How to Do a Front Deltoid Raise

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on July 21, 2022
4 min read

The front deltoid raise is an exercise to strengthen the anterior part of the deltoid muscle. It's performed by raising your arm forward from the shoulder against some form of resistance. You can use dumbbells or a cable machine to provide this resistance.

The front deltoid raise is often performed after other, more intense shoulder exercises. It's a particularly good exercise for strengthening your shoulder muscles. It may also be prescribed for people undergoing physical rehabilitation because it's a safe exercise with little chance of injury.

This exercise uses either a cable machine or a pair of dumbbells to work the anterior part of your deltoid muscles. Front deltoid raises are usually done symmetrically by using both hands to hold the cable handlebar. If you use dumbbells instead, use a pair of equal weights.

The front deltoid raise targets the front part of the deltoid muscle. But the other parts of the muscle are also activated, as are other muscles around the shoulder that stabilize the joint.

Athletes use this exercise to strengthen the deltoid muscle specifically. In physical rehabilitation programs, the front deltoid raise is used to repair soft tissue injuries, improve the shoulder joint's range of motion, and reinforce recently healed tissue around the shoulder.

The dumbbell version can be performed at home and is simple to do for beginners. The cable front deltoid raise requires a cable machine. 

The primary muscle used for this exercise is the anterior part of the deltoid. The other parts of the deltoid are also worked, along with the serratus anterior, trapezius, pectoralis major, and the biceps brachii.

So, what are the deltoid muscles? The deltoids are the muscles that lie above, behind, and in front of the shoulder joint — one on each side. The muscle is divided into anterior, lateral, and posterior parts. The anterior deltoid is the main part involved in the front deltoid raise.

The anterior deltoid muscle arises from the clavicle, or collar bone, and the scapula, or shoulder blade. The deltoid attaches to the humerus (arm bone). The anterior part of the deltoid raises your arm in front of your body. Together with the pectoralis major, it moves your arm forward when walking. The deltoid provides stabilizes your shoulder joint when lifting heavy objects and is controlled by the axillary nerve.

The pectoralis major is the large muscle on the front of your chest. It arises from the clavicle, the upper seven ribs, and the sternum, or breastbone. Similar to the deltoids, it attaches to the humerus. One of this muscle's functions is to move the arm forward at the shoulder. The deltoid and pectoralis work together in this movement. The part of the pectoralis major along your clavicle is mainly involved in this arm movement.

This exercise requires a gym cable/pulley machine. A large handle will let you grip it with both hands, so you can exercise both sides of your body. After choosing the appropriate weight for your level of strength: 

  1. Sit on the machine with the handle held in both hands and your palms facing downwards.
  2. Keeping your elbows locked, raise your arms until your hands reach the level of your shoulders.
  3. Lower your arms in a controlled manner.
  4. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions each.

The front deltoid raise is a simple exercise that can be done at home with a pair of dumbbells. 

  1. Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs with the backs of your hands facing away from you. Keep your elbows fixed, either straight or slightly bent. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart for stability.
  2. Brace yourself by contracting your abdominal muscles. 
  3. Raise the dumbbells in front of you while letting your breath out (exhaling). Raise your arms until they're level with your shoulders. Rotate your hands slightly so that the inner sides of the dumbbells point up.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.  
  5. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions each.

Chair adaptation. If you're weak or recovering from an injury or illness, you can do this exercise sitting in a chair: 

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your trunk.
  3. Hold the dumbbells at your sides with the backs of your hands facing forward.
  4. Raise your hands until your arms are horizontal. 
  5. Lower your arms slowly and in a controlled manner.
  6. Repeat the movement 8 to 12 times for 2 or 3 sets.

You can do the front deltoid raise with both arms at once or alternating between them. If you're recovering from an injury, you can do front deltoid raises without weights. Moving your arms without resistance also helps restore mobility and improve strength.

This is a simple exercise that can be done without any special training. Because it's quite safe, it's not necessary to have someone spot you. The front deltoid raise has several benefits:

  • Isolation. This exercise isolates the movement of the shoulder joint to flexion only. It mainly targets your anterior deltoid. 
  • Improves movement range. The shoulder joint has to move to complete the movements of this exercise. This enhances the joint's range of movement. 
  • Strengthens upper body muscles. The shoulder girdle muscles are engaged to help in this exercise. 
  • Simple equipment. If you're working out at home, you only need a pair of dumbbells. There's no need to invest in expensive equipment.
  • Convenience. You can perform front deltoid raises at any time and place, even while watching television. 

Keep your back straight and posture upright. If you feel the need to bend forward or lean backward, the resistance is too high for your strength level.

Keep your wrists in the neutral position (no flexion or extension). Letting your wrists move back can lead to an injury.

If you're recovering from an injury, resist the temptation to progress to heavier weights too quickly.