Have you noticed that your front delts (anterior delts) lag behind the rest of your upper body? Maybe they seem smaller and/or weaker than your side delts, rear delts, chest, biceps, or triceps. If this struggle sounds familiar, you’re in luck!
We’ve compiled a list of the best ways to grow underdeveloped front delts. You’ll also find the best rep ranges, intensities, and exercises to help stimulate front delt hypertrophy!
Keep reading to learn more!
Table of Contents
- 1 What are Underdeveloped Front Delts?
- 2 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Front Delts
- 3 Increase the number of training sets per session
- 4 Increase your training frequency
- 5 Increase your training intensity
- 6 Perfect your exercise technique
- 7 Change your exercise selection and order
- 8 Modify your tempo
- 9 Ensure a proper range of motion
- 10 Change your rep range
- 11 The 10 Best exercises for Bigger Front Delts
- 12 Front Delt Anatomy
- 13 Front Delt FAQs
- 14 Final Thoughts
- 15 Grow Underdeveloped Muscle Groups
- 15.1 The 8 Best Ways to Strengthen Abs
- 15.2 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Shoulders
- 15.3 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Traps
- 15.4 The 8 Best Ways to Grow a Bigger Back
- 15.5 The 8 Best Ways to Build an Underdeveloped Core
- 15.6 The 8 Best Ways To Grow a Bigger Upper Chest
- 15.7 The 8 Best Ways to Grow a Bigger Lower Chest
- 15.8 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Hamstrings
- 15.9 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Upper Abs
- 15.10 The 7 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Obliques
- 15.11 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Biceps
- 15.12 The 5 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Triceps
- 15.13 The 7 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Rear Delts
What are Underdeveloped Front Delts?
Underdeveloped anterior delts occur when the front part of the shoulder is weaker and/or smaller than the other upper body muscles. The best way to address weak front delts is isolation and compound pushing exercises that target the front delts.
Other effective techniques for growing your front delts are increasing your total front delt training volume, frequency, and intensity, perfecting your form/technique, and manipulating your rep range.
This article will take an in-depth dive into all the tactics you can use to correct lacking anterior delts!
The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Front Delts
- Increase the number of front delt training sets per session
- Increase your front delt training frequency
- Increase your front delt training intensity
- Perfect your exercise technique
- Change your front delt exercise selection & order
- Modify your tempo
- Ensure a proper range of motion
- Change your rep range
Here are the 8 best ways to grow underdeveloped front delts:
Increase the number of training sets per session
One of the most effective ways to increase the size and strength of your anterior delts is by doing more sets in a single training session. According to Renaissance Periodization’s training volume landmarks for hypertrophy, you should perform at least 6-8 direct sets per week to stimulate front delt growth.
If you haven’t been tracking the number of sets, you perform weekly for the front delts, that’s a good place to start. It’s important to note that there’s a maximum amount of sets that are effective for front delt hypertrophy, and it mainly depends on how many days per week you train them.
In other words, you can’t continuously increase the number of sets and expect continued gains. At a certain point, you will perform more sets than your front delts can effectively recover from, leading to a plateau in size, strength, or both. For most people, doing more than 12 sets of direct front delt work per week is counterproductive.
However, divide the sets across multiple training days in a given week if you want to increase your volume. Within a single training session, more than 10 sets become counterproductive. The sweet spot for most people is 6-8 sets in a single training session.
Knowing how much volume you need to grow is crucial for any body part. The best approach is to start at the minimum effective amount of volume, such as 6 sets, and increase the volume until you feel unable to recover in between sessions. The number of sets you can perform will vary based on the individual.
Increase your training frequency
The next best way to grow underdeveloped front delts is by increasing the number of times you train your front delts, which is referred to as training frequency. As we mentioned earlier, doing more than 10 sets for a body part in a single session is counterproductive.
Better yet, split the volume across multiple weekly training sessions. For example, performing 5 sets of a front delt exercise on Monday and 5 sets of a different front delt exercise on Thursday would be better than executing all 10 sets in one session. Increasing your training frequency allows you to increase your training volume (the number of sets you perform per week).
Not to mention, if you perform fewer sets per training session but train the front delts more frequently, you’re more likely to perform the exercises with the proper intensity. According to Renaissance Periodization’s training volume landmarks for hypertrophy, the optimal training frequency for the front delts is 1-2 times per week.
