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Adding muscle mass to the deltoids takes time and persistence but with the right exercises, you’ll soon see improvements to your shoulders in terms of increased size and strength.
The shoulder muscles actually comprise of three heads; the anterior deltoid, the medial deltoid and the posterior deltoid. Any exercise that involves use of the arm will, to some degree, activate the shoulders and as they interact with a person’s torso and arms, all muscles of the upper body are important for the development and proper function of the shoulders.
The shoulder joint is inherently mobile and as its made up of a ball and socket, this makes it less stable when compared to the knee and hip joints. This means the shoulders are more susceptible to injury.
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For example, rotator cuff injuries are very common and affect two to four million people yearly in the United States alone. However, by working on your increasing strength and muscle mass to the shoulders can better protect the shoulder joint making you less likely to succumb to injury.
It’s not uncommon to have an imbalance to the heads of the shoulders and this typically applies to the anterior deltoid. This means the muscle may not be as developed as the other shoulder heads, causing both weakness and lack of muscle mass. Such imbalances can be addressed by specific isolation exercises that target the anterior head of the shoulders.
What Is The Anterior Deltoid Muscle?
As mentioned, the human shoulder consists of three primary muscles: the lateral deltoid, posterior deltoid, and anterior deltoid. The anterior deltoids are located to the front of the shoulder and originate from the collar bone and then inserts into the humerus.
Anterior deltoids also play a crucial role in strengthening and stabilizing your shoulder joints and producing shoulder abduction. The anterior deltoid and the pec major are neighbouring muscles and work side by side to provide optimal control and shoulder flexion. They are separated by the cephalic vein.
Benefits Of Strong, Well-Built Anterior Deltoids
The shoulders are a vital muscle group of the human body that constitute a large proportion of upper body strength assisting with numerous daily tasks. Here are some benefits of having well-built anterior deltoids.
● Provides stability to the shoulder joint.
● Aids with flexibility and strength to the rotator cuff
● Helps to prevent injury to the shoulder joint and surrounding areas.
● Makes everyday tasks involving lifting and carrying easier to perform.
10 Best Anterior Shoulder Exercises
There are several exercises that can be incorporated into your shoulder workout that will effectively target your anterior deltoids. Below we’ll consider ten exercises utilizing barbells, dumbbells, weight plates, and cable machines.
Plank To Downward Dog
This is a great exercise to improve the mobility of the shoulder and increasing strength. . It’s a simple transition from plank to downward dog, but it’s also a compound exercise that works on all the heads of the deltoids and the upper and mid back muscles.
- Start out at a high plank, hands directly beneath your shoulders, your body straight from head to toes, and feet just beyond shoulder width apart. This is your starting position.
- From this position push through your arms and push the glutes up towards the ceiling.
- Extend the arms as much as possible without bending the knees or elbows. You should also feel a stretch along the hamstrings.
- Your body should now be forming an upside V shape.
- Hold for a few seconds before returning to the starting position and repeating.
Tips When Performing The Exercise
- Don’t let your hips sag when in the plank position.
- Keep tension in your arms.
- Keep your legs straight throughout
- Maintain a strong core.
Pike Push Up
The pike push-up is a bodyweight exercise that is a great way to work your front and middle deltoids. It’s a compound exercise, so you’ll work several muscle groups simultaneously with this one move.
- Lower yourself to a high plank with hands flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly raise your hips, shaping your body into an upside-down V. Your back and legs should be straight and you should be on your toes. This is how you’ll start the exercise.
- From here, slowly bend at the elbows so that your head begins to lower to the floor.
- Push your body back up till your arms are straight, and repeat.
Tips When Performing The Movement
- Keep the glutes and core engaged so as not to arch your lower back.
- Go slowly through the motion to keep form and maintain stability.
- Keep your eyes on your feet throughout as this will ensure you maintain proper form.
Barbell Overhead Press
The barbell overhead press is one of the most effective ways to get a good shoulder pump and will work the anterior and middle deltoid. This shoulder press move is an old-school exercise proven to be one of the best for the front deltoids.
You can do this exercise either standing or seated. Performing them seated will help to eliminate the cheating aspect of generating momentum from the legs. However, you’ll engage more stabilization muscles when performing a barbell overhead press whilst standing.
- Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart. Take hold of your barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing towards you).
- Hold the at just under your chin and ensure you keep your shoulders back and core tight.
- Now push the barbell up and over your head with your arms extended fully without locking the elbow. Hold at the top briefly.
- Lower the barbell slowly while maintaining the tension and repeat the movement.
- Keep your wrist over your elbow to ensure correct form and prevent injury.
- For full range of motion press the bar as high as possible by elevating the shoulders.
- Avoid using your legs as momentum. If you find you have to do this, consider dropping the weight.
The behind-the-neck press is a variation of the regular military press. Whilst overhead barbell or dumbbell presses stimulate the anterior delts, behind-the-neck presses simultaneously target all three shoulder heads.
- Start by racking a barbell in a power rack at around chest height.
- Unrack the bar and push it straight up overhead whilst keeping your arms straight. This will be your starting position.
- Without pushing your head forwards, slowly lower the bar behind your head until it reaches your traps.
- Pause at the bottom before slowing pressing back up to the starting position.
- Lower the bar to starting position while inhaling and repeat for a maximum of 15 reps
Tips When Performing The Exercise
- Grip the bar so that your hands are just outside of shoulder width apart.
- If you have poor shoulder mobility you may find you can only lower the bar so far. It’s important not to push beyond what is comfortable as you may injure yourself.
