How to Do Dumbbell Front Raises: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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The dumbbell front raise is a fundamental weight training exercise that is great for people who want to build strength or create more definition in the shoulders. You can use the dumbbell front raise in any upper body workout; just be sure to pick a weight you can lift with proper form.

Also Known As: Front raise, shoulder front raise

Targets: Shoulders and upper chest

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

Level: Beginner

How to Do a Dumbbell Front Raise

woman doing front raise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Let your arms hang in front of you with the dumbbells in front of the thighs (palms facing the thighs). Your back is straight, your feet are planted flat on the floor, and your abdominal muscles are engaged.

  1. Lift the weights upward while inhaling. Your arms are extended, palms facing down, with a slight bend in the elbows to reduce the stress on the joints.
  2. Pause briefly when your arms are horizontal to the floor.
  3. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position (at the thighs) with a slow and controlled motion while exhaling.

A suggested starting weight for this exercise is 5-pound dumbbells for women and 10-pound dumbbells for men. If you can't lift this much, start lower. Lifting weights that are too heavy could cause you to sacrifice form.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Front Raise

The front raise primarily strengthens the shoulder muscles (deltoids), but also works the upper chest (pectorals). It is an isolation exercise for shoulder flexion and can help you build strength and definition in the front and sides of your shoulders.

In daily life, you need strong shoulders to lift objects safely. This makes the front raise helpful for building the strength needed to perform everyday activities such as placing grocery bags on the counter or putting items on a shelf at shoulder height.

This exercise is also commonly recommended for use during physical therapy when recovering from a shoulder injury or shoulder surgery. Including it in your workout routine may even help reduce neck pain.

Other Variations of a Dumbbell Front Raise

This exercise can be performed in different ways depending on your fitness level and goals.

Seated Dumbbell Front Raise

If you have difficulty standing, you can perform this exercise while seated on a chair or bench. When doing this variation, strive to maintain a straight back and brace your abs. If you can lift the weights with no difficulty or stress, gradually increase the weight.

Dumbbell Front Raise With Hammer Grip

A hammer grip can be used, similar to how you would do a hammer curl. In this version, the dumbbells are held so palms are facing toward each other rather than flat on the thighs. The American Council on Exercise indicates that this can prevent shoulder impingement.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Front Raises

Another option is to perform front raises by alternating your arms, lifting and lowering them one at a time. Unilateral training—training that involves only one side of the body at a time—has been associated with more significant strength gains.

Barbell Front Raises

A barbell can also be used when doing this exercise. The steps are the same as when using dumbbells. Start with a lighter weight (or no weight) to become accustomed to the motion with the barbell.

Unstable Dumbbell Front Raise

You can perform this exercise while standing on a stability disc to give yourself a balance challenge and strengthen your core. However, this should only be attempted once you have perfected your form during a standard dumbbell front raise.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors to keep this exercise both safe and effective.

Rocking

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, use a lighter weight.

Using Momentum

Don't use momentum to lift the weights, as this reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Hoisting the weights too quickly allows momentum to reduce the tension within the muscles, especially at the top of the lift.

Excessive Weight

This is an exercise where you should not lift weights that cause you to fail completely at the end of a set. Loading the shoulder excessively can stress this joint and lead to injury.

If you feel any strain on the shoulder joint or have difficulty lifting the weights to shoulder level, reduce the weight of the dumbbells.

Poor Form

Keep the back straight and brace the abdominals (no rounded back or slack abs). This not only protects you from injury but also increases your ability to target the desired muscles.

Wrist Position

Your wrists should be in a neutral position, not bent up or down. If you find you can't maintain a neutral position, the weights are too heavy.

Safety and Precautions

If you have a previous or current shoulder injury, talk with your doctor or physical therapist about whether you should do this exercise.

The rotation in this movement can result in shoulder impingement and you might feel pain if you have a tendency toward tendinitis or bursitis in this joint. Do not continue to lift if you feel any pain.

Start with a light weight and aim to do 10 to 12 repetitions for one to three sets, or repeat the exercise for the number of sets and repetitions in your workout program.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Louw S, Makwela S, Manas L, Meyer L, Terblanche D, Brink Y. Effectiveness of exercise in office workers with neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. South African J Physiother. 2017;73(1):392. doi:10.4102/sajp.v73i1.392

  3. American Council on Exercise. Shoulder exercises: Front raise.

  4. Botton C, Radaelli R, Wilhelm E, Rech, A, Brown L, Pinto R. Neuromuscular adaptations to unilateral vs. bilateral strength training in women. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(7):1924-32. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001125