7 Front Delt Exercises For Well-Built Shoulders

a man with well-shaped shoulders and front delts highlighted_front delt exercises
David J. Sautter post Reviewer
The article is verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, BA in Professional Writing

Front delt exercises are essential for adding thickness to your shoulders. Learn how to develop a physique that turns shoulders into boulders!

Table of Contents

Whether you want a desirable physique or are thinking long-term and would like to bulletproof your shoulders, front delt workouts can be an essential addition to any weightlifting program. 

Think about it. 

You use your shoulders every day for numerous functional movement patterns. For example, lifting above your head to put something away or shrugging your shoulders in conversation both involve your shoulders.

Larger muscles might get a lot of the spotlight, but the shoulders are a muscle group that deserve just as much attention.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the best exercises to build front delts, protect your shoulders from injury, and achieve that appealing rounder look that complements your upper body.

Why Work Your Front Delts

As the name suggests, the front delts, or “anterior deltoids,” can be found on the front part of your shoulders. 

Many of us take for granted how much we use the front delts. For example, many compound lifts incorporate them, including the bench press and shoulder press. 

That seems pretty obvious since those are “pushing” exercises, but did you know that your front delts are activated during exercises that don’t even use your upper body?

How do you think that bar stays on your back during a squat? By using your shoulders to keep it there! More specifically, your front delts play an important supportive and stability role in making that happen.

Since we use them in so many movements, we can’t stress enough how important it is to strengthen them with front delt exercises. 

With that said, it’s worth doing some anterior deltoid exercises so you can…

Protect Your Shoulder Joint

One incredibly beneficial aspect of working on your front delts is protecting the shoulder joint.

The shoulder joint is responsible for flexion, extension, and rotation. You don’t have to be at the gym to move the shoulder through those movement patterns.

We all engage in these movement patterns simply by doing household chores like mowing the lawn or vacuuming the living room. In fact, our shoulders are engaged throughout most of our daily activities.

But here’s the issue. As we age, our joints weaken and become frail. So, it’s a good idea to put in the work now to strengthen the muscle and tissue in the shoulder joint. That way, you can live a healthy, comfortable life without the need for future surgeries or rehabilitation.

Drastically Improve Your Physique

You’ve probably seen that attractive, well-balanced “X-shaped” physique, but maybe you didn’t realize what it was called.

An X-shaped physique is one where the lower half and upper half of the body are emphasized while the middle — the waist — is slim and tight.

In other words, everything is balanced and no one muscle group is disproportionate. For example, we have all seen someone with a well-built muscular upper body and a pair of tiny legs — better known as chicken legs. 

The reason the shoulders hold so much responsibility for our shape is that they sit at the top of the “X.”

When you have shoulders that seem to extend beyond your natural frame, it creates an illusion that you are wider than you are – in a good way!

When Should You Do Isolated Front Delt Exercises?

It makes the most sense to incorporate front deltoid exercises on days when you’ll already be doing compound movements.

Your shoulders will already be warmed up, and you won’t have to worry about throwing them in during another day that could be better spent on a different muscle group.

Work (Don’t Over Work) Your Delts

Now, with that said, it’s important to note that you don’t want to overdo it. You shouldn’t be focusing on front-of-shoulder exercises the way you do with larger muscles like the chest and back.

They’re already incorporated in several compound movements that you’ll likely be doing, so if you target them like a larger muscle group, they could become overworked. Naturally, that will increase your risk for injury. 

Since the shoulders are such an integral part of our bodies, it’s important to keep them as healthy as possible.

When Should You Work Your Front Delts?

So, when should you focus on doing anterior deltoid exercises?

If you are following a general fitness program, either a full body or split routine, you can include front delt exercises during Push Day or Leg Day.

If you choose to do them during a Push Day workout, you should save them until after you’ve completed the sets for the chest exercises and shoulder presses.

While it might seem strange to incorporate them on Leg Day, that actually allows you to train legs and shoulders, two muscle groups at once, without overfatiguing either one. It will also save you a ton of time as you won’t have to rest as long between sets.

If you’d like to take things to the next level, you can track your progress at the gym with our workout planner app. It supports consistency in your training and better results.

The Top 7 Front Delt Exercises For Size & Strength

Not sure which front delt exercises you should include in your workout? We’ve got you covered. 

We recommend picking a couple of these exercises and switching them out with the others every four to six weeks. That way, you won’t be overtraining the front delts, but you will be adding variety every month or so to your workouts.

Here are the top 7 anterior delt exercises for size and strength. 

Decline Push-Ups

a man is performing Decline Push-Ups_front delt exercises

Technique

  • Place your hands on the floor just outside of shoulder width.
  • Place your feet (behind you) on top of a bench or platform.
  • Keeping your back straight and your core tight, slowly lower yourself towards the ground. Do not let your hips drop. 

Reps

The question everyone has when they start to incorporate push-ups into their program is how many push-ups should you do to see results?

Start out with 5 sets of 10 reps. If you’re not able to get 10 reps, do as many as you can, trying to increase the rep count by one each time you do the exercise. If you can easily perform 10 reps, try increasing that number by 5 repetitions per set until it becomes challenging. 

