If you want to get the most out of your gym time, you need to do effective exercises. Allowing you to push your body hard. Stressing your muscles so they grow back stronger. It’s no wonder why lateral raises have soared in popularity. Becoming a core part of a bodybuilder’s arsenal. They are easy to learn and safe to perform. When performed correctly, you’ll be able to get exceptional results. Here’s everything you need to know to start incorporating lateral raises into your workout.

Purpose Of The Lateral Raise

Lateral raises are one of the best ways to build your strength. This is an upper-body exercise. In particular, they are focused on the head of the deltoid. Helping you build stronger shoulders.

Benefits Of Doing A Lateral Raise

There are plenty of reasons why you should consider giving the lateral raise a try:

  • Strengthening your shoulder muscles. This exercise will help you craft wider, more developed shoulders. Bodybuilders might overlook this aspect chasing flashier bicep gains.
  • Doesn’t need heavy weights. As we’ll discuss, the amount of weight you’ll need depends on your level of experience. If you are new to the world of bodybuilding, there’s no need to worry. You can still get great results if you are using lighter weights.
  • Suitable for all ages. As we get older, it can be a struggle to stand during a workout. Especially when lifting weights. There is a significant risk of losing your balance and falling over. Lateral raises alleviate this problem. They can be performed sitting down.
  • Will make other gym activities easier. Lateral raises can help you improve your overall mobility. This will make it easier for you to perform lifts. Better preparing you for presses. Strong shoulders will reduce your chances of getting injured.
  • Plenty of variety to explore. Sometimes, your workout can become a little repetitive. This isn’t going to be the case when doing a lateral raise. There are lots of variations to spice up your workout.

How To Do A Lateral Raise Properly

Now that we know a little more about the benefits of lateral raises, let’s look at how you can perform them safely.

Pick The Right Amount Of Weight

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is picking the wrong weight. This exercise doesn’t require a heavy dumbbell. Trust me, even light weights will have you feeling the strain by the end of the set. Here is a guide to how much you should be lifting, based on how experienced you are:

  • Beginners should try lifting six pounds.
  • If you are a little more experienced, increase the weight to 12 pounds.
  • Intermediate lifters can increase the weight to 20 pounds.
  • If you are an experienced user, try starting by lifting 31 pounds.

These are just general guidelines. Always listen to your body. If you are unable to keep the right form, it’s time to drop the weight. On the other hand, you might find that you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. Barely breaking a sweat. Time to use a heavier dumbbell. After a few sessions, you should be able to find the right level for you.

Get The Right Stance

Once you’ve got the right dumbbells, it’s time to start the exercise. This is what the correct stance should look like:

  • Begin with a straight back
  • Hold the weights by your side. Your palms should be facing towards you.
  • Your feet should be hip-width apart
  • Look forward as you roll your shoulders back. This should engage your core.

This should be a relaxed starting position. You shouldn’t be placing too much stress on your body.

Perform The Lateral Raise

Now it’s time to perform the exercise. Here is how you can do this:

  1. Raise your arms a few inches.
  2. Pause for a few moments. This will engage your deltoid muscles. Allowing you to target your shoulders.
  3. Breathe in while you do the raise, to engage your core.
  4. Lift the weights, keeping your arms straight. You need to stop when the arms reach your shoulder height. This should form a T shape.
  5. Hold this position for a second or two. Allowing yourself to feel the burn as you work your muscles.
  6. Slowly lower your hands back to your sides. As you do this breathe out. This is one rep.

Tips To Help You Improve Your Form

Lateral raises are fairly straightforward. But you are still working with weights. Get the form wrong and you risk a serious injury. Here are some ways to make sure you are doing it right:

  • Rely on muscles, not momentum. This is a particularly common mistake to make towards the end of your set when you start to get tired. You might notice that you are trying to swing the weights higher. Instead of using a controlled lift. At this stage, it’s best to stop. Take a break. Then, you can try the lift again.
  • Bending your elbows or back. These are common signs that you are struggling to lift the weight. It’s a good idea to switch to a lower weight. Then, try again.
  • Keep looking forward. It can be tempting to drop your head. Particularly when you start to feel the strain at the end of the set. But this is a mistake. It’ll take the pressure off your shoulders. Limiting how effective the exercise will be.
  • Raising your arms too high. At the top of your lateral raises, you want to form a T shape. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle. If you go higher than this, there is a strong chance that you will injure yourself.

When you perform a new exercise, you can ask a friend to watch your form. They’ll tell you if slip into bad habits. If you don’t have a friend to watch you, perform the exercise in front of the mirror. This is a chance to monitor your form.

