The lateral raise dumbbell exercise, typically referred to
as the side lateral raise, is one of the most effective shoulder exercises for
beginners. This explains its high rating of 9.0 on the reputed weightlifting
website Bodybuilding.com. It s a strength exercise, which
involves isolation mechanics and which, as its name goes to show, requires a
pair of dumbbells to be performed. It s suitable for both men and women and, in
terms of utility, it s considered a basic or auxiliary exercise. The main type
of force it involves is the push force. As stated above, it directly targets
your shoulder muscles; more specifically, your lateral deltoids. However, it
also engages several other muscle groups. The main synergist muscles involved
in performing side laterals are the anterior delt, supraspinatus, middle and
lower trapezius, and serratus anterior. The move is stabilized by the upper
trapezius, the levator scapulae and the wrist extensors, of course.
How to perform the lateral raise dumbbell
As always, proper form is very important when lifting
weights. Not only does it help you avoid injury, but it also maximizes the
potential of the move. Since this is a basic move, you will want to master it
completely, before you move on to more complex variations on the same theme of
the lat raise. Remember to keep your elbows pointed as high up in the air as
you can, as well as to keep them slightly bent. You don t want to bend them at
a 45-degree angle, but anything in the range of 10 to 30 degrees will help. At
the top of the movement, your elbows need to be right by the side of your
shoulders, if you remember to bend them forward slightly, as instructed above.
The dumbbells don t necessarily have to be raised to the same level, but it s
important to bring your elbows there.
Some people believe that external rotation is the force that
helps lifters raise dumbbells, when, in fact, it s all in the shoulder
abduction movement. As such, you need to be sure that your elbows don t drop
below the level of your wrists, because if they do, the frontal deltoids (i.e.
the front part of your shoulders) will take over the move and your lateral
deltoids won t be putting in any work anymore. To help keep the side delts
activated as the main targeted muscle group, remember to keep your upper body
slightly bent throughout the exercise.
Most frequent mistakes for the lateral raise dumbbell exercise
1. Rotating your shoulders outward
Bear in mind that if you rotate your shoulders externally
when you lift the db pair, the main muscles performing the lift will be the
infraspinatus and teres minor, instead of the lateral deltoid muscles. Though
external shoulder rotation may look and feel similar to the force of shoulder
abduction, they are clearly not the same. If you experience very little
shoulder abduction, even though you re raising the dumbbells, then you re
clearly not doing something right.
Also, make sure that your elbows don t drop below the levels
of your wrist, because this means you re basically maintaining a static pattern
of shoulder rotation throughout the lateral raise exercise. If you do, your
lateral delts won t be getting any action whatsoever, as they ll switch over
the task to the anterior deltoid.
In both of the cases outlined above, your lateral deltoids
are getting much less of a workout then you want to give them. You re basically
defeating the main purpose of this exercise and are also improperly working out
other muscles, for which you could definitely find more effective exercises.
2. Extending your shoulders
How do you know if you re extending your shoulders during
lat raises? Check out the way your elbows are positioned as you perform the
move. If they move back and forth and end up behind the level of your
shoulders, then, once more, you re taking your lateral deltoids out of the
equation for this move. To correct this mistake, simply make sure that your
elbows are right by your shoulders at the topmost point of the move.
Furthermore, bear in mind that you don t have to raise the dumbbells to the
same level just keep your elbows bent forward a bit during the exercise.
3. Lifting through momentum
Beginner weightlifters might be tempted to throw up the
weights when they do the lateral raise dumbbell exercise. Though this type of
explosive movement is used in some types of workouts, such as those which
involve plyometrics, using them here is not the case and should be avoided. Try
not to extend your hip or spine upward suddenly as you raise the dumbbells,
since this will decrease the involvement of your deltoids and, once again,
render the exercise less effective than it could be for you and your shoulders.
4. Standing upright
The initial position for the lat raise may be upright, but
you shouldn t be standing up fully throughout the move. If you do, you re
probably pulling across with your anterior deltoids, which can definitely be
worked out in better ways.
