Barbell Front Raise Exercise

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Barbell Front Raise

Whereas lateral raises isolate the lateral portion of the shoulders, front raises isolate the anterior portion. This exercise may also be performed with your back close but facing away from the weight stack (low pulley) and the cable passing between the legs (use short bar attachment). Some bodybuilders prefer the dumbbell front raise as it allows each side of the body to work independently of each other which helps maintain muscle balance.

Barbell Front Raise Perfect Technique

STARTING (INITIAL) POSITION: Using an overhand shoulder-width grip, hold a barbell (straight or E-Z) at arms’ length in front of your thighs. Set your feet shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent, and lean forward very slightly at the hips (to help you avoid leaning back as you lift). Pull in your abs and tighten all your upper body muscles, and slightly bend your elbows.

Barbell Front Raise - Shoulder Exercise

Barbell Front Raise

EXERCISE EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): Raise the barbell forward and upward to eye level (until your arms are just past parallel with the floor), keeping your elbows stiff. Pause for a moment at the top before slowly lowering the bar to the starting position (down to your thighs).

Muscles Involved in Barbell Front Raise

This exercise contracts the anterior deltoid, the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, the infraspinatus, and, to a lesser degree, the trapezius, serratus anterior, and short head of biceps. Front raises primarily work the front delts but the medial and rear delts also receive secondary stimulation. More precisely:

  • Main muscles: deltoid (front), coracobrachialis, pectoralis major (upper)
  • Secondary muscles: deltoid (middle and rear), trapezius (middle and upper), biceps, serratus anterior
  • Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor, pectoralis major (lower), triceps

Additional tips & Key Points

Some helpful hints (key elements to consider) on how to perform barbell front raises safely and effectively.

  • Narrow hand spacing emphasizes the anterior deltoid, whereas a wider grip requires lateral deltoid assistance.
  • If you continue raising the arms above eye level, the posterior deltoid contracts, reinforcing the work of the other muscles and allowing you to raise the arms to vertical.
  • This is an isolation exercise so it’s important that you focus on strict technique to isolate the front deltoids.
  • To keep constant tension on the front deltoids, stop the bar 15-30 cm short of your thighs at the bottom of each rep.
  • Common mistakes: rocking the body to help lift a heavy weight; lowering the weight in an uncontrolled movement; and fully straightening the elbows.

Front Raise Variations

  • Weight-Plate Front Raise – Instead of holding dumbbells or barbell, grab the sides of a weight plate with both hands. Raise the weight to shoulder level. By the top of the rep, you should be looking directly at the plate’s surface.
Weight-Plate Front Raise

Weight-Plate Front Raise

  • Single Dumbbell Front Raise – Grab a dumbbell with both hands, interlocking your fingers around the handle. This is similar to the other variants, but you lift a single dumbbell held in a neutral grip with both hands. The problems you will find are the same as when you use a bar (except for the grip). If it comes to a choice, a disc (weight plate) is better because the dumbbell must be held with one hand on top of the other, which causes one arm to make more effort than the other. The neutral grip and narrow hand spacing target the anterior deltoid, minimizing involvement of the lateral (side) deltoid.
Single Dumbbell Front Raise

Single Dumbbell Front Raise

Replacement Exercise

Choose any of the following exercises to target front deltoid muscles from different angles. Each exercise comes with a detailed description and photos to help ensure proper form.

Closing Thoughts

Barbell front raise is almost the same as the two-arm dumbbell raise but using a straight or EZ bar.

As a variant, you can do the exercise seated with or without the bench set at an incline. This prevents you from cheating by rocking your torso and reduces the strain on the lower back, although it shortens the range of movement. It is better to do the exercise standing with your back resting against a wall.

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