The good news is that lateral raises are considered some of the safest exercises you can do. But if you do experience any sharp pain, it’s time to stop the exercise. You can try doing it with a bent elbow to see if that relieves the issue. If it doesn’t, you might have strained something. That’s a sign to stop the workout and give your body some time to recover.

Variations You Can Explore

Once you’ve mastered the basic lateral raise, there are some other variations that you can explore. These include:

  • Sitting down. You don’t need to stand up to do a lateral raise. You can perform them from the comfort of a chair. Or a gym bench. Just make sure that you are sitting with your back straight.
  • Single arm raise. Many people prefer to lift both weights at the same time. But, if you prefer, you can switch things up. Doing it one arm at a time.
  • Use resistance bands instead of weights. You can also try using resistance bands instead of weights. The type of resistance band you use will determine how much pressure is applied to the muscle.
  • Use kettlebells instead of dumbbells. This variation will make the move more challenging for more experienced users. The kettlebells have a more uneven distribution. Balancing the weight requires you to engage your shoulders.
  • Use a cable. If you want to really feel the burn, you can use a cable machine at the gym. You can do the standard lateral raise. Or use the machine for the reverse flyer.
  • Do a reverse flyer. This is a way to target your rear delts. To do this, you’ll need to bend over. Torso parallel to the floor. Start with the dumbbells hanging straight down, in front of your chest. Slowly raise your arms. Stop when they are parallel with your body. Don’t bend your elbows. When parallel, hang on for a few seconds. Then slowly drop your arms, until they are straight in front of your chest. Finishing the rep.

This can be a challenging activity for beginners. You don’t want to bend your back. The best way to prevent this is by bending over a bench. Giving you something flat to rest your body against.

  • Front raises. This spin on lateral raises allows you to focus on your front delts. These are the muscles that we use when pushing. Which might be easier for bodybuilders, who do a lot of these movements. The basics are the same as the classic lateral raise. Hold the dumbbells in your hand. Keep your arm straight. Raise them until they are parallel in front of you. Don’t bend your elbows. Hold for a few moments. Then, slowly lower them. This counts as one rep.

Whatever approach you take, don’t forget about the basics. Take some time to warm up and cool down. Giving your muscles a chance to prepare for the intense workout to come. Reducing the risk that you will injure yourself.

Creating A Lateral Raise Exercise Routine

Once you’ve mastered the basic form, it’s time to put it into your exercise routine. You should aim for between eight to 13 reps per set. Repeat this for two to three sets. Make sure to give yourself some time to rest between each set.

You can do this exercise multiple times each week. Boosting the size of your delts. Just make sure to space out the workouts. Give yourself a few days to recover before you try the lift again.

Where the lateral raise fits into your overall workout depends on the outcome you want to achieve. Here are some workout ideas for you to mull over:

  • Superset shoulder workout. This is a good way for experienced users to strengthen their shoulders. Start with a few compound lifts. Then, switch to lighter weights. Focus on more targeted exercises. Lateral raises are perfect. Hitting your shoulder muscles from all angles.
  • Dumbbell shoulder workout. Incorporate the lateral raise as part of a series of moves. Each one focused on building strength in your shoulders. Limit the amount of rest that you take between each set.

Other Exercises To Help You Build Strength

Learning a lateral raise is a good option. But it isn’t the only way to work your deltoids and build strength in your shoulders. Here are some of the other things you can try:

  • Seated military press. This is an easy method to build strength in your shoulders and upper body. It’ll also target your lower back. To perform it, you’ll need to sit with your back straight. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height, with your elbows bent. Lift the dumbbells, until they are over your head. Hold them there for a moment. Then, slowly bring them down until they are at shoulder height. This counts as one rep.

There are a few variations of this exercise to explore. First, you can do it while standing up. Just remember to keep your back straight and your head facing forward.

  • Dumbbell plank. If you are an experienced bodybuilder looking for a challenge, this could be ideal. It’ll work all parts of your upper body. Especially the shoulders and the core. To do it, you’ll need to get into the plank position. Placing a dumbbell in each hand. Then, lift one dumbbell off the ground. Hold it straight in front of you. Repeat the process with the other hand. This counts as one rep. If you want to make this move even harder, bring your legs closer together. Forcing your core to work harder to stabilize your body.
  • Resistance band pull. This is a simple move. Even beginners can master it. Hold a resistance band parallel in front of you. Keeping your elbows straight, pull the band apart. Hold it for a second. Let go and return to the starting position. This is one rep.


The lateral raise is a vital part of any workout plan. The best part of this exercise is how simple it is. You can perform it without needing bulky gym equipment. Also, it is very easy to learn and very effective at targeting your delts. So, give it a try today and feel the effects for yourself.