The shoulders provide both function and graceful form. Whether for lifting objects or looking stunning in a strappy dress, tone and strength in the shoulders is a great asset. Though they look like a single muscle, three muscle sections form the shoulder, and they can be isolated, including the anterior deltoid at the front of the shoulder.
The deltoids consist of three sections: the anterior, medial and rear deltoids. The muscles originate at the outer edge of the collarbone and the ridge of the shoulder blade and insert into the upper arm. The muscles as a whole work together, enabling you to raise your arms overhead. Using the anterior deltoid alone allows for lifting the arms straight in front of you and for inward rotation of the arm within the shoulder socket. The anterior deltoid may appear as one of the smaller lumps of the shoulder, but isolation exercises will work that little section into beautiful definition.
Anterior Deltoid Raises
Traditional front deltoid raises can be performed with a barbell or with dumbbells. If using a barbell, grasp the bar with an overhand grip and lift the arms straight out in front of you with the elbows soft but straight. If using dumbbells for the exercise, you can lift the arms together, or alternate lifting one arm, then the other. Dumbbells are good for making sure each side is pulling its own weight independently. Front raises can also be performed using a hammer grip, where the thumb is up and the knuckles face out. Since this is the more natural position of the arm within its socket, this grip effectively isolates the front deltoid when lifting. Perform hammer grip front raises with dumbbells, or grab a weight plate and hold it like a steering wheel. Lift the weight plate the same way you would a barbell, but grasping the edges ensures that you maintain a hammer grip on the weight.
Variations to the front raise will keep your workout interesting and make sure you really nail the anterior section on its own. Working front raises on an incline ups the amount of work by increasing the pesky factor of gravity. Set an incline bench at approximately 45 degrees and position yourself with your chest against the pad. Your starting position is with your arms dangling straight down. Perform front raises with the exact same form, but let your shoulders determine how high you can raise your arms against the pull of gravity. Stop before your elbows bend or your shoulders hunch up by your ears. Reduce the weight if working on an incline, as the workload is more demanding. Another variation is to flip yourself around and perform front raises with your back against the incline bench. Isometric holds also generate a great burn in the front deltoid. Hold the barbell or dumbbells straight out in front of you for 30 seconds straight. For an even greater burn, follow the isometric hold immediately with as many front raises as you can squeak out before you hit fatigue.
The shoulder is a complex network of muscles and connective tissue that do a great deal of work to move and support your arms just in everyday use. Always warm up with light cardio, and stretch the muscles thoroughly before beginning a shoulder workout, to avoid injury. Maintaining strict form will also help you avoid injury.
- Human Anatomy and Physiology; Elaine N. Marieb
- The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding; Arnold Schwarzenegger
- ExRx.net: Barbell Incline Front Raise
Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.