You browse TikTok trying to get inspiration for your next workout. Maybe you see a new ab circuit, a new squat variation, or a new pre-workout supplement that a muscle brother is endorsing. Swipe up one more time and you come across a fitness pro telling you to ditch a move you’ve been doing for years. Front delt training isn’t necessary, they say. Does this idea hold water, or is this a case of overrunning the mastermind of a social media galaxy?
Search the term on the social platform and you’ll find a mix of clips breaking down workout splits dedicated to hammering the muscle group, or saying you should stay away from isolated front delt training. But in a 15 second videoa lot of nuance and information can be left out of frame, leaving the viewer confused as to how to structure their shoulder workout.
Trainers who advocate foregoing front delt isolation for the most part aren’t wrong (just watch our own video on dumbbell front raises). They just need to explain their thinking more effectively. men’s health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel CSCS agrees with the message sent by these trainers, but hopes they can communicate better with their audience. According to Samuel, there is no bad exercise, but “there are exercises that are counterproductive for certain morphologies and for certain objectives”.
What are the front deltoids, anyway?
The deltoid muscles consist of three parts: the anterior (front) deltoid, the lateral (medial) deltoid, and the posterior (rear) deltoid. The anterior deltoid forms the front head of the shoulder and rotates the shoulder joint by pulling the arm inward.
What the experts say about training your shoulders
For Samuel and sports performance specialist and injury prevention expert Dr. John Rusin, isolating the front deltoids is at best an outdated practice and at worst a risky move. Front delt movements rarely make a difference in their shoulder training regimens for several reasons.
Both Rusin and Samuel agree that the shoulders are often an overtrained muscle group. Whether it’s stabilizing the arm to target your biceps with a curl, or moving your elbows behind your torso to attack the back, your shoulders serve to stabilize your arms for these movements. This is even more evident when examining the anterior deltoids.
When performing pressing movements, Rusin says the anterior deltoids are very active. This is especially present with heavier pressing, and a big reason why heavy pressing works well for training the shoulders. Following this logic, the most common training splits include lots of pressing movements in order to target the entire shoulder.
Samuel agrees. The shoulders are activated a lot in other movements, he says, so it’s best to train the muscle group, especially the front deltoids, strategically to limit the risk of injury. “There’s plenty of room for the rotator cuff tendons to pinch in this position,” Samuel says of training to specifically isolate your front deltoids. Since the muscle is already worked in pressing motions, any additional isolation exercise could lead to additional tension.
How to incorporate shoulder training into your workout
So where does the advice of TikTok trainers fit into the training breakdown? If influencers are claiming a total kibosh on the front delts, take a moment before following their advice to the letter. Samuel says you don’t have to completely ignore front delt isolation. Instead, make it the lowest priority in your shoulder training. Check out these four exercises for your shoulders to get started.
After that, it all depends on your fitness goals. Are you a gym rat looking for a complete program? Maybe skip it. Are you a bodybuilding competitor looking for a 3D shoulder set for the show stage? You might be in a better position to include dedicated front-delt action in your workout.
Even if you fall into the latter category, Samuel says to always be wary of overtraining your front deltoids. Instead, you should target the lateral head first and then work on strengthening your rear deltoids. If you still have time, do a front raise maybe once a week to give those front shoulders an extra pump. Right here are some safe exercise tips provided by Samuel and fitness editor Brett Williams to properly train those front deltoids.
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