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October 29, 2021 7 min read

Are you ready to impress everyone with your upper body strength? Are you ready to show off your toned shoulders? If you answered yes, then it is time to drop everything and start incorporating barbell front raises into your strength training routine.

Whether you are a novice exerciser, a bodybuilder, an athlete, or simply are looking for ways to change up your workout routine, barbell front raises are a great shoulder workout if you are seeking to strengthen your upper body muscles and stabilize your muscles such as your abdominals and triceps.

It’s easy to get stuck rotating the same 3-5 movements in our workout routine but that can lead to your muscle growth plateauing. If you haven’t seen much change in your muscle definition or strength lately, it might be because you need to shake things up!

What Exactly Is a Barbell Front Raise?

A barbell front raise (also known as a front raise or shoulder front raise) is a great upper-body weight training exercise that targets the shoulder muscles. It is an incredible movement for individuals interested in building their upper body strength or individuals who are seeking more muscle definitions in the shoulders.


The barbell front raise, as the name states, uses a barbell, but there are many other pieces of equipment that can be used such as dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands that still target those shoulder muscles which is why the front raise is such a great exercise due to its adaptability.

What Muscles Does a Barbell Front Raise Target?

Your deltoids are made up of three different heads that each play a role in stabilizing your glenohumeral joint to provide you with stable arm movement, and barbell front raises do a great job at working all of those muscles.

Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of the shoulder muscles and what exactly the exercise targets.

Primary Muscles:

  • Lateral Deltoid: The lateral deltoid plays a large role in rotating the shoulder joint laterally (away from the middle of the body) by pulling the arm outward. Also known as the middle delts, these muscles help keep the arm in place while lifting or carrying heavy loads.
  • Anterior Deltoid: The anterior deltoid essentially does the opposite of the lateral deltoid by rotating the shoulder joint medially (towards the middle of the body) through pulling the arm inward. Also known as the front delts, these muscles are used in a variety of daily tasks that use the upper extremities.

Secondary Muscles:

  • Pectoralis Major Clavicular Head: The pectoralis major clavicular head is located on the medial half of the clavicle and is responsible for the flexion of the humerus at the shoulder joint. It works hand-in-hand with the sternal head to medially rotate the arm at the glenohumeral joint.
  • Serratus Anterior: The serratus anterior muscle originates on the surface of the first to eight ribs at the side of the chest. It stabilizes the scapula during elevation as well as assists in respiration. A weak serratus anterior can lead to shoulder immobility and pain. One might also know it as the “boxer’s muscle” as it plays a large role in the movement that occurs when one throws a punch.
  • Trapezius: The trapezius muscle, commonly referred to as the traps play a large role in pulling your shoulders up as well as pulling your shoulders back in place. It extends from the back of your neck and head to your shoulder and is composed of three components, the lower traps, the middle traps, and the upper traps. Weak trap muscles can make it difficult to do simple things such as shrugging your shoulders or lifting your arms properly. Therefore, it is important to strengthen your trapezius muscles but also make sure you are performing exercises properly to prevent injury of the trapezius muscles.

Benefits of Barbell Front Raises

1. Strengthens Stabilizing Upper Body Muscles

Although barbell front raises mainly focus on the shoulder muscles, the movement engages many upper body muscles that are in charge of stabilizing your body such as the erector spinae, anterior arm muscles, and chest muscles. The abdominals are also involved in the movement as you are contracting your abs to stabilize your body as you lift the barbell to shoulder height.

2. Provides Toned, Defined Muscles

The dumbbell front raise mainly works the front of your shoulders which allows you to tone and strengthen those muscles. The movement can add size to your anterior deltoids when appropriately modifying acute variables such as the tempo, reps, speed, and sets.

This exercise provides you with the definition you desire so you'll be able to show off in a tank top or a tight t-shirt. By sticking to a consistent workout routine, you'll start seeing the results you desire and I guarantee that people will start asking you what your exercise routine is to receive that muscle definition.

