronated grip). 
  • Without swinging, lift the dumbbells forwards and to the front whilst keeping your hands facing downwards. 
  • As this exertion part of the movement is being performed, exhale your breath in a controlled manner. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout. 
  • Once the weight is being lifted to around eye level, squeeze the deltoid and pause briefly. 
  • When the muscle has been effectively isolated and squeezed at the top point of contraction (i.e., when the dumbbell/hand is parallel to the ground/level with the shoulder), slowly release the dumbbell back to the starting position. 
  • As one of the dumbbells is lowered to the starting position, continue to repeat the previous exercise performed with the other arm for the designated amount of reps.

 

Barbell Front Raise 

  • Start standing upright, grab a barbell with the appropriate load and hold it in front of your thighs with your palms facing towards your body (known as a pronated grip). 
  • Without swinging, lift the dumbbells forwards and to the front whilst keeping your hands facing downwards. 
  • As this exertion part of the movement is being performed, exhale your breath in a controlled manner. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout. 
  • Once the weight is being lifted to around eye level, squeeze the deltoid and pause briefly. 
  • When the muscle has been effectively isolated and squeezed at the top point of contraction (i.e., when the barbell/hand is parallel to the ground/level with the shoulder), slowly release the barbell back to the starting position.

 

Cable Front Raise 

  • Whilst standing straight upright, grab one cable, using the stirrup attachment, and hold it in front of your thighs with your palms facing towards your body (known as a pronated grip). 
  • Without swinging, lift the cable forwards and to the front whilst keeping your hands facing downwards. 
  • As this exertion part of the movement is being performed, exhale your breath in a controlled manner. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout. 
  • Once the weight is being lifted to around eye level, squeeze the deltoid and pause briefly. 
  • When the muscle has been effectively isolated and squeezed at the top point of contraction (i.e., when the cable/hand is parallel to the ground/level with the shoulder), slowly release the cable back to the starting position. 
  • Make sure to perform this exercise on both sides. You may need to use slightly lower loads than usual, depending on the cable machine in your gym. 

 

Dumbbell Front Raise FAQs 

What muscles do dumbbell front raises work? 

Predominantly, the anterior deltoid which is in the front aspect of your shoulder. Other muscles, such as the serratus anterior, pectoralis minor and biceps brachii will act as synergists, assisting in the exercise. 

Is the front raise bad for your shoulders? 

When performed incorrectly, with poor technique or excessive load, any exercise can pose risk of injury. If the exercise teaching points listed above are adhered to effectively and appropriate loads are used, then this exercise will act as an effective method to increase the size and strength of your anterior deltoid.

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Scott Whitney

Scott Whitney

Sports Therapist and S&C Professional

Scott developed a passion for sport and performance through competing in long‐distance running and bouldering prior to attending university. Scott’s academic achievements include a BSc honours degree in Sports Therapy and an MSc degree in Strength and Conditioning. He is also a member of The Society of Sports Therapists and CIMSPA. Previously, he has worked with amateur and elite athletes, ranging from university sports teams to elite rugby league athletes and Team GB rowers. He currently works with various gyms in developing and delivering training programmes for amateur athletes and gym‐goers. While passive treatments remain in his arsenal as a Sports Therapist, Scott uses his skills to promote physical activity for combatting obesity, lower back pain and other sporting injuries, and simultaneously providing programmes for athletic development. Being a recent graduate, Scott strives to gain experience wherever possible, offering advice and sharing knowledge along the way. He believes it is important to practice what you preach, so in his spare time, Scott practices Olympic Weightlifting and enjoys being active outdoors in all weathers, although he still believes it is important to make ample time for social activities.


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