The front dumbbell raise is a simple weightlifting exercise that targets the fronts and sides of the shoulders, upper chest muscles, and biceps. Suitable for all levels, this shoulder flexion exercise is a great way to build strength, improve shoulder mobility, and tone your upper body.

Front dumbbell raises can help to create wide shoulders or a V-shaped torso. Include front dumbbell raises in your weightlifting routine a few times per week, allowing for a recovery day in between sessions.

Continue reading to learn how to do basic front dumbbell raises, variations, and alternative exercises.

Use smooth, controlled movements and make sure your weights are light enough to allow you to continue this steadiness throughout the entire set. You shouldn’t feel any tightness in your shoulder.

For each exercise, do 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Exhale as you raise your arms and inhale as you lower them.
  • To target your muscles more deeply, reach for the wall in front of you as you lift your arms.
  • Keep your knees and elbows slightly bent.
  • Keep your wrists neutral throughout the exercise, and avoid wrist flexion or extension.
  • Use resistance as you lower your arms.
  • You can use a standing split-stance position, alternating the front leg between sets.
  • Experiment with the position of your hands by turning your palms in toward the center.

You can do these variations in place of or in addition to standard dumbbell raises.

Seated dumbbell raise

Lateral dumbbell raise

Don’t allow your arms to move forward during this variation, which targets the sides of your shoulders. You can use a resistance band in place of dumbbells.

Front incline dumbbell raise

Change the angle of the incline bench to slightly vary the targeted muscles. You can use a barbell in place of dumbbells.

Alternating dumbbell front raise

Front dumbbell raises primarily target the front of the shoulders, known as the anterior deltoid. This muscle is used in shoulder flexion.

Front dumbbell raises also work the lateral (side) deltoid and the serratus anterior, along with the upper and lower trapezius, clavicular part of the pectoralis major, and biceps.

You’ll also use your core, biceps, and wrist extensors.

Make sure you’re using good form so you can get the greatest benefits from the exercise while preventing injury. Maintain proper posture by engaging your core and keeping your head, neck, and spine in alignment.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t scrunch your shoulders up as you raise your arms.
  • To prevent impingement in the shoulder joint, rotate the dumbbells upward when they’re almost at shoulder level, or use a hammer grip with your palms facing in toward each other.
  • Don’t raise your arms higher than parallel to the floor.
  • Make sure your weights are light enough to avoid any forced or jerky movements.
  • You should be able to use good form to complete all of the repetitions without thrusting the weights.
  • Coordinate your breath to match the smooth, even, and controlled movement of your arms.
  • Avoid front dumbbell raises if you have any neck, shoulder, or back concerns or injuries.
  • Discontinue this exercise if you feel any pain or discomfort.

These exercises target the same muscles as front dumbbell raises. Do them as an alternative to or in addition to the above exercises.

Dumbbell Arnold press

You can do this exercise while sitting or standing.

  1. Hold dumbbells in front of your chest with your palms facing toward you.
  2. Draw your elbows in close to your body.
  3. Press the dumbbells overhead and rotate your forearms to turn your palms to face forward at the top of the movement.
  4. Pause here for 1 or 2 counts.
  5. Slowly lower and rotate your arms back down to the starting position.

Barbell upright rows

Use a wide grip to target your shoulders and a narrow grip to target your trapezius muscles. To prevent wrist strain, try to keep your wrists straight throughout the exercise.

  1. Use an overhand grip to hold the barbell against your thighs.
  2. Engage your core and point your elbows out to the sides as you raise the barbell to just below chin level.
  3. Slowly lower the barbell to the starting position.

Plate front raise

While standing, hold a weight plate with your palms facing toward each other.

  1. For stability, engage your spine, core, and leg muscles.
  2. Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you slowly raise the plate in front of you until it’s at about head height.
  3. Pause here for 1 count before slowly lowering the weight back down to the starting position.

Front dumbbell raises are a great way to build upper-body strength, improve shoulder mobility and stability, and prevent injury. It’s OK to start with lighter weights as you perfect your form and pay attention to how your muscles are targeted.

Gradually increase the weight as you gain strength. Experiment with the different variations to decide which option brings you the most benefits and feels best in your body.

Remember to allow for one full day of recovery in between weightlifting sessions. On your off days, balance your routine with walking, balance exercises, or stretching.