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Lateral Raise, Dumbbell

Type: Shoulder
The lateral raise with dumbbells is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by extending the arm to the side of the body with the elbow extended. Start with a light weight to perfect the technique. Below you'll find a video guide and step by step instructions that describes the correct technique for the dumbbell lateral raise exercise.
Level :  Equipment : Yes
Mid Shoulders
Mid Back
Upper Shoulders

Lateral Raise, Dumbbell Steps:

Step 1:
Stand with feet shoulder width apart.

Step 2:
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest by your sides.

Step 3:
Adopt a neutral spine and brace the abdominals and back muscles.

Step 4:
Elbows should have a slight bend which remains fixed throughout the movement.

Step 5:
Raise your arms out to your side until both are parallel to the floor.

Step 6:
Pause briefly and lower back down to the starting position.

Top Tip:

  • As an alternative to dumbbells you can use cables or resistance bands
  • To build size and tone, limit the movement to keep the muscle under constant tension throughout the full set
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Lateral Raise Dumbbell

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 straight.

         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, right below.

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 knife.

         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.



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