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Strong defined shoulders not only have a positive impact on your figure but on your overall upper-body physique, movement, and posture. A great exercise to build and strengthen the shoulders, specifically the anterior deltoid, is the barbell front raise. Read on to learn what muscles barbell front raises work, the benefits and mistakes associated with the barbell front raise, and the correct form to perform this exercise. Check out some ideas for your shoulder workout and watch the barbell front raise video.

barbell front raises

The shoulder area is composed of numerous muscles, bones, and joints, encompassing one of the most mobile areas in the body. In fact, a wide range of motion permits great rotation, abduction, and adduction. An unfortunate side effect of this wide range is that the shoulder area can be more prone to injury as well.

A great exercise for the shoulders is front raises, which can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, bands, or even a medicine ball. This exercise can be performed using different repetition techniques (straight sets, pre-exhaust sets, drop sets, rest-pause sets, supersets, or paused reps). Today we’ll concentrate on a straight set of front raises using a barbell.

What Muscles Does The Barbell Front Raise Work?

The main muscle targeted by the barbell front raise is:

  • Anterior deltoids: these muscles are located on the frontal area of the shoulder

Barbell front raises engage the following muscles secondarily:

  • Trapezius: these small triangular muscles extend over the back of the neck and shoulders
  • Lateral deltoids: these muscles are located on the lateral area of the shoulders
  • Wrist extensors: these set of muscles, brachioradialis, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor carpi radialis longus, and brevis, extend over the wrist, helping grip motions
  • Serratus anterior: this muscle originates on the surface of the 1st to 8th ribs at the side of the chest and ends at the medial border of the scapula. It helps pull the scapula forward

Benefits of Barbell Front Raises

  • Aesthetics: They mold the front deltoids helping beautify your whole upper body since they engage your upper chest and other shoulder areas.
  • Strength: Barbell front raises strengthen the frontal shoulder area. This helps facilitate compound movements such as the chest press.
  • Joint Stability: When you strengthen all shoulder muscles, including the front shoulders, you improve shoulder joint stability. Then, shoulder rotation, abduction, and adduction remain in full range and injury-free.
  • Posture: Barbell front raises engage your shoulders and upper back/chest, helping you to maintain an upright posture.
  • Isolation: This is a great isolation exercise that concentrates and targets specifically the front of the shoulders.
  • Efficiency: You can get great results even with light weights. You don’t need to don’t need to use super heavy weights.
  • Simplicity: The barbell front raise is a pretty straightforward exercise. There is not much involved in the movement and all you need is a barbell.

How to Perform Barbell Front Raises

  • Place a barbell on the floor or rack pins and select a weight that you can safely lift for 8 to 12 repetitions. If you are not using a weighted bar, ensure that your barbell has an even amount of weight on both sides of the bar.
  • Pick up the bar with palms facing down and a shoulder-width grip. Having an excessively wide grip decreases the range of motion and the emphasis on the front deltoid muscles. On the other hand, an excessively narrow grip leads to excessive internal rotation of the shoulders which can cause injury and discomfort. 
  • Your elbows should be straight (but not locked) or slightly bent during all portions of the movement.
  • Tight up your abs and take a deep breath. Exhale as you raise the bar in front of you and upwards (or you can exhale in between repetitions – choose the breathing pattern that feels comfortable for you).
  • Raise the barbell until the upper arms are at or slightly above parallel with the ground and hold for 1 to 5 seconds.
  • Slowly lower the weight in a controlled manner back to the starting position, resting the barbell on or slightly off the hips. 
  • You can increase the intensity by holding the bar at the top for a longer period (5 to 10 seconds).
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions or 8 reps with a heavier weight if you are aiming to get stronger.

Barbell Front Raises Mistakes

  • Bending Your Arms: Your elbows should be straight (but not locked) or slightly bent during all portions of the movement. If you bend your arms, you engage the biceps more than the frontal shoulders.
  • Locking Your Elbows: Your elbows should not be locked. this overstresses the joint and can cause injuries.
  • Rounding Your Back: Avoid hunching. Not having a straight posture can hurt your back and may indicate that the weights are too heavy. Keep your back straight.
  • Swinging the Barbell: When you bounce the barbell as you bring it up, you engage your back and posterior muscles to lift the weight. Therefore, you are not emphasizing your anterior deltoids.
  • Moving the Barbell Rapidly: Avoid momentum or bringing the barbell up rapidly. If your body is generating momentum to raise the bar, the weight is too heavy. This momentum decreases the tension on the desired muscle and increases the likelihood of injury. You should perform the exercise in a controlled fashion.
  • Shrugging: Avoid shrugging your shoulders as you lift the weight. This over-emphasizes your trapezius and doesn’t allow you to properly perform the exercise. Your shoulder blades should be down and back.

Barbell Front Raise Video

Barbell Front Raises

You can also perform front raises with dumbbells as shown in my dumbbell front raise video.

Shoulder Workout

You can complete your shoulder workout by performing the following exercises:

As you can see the barbell front raise is a wonderful shoulder exercise. It offers tremendous benefits associated with hypertrophy, strength, endurance, and aesthetics. Now that you know how to properly perform barbell front raises, you can avoid the most common mistakes and enjoy their benefits. Remember, whether you want to lose weight, tone your body, or gain strength or size, all muscles must be trained.

Lift, Burn more Fat, Get Stronger, and Live Healthier!

To a Fitter Healthier You,

Adriana Albritton

The Fitness Wellness Mentor

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