3. Improves Ability To Perform Functional Tasks

Many people exercise for the benefits of enhancing physical features but they do not give enough credit to how movement can make their daily lives more enjoyable. By performing a movement like a barbell front raise, you are strengthening your shoulders which will allow you to lift heavier objects, put heavy objects on a shelf, move heavy boxes from place to place and the list goes on.

You will be able to conquer many more daily tasks as well as just feel better.

The implementation of a multifaceted approach will allow you to both improve your physical features as well as improve your abilities in your daily life. When performing something as simple as grabbing something from the top of your closet or carrying a box to a car, you don't think much about what is involved in the movement. But in fact, there is a lot more than you think. 

This  study took the time to develop a musculoskeletal model to observe muscle function during motor tasks. They found that the majority of the work done while performing tasks that used the upper body was done by the traps, the delts, the pec major, and the serratus anterior.

Warm-Up Exercises for Barbell Front Raises

Prior to performing shoulder exercises like the barbell front raise, it is important that you activate your muscles to maximize muscle engagement in order to build muscle.

Below are some effective warm-up exercises you can do before your barbell front raises.

Push-Up Plus

This activation exercise targets the serratus anterior. It is quite similar to a push-up but there is more activation in the serratus anterior muscle.


  1. Start in plank position and place your hands at shoulder-width apart.
  2. Straighten your arms then begin to lower your body until your chest is just above the floor.
  3. Pause for a second then push yourself back up.
  4. Once you are back up, push away from the floor to create torque through the shoulders and activate the serratus anterior muscle.
  5. Return to starting position and repeat steps 1-4 for 3 sets, if possible, of 6-8 reps.

Banded Pull-Aparts


  1. Stand up straight and hold a resistance band at about chest height with your palms faced up. 
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pulse the band outwards to the shoulder level. 
  3. Repeat this exercise for 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Dumbbell Bench Press


  1. Lie back on a bench and plant your feet on the ground. 
  2. Hold the dumbbells angled in towards your body with your thumbs facing your chest.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades and begin to press the weights up to almost form a diamond shape 
  4. Hold at the top of the movement for a second then begin to lower to starting position. 
  5. Repeat this exercise for 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Barbell Front Raises: How Many Reps?

This question can get quite personal as everyone has different goals for their workouts.The number of sets and reps will vary depending on your goals and your training level.

Numerous variables such as reps, sets, intensity, rest intervals and frequency can be manipulated depending on whether you are seeking muscular strength endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength, or power.

  • Muscular Strength Endurance: 8-12 reps of 2-4 sets.
  • Hypertrophy: 6-12 reps of 3-5 sets.
  • Maximal Strength: 1-5 reps of 4-6 sets.
  • Power: 3-10 reps of 3-6 sets

Barbell front raises are more commonly used in the muscular endurance and hypertrophy phases of exercise as maximal strength and power exercises have more strict exercise guides since they are commonly used in competitive training as well.

Barbell Front Raise Form

Now that you've gained knowledge about all the details, it's time to actually learn how to properly and safely perform a barbell front raise.

  1. Stand up straight and grab a barbell in front of your body with straight arms and an overhand grip. 
  2. Hold the bar in front of your mid-thighs while engaging your muscles. 
  3. Begin to lift the barbell forward by flexing your shoulder with control until you reach shoulder height. 
  4. Keep your arms straight and with control, slowly begin to lower the bar back to starting position.
  5. Repeat this movement for your desired number of repetitions and sets.

Although you might be on a mission to lift heavier weights, your main priority should be to have proper form to prevent injury. Your shoulders can easily be injured and picking a weight that is too heavy can interfere with your form which can cause more harm than good.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot that goes into properly training your shoulders in a safe, efficient manner. The more knowledge you have about which muscle group you are targeting, the more you are able to begin to build muscle and get the results that you desire.

The most important thing to remember while performing a barbell front raise is to pay attention to your form and not push yourself too far. While you may think choosing a heavier weight will lead to faster muscle growth, it can actually lead to muscular imbalances and injury, which is quite the opposite of what you want. 

If you'd like to continue getting more definition in your upper body muscles, here's a killer  arm workout.