Building strong shoulders and chest is more than a simple bench press on an Olympic flat weight bench. Knowing the physical structure of the shoulder is vital building strong defined shoulders. A well-defined arm shows a strong biceps brachii belly that rises and attaches to the pectoralis major and the deltoid above it. These well-sculpted muscles must be matched by the full anterior area of the deltoid that stretches along the edge of the clavicular head of the upper pecs (pectoralis major). In addition to providing an attractive shape to your shoulders, defining these muscles also builds performance. Strong, defined shoulders are a must for any athlete whose sport includes much shoulder movement (all of them?). An perfect exercise to strengthen these muscles is the front dumbbell raise. This exercise utilizes an Olympic flat bench and dumbbells.

Steps to the seated front dumbbell raise:

1. Sit up vertically on a flat bench. Start with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms hanging down toward the floor. Your elbows should be SLIGHTLY bent (almost straight). This angle will be maintained throughout the exercise.

2. Lift the right dumbbell from just beside your thigh. After you have lifted your arm enough for the dumbbell to clear the thigh, begin to adduct to lift the weight. The dumbbell should now be in a line directly in front of your right arm and shoulder.

3. Continue raising the dumbbell and move it toward the left side of your body, until it reaches a point that is just slightly higher than your left shoulder joint. The line of trajectory of the dumbbell should take the dumbbell in your right and slightly above and directly in front of your left shoulder. This is an arc from the right side of your right thigh toward the left side of your body (to the left shoulder). By bringing your arm across the body, the short head of the biceps as well as the clavicular head of the pectoralis major will be much more strongly activated than if you brought the weight directly from the starting position.

4. Do not lift the dumbbell higher than a few degrees above parallel to the floor, unless you simply want to activate the upper fibers of the trapezius more completely. The anterior fibers of the deltoid do not contract any further once you reach the parallel position, but other muscles do contract more strongly and this allows you to rotate the scapula to bring the arm up above a position that is parallel to the floor.

5. If you have no rotator cuff problems, you can invoke some medial rotation to further stimulate anterior fiber shoulder growth. As the top position is approached rotate the shoulder so that the knuckle of the little finger is pointing upward. The “twist” should be produced medially, rotating the shoulder joint and not just rotating the wrist. Twisting the wrist will not induce any improvement in activation of deltoid fibers. You should hold this top position for a count of two, to isometrically contract the fibers of all of the involved muscle areas. This extra rotation at the top (medial rotation of the humerus) will strongly activate the fibers between the lateral and anterior regions, thereby thickening the tie-in between these two regions of the deltoid and also between the pectoralis and the biceps brachii.

6. The return part of the lift is just as important as the upward lift. This should be executed slowly and with complete control. From the point opposite the left shoulder, bring the am across the body and also slightly laterally rotate the shoulder so the palm is facing the floor, as you return the dumbbell to the side of the right thigh. The lowing phase should be more than 4 seconds.

7. Repeat this with the left dumbbell and in the same way, move it in an arc toward the right shoulder.

Word of warning: The shoulder is very prone to injury. Avoid jerky movements and odd rotations. Perform this exercise slowly and in full control of the dumbbell. These warnings, do not however, mean that this should not be an intense exercise. Like all exercises, you will need to maintain a high intensity to see significant results.

By following these steps to a perfect front lateral raise, you will be able to strengthen and define your shoulders and upper pecs.

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