Pro Tips

  • Engage your core the entire time.
  • Actively think of your front deltoids for mind-to-muscle connection.
  • For maximum effect, use minimal rest time in between sets. That will increase the intensity to build more muscle and burn more fat. 

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

a man is doing 2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise_front delt exercises

Technique

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand by your side but keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the exercise.
  • Raise the dumbbells simultaneously out to the sides of your body, but maintain the bend in the elbows so the dumbbells are slightly in front of the shoulders.
  • Stop once you reach shoulder height.
  • Lower them back to your sides and repeat.

Reps

Perform 10 reps of the exercise with good form. You should aim for around 4 sets, and if you’d like to increase the intensity, take only around 30 seconds of rest in between sets.

Pro Tips

  • Allow for a slight bend in the elbows for optimum contraction.
  • Perform the reps slowly and out to the sides (slightly forward).
  • Actively think of the anterior deltoid during the movement.
  • Avoid using momentum or “swinging” during each rep.

Barbell Overhead Press

a man is performing Barbell Overhead Press_front delt exercises

Technique

  • Place your grip just outside of shoulder width. Be sure to use an overhand grip.
  • Un-rack the barbell so that it sits across the top of your shoulders (in front of you).
  • Push the weight up and above your head. Keep a slight bend in the elbows.
  • Slowly lower the weight back down below your chin, and repeat.

Reps

Perform 4 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. As one of the best exercises for anterior deltoids, that can be changed depending on whether you’d like to optimize for strength or size. You can also go heavier and do fewer reps – around 4 to 6 reps. 

Pro Tips

  • Do not “bounce” or use your legs at all for this movement. 
  • Be extremely careful with the weight above your head.
  • Since it’s a barbell, be aware of how much weight you use – don’t go too heavy if you’re not used to this exercise.
  • Never fully lock your arms at the top of the movement.

Kettlebell Upright Row

a man is doing Kettlebell Upright Row_front delt exercises

Technique

  • Hold the kettlebell in front of you, grabbing the handle on the sides.
  • Drag it up your body keeping your elbows to the side.
  • Stop once you reach shoulder height.
  • Lower the weight back to the down position.

Reps

Perform 4 to 5 sets of 8 to 15 reps. Go heavier and do fewer reps for size and strength. For endurance, do more reps at a lower weight.

Pro Tips

  • Keep your elbows to the side to maintain tension on the anterior deltoid.
  • Perform the reps slowly to avoid injury.
  • Keep the core tight throughout the movement for stability.

Single-Arm Landmine Press

a man is performing Single-Arm Landmine Press_front delt exercises

Technique

  • Put a pad or comfortable mat on the floor.
  • Place a barbell into a landmine or use a pre-set barbell landmine. Use a weight that’s appropriate for your fitness level. If you’ve never done this exercise, go light.
  • Kneel on the mat and pick up the front of the barbell landmine. Bring it up to shoulder height with one hand.
  • Press the weight above your head, pause at the top and slowly lower the weight.
  • Repeat on the other side once you finish all of your reps for the starting side.

Reps

Perform 10 reps on each arm. Do 4 sets on each side. You can gradually increase the weight, but only after you’ve mastered the form of this exercise.

Pro Tips

  • Tighten your core throughout the entire lift.
  • Don’t use momentum when performing each rep.
  • Don’t take a break when switching to the other arm.

Banded Military Press

a man is performing Banded Military Press_front delt exercises

Technique

  • Hold the band handles and place the middle of the band on the floor so you can step on it. 
  • Bring your hands to shoulder height, making sure the band is behind your hands.
  • Press the band above your head, staying within shoulder width.
  • Keep the elbows bent even as you reach the top of the movement, then slowly lower the bands.

Reps

Just because you’re using a band doesn’t mean this is going to be easy. Bands are notorious for providing a killer front shoulder workout. Use a band that’s an appropriate challenge. Resistance bands are different colors to signify various levels of resistance. Usually the thicker and darker the band, the more challenging it is. Perform 4 to 5 sets of at least 10 repetitions each.  

Pro Tips

  • Most of the resistance is at the top of the movement, so be sure to pause at the top and slowly come back down.
  • Fight the resistance and don’t “sling-shot” back down.
  • Be careful not to remove your feet from holding the band.

Dumbbell Front Raise

a man is doing Dumbbell Front Raise_front delt exercises

Technique

  • Start with the dumbbells down at your waist, but in front of your body.
  • Keep a slight bend in the elbows as you raise the dumbbells in front of you. Bring them up until they’re in line with your shoulders.
  • Pause at the top, maintaining that bend in the elbows, then lower the weights back down to your waist.

Reps

Perform 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps each.

Pro Tips

  • If you’re using a light weight, go slowly to maximize the intensity of the time under tension. Count four seconds as you lower.
  • Be smart with the weight you use. Going too heavy here, especially without prior experience, can put the shoulders at risk.

Final Words

Doing front delt exercises is a great way to support the other exercises in your workouts, as well as your day-to-day movement patterns. Front delt exercises can protect your shoulder joints and improve your overall physique aesthetics.

They’re also fun to perform! 

The 7 exercises that we covered are some of the best front deltoid exercises and they do a fantastic job of breaking down your muscles (so you can build them back stronger).

Now get in the gym and put some boulders on those shoulders.


The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.

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