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Anterior deltoids are the muscles on the front of your shoulders that help lift your arms to the front and sides. You use them to raise your hand, reach out to lift a toddler, swing your arm back to serve a tennis ball and hold yourself up in plank position. Exercising your front delts will tone and strengthen your shoulders and protect the range of motion you need for sports and daily activities.
The Front Deltoids
There are three deltoid muscles -- posterior, medial and anterior -- that give your shoulder its rounded appearance. They work in tandem with upper back, chest and arm muscles such as the pecs, lats, biceps and triceps to move your arms and support your shoulders during weight-bearing activities. Specific movements of the front delts include transverse flexion -- the arm crosses the front of the body; flexion -- raising your arm to the front; abduction -- moving your arm to the side, away from your body; and internal rotation -- turning your upper arm inward, a movement like shutting a door. Shoulders are complex. They pull you through laps, pitch a softball and move your whole body on a pommel horse. Strengthening the anterior delts that support your shoulder joint will help to prevent stiff, frozen or painful shoulders and disabling injuries such as rotator cuff tears.
Rotator Cuff Remedy
A common and painful injury, a torn rotator cuff, can put you out of action for months as the muscle tissue heals. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends a strength and flexibility conditioning program with deltoid exercises to restore function and relieve pain. Capio Reading Hospital in the United Kingdom seconds the focus on anterior deltoids to rehabilitate the injured shoulder. With approval from your doctor, begin with gentle pendulums as a warm-up. Lean forward, supporting yourself on a desk or table with one hand, and let the injured arm dangle. Then move it back and forth, side to side and around in circles. Lie on a mat and raise your arm perpendicular to the floor in line with your ear. Keep the elbow, wrist and hand straight as you move your arm forward and back. Add a very light weight as you build strength. Extend your arm and make a fist with your weak hand. Push down on your fist with the flat palm of the other hand and resist the pressure.
Pushups, Presses and Planks
Create a routine that targets your front delts for powerful shoulders. Bench press dumbbells to strengthen anterior and medial delts, pecs and triceps. Stand and lift those free weights with extended arms in a dumbbell front raise. Try bent-knee pushups on the floor to feel the burn in the front of your shoulders. Pushups with a single leg raise intensify the challenge to your anterior delts and tighten glutes. Bear claws on hands and knees across the floor emphasize forward motion and weightbearing. The plank is a full-body exercise that places steady pressure on your front delts. See how long you can hold yourself up resting on your forearms and toes with core muscles engaged. Lower down and raise up without shrugging your shoulders.
On the Ball
A stability ball engages multiple muscles as you work to keep balanced while exercising your anterior delts. The American Council on Exercise suggests performing shoulder strengtheners on the wobbly ball to build power and concentration. Try pikes to hit delts, rotator cuffs and abs as you support yourself on extended arms while you bend at the hips and raise your butt, keeping your toes on the ball. The ball adds a level of difficulty to pushups and to shoulder stabilizations in which you balance your torso on the ball, upper body raised and toes on the floor. Extend your arms straight out and up so they are next to your ears, palms facing each other. Pull your shoulders down and stretch arms to the sides, bend your elbows and reach up again to full extension.