Dumbbell Lateral Raises are one of the most effective movements you can do to target and grow the medial Deltoid head and cap off an impressive Shoulder-to-waist ratio. As with most exercises, there’s the average way of executing the movement that will gleam average results, and there’s the true way of performing the exercise to get the best results possible. In this information-filled article, we’re going to go after the latter.
Hi, I’m Psymon H., your online training partner, workout motivator, and the drive behind arguably the best muscle-building home workout program, the BIG-UP Training System. Today we’re going to cover Lateral Raises from all the best angles.
· We’ll take a quick dive into the Medial Deltoid muscle because knowledge is power and power builds muscle.
· Next, I’ll show you how to do what I call True Dumbbell Lateral Raises
· I’ll end the show by unveiling the magnificent 7 variations of lateral raises you can do to get your Delts Jacked.
All the rear delt flies you'll ever need
The Medial Deltoid originates on the acromion of your shoulder blade and inserts on your Humerus (upper arm bone). As the origin and insertion points are in line with each other, the medial head doesn’t have the same rotation role as the Anterior and Posterior deltoid. Its core functions are shoulder abduction, as well as securing your arm in place when lifting or carrying heavy loads.
Doing a Dumbbell Lateral Raise looks relatively easy; you just raise your arms out to the side and bring them back down. While this is true at a very basic level, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of to get the best out of your raise.
The first 15 degrees of abduction isn’t done by your Deltoid but instead performed by the Infraspinatus and Supraspinatus muscles of the rotator cuff, which means that you’re not getting any Deltoid action in the first portion of the movement.
It’s often in the first 15 degrees of the exercise that you see lifters dipping their knees or hinging from front to back to help get the weight moving up. While this can look mightily impressive, it can also add huge amounts of momentum to the exercise and rob the medial head of much of the work.
Cue 1: A great way to focus your mind on the medial head getting the majority share is to flare your Lats out at the start of the movement. This might feel a little strange at first, especially if you’re the only one in the gym performing the movement in this manner. Who wants to stand out for doing something different? I guess it's going to be the lifter with his/her head screwed on, and the one who realizes the benefits of doing Lateral Raises this way.
By having the dumbbells start higher and eliminating the first 15 degrees of the movement where there’s little to no medial head involvement, you will…
· Stop momentum
· Limit the involvement of the rotator cuff muscles.
· Give the medial Deltoid head more of the work
Cue 2: Before lifting the dumbbells, always brace your core muscles to add stability to the movement and lock everything into place. Moving only at the arm instead of moving the torso will also help to generate more mechanical tension in the right areas.
Cue 3: As you lift the dumbbells to shoulder height, you'll quickly realize that you’re unable to use as much weight as you would normally, which isn’t a bad thing when you consider that you can be more effective at building muscle and less prone to elbow strains.
How high Should a Lateral Raise Be?
Unless you plan to involve other muscles such as the upper back or mid and Lower Traps, don't raise the dumbbells higher than shoulder height.
It’s your choice whether you tilt the dumbbells as if you are pouring coffee. In my personal opinion, I like to do this as I feel it does add extra emphasis on the medial Deltoid. If you suffer from any shoulder impingements you may just want to keep the dumbbells level at the top of the movement.
At this point, you want to hold this top position for a second instead of racing through the movement and gathering unwanted momentum along the way.
Cue 4: Exhale and slowly lower the dumbbells to the start position. Always remember to reset yourself by starting each repetition by flaring your Lats and moving the dumbbells away from your thighs.
With all this being said, I’m not suggesting that you won’t get medial head activation when starting the movement down by your thighs; it just means that you can focus on and better target the medial Deltoid head.
Are Dumbbell Lateral Raises Push or Pull?
As the lateral raise largely targets the lateral deltoid, it would make better sense to include this movement on pushing workouts that include shoulder training.
Are Dumbbell Lateral Raises Enough for Building Complete Shoulders?
The short answer to this is no. Because of the anatomy and function of the different parts of the shoulder, all three Deltoid heads need activating in different ways to see the best results. The anterior head is activated best when the arm is raised in front of the body, the medial head activates better when the arm is raised to the side, and the Posterior head when the elbow is raised back and behind the line of the body.
Rear Delt Dumbbell Fly Your Way To A Better Rearview
If you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, I’m sure you’ve performed your fair share of the Dumbbell Lateral Raise, and at times have gotten bored of doing the same exercise. If your shoulder expansions-plans have ground to a halt or you’re tired of doing the same exercise week in and week out and you want to add variation to your Mid Deltoid work, this next section is for you. I’m now going to uncover the magnificent 7 dumbbell side raise variations you can do to blow up your shoulders.
If you like swinging the heaviest weights up with no regard for the muscle you're supposed to be working, you may not fall in love with this variation. Placing yourself on a 45-60-degree gradient and pinning your back into the bench removes most of the unwanted momentum and forces you to put more effort into raising the dumbbells with proper form and intent.
Items Needed: Incline bench and a pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Set an incline bench at a medium to high incline. Sit back with a pair of dumbbells at your side and slightly flare out your Lats.
Cue 2: Raise dumbbells to shoulder level by leading with your elbows.
Cue 3: At the top of the movement, slightly tilt the dumbbells as if you were pouring from a jug.
Focus On Rear Delt Dumbbell Work Here!
