Best Front Delt Exercises

Be it the classic bench press, dip, or pushup, the front deltoids are involved in almost every chest exercise. That makes it an important group to strengthen. Indeed, in most cases it’s the delts that give out first when going for a record on the bench press, or when pushing for an extra rep on the dip bar.

Below, we’re going to outline five great exercises to improve the strength and appearance of those critical shoulder boulders. Read on to learn five of the best exercises for shredding your delts.

1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The first exercise in our list should come as no surprise. A gym classic, the dumbbell shoulder press has long been a staple for improving deltoid strength, though it’s not quite as popular as its easier and less effective sibling: the barbell shoulder press. So, why should you prioritize this exercise for improved delt strength over others? Because of the stabilizing action required when using the dumbbells.

Why is this important? Because when you have a greater range of motion (as is the case with dumbbells), you have to stabilize the weight, which requires more control, and consequently more muscle engagement. Don’t believe us? Try it yourself: do a barbell shoulder press, and then a dumbbell shoulder press back to back, with the same weight, and see which is harder (if you’re worried the first one will fatigue you and ruin the validity of the experiment, do a lower weight that you can easily rep two sets on). We think your results will agree with our conclusion.

Here’s an explanation on how to do the exercise.

2. "Forward" Cable Fly

“Cable fly? Like on a Bowflex? Why the hell would I do that grandpa exercise when I could be slinging iron?” Fair enough, but there IS a reason. That is, because of the constant resistance the cable fly provides to the deltoids as the primary stressed muscle group in the exercise. Unlike a dumbbell fly, for instance, you aren’t getting a reduction in resistance at the apex of the exercise. There is a constant strain on the delts that, if done correctly, will hit the delts in a unique way that will encourage muscle growth. You may be surprised at how hard this exercise can be. Dumbbell fly forty-fives? See how many reps of the same weight you can manage with the cable fly.

One key to making this really target the shoulders is that you’ll need to lean forward with the cables, effectively targeting the shoulders/upper chest and biceps. The good news is that this is what most people do when they attempt cable flies anyhow (to work the chest, you’ll actually need to stand more upright).

Here’s an explanation on how to do the exercise.

3. Incline Dumbbell Press

Continuing with our theme of preferring stabilizing exercises that engage more muscle groups and increase intensity, we include the incline dumbbell press at number three on our list. This is really just an angled dumbbell shoulder press, which includes more of the upper pectorals than its close relative. The good news is, that means it’s also nearly just as good as the priorly mentioned exercise at building strength in the delts.

If you’re doing these exercises in a workout sequence, and are starting to feel fatigue, you could reduce weight here and use it as a high repetition exercise to really tap out the delts. If that’s too hard, you could replace this exercise with the slightly easier barbell version to continue to hit the muscle group.

Here’s an explanation on how to do the exercise.

4. Handstand Pushups

Before you balk at the impossibility of this exercise, recognize that we aren’t talking about an unassisted handstand in the middle of the floor… though if you can manage that, more power to you. No, we mean a handstand pushup using a wall for support. That should be much more doable for most of us.

This is a great exercise. It’s a lot like a shoulder press, but uses your body weight. That’s an additional dimension that requires more muscle coordination and athleticism.

Here’s an explanation on how to do the exercise. In this explanation, the narrators go through many phases of difficulty to enable a beginner to build strength and eventually tackle the full handstand pushup. This may or may not be necessary for you. It’s worth trying the full handstand (carefully) to see if you can pull it off.

5. Front Deltoid Raises

Probably the least demanding, but most isolating exercise on this list, the front delt raises (or extensions) are another gym classic. Due to the lower demands of this exercise, it’s a great one to do at the end of your workout to round things out and really fatigue the muscles. When doing this exercise, make sure you aren’t compromising on form—get those dumbbells fully lifted (nearly parallel to the shoulder).

Here’s an explanation on how to do the exercise.

Of course, there are other deltoid workouts to consider, including cable crosses, the dumbbell fly, the bench press, lateral delt raises, shoulder shrugs, etc. However, we think the above exercises are the best for this muscle group, and in any case, they’re a great starting point.

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