One of the only potential downsides to increasing your training frequency is that you have to go to the gym more often, which may not be feasible or sustainable for some people.
Increase your training intensity
Training intensity refers to how close you train to failure. Performing an exercise with the right level of intensity is crucial for muscle growth. Leaving anywhere from 1-3 reps in the tank is ideal for hypertrophy, so you don’t have to train to absolute failure. In other words, you should stop performing an exercise once you can only perform another 1-3 reps.
When starting a training program, it’s a good idea to leave 3 reps in the tank, then increase the intensity from there. If you start a training block and stop 3 reps shy of failure, stop 2 reps shy of failure the following week. Failure is defined as a breakdown in exercise form, so ensure you perform each rep to a specific standard based on proper exercise technique.
If you aren’t training with high enough intensity, your muscles will not achieve the necessary stimulus to grow and adapt. With that said, overdoing the intensity can lead to burnout, plateaus, and injuries. You can implement intensity techniques, such as drop-sets and rest-pause, but that’s more beneficial for advanced trainees.
Perfect your exercise technique
Not only does poor exercise technique increase your injury risk, but it’s also terrible for muscle growth. If you are performing a dumbbell front raise and don’t feel the front delts engaging, it’s likely that you are not doing them correctly.
Perfecting your exercise technique is paramount to growing any muscle, especially the front delts. Since the front delt is a smaller muscle, it’s easy for other bigger and stronger muscles to take over the movement. Instead of feeding your ego, lighten the weight, slow down the tempo, and focus on hitting the target muscle.
Plenty of instructional exercise videos demonstrate how to do an exercise correctly, so if you don’t know how to do something, look it up beforehand! Also, try out different exercises to see which one you feel the most.
Change your exercise selection and order
Regardless of what lagging body part you are trying to improve, it’s a good idea to do exercises that target those muscles first in the workout. Instead of saving the front delt exercises for the end of the workout, perform them at the beginning. This is ideal because you have the most amount of energy and effort to give at the start of a workout.
Additionally, try doing a front delt isolation exercise before a compound exercise for a better mind-muscle connection.
Here’s what that would look like:
- Cable front raise – perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions
- Barbell overhead press – perform 3 sets of 6-8 repetitions
Once you perform the barbell overhead press, your front delts will be ready to work because the cable front raises have already primed them.
Many people with lagging front delts also have difficulty feeling their front delts during an exercise. Trying out various exercises is beneficial to see which one works best for you. Oftentimes, cables are ideal for front delt hypertrophy because they place constant tension on the muscle. If you’ve been doing certain exercises for a long time but aren’t noticing much growth, it may be time to switch things up!
If you don’t have cables available to you, dumbbells are a decent alternative. Check out our list of the best front delt dumbbell exercises for some inspiration!
With that said, performing random exercises every week is not ideal for hypertrophy because it takes time for your body to learn the movement. Once you find some exercises you like, stick with them for at least 4 weeks or until you hit a plateau. After you plateau, switch to a new exercise.
Modify your tempo
Another way to spark new muscle growth is by modifying your tempo. There are two portions of every exercise, the concentric and the eccentric. The concentric occurs when the muscle is shortened, such as curling a dumbbell upward. The eccentric occurs when the muscle is lengthening, such as lowering the dumbbell by extending your arm during a dumbbell curl.
Controlling the lift’s eccentric (lowering) portion is advantageous for hypertrophy.
The exercise tempo is oftentimes prescribed with a 3 or 4-digit code such as 3-1-3-0. The first number (3) represents the eccentric of the lift, the second number (1) represents the bottom of the lift (such as the bottom of a squat), the third number (3) represents the concentric portion, and the last number (0) represents the top of the lift.
If you were prescribed a 3-0-3-1 tempo for a front raise, it should take 3 seconds to lift the dumbbell and lower it, and you should pause for 1 second at the top but not pause at all in between repetitions.
Try it out if you’ve never trained according to a specific tempo!
Ensure a proper range of motion
Not only do you need to perform an exercise with proper form, but you also need to use a full range of motion. It’s quite common to see people doing half reps on compound exercises such as the leg press, bench press, and squat.
People shorten their range of motion during an exercise because they want to lift more weight, accommodate an injury, or have poor mobility. Those cutting their range of motion short to lift more weight are usually doing so because they either don’t know any better or want to look cool. In reality, they cheat themselves by not using a full range of motion. If you cut your range of motion short, you are not fully working the muscle.