Lateral raise variants
Side laterals to front raise
This exercise is alternatively called the alternating
deltoid raise. It s a strength move that isolates your shoulder muscles and
also engages your traps. It uses push force and is even appropriate for
beginners. The fact that this is ranked the top shoulder exercise by
bodybuilding experts online should give you a clue as to how efficient it is,
when proper form is observed. For the initial position, stand upright, with your
legs slightly apart. With a dumbbell in each hand, to your sides, slightly bend
your elbows in a 10 to 30 degree angle. Raise the weights straight ahead to the
level of your shoulders. Make sure you don t swing your arms while you raise
them and that you fully engage your shoulders. Raising through momentum or with
the aid of other muscles is a breach of form, which constitutes cheating and
reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.
At the uppermost point in this exercise, move the weights
away, still right before you. Make sure your arms are fully extended during
this part of the move. To complete a single rep, slowly lower the weights back
down to the initial position, while maintaining complete control.
For the second rep, lift the weights before you at shoulder
height before you proceed to move them laterally, by your side. Then lower them
back down, to the position you were in at the beginning of the move.
The rear lateral raise
It s also known as the dumbbell rear lateral raise and, as
both its names suggest, it targets the rear-delt muscles. It also engages other
arm muscles, such as the lateral deltoid, the middle and lower trapezius, the
teres minor and the rhomboids. The movement is stabilized by the triceps, wrist
extensors, hamstrings, glutes, and adductor muscles, among others.
As you prepare for the exercise, grab a hold of a pair of
dumbbells, one in each hand. Bend your knees and assume bentover position by
leaning forward to the point where your torso is parallel to the ground.
Slightly bend out your elbows and position your arms so that the palms are
facing each other. Then, raise the upper part of your arms to the point where
your elbows are at the same level as your shoulders. Keep your upper arms at a
90 degree angle with your torso and maintain that slight bend in your elbows
throughout the move. Make sure your elbows are placed above your wrists at all
times, by elevating the outer side of your palms. Lower your arms back to the
initial position and repeat the movement.
When performing this exercise, make sure to correct the
following frequent mistakes:
Your elbows end up below your shoulders. This is a mistake
because, when this happens, your upper arm is no longer allowed to travel
perpendicular to the torso. Consequently, the move ends up targeting an
entirely different group of muscles altogether the latissimusdorsi. As such,
at the topmost point of the movement, your elbows should be lateral to the
shoulders (though the dumbbells needn t necessarily be there, too).
Don t bend your torso at a 45 degree angle, because that doesn t
give you enough range to target the rear-delts. Keep the upper part of your
body horizontal and also bend your knees, to make sure the lower back area is
Don t round your back. This may happen because of hamstrings that
are too tight, but can easily be corrected by bending your knees more, or
lowering your upper body to the point where it is parallel to the floor. Slowly
bend your knees and lower your torso to amend this poor form mistake.
The leaning lateral dumbbell raise
Lateral dumbbell raises are isolation exercises, so, like
any exercise in this category, they work because they tense up the muscle they
target throughout the movement. They achieve this goal by putting the muscle to
work , as it were, leading it through the whole range of motions it is capable
of doing. Proponents of the lateral dumbbell raise in its classical variant
will argue this is exactly what it does, provided you ve got the right form
down pat. However, this is not entirely true: the last few degrees of motion,
right before the dumbbell is positioned in front of the outer quad, mark a
release of tension. In other words, your deltoids aren t getting as much of a
workout as they should, with this exercise. The leaning lateral dumbbell raise,
however, does away with this issue, since the bend in your upper body keeps
your delts fired up throughout. Check out the exercises and how it s performed,
This highly effective exercise for your middle deltoids
should be included during the latter part of your shoulder workout right
after the shoulder press is as good a place as any, for instance. You ll need
to be performing 3 or 4 sets, of 10, up to 15 repetitions. Start out by
standing next to a sturdy object, such as a cable cross-over machine. Position
your feet next to this structure, then hold on to it, in order to support your bodyweight.
Then start slowly leaning away from the station, by completely extending the
arm you re using for support. At the same time, with a dumbbell in your other
hand, hang the arm right down to the floor.
