How to Do Dumbbell Front Raises

The dumbbell front raise is a fundamental weight training exercise that is great for beginning trainers. In this version of the dumbbell front raise, you start with a dumbbell in each hand at thigh level. You raise the dumbbells parallel to the floor and then return to the starting position to complete one exercise repetition. The front raise strengthens primarily the shoulder (deltoids) but also works the upper chest muscles (pectorals). Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise. 


The Starting Position

The starting position.
The starting position. Mike Harrington/Getty Images
  1. Select two dumbbells of a suitable weight. You must start with a light weight for this exercise. Excessive weight can stress the shoulder joint excessively.
  2. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep the back straight and feet planted flat on the floor. Your arms holding weights should hang down.
  3. Hold the dumbbells across the thighs horizontally, palms facing back toward the thighs. Ensure that you have a firm grip.
  4. Brace the abdominal muscles.
  5. Use a light weight at first, and plan to do 10 to 12 repetitions for 1 to 3 sets of exercises. Don't lift weights that are too heavy.

The Exercise Movement

The front raise movement.
The front raise movement. Westend61/Getty Images
  1. Lift the weights upward, arms out in front with palms facing down. Keep a slight bend in the elbows to reduce the stress on the joints. Pause when the arms are approximately horizontal to the floor and feel the contraction in the shoulders.
    When performing this lift, do not rock or sway—always keep a strong and stationary torso. If you sway or find that you are rocking back on your heels in order to complete the lift, for example, then the weights are probably too heavy.
  2. Return the dumbbells to the starting position at the thighs with a slow and controlled motion.
  3. Repeat the exercise for the number of sets and repetitions in your program.

Points to Note

The dumbbell front raise.
The dumbbell front raise. Jupiterimages/Getty Images
  • In all versions, keep the back straight, brace the abdominals and don't load the shoulder joint excessively.
  • Inhale as you prepare to lift and exhale on exertion.
  • Don't use momentum to lift the weights as this reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Hoisting the weights quickly allows momentum to reduce the tension within the muscles, especially at the top of the lift.
  • This is an exercise where you should not lift weights that cause you to fail completely at the end of a set.
  • You can perform front raises by alternating your arms, lifting and lowering them one at a time.
  • A hammer grip can be used. In this version, the dumbbells are held at the sides with a hammer grip (palms facing in toward each other), rather than flat on the thighs.
  • A barbell may also be used with this exercise. Start with light weight to become accustomed to the motion with the barbell.
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