Focus Physique
Developing the Anterior Deltoid (Front Delts)

The anterior deltoid takes on other names such as the anterior delt for short or the front delt. It has an important role to your physiques aesthetic and is commonly overdeveloped and potentially a source of problems.

Throughout this article, I will tell you how to build the anterior delt, but I also will tell you various reasons why you don’t want to do direct front delt work too often.

As you probably already know, to create boulder shoulders you need to work all three heads of the deltoids. This article is solely based on the anterior delt including, proper training, considerations for injury prevention, what it will do to your aesthetic, and exercises to target it.


Anatomy of the Anterior Deltoid

The anterior or front deltoid is the anterior or front head of the three deltoid heads. Its main function is shoulder flexion. Shoulder flexion involves raising the arm up in front of the body towards the sky.

This is the anatomy of the anterior deltoid which is actually made up of three parts.

What’s actually quite interesting though, is yes, it’s true, there are three main heads of the shoulder muscle. When broken down though by the intramuscular tendons, modern research shows that there are actually 7 parts of the deltoid muscle collectively.

This means that technically there are three parts of the anterior deltoid. This really helps us by showing the true function of the anterior deltoid and the deltoid muscle as a whole.

For hypertrophy purposes, this also shows us we can hit the shoulders from slightly different angles to practically put different stress on the shoulders. I’ll elaborate on how to do this safely later on.


Recommended Training Approach

What’s different about the anterior deltoids is that they rarely need direct training and you’ll actually want to limit it. The reason is all pressing movements for the chest work the anterior deltoid.

On top of this, most shoulder pressing exercises if not all primarily work the anterior delt or at least stimulate it. Put this together and the common lifter has a good amount of front delt development without ever trying.

Now when you do occasionally want to train the front delt, there of course are considerations for better training. Something to consider is that the deltoids muscle fibers are type 1 dominate at about 58% on average. This is a contrast from the rest of the big upper body muscles that are primarily type 2 dominate.

Essentially this means they are inclined to have better muscle endurance and that a mid to higher rep range may be a more effective training approach! Training in a rep range of 8-15 reps more consistently as opposed to training in a rep range of 3-6 might be more effective.

This not all means that you can’t train heavier, especially if it’s practical for the exercise and I would actually recommend heavier training occasionally. It may just not be as effective compared to consistent training in a mid to high rep range.


The Impact on Your Physique

The chest is meant to be big and powerful, overly developed front delts can detract from your physique aesthetic
The chest is meant to be big and powerful, overly developed front delts can detract from this and your physiques aesthetic.

When considering your physiques aesthetic, you want to make sure that your anterior deltoids are not overdeveloped. Having overdeveloped front delts that take over or extend past the chest detracts from the powerful aesthetic of the chest.

Therefore, from an aesthetic stand point, you’ll want to limit front delt work and make sure you do an adequate amount of back and rear delt exercises.


Anterior Deltoid Exercises

Dumbbell front raises are one of the best exercises to solely target the front delts!

Aside from these, most shoulder pressing exercises work the front delts anyway while putting less emphasis on the medial deltoid and little to none on the posterior deltoids.

Using a neutral grip for shoulder pressing exercises is a close second if not just as good a way to put a strong stimulus on the front delts.

When we look at anterior deltoid exercises from a safety perspective, they are typically safe. The problems arise when your chest and anterior deltoids are severely overdeveloped, overworked, or both.

When doing shoulder pressing exercises, you will always want to keep the arms slightly in front of the body. This allows space for the ball and socket of the shoulder joint to move freely.

In front raises, this is a must to be able to do the exercise. For other shoulder pressing exercises this is something good to keep in mind but is not of huge concern when targeting to front delts.


Dumbbell Front Raises

As mentioned above, these are great for solely targeting the front delts. When we consider the three parts of the front delt and the safety of anterior deltoid exercises, it is ok to do front raises at slightly different angles.

By different angles this just means slight tweaks, maybe a 5-10-degree difference on each side.

How to do Dumbbell Front Raises

Target the anterior deltoids with proper dumbbell front raise form with a neutral grip.
Proper dumbbell front raise form with a neutral grip.

I find that these are better done alternating vs. both arms together. You will have your hands in a neutral position and raise up.

During the raise, you want to act as if you are scooping with the dumbbell. Scooping out in front of you with the neutral grip is a great way to target the front delts.


Neutral Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

I could have mentioned the military press which is another great exercise to build the anterior and medial deltoid, but I’ve mentioned this one for a few reasons.

The neutral grip helps to target the anterior deltoid just a little better and is also quite easy on the rotator cuff compared to other shoulder exercises with the elbows flared out.

How to do the Neutral Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Neutral grip dumbbell shoulder presses are a great way to target the front delt
As you can see, the hands are facing front to back with the neutral grip as opposed to the normal over-hand grip you see with a normal dumbbell shoulder press.

These can be done seated or standing. When standing, you will bring more of the core into play and when seated, you will be able to press with a little more weight or for a few more reps.

In your preferred starting position with a neutral grip, raise the dumbbells up. The elbows will nearly be parallel with each other when pressing as opposed to a normal shoulder press with the elbows more flared out.

The range of motion should start with having the dumbbell at about chin level at the bottom. From here, bring them all the way up even engaging some of the upper traps at the top.


Final Thoughts on Building the Front Delts

The front delts really don’t need much direct work at all! If you do decide to target them, do so sparingly. An overdeveloped chest and front delts promotes bad posture and injury.

The body needs all muscles to do their part and if one muscle isn’t working properly or is severely weaker, other muscles must do the work.

Then when you consider that most people sit for hours a day with rounded shoulders, focusing on the chest and front delts just exaggerates this problem.

With a focus on keeping the body healthy, there is no problem with including some front delt work. A great physique is a complete physique after all!

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