Extend the arm that s holding the dumbbell right out from
the elbow, then raise the dumbbell straight to the ceiling. Throughout the
exercise, your middle deltoid should be working at full capacity, which means
you should feel a bit of a burn in that area right from the beginning of the
exercise. Continue raising the arm with the dumbbell, to the point where it s
just parallel to the ground, or slightly higher up in the air than that. Then
stop, hold this pose for a few seconds, and resume the initial position by
slowly lowering your working arm. Returning to the starting position completes
one repetition. To maximize the potential and effects of this exercise,
remember to keep the rest of your body completely still during the exercise.
The cable squat to overhead raise
Unlike the original lat raise with dumbbells, which focuses
on isolation, this variant is a compound exercise that will primarily work out
your front, mid- and rear shoulder muscles. In tow, it will also involve your
leg, back, and core muscles, too. Unlike the lat raise with dumbbells, this
exercise makes use of the cable machine, which exerts a different type of
tension on your muscles. For the initial position, you will need to set the
cable on the cable machine low, then squat down to grab a hold of the handles.
While squatting, remember to keep your back straight and your knees aligned
with your feet. Then stand up to your feet in an explosive movement, with your
arms perched straight up toward the ceiling and the handle of the cable machine
right above your head.
5 benefits to doing dumbbell lat raises
In case you ve gotten this far but still aren t convinced
that dumbbell lat raises are all they re cracked up to be, read on for our
shortlist of the biggest benefits that this exercise can bring you.
Forget the shoulder pads
Remember that ridiculous style of the 80s and early 90s,
where everyone and their mother wore shoulder pads? In retrospect, it seems completely
silly but, in fact, there is some sense to it. That s because ample shoulders
will make your waist and hips look more narrow and, consequently, slimmer. In
other words, getting bigger shoulders will create a striking visual effect that
you might not otherwise achieve, except by going under the plastic surgeon s
Stronger shoulders, healthier back
It s not just esthetics that lat raises can help with.
Without the support of a strong set of shoulders, your back muscles and spine
risk injury especially if you ve been working out your arms by lifting
massive weights. The shoulders stabilize the entire upper back, since they link
the arms, neck, and back. Don t underestimate them; instead, work hard to build
them into the best shape you can. Your rotator cuff (an your entire torso, in
tow) will be thanking you for it.
Balanced shoulders, growth-wise
Without the lateral raise, your muscles may not be getting
proper training for mass and bulk. Rear delt raises will help your posterior
deltoids grow, while lateral and front dumbbell raises will improve the
strength and size of your lateral and anterior delts, respectively. This is
important both in terms of looks, as well as in terms of force, because your
shoulders are made up of three separate heads. They are all equally important
and should not be disregarded when training. Ignore one head, and you risk
ending up with slouching, under-developed looking shoulders.
Get all the muscles involved
The raise involves a lot of muscles, starting with the supraspinatus,
one of the four tiny, but powerful muscles that make up the rotator cuff. It s
important to give it a good workout every now and then, because this muscle
stabilizes your shoulder joint and makes your muscles stronger overall. Then,
it also helps improve the mobility of the shoulder joint. During lateral raises
done the traditional way, the first 30 degrees of the movement are supported by
this muscle mainly, until the delt takes over, followed by the traps for the
final part of the exercise.
Develop your outer shoulder
It s very important to also work out your outer shoulder
muscles, which is exactly what happens during the part of the raise in which
you bring your arms parallel to the floor. To make the best of this exercise
for your outer shoulders, continue to movement until your arms are 45 degrees
above parallel to the floor, as is the case with the Nautilus lateral raise.
This exercise is performed while seated, on a specially designed gym machine. In
this kind of movement, the middle deltoids are contracted to the max, while the
overall range of motion your shoulder is capable of is gradually increased.
Bonus: if you spring for an overhead lateral raise (either with a barbell or a
set of dumbbells), with your arms raised above your head, you re mostly relying
on the trapezius as the prime mover. You can, for instance, put in lying
one-arm lateral raises, either on the incline bench or on the floor, or a lying
rear lateral raise, which is also known as the reverse dumbbell fly.