This second variation will put your Medial Delts on notice. With just a few tweaks to the setup and angle of the standard Lateral Raise, you can throw a slightly different stimulus on the muscle.
Items Needed: Incline bench and a pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Set up your bench at a high incline and sit facing and leaning on the Back of the bench. Start by flaring out your Lats and moving the dumbbells away from the side of the bench.
Cue 2: Rather than raising your dumbbells out to the side, you’re going to raise them out at a 45-degree angle in front of you to shoulder height.
Cue 3: As you reach the top of the movement, slightly tilt your dumbbells as if you are pouring coffee. Smoothly and under control, bring the dumbbells back to the start position.
Cue 4: Flare your Lats out at the start of each repetition.
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Still in the seated position, you’ll be forgiven for thinking there's nothing new to see here, move on. I want you to humor me for a second or a least until you've tried this movement. It's not until you've experienced a True Lateral Raise will you be able to appreciate the hell that can be brought to the Mid Delts using far less weight than you’re used to.
Items Needed: One pair of dumbbells and one flat bench.
Cue 1: Sit upright on a flat bench with dumbbells in hand and flare out your Lats, making sure the dumbbells are not touching your thighs or the side of the bench.
Cue 2: With almost straight arms, concentrate on smoothly leading the dumbbells up to shoulder height with your elbows, rather than throwing the weight up using momentum. At the top of the movement, pause briefly before returning to the start position.
The important note to make here is that the start position isn't by your thighs but almost halfway up. Your speed needs to be slow enough to feel the movement. If you don't suffer from any shoulder impingements, you can also aim to bring your little finger higher at the top of the movement.
For this Lateral Raise alteration, we’re going to take things to a standing position. In my Rear Delt article, I showed you how to use this Dumbbell Butterfly Raise movement to throw more emphasis on the Posterior head. Now it’s time to spotlight and cap off the medial head while throwing a little stimulus on some of the upper back muscles. This is how I want you to perform the Dumbbell Butterfly Raise...
Cue 1: Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells at your side.
Cue 2: Slowly lift the dumbbells out to shoulder height. At the top of the movement, tilt the dumbbells so your little finger is on top.
Cue 3: Instead of directly bringing the dumbbells down to your side, bring them down at a 45-degree angle in front of you as if you are performing the Butterfly stroke.
If you've never tried the Dumbbell Butterfly Raise, include it on your very next Shoulder workout.
The Dumbbell Butterfly Raise is a greaway to push blood into your shoulders
So you’re looking for a Standing Lateral Raise variation that illuminates the medial head; well let me draw your attention to the Leaning Single Arm Lateral Raise. The reason why I rate this exercise so highly is the fact that doing a single arm movement is bound to help you up your concentration levels. Add the fact that you are leaning away from the exercise means you have to lift the dumbbell that much higher to reach a 90-degree angle.
Items Needed: One dumbbell and a wall or rack to lean against.
Cue 1: Stand to the side of a wall or rack and lean on it with your shoulder. Walk your feet out to the side so they are well away from the wall or rack.
Cue 2: Start with the dumbbell about 12” from your side and slowly lift it to shoulder height. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the start position.
The art here is to make sure your feet are far enough away from the station to put you at an angle. Try not to race through the movement but instead be sure to use a slow and deliberate movement, making sure to stop the dumbbell about 12” from your side at the bottom of the movement.
You can also do this exercise by lying sideways onto an incline bench.
Do You Want 3D Delts? Look No Further!
Learn how to do the dumbbell butterfly raise here
If you love to engage with heavy iron no matter the exercise, this movement's for you. The objective here is to overload the easiest part of the exercise which is the lowest portion of the movement and only raise the dumbbells halfway up. While some may moan about it not being a full range of motion, this exercise will go a long way to helping you strengthen the beginning portion of your Lateral Raise as well as overloading and stressing your Delts.
You can do this movement with or without the addition of a resistance band. I love the band, but try it both ways and see which movement works best for you.
Items Needed: One pair of dumbbells (a light resistance band is optional).
Cue 1: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart on the resistance band. Loop your wrist inside the band and grab each dumbbell.
Cue 2: With arms straight out to the side, raise your dumbbells and band out halfway up. Bring them down under control, while maintaining a flat back.
Important Point: Make sure the dumbbells are heavy enough to put maximum stress on the muscle but not too heavy that they cause injury.
Include the dumbbell butterfly raise on your next shoulder workout
If you're an ego-lifter, this side raise deviation is likely to crush your soul. Forget about how much you can normally lift because, with this exercise, you're going to need to be at the lighter end of the dumbbell rack. At the top of the movement, not only will you be fighting gravity from each dumbbell, but you'll also have the ascending tension from the band to deal with.
Items Needed: Light resistance band and one pair of dumbbells
Cue 1: Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and place one end of a light band underneath your feet. Make sure the band is secure and that it won’t fly up and hit you in the face once you apply tension.
Cue 2: Grab two dumbbells with a palm-in grip and slip your hands underneath the loose end of the band.
Add Rear Delt Flies, & Now We've Got A Serious Workout!
Cue 3: Maintain a slight bend at the elbows. Start with your hands by your side and slowly raise the bell/band combo in a lateral motion until the dumbbells are almost in line with your Deltoids.
Cue 4: Slowly lower each dumbbell back to the start of the movement.
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