If you start using a full range of motion, you will likely have to reduce the weight. However, by implementing progressive overload, you will be back to lifting that amount of weight in no time with a greater range of motion! If you have an injury or poor mobility, work with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, to correct the issue.
Change your rep range
The last thing you can do to get your front delts to grow is periodically manipulating your rep range. If you are always performing 6-8 reps, you may see a huge increase in size and strength by doing 12-15 reps instead. Usually, smaller muscles, such as the front delts, do best with a slightly higher rep range (10-20 reps).
Sticking to the same rep range all of the time can lead to plateaus. Similar to switching up your exercises, it’s a good idea to do a specific rep range for a few weeks before changing to a new one. This gives your body time to adapt and improve in that rep range.
Also, every muscle has fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited the most when performing lower reps with heavier loads. On the other hand, slow twitch muscle fibers are mainly recruited when performing higher reps with light loads. To target both muscle fiber types, change rep ranges once in a while.
The 10 Best exercises for Bigger Front Delts
Here are the 10 best exercises you can do to build bigger and stronger front delts:
- Dumbbell Front Raise
- Barbell Overhead Press
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Arnold Press
- Push Press
- Incline Bench Press
- Machine Shoulder Press
- Handstand Push-Ups
- Bench Press
- Cable Front Raise
If you want to learn how to perform these exercises correctly and get a free shoulder workout, check out this article: The 10 Best Front Delt Exercises.
Front Delt Anatomy
The front delt is usually referred to as the shoulder muscles, also known as the deltoids, which are located on the upper arm bone (humerus). However, there are three different deltoids that make up the shoulder, including the rear delt, side delt, and front delt. Each deltoid is responsible for a different shoulder movement. One delt overpowers the other muscle groups, leading to poor posture.
The front delt is positioned on the front of the shoulder and involves pushing movements and shoulder flexion. The rear delt is positioned on the posterior side of the shoulder and is involved in pulling movements. The lateral delt is positioned on the side of the shoulder and controls shoulder abduction.
As you can see, you have to perform different movements to target each shoulder muscle. Doing shoulder presses alone isn’t ideal. For optimal hypertrophy, you should be performing isolation exercises during your shoulder workout to target each deltoid, such as the front raise, lateral raise, and rear delt fly.
Front Delt FAQs
How often should you train your front delts?
For hypertrophy, you should train your front delts anywhere from 1-2 times per week. Pick a training frequency that’s sustainable and enjoyable in the long term. Training them more frequently is ideal if you want to prioritize your front delts. For an example shoulder workout, check out this article: The 10 Best Front Delt Exercises.
At what intensity should your front delts be trained?
You should train your front delts 1-3 reps shy of failure. In other words, you should stop the set once you can only do 1-3 more repetitions with good technique. Going to failure is not necessary and should not be implemented for every exercise or set.
What rep range should be used for training the front delts?
The front delts respond well to various rep ranges, with the sweet spot being 6-10 reps. It’s a good idea to switch up your rep range every few weeks to stimulate all of the muscle fiber types. For example, you can perform 15-20 reps for a few weeks, then switch to 8-12 reps.
What types of exercises train the front delts?
Since the front delts perform flexion, internal rotation, and horizontal adduction at the shoulder joint, they engage when performing any type of horizontal press, vertical press, and horizontal fly. The best way to isolate the front delts is by doing exercises solely involving shoulder flexion, such as front raise variations.
Having a symmetrical physique is ideal for both aesthetics and performance. Underdeveloped muscles can be problematic, especially for those that are looking to compete in physique sports. Fortunately, there are several things you can implement to correct a lagging body part!
If you notice that your front delts are weaker and smaller than other upper body muscles, try adding more volume by increasing the number of sets per week, increasing the frequency you train your front delts, and ensuring your exercise technique is correct. Also, put more effort into the exercises that target your front delt, such as the barbell bench press, incline bench press, dumbbell front raise, etc., rather than lateral raises.
You don’t have to do all of the things listed above to address your front delts, but try a few to see how your body responds! Remember that muscle growth takes time, so focus on training hard, eating well, and recovering properly.
Grow Underdeveloped Muscle Groups
If you enjoyed this post, check out our other guides on how to grow lagging muscle groups.