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What Is a Front Press?

Shelby Miller
Shelby Miller

A front press is a weight lifting exercise that is traditionally performed using a barbell. It targets the middle and anterior deltoid, the muscle on the top and front of the shoulder, and involves pressing the weight from in front of one’s face directly over the head. The front press can be performed sitting or standing and can utilize a barbell, pair of dumbbells, or a machine for resistance.

Since the deltoid is the muscle whose primary action is to lift the arms overhead, it is used heavily when pushing a weight upward against gravity. Triangular in shape, the deltoid has three sections that are activated depending on whether the arms are in front of, lateral to, or behind the body during an upward-lifting movement. When performing the front press, the arms are positioned in front of the body when initiating the movement, which requires the action of the anterior or front portion of the deltoid.

The front press targets the deltoid muscle in the shoulder.
The front press targets the deltoid muscle in the shoulder.

As the weight is pressed over one’s head, the arm begins to rotate externally in the shoulder joint as the elbows are lifted above shoulder height, which requires the action of the middle portion of the deltoid. Then, as the elbows straighten to finish the movement, the triceps muscle in the back of the arm is called upon as a secondary mover. The deltoid and triceps muscles also are activated during the lowering phase of the front press, decelerating the weight as it is brought back down to the starting position.

It is important to use proper technique when performing the front press. To protect the lower back when pressing upward by preventing hyperextension of the lumbar spine, one should brace the abdominal muscles as if anticipating a punch to the stomach. The chest should remain slightly lifted, and the grip on the bar, which will be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, should be closed and firm. With palms facing forward, one should take one or two counts to push the bar all the way overhead, straightening the arms but not locking the elbows. It may be helpful to exhale while pressing the bar overhead.

Lowering the bar to the start position, which is approximately in front of one’s chin, should take a count or two longer than the lifting phase of the front press. The movement should be controlled on the way down, and the exerciser should inhale while lowering the bar. In addition, the shoulders should be held down away from one’s ears with the shoulder blades pulled down throughout both phases of the movement. When performing this exercise on a machine or with dumbbells, the same guidelines in regard to form and technique should apply.

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    • The front press targets the deltoid muscle in the shoulder.
      By: mikiradic
      The front press targets the deltoid muscle in the shoulder.