How to Do Lateral Raises

How to Do Lateral Raises

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The side delts add definition to the shoulder.

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Training the shoulders to create a developed and rounded look means focusing on the lateral deltoid, one of the three heads in the deltoid muscle group. The deltoids serve to lift and rotate your arms. The lateral deltoid, or side deltoid as it is also called, separates the biceps and triceps, giving your shoulder an appearance of width and helping to enhance the overall muscular look of your arms. Lateral raises, performed with an upright torso, isolate and work the lateral deltoid.


Warm up with 10 minutes of light or moderate cardiovascular activity, such as climbing stairs, brisk walking or jogging. Perform eight to 10 pushups to activate your shoulders.


Choose a dumbbell weight that allows you to fatigue between eight and 12 repetitions; fatigue is when you are not able to perform another rep with proper form. Start with lighter weights if you are new to lateral raises, such as 5 or 7 pounds; increase the resistance gradually as you acclimate to the movements of the exercise. Perform lateral raises toward the end of your shoulder workout since they are an isolation exercise. Isolation exercises should follow compound moves, such as pushups or shoulder presses.


Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip. Stand tall with your feet separated slightly wider than hip width apart. Hang the dumbbells by your sides. Elongate your spine, contract your abdominal muscles and push your shoulder blades down and away from your ears.


Raise the dumbbells up and out to the side, stopping when your upper arms reach shoulder height and are parallel to the floor. Avoid raising your hands higher than your shoulders, which can place stress on the rotator cuff and possibly lead to an injury.


Hold the contraction for one count and lower the dumbbells to starting position. Complete three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Things Needed

  • Dumbbell set, resistance bands or kettlebell


  • Keep your torso upright to target the lateral deltoids. Bending forward, as is sometimes seen, will place the stress on the front, or anterior, deltoids and compromise the development of the side delts.
  • Substitute resistance bands or kettlebells for dumbbells to vary the exercise. For resistance bands, stand on the center of the band with a handle in each hand, palms facing in. Lift your hands up and to the sides until your arms are parallel to the floor.
  • Maintain a neutral grip on the dumbbells to avoid raising your hands above the wrists.
  • Allow at least 48 hours between shoulder workouts for rest and recovery.


  • Avoid using dumbbells that are too heavy for your fitness level. Lateral raises are an isolation exercise targeting one part of the deltoid muscle; focus on the contraction rather than lifting a large amount of weight.
  • Consult with your physician before starting a new fitness program. Let your doctor know if you have any shoulder or lower or upper back injuries or conditions that may be affected by performing lateral raises.


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