How to Train Your Front Delts: Exercises & Workout

Your front delts, or anterior deltoids, is the front part of your shoulder muscle. It originates on your clavicle, inserts on your humerus (upper arm bone), and aids your chest muscles in flexing and internally rotating your shoulder.

In this article, you will learn about front delt muscle anatomy, what some effective front delt exercises are, and how you can combine them into a workout.

Front Delt Muscle Anatomy

Your front delts are one of three sets of muscle fibers in your deltoids, the other two being the lateral and rear delts.

Front delt muscle anatomy

Your front deltoids originate from the outer third of your clavicles, adjacent to the clavicular part of your pectoralis major. Were it not for the cephalic vein that passes between them, it would be difficult to tell where the pectoralis major ends and the front deltoid begins, as they originate and insert so close to each other. Like the pectoralis major, your front delts insert on the front of your humerus.

Because they are close in origin and insertion, your front delt and your pecs also share functions: both muscles flex your shoulder (= brings your arm forward). However, while your pecs are well-positioned for shoulder flexion from a horizontally abducted position (when your arm is out to your side, like in a wide-grip bench press), your front delts are better positioned for shoulder flexion when your arm is a little closer to your sides.

Both muscles also internally rotates your arm, like in armwrestling.

Front Delt Exercises

In this section, we’ll take a look at four different front delt exercises. If you train one or two of these exercises, that’s all you need for a good front delt workout.

1. Overhead Press

Overhead shoulder press

The classic overhead press is as close to a panacea as you get when it comes to shoulder training, and your front delts are no exception.1

This exercise is probably one of the best front delt exercises there is, as it hits them at a perfect angle, in a long range of motion.

Whether you sit or stand, use a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells, doesn’t make too much of a difference when it comes to your front delt development, so stick with whatever feels best for you.

Possible substitutes:

2. Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline Dumbbell Press

The incline dumbbell press is another great exercise for your front delts. And not only your front delts, but your upper chest as well. A recent study showed that pressing at an incline leads to greater upper chest growth than flat bench pressing does.2

For many people, dumbbells are preferable to a barbell in this exercise. Not only because it might be easier to get into position with them, but also because they might allow a longer range of motion, which is likely positive for your muscle growth.

Possible substitutes:

3. Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbell front raise

The dumbbell front raise is the closest thing you’ll get to an isolation exercise for your front delts. The urge to cheat in this exercise by swinging the weights up is strong, but resist it if your aim is to train your front delts.

Start off with light weights, focus on technique and muscle contact with your front delts. An alternative is to use a (light) barbell, or simply hold a weight plate.

Possible substitutes:

4. Bench Press

Bench press exercise

Finally, what about the good ol’ bench press? Well, for most people, the bench press can definitely be a great front delt exercise. However, the devil is in the details, and if you arch excessively, maybe in combination with a super-wide grip, you might lose much of the training effect on your front delts, and instead mostly work your middle and lower pecs.

If you bench press with only a small arch and with a long range of motion, then it is likely a great exercise for your front delts. If not, then you might want to complement your front delt training with one of the previous three exercises.

Possible substitutes:

Front Delt Workout

So what does a good front delt workout look like?

Well, first of all: depending on what exercises you already train for your chest, you might already be training your front delts well. Bench pressing alone might not lead to optimal front delt growth (especially if you have a high arch), but combine it with one additional exercise that targets the front delts a little more, and you’re golden.

A specific front deltoid workout could look something like this:

StrengthLog’s Front Delt Workout

  1. Overhead Press: 3 sets x 6 reps
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 12 reps
  3. Dumbbell Front Raise: 3 sets x 16 reps

Together, these exercises will train your front delts very well. You are working in three slightly different angles, which increases the chance that all your front delt muscle fibers are covered. By combining different rep ranges (from low to high) it is also possible that you stimulate muscle growth via more mechanisms.

If you train these exercises with a good technique, and regularly try to increase the weight you are using while still maintaining good form, your front delts are bound to grow bigger and stronger.

Wrapping Up

And that’s it! Hopefully, by now you have a good grasp of your front delt muscle anatomy, what some effective front delt exercises are, and how you can combine them into a front delt workout.

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References

  1. J Hum Kinet. 2020 Oct; 75: 5–14. Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals.
  2. Int J Exerc Sci. 2020 Aug 1;13(6):859-872. Effects of Horizontal and Incline Bench Press on Neuromuscular Adaptations in Untrained Young Men.