How to Perform a Front Raise With Dumbbells

The front raise with dumbbells is an isolation exercise for shoulder flexion. It is often used for functional fitness, to build your shoulders for lifting objects in daily life. But it is also done to improve the look of the shoulders and build muscle.

The front raise weight training exercise starts with dumbbells at the thighs. Either one or two dumbbells are raised in front of the body. You can do this exercise one arm at a time, alternating arms, or with both arms at the same time. The exercise targets the front and middle part of the shoulder muscles (deltoids) as well as the upper chest muscles (pectorals).

Steps in Performing a Front Raise With Dumbbells

Senior man doing single arm dumbbell raise
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  1. The starting position can be with weights by the sides or in front of the body resting parallel on the thighs.
  2. The dumbbell is gripped with an overhand (pronated) grip.
  3. If you position the arms and weights by the sides, rotation of the forearms during the lift is involved, which provides additional work for the forearm muscles.
  4. Stand with feet slightly apart, back straight and abdominals braced.
  5. Raise the arm or arms from the side to a maximum of eye level and keep the head steady and back straight.
  6. Inhale in preparation for the lift and exhale as you lower the weight.

Variations and Tips

  1. Variations can include:
    - Single arm front raise
    - Two arm front raise at the same time
    - Two arm front raise alternating arms
    - Holding two dumbbells in one hand
    - Using a barbell with both arms
    - Lying down on a bench and using a hammer grip with the dumbbells upright
    - Using a kettlebell
  2. Vary the width of your grip on the dumbbells or barbell to challenge your shoulder muscles differently.
  3. Bending the elbows slightly can make the exercise a little easier on the shoulders, but don't get the arms too far around to the side or it becomes more like a side raise (lateral raise), which concentrates the work more on the rear shoulder muscles and trapezius of the neck rather than the front deltoids and the upper chest.
  4. Try not to force the weights upward by bending backward. If you are doing this you probably need to try lighter weights or at least concentrate on good form with a straight back.

Muscles Worked By the Front Raise

The main target muscle for the front raise is the anterior deltoid, the shoulder muscle that connects the collarbone to the humerus bone of the upper arm. This shoulder muscle stands out when you are wearing a sleeveless tank or spaghetti strap top. Both men and women like to have strong and toned shoulder muscles. The anterior deltoid is often targeted for strengthening after a rotator cuff injury as it stabilizes the shoulder.

Synergist muscles at the front of the chest and upper back that may join in during the front raise exercise are the pectoralis major, the lateral deltoid, the middle and lower trapezius, and the serratus anterior.

Stabilizer muscles for this exercise are the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, and the wrist extensors. You will also use your abs to keep your body stable during the raise.