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Front Lateral Raises: Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

In earlier articles we discussed the lateral shoulder raise and all it has to offer to athletes than just size and increased muscle (which is ample). In this article, we will dive into the front lateral raise and discuss the specific importance it has in front rack positioning for weightlifters, pressing for powerlifters, and overall shoulder functionality and performing for fitness athletes. 

Muscles Worked

The front lateral raise is a variation of the lateral raise which has the lifter move the weights forward in the raise (instead of to the sides or back). Below is a list of the specific muscles groups targeted by this shoulder raise variation.

  • Anterior Deltoid (Front)
  • Lateral Deltoid (Lateral)
  • Trapezius

Front Lateral Raises Exercise Demo

Below is a great video demo by Seth Feroce, in which he instructs us on how to properly setup and execute the front lateral raise. Note the specific angles, grips, and variations one can do within a work set to target the front deltoid and maximize the blood flow and pump to the deltoid.

Benefits of the Front Lateral Raise

Below are some benefits of the front lateral raise, many of which are also discussed deeper in my lateral raise article (which includes some of the front and rear lateral raise variations).

Increase Size of the Anterior Shoulder

While this may not seem like a big deal for powerlifters, weightlifters, and functional fitness athletes, front lateral raises can offer us some specific benefits to positions we often find ourselves in throughout our individual sports. For starters, and type of pressing motion (bench, push press, handstand push ups, ring dips, etc) involve the anterior deltoid, which if not built up can lead to weakness in certain movements and poor performance. Secondly, weightlifters can benefit from larger shoulders (specifically the anterior deltoid) when holding front racks in the front squat and jerking movements.

Failure to have adequate shoulder shelf space can make the barbell sink lower onto your body and become very uncomfortable without the necessary padding (muscle mass). Lastly, functional fitness athletes reap benefits simply because they are performing many of the same movements as strongmen, powerlifters, and Olympic weightlifters.

Pressing Strength and Performance

As described above in terms of barbell positioning with larger front deltoids, having more muscle mass in the anterior (front) deltoid often leads to great strength and power when those specific muscles and movements are trained. Having a great amount of raw muscle in a given area can lead to better strength in the bench press, strict press, dips, and other anterior pressing movements.

Strengthen Shoulder Stabilizing Muscles

Increasing the specific strength, performance, and movement of many of the smaller, more isolated muscle in the shoulder (and throughout the body) can often improve joint stability and control, which is key for any athlete and individual looking to lead a lifelong and healthy fitness/athletic lifestyle. Granted, these movements alone will not make you bulletproof, but adding raises and other shoulder joint movement and strengthening exercise into the mix can surely aid in optimal performance and function.

Sets x Reps

Training the shoulders with front lateral raises and other raise variations can be tricky, especially since there is a wide amount of advice out there on rep schemes, sets, and the amount of weight to be used. As a general disclaimer, I would not recommend going very very heavy with this movement, as the single joint mechanics of this under high load could end in more injury than results.

That said, Jim Meadows (the man behind the Meadows Row) would often do partial raises with heavy dumbbells and have good success, so the decision is up to you. As far as my general recommendations, 3-4 sets (however I have discussed with some lifters who perform 6-10 sets, for all of the raise variations) of 8-15 reps, as the blood flow to the muscle and the pump is key to adding size and volume.

When to Do Them

In an earlier article we discussed how to categorize a the lateral raise (very similar to the front lateral raise movement) as either a push or pull exercise. When looking at that decision, we had to determine which muscle groupings would make the most sense to perform those with, which in the end was decided to pair with shoulders (push) as the variation best suited that day.

In the case of the front lateral raise, similarities exist, and point towards this movement targeting even more of the anterior head of the shoulder. It is for this that I would recommend performing front lateral raises on push days so that you can tax the shoulders and then perform movements in the following day where the anterior head of the shoulder will not drastically impair performance (such as on a back or pulling day).

Go Forth and Build Better Deltoids!

Building stronger, healthier, and more muscular shoulders doesn’t need to be guesswork or rocket-science. In the above article we broke down the movement and offers the answers to “why” you shoulder do more shoulder isolation training, perfectly accompanied with the exact “how-to” video you need to master front lateral raises. Enjoy!

Featured Image: @SethFeroce on Instagram

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Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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