Anterior Deltoid Exercises

Certified Trainer’s Best Exercises for Working the Front of Your Shoulders

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: November 12, 2022

You use the front of your shoulders in every single pressing movement. In addition, neglecting these muscles can increase the likelihood of a shoulder injury.

Therefore, it’s critical to train your front delts. So this article provides the best anterior deltoid exercises for building shoulder strength and size.

Plus, you’ll get an anterior delt-focused shoulder workout.

23 Best Front Delt Exercises

What Are Anterior Deltoids?

The term lateral deltoid may be a little confusing for those who don’t study physiology. But deltoid simply means there are three muscles that make up the shoulder. And anterior means front in anatomy.

In addition, the frontal (coronal) plane divides the three shoulder muscles front to back. So they are called the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) deltoids.

As such, the anterior deltoid is also called the front delt.

Deltoid Anatomy

Benefits of Building Anterior Delts

It’s important to develop all three deltoid muscles to create proportioned shoulders and avoid injury caused by muscle imbalances. But bringing your anterior delts up in the process has several benefits.

First, the anterior delt gives your shoulders more thickness, especially when viewed from the side.

Second, well-developed anterior delts create a defined separation between the chest and shoulder muscles. This split between the muscles makes them stand out and look more prominent.

And lastly, solid anterior delts increase your strength on other exercises like the bench press.

  • Make your shoulders appear thicker from the side.
  • Create separation between your shoulders and chest.
  • Increase strength in pressing movements.

How To Work The Anterior Delt

The primary function of the anterior deltoid is moving your upper arm forward. And it does this in a couple of ways.

One action of the anterior delt is extending your arms as you press out and up. Think of the motion of an exercise like the incline press.

Another action is anterior arm abduction. In other words, lifting your straight arm as you would in a front raise.

Therefore, the most effective way to train the anterior delt is with incline/overhead presses and straight arm raises to the front.

However, there are many variations of each of these movements. So let’s look at some of the best exercise variations for targeting the anterior delts.

Anterior Deltoid Exercises

To make this list of anterior deltoid exercises easier to digest, I’ve divided it into sections based on the equipment used. There are sections for barbells, dumbbells, cables, machines, resistance bands, and “others.”

This segmentation also makes finding exercises that work with your gym equipment easier. So, whether you work out at a fancy health club or in your backyard, there are at least a few side delt exercises you can do.

Barbell Anterior Deltoid Exercises

The barbell is arguably the most versatile equipment for training front delts. So let’s begin with barbell front delt exercises.

1. Overhead Press

The overhead or military press is like the squat of shoulder exercises. So you should absolutely use it in your shoulder-building workouts.

Often, inexperienced bodybuilders overlook this exercise in favor of isolation movements. But make no mistake, the overhead press is fantastic for overall shoulder development.

Start standing with the barbell on the front of your shoulders for this exercise. Then press the bar overhead until your elbows are locked. Now lower the weight back to your shoulders.

Anterior Deltoid Exercises - Barbell Overhead Press

2. Push Press

The push press is virtually identical to the overhead press, except you use your legs to generate extra force. In a way, it’s like cheating because you use more momentum. But it also enables you to use heavier weights to overload your muscles.

Whether you use the push press or strict overhead press depends on your experience level and training goals. The article below provides a detailed comparison to help you choose the best overhead press exercise.

Push Press vs Overhead Press: Which Is Better?

3. Seated Military Press

A seated military press is another overhead press variation. However, this time the seated position eliminates momentum generated by your legs.

Therefore, the seated press is better for isolating the front delts than standing presses.

4. Behind the Neck Press

You can also perform the seated shoulder press by lowering the bar behind your head. With this variation, you isolate the front deltoid even more by reducing upper chest involvement.

But you must be careful and use proper form to prevent shoulder injury. And it’s a good idea to use a lighter weight than the front shoulder press.

5. Incline Bench Press

An incline press involves a bench set at a 30-60o angle. This upward angle places the load on your upper chest and anterior delts.

Also, the steeper the incline, the more you use your shoulders. So if you have an adjustable bench, set it at 45o or higher when targeting front delts.

Anterior Deltoid Exercises - Incline Bench

6. Landmine Press

A landmine is an apparatus that anchors one end of a barbell on the floor and allows the other end to pivot. One exercise you can do with this equipment is the landmine press.

Start by holding the free end of the bar near your chest and pressing it up and away from your body. Additionally, you can do this exercise by standing or kneeling with two hands or one hand.

7. Barbell Front Raise

The barbell front raise involves lifting the bar to the front of your body without bending your arms. For working front delts, you can use a pronated (palms down) or supinated (palms up) grip.

Dumbbell Anterior Deltoid Exercises

You can replicate many barbell exercises we just covered with a pair of dumbbells. So let’s look at the best dumbbell exercises for anterior deltoids.

8. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press is almost the same as the barbell overhead press. However, each arm works independently.

With dumbbells, you must use more shoulder stabilizer muscles, reducing how much weight you can lift. But you also get a more natural arm movement and range of motion.

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9. Dumbbell Arnold Press

The Arnold dumbbell press was popularized by “numero uno” back in the golden era of bodybuilding. However, unlike traditional shoulder presses, the Arnold press involves a twist.

The twisting motion recruits more shoulder muscles, including the front and side delts.

Read More: Arnold Press vs Shoulder Press for Size & Strength

10. Dumbbell Front Raise

The dumbbell front raise is excellent for targeting your anterior deltoids. In addition, this variation enables you to rotate your hands during the exercise or alternate arms with each rep.

Anterior Deltoid Exercises - Dumbbell Front Raise

11. Incline Dumbbell Press

Another dumbbell version of a barbell exercise is the incline dumbbell press. Again, each arm works independently, and you get a more natural movement path.