- Start with a light weight and work on form and shoulder mobility before increasing the weight load.
Dumbbell Front Raises
Dumbbell front raises are an excellent exercise for targeting the front delts and all you need is a pair of dumbbells. You can perform this exercise whilst standing or seated with no back support. You can also undertake this exercise simultaneously with both arms or alternating motions focusing on one arm at a time.
The seated version is more challenging as it eliminates any momentum generated by driving through the legs.
- Start by standing with your feet around shoulder width apart.
- Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand, keeping them down by your sides with your palms facing inwards. Your elbows should be slightly bent.
- Keeping your arms straight, raise the dumbbells out in front of you until your arms are parallel to the ground. Your palms should be facing the floor.
- Hold for a second before slowly lowering back to the start position.
- If standing, keep your back straight and core engaged to maintain proper form.
- Hold every rep up for at least one second before slowly lowering the weight back down.
- Don’t swing the weights as this could result in injury and incorrect form.
Neutral-Grip Seated Dumbbell Press
This exercise offers more range and stability than the barbell press and focuses the most on the anterior delts. Maintaining a neutral grip during pressing movements is always easier on the shoulder joint so this is a good option for those who have limited shoulder mobility or some minor shoulder issues preventing you from performing standard overhead presses.
- Set a bench up so that the back rest is around 80 degrees. Take a seat and grab your dumbbells.
- Engage your core and keep your chest up and hold the dumbbells at shoulder height.
- Make sure that both palms face toward each other with your elbows just below your chest.
- Press the weights up and overhead with full extension without locking the elbows and hold for a second.
- Slowly bring the dumbbells down to the starting position before repeating.
● Keep your palms facing inwards at all times.
● Don’t arch your back and neck.
● Don’t lock your elbows out at the top of the movement.
Incline Dumbbell Press
An incline dumbbell press with a higher angle is an excellent way to target the front delts and the upper pectoral major. You’ll need a good range of motion to perform this exercise correctly. You’ll need access to an adjustable bench and a pair of dumbbells.
- Lie back on a high-incline bench set to around 60 degrees and plant your feet firmly on the ground.
- Hold the dumbbells with your arms at around 45 degrees.
- Press the dumbbells up towards the ceiling until your arms are fully extended but elbows not locked out.
- Hold for a second and bring them down while feeling the tension in your triceps, front deltoids, and upper chest.
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- Keep your wrists straight throughout to avoid injury.
- Exhale whilst pressing up.
- Don’t set the bench above 60 degrees, as it will put more stress on the other heads of the shoulders.
Incline Dumbbell Front Raises
Incline dumbbell front raises are another isolation exercise for your delts which hits them at a different angle compared to other shoulder exercises. When compared to a regular dumbbell front raise, the incline element makes this exercise much more challenging. The incline helps you avoid the body momentum whilst only inducing the delts.
You can do these raises with one side at a time for more focused and controlled motion. Alternatively, you can perform this movement whilst holding on to a barbell.
- Set your incline bench to around 45 degrees incline and position yourself chest down on the pad.
- Plant your feet wide to aid with stability.
- Hold the dumbbells with an overhand grip and keep them hanging down by your sides. This will be your starting position.
- Keeping your arms straight with a slight bend in the elbow, raise the dumbbells out in front of you until in line with the rest of your body.
- Hold for a second before lowering back down and repeating.
● Hold the dumbbell at the top to feel the tension and slowly bring it down
● Control the negative part of the movement and don’t allow your arms to simply drop down.
● Control the motion at all times.
● Do clean lifts on each side with a weight suitable for at least three sets of 12 or 5 of 10 reps
Upright Dumbbell Row
Upright rows are a great way to target the delts and traps. Aside from dumbbells, you can do exercise with a barbell, an EZ bar, cables, or smith machine. Plus, you can isolate different muscles with narrow and wider grips. We recommend a narrow grip with medium or heavy weight and controlled motion for better muscle hypertrophy.
- Stand upright with feet shoulder with apart whilst holding a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip.
- Hold the dumbbells in front of you with outstretched arms and be sure your palms are facing towards you.
- Keep your core engaged and shoulder blades retracted. This is your starting position.
- Slowly draw the dumbbells up your body by just bending the elbows. Stop when the dumbbells get to around chin height.
- With control, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and then repeat.
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- Keep your elbows higher than your wrists throughout the movement.
- Don’t use your lower body to create momentum.
- Don’t bend your legs or back when lifting.
- Don’t let the weight drop freely, always use control.
Plate Front Raises
The plate front raise is another classic yet simple shoulder exercise which is excellent for working the anterior and medial delts as well as the biceps. Plate front raises are also a good way of working on forearm and grip strength and increasing core strength.
- Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart.
- Hold a plate just in front of you with hands either side of the plate.
- Keep your hand at three o’clock and nine o’clock positions.
- Maintain a slight bend at the elbows.
- Raise your arms to your shoulder height and hold for a second to feel the tension.
● Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine throughout.
● Don’t let the plate fall freely; control the downward motion.
● Don’t bend your knees or use your lower back to create momentum.
Many shoulder exercises can be quite similar, but it is possible to place more emphasis on different heads of the deltoids to focus on any muscle imbalances helping to build equal strength and symmetry.
As with all isolation exercises, don’t go too heavy as this could result in other, stronger, muscles to take over so you won’t get the full benefits of each movement. Perform all the suggested exercises in this article slowly and with control to help you to really build strength and mass to the anterior deltoids.