Barbell Front Raise

Exercise Tutorial and Tips From a Certified Trainer

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: March 2, 2023

The front of your shoulders get worked extensively on push exercises like the bench press and shoulder press. However, this muscle group can still be a weak point limiting your physique and strength.

Therefore, including some isolation work for the front deltoid in your workouts is also a good idea. And the barbell front raise is one of the best shoulder isolation exercises.

So I will show you how to properly do a barbell front raise with detailed instructions, pictures, and a short video.

Barbell Front Raise

What Are Barbell Front Raises?

Front raises are a shoulder exercise where you lift a barbell in front of you while keeping your arms relatively straight.

You can also do front raises with dumbbells, weight plates, or cables. But the barbell has some unique advantages, which I’ll explain below.

Barbell Front Raises Muscles Worked

Barbell front raises primarily target the anterior deltoid on the front of your shoulder. But they also work the side (lateral) delts to an extent.

In addition, the top end of the range of motion also incorporates the upper trapezius or trap muscles. And you may feel some muscle activation in your upper chest as well.

Barbell Front Raises Muscles Worked

Barbell Front Raise Anatomy

The primary function of the deltoid muscle is shoulder abduction, or raising your arm away from your body in all directions. Moreover, anterior abduction (front raise) shifts the loading more to the front delt.

Therefore, the front raise exercise is one of the best ways to isolate and target the front of your shoulders. And the barbell has some advantages over other exercise variations.

Barbell Front Raise Benefits & Limitations

One advantage of the barbell front raise is that it’s a free-weight movement, which is best for improving functional strength that translates to real-world power.

Another benefit of the barbell is that you can progress to heavier weights as you get stronger. However, starting with light weights is best as you learn the form and technique.

Finally, barbell front raises enable different hand positions to work various parts of your shoulder. Although dumbbells allow even more hand variations and a greater range of motion.


  • Free weight exercise superior for strength
  • Barbell allows heavy loads
  • Able to change the grip and hand position


  • Not as versatile as dumbbells
  • Thighs restrict range of motion

How To Do Barbell Front Raise

Start by grabbing a barbell with an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart. Then rest the barbell on the front of your thighs with your arms fully extended.

From this starting position, lift the barbell while keeping your arms relatively straight. Raise the bar until it is about eye level, then lower the bar back down in a controlled manner.

Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps before setting the barbell down.

Here is how to do a barbell front raise step-by-step:

  1. Pick up a barbell with hands about shoulder-width apart
  2. Hold the barbell in front of thighs with arms straight
  3. Raise the bar to eye level while keeping your arms straight
  4. Lower back to thighs in a controlled manner
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps

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Barbell Front Raise Form

The description and video above should give you a good idea of how to do barbell front raises correctly. But here are a few more tips to help you isolate your shoulders and get the most out of the exercise.

1. Control the Weight Up & Down

First, it’s easy to lose control of the weight, especially on the way down. When this happens, the barbell bounces off your legs at the bottom, which isn’t good for your thighs or for isolating your shoulders.

Therefore, using a weight you can control throughout the range of motion is critical, even if it means starting with just the bar or a lighter substitute.

As a rule of thumb, try to count one second on the way up and one second on the way down. If the barbell comes down in less than one second, you should probably reduce the weight.

2. Raise Bar to Eye Level

Next, the barbell front raise generally doesn’t involve lifting the bar all the way overhead. And the reason is that your traps generally get involved more the higher you raise the bar.

So raising the bar until it’s about eye level is a good stopping point. I recommend you pick a point on the wall straight ahead and raise the bar until it hits that mark.

Barbell Front Raises

3. Minimize Momentum

Another key point is not initiating the front raise using your body momentum. This means you shouldn’t use your legs to give the bar a boost at the start of the movement because that takes the load off the target muscle.

In addition, don’t lean forward or back excessively during the exercise. Instead, keep your torso mostly upright and pause between reps if needed.

Barbell Front Raise Form

You can see my torso shifts back to offset the bar’s weight. But I do not lean excessively or bend my legs to move the weight.

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Barbell Front Raise Variations

As I mentioned, there are multiple variations of barbell front raises that you can do using different hand and body positions.

Narrow/Wide Barbell Front Raise

So far, we’ve looked at a shoulder-width grip on barbell front raises. But changing grip width can affect which muscles get worked most.

For example, a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip may help you feel the front delts more. At the same time, a narrower grip is more likely to incorporate the side delt as well.

Underhand Barbell Front Raise

An underhand grip is another option when doing the barbell front raise. And this supinated hand position may increase front delt activation while decreasing load on the traps and side delt.

So the underhand barbell front raise is an excellent option for isolating the anterior deltoid.

Incline/Decline Front Raise

Another good option is using an incline bench to change your body angle while doing barbell front raises. This addition stabilizes your body, eliminates momentum, and makes the exercise more challenging.

Also, lying face down on the incline bench works your shoulders more in high abduction angles. But this also brings the trapezius back into the equation.

By comparison, lying with your back on the incline bench puts more load on the shoulder in lower abduction angles, which reduces trap involvement. Although your thighs tend to get in the way and shorten the range of motion.

Dumbbell Spider Curls

An illustration of how face-down incline front raises change the range of motion.

Barbell Front Raise Alternatives

Of course, you don’t need to use a barbell to do the front raise exercise. So I will show you how to do front raises with whatever equipment you have.

EZ Bar Front Raise

An EZ bar is a shorter barbell with a curved handle that makes it easier on your wrists. For front raises, the EZ bar bends allow you to use a slightly less pronated or supinated grip.

In addition, EZ bars weigh less than a standard barbell, so they are suitable for beginners or when you want to go lighter.

Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbells are another great option for doing front raises. One reason is that you have complete control over your hand position, and you can even change it during the exericse.

Another advantage of dumbbells is that each arm works unilaterally, which helps you overcome imbalances. And you also have the option to do one arm at a time or alternate with each rep.

Plate Front Raise

The plate front raise involves holding a weight plate while performing the exercise. While this is not the most common front raise variation, it works fine if you don’t have a barbell or just want to change how the exercise feels.

Cable Front Raise

Finally, using various handle attachments, you can also use a cable machine to do cable front raises.

For example, you can use a single handle to get the unilateral effect of dumbbells. Or use a straight bar or EZ bar handle to replicate the barbell front raise. 

More Shoulder Exercises

Barbell front raises should be a part of your shoulder training regimen. But to build truly three-dimensional boulder shoulders, you must also include side and rear delts exercises.

So here are some additional articles you can use to build your complete shoulder workout program.

23 More Front Delt Exercises

Best Side Delt Exercises for Wider Shoulders

Top Exercises for Rear Delts

17 Cable Shoulder Exercises

Compound Shoulder Exercises for Strength & Size

9 Best Landmine Shoulder Exercises

With this information, you’re well on your way to building bigger shoulders. And if you found this article useful, I hope you’ll check out some of my other informative content below!

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By |March 2, 2023|Workouts|0 Comments
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