Cable Anterior Deltoid Exercises

Next up are the cable front delt exercises. You will need a cable apparatus and a few different handle attachments for these variations.

12. Cable Front Raise

Again, the front raise is ideal for isolating the anterior delts, and the cable front raise is an excellent variation. Start by setting the pulley at the lowest position near the floor.

Next, stand with the pulley between your legs and your back to the cable. Begin with your hands by the front of your thighs. Then lift your hands up and away from your body without bending your arms.

You can use a bar handle or rope attachment for this exercise, whichever is most comfortable.

13. Single Cable Front Raise

One arm at a time is another way to do the front cable raise. First, stand with the pulley on one side and the cable behind you.

Then step forward, so your hand is by the side of your thigh or slightly behind. Now perform the front raise movement.

Allowing your arm to travel behind your torso puts more tension on the muscle in the stretched position.

One Arm Cable Front Raise

Machine Anterior Deltoid Exercises

If you’re working out at a fitness club, you probably have access to a few machines. So let’s look at some machine front delt exercises.

14. Smith Machine Shoulder Press

The Smith machine is a barbell on rails that makes it easier to balance. And the Smith machine shoulder press is a good way to blast your front deltoids.

15. Machine Shoulder Press

Many gyms also have some form of machine shoulder press. Usually, you sit in an upright position and press handles attached to plates or a weight stack.

16. Incline Smith Machine Press

You can also do an incline Smith machine press to target your front delts. Again, the steeper the incline, the more shoulders you will work.

17. Machine Incline Press

The machine incline press often looks very similar to the machine shoulder press. And it may even have an upright seat as well.

However, the main difference is that you press up and to the front instead of directly overhead.

Resistance Band Anterior Deltoid Exercises

Recently, we all discovered what it’s like to have our gyms closed. And if you’re like me, you scrambled to set up a decent home gym.

Luckily, you can train your front delts pretty well with nothing more than a set of resistance bands.

18. Resistance Band Internal Rotation

The resistance band internal rotation exercise is excellent for working the stabilizer muscles in the front of your shoulder. And it is a good warm-up for your rotator cuff.

To perform this exercise, start by looping the band around a sturdy object. Then grasp the end of the band in one hand and step out with your side facing the band.

With your arm bent 90 degrees, rotate your hand inward towards your body while keeping your elbow locked at your side. Then switch sides and perform the exercise with your other arm.

19. Resistance Band Front Raise

To do a front raise with resistance bands, start by standing in the center of the band. Then grab the other end and raise your hands up and away from your body while keeping your arms straight.

20. Resistance Band Shoulder Press

For the resistance band shoulder press, again, start by standing in the center of the band. Next, grab the other end and hold it at chest level. Then press your hands directly overhead.

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Other Front Delt Exercises

Fear not if you’ve read this far and still haven’t found an exercise for you. Here are a few more front delt exercises.

21. Front Plank

The plank is a popular core strengthening movement. But most people don’t associate it with a shoulder workout.

However, your anterior delts work to maintain your arm position during the plank. And this exercise burns like no other on the list!

22. Plate Front Raise

The plate front raise is a great front delt exercise you can do without dumbbells. I recommend holding the plate on the sides to target more front delts for this variation.

In addition, try doing drop sets since it’s easy to change the weight by grabbing a smaller plate. For example, you could do back-to-back sets with 45, 35, and 25-pound plates.

23. Pike Push Up or Feet Elevated Pushup

The pike push up is a variation where you perform a pushup with your feet closer to your hands so your butt sticks up in the air. While it looks strange, this body position shifts some of the load to your anterior delts.

Another option is performing push ups with your feet elevated. Again, you change the angle of your body to target more shoulders.

Anterior Deltoid Exercises - Pike Push Up

Anterior Deltoid Workout

Now you have twenty-one excellent exercises for hitting anterior delts. But you might be stuck on assembling a practical workout routine.

So I’m going to give you an example anterior delt workout. In addition, I’ll explain how to program anterior delt exercises in terms of frequency and sets/reps.

Anterior Deltoid Workout Frequency

The first thing to establish is how often you train shoulders. The answer to that depends on your experience and your goals.

For beginners or people who can only work out a few days a week, a total body 3-day split works well. That means you would do a couple of shoulder exercises each workout three times per week.

More advanced lifters might work single muscle groups in each workout. This routine is called the bro split workout, which works perfectly for growth.

In that case, you would work your shoulders for an entire workout once or twice a week. And you want to include at least a couple of anterior delt exercises in those workouts.

Bro Split Anterior Deltoid Exercises

Anterior Deltoid Workout Sets & Reps

To grow your shoulders, it’s best to use a hypertrophy training program. That means using weights you can handle for 6-12 reps.

Also, you should aim for 4-6 sets per exercise. And each workout should include from 5 to 8 exercises. So that’s around 24-32 total sets per workout.

Anterior Deltoid Workout Example

An anterior delt-focused workout starts to take shape with all this in mind. So here is an example using some of the exercises and tips you just learned.

Anterior Deltoid Workout

More Shoulder Exercises

In this article, you learned how to make your shoulders bigger and stronger with anterior deltoid exercises and a grueling shoulder workout. But for balanced and proportioned shoulders, you can’t neglect your lateral and posterior delts!

So make sure you check out these other articles to hit your shoulders from all angles.

Lateral Deltoid Exercises for Wider Shoulders

Get 3D Shoulders With These Posterior Deltoid Exercises

Compound Shoulder Exercises for Strength & Mass

Cable Shoulder Exercises for Isolation & Definition

Best At-Home Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises

With this information, you’re well on your way to building massive shoulders. And if you found this article helpful, take a look at some of my other great content below!

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By |November 12, 2022|Workouts|0 Comments
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