Lateral Raises

Lateral Raises: A Guide to Perfect Form and Techniques

Lateral raises are a powerful workout that can significantly enhance the width and definition of your shoulder muscles. When performed correctly and regularly, they build muscle mass and strength, specifically targeting the shoulders. Today's guide will walk you through the advantages, right techniques, variations, and common mistakes to avoid, ensuring you get the most out of your lateral raises workout.

Why Lateral Raises Are Essential

Lateral raises are particularly effective for developing the outer part of your shoulders, leading to a more pronounced and rounded shoulder appearance. This exercise isolates the lateral deltoids, helping optimize growth in this area. By incorporating lateral raises into your workout routine, you not only improve your aesthetics but also enhance your shoulder's mobility, stability, and range of motion, which are crucial for other upper body exercises such as presses and lifts.

Lateral Raises

Key Benefits Of Lateral Raises

Here are the top 4 benefits of Lateral Raises exercise:

1. Targeted Muscle Growth

Lateral raises are designed to target and isolate the lateral deltoids, often underworked in general shoulder workouts. This targeted approach ensures optimal muscle growth and strength in the shoulder region.

2. Enhanced Shoulder Aesthetics

Regularly performing lateral raises will help you achieve well-defined shoulders and upper arms, giving them a broader and more rounded appearance.

3. Improved Mobility And Stability

This exercise improves shoulder mobility and stability, making performing other upper-body movements easier. Increased stability also reduces the risk of injury during different activities.

4. Balanced Muscle Development

Lateral raises allow for independent arm movement, which corrects muscle imbalances between the left side and right side. This balanced development is essential for preventing injury and ensuring symmetrical muscle growth.

Lateral Raises

How To Perform Lateral Raises: Step-By-Step Guide

You don't need much equipment or space to perform lateral raises—just a set of dumbbells and enough room to extend your arms. Here's how to do it:

  1. Keep your posture straight with your feet spaced about hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in both hands with your arms at your sides, palms facing inwards. Ensure your shoulders are rolled back, your core is engaged, and you look straight ahead.
  2. Slightly lift your arms to each side, pausing to disengage your trapezius muscles and focus on the deltoids.
  3. Simply raise your arms out to the sides and up to shoulder level so that your body forms a "T" shape. Keep your arms straight with a slight bend at the elbows.
  4. Hold this position for a second, ensuring your shoulders are the primary muscles engaged.
  5. Slowly lower the weights back to your sides, taking about twice as long to lift them as you did. Exhale as you lower the weights.

More Workouts To Enhance Your Muscles

Abs Workout

Pull Day Workout

Chest Workout

Calisthenics Workout

Pro Tips For Perfect Lateral Raises

  • Maintain a smooth and controlled motion, using a weight that allows you to lift without swinging or using momentum.
  • At the top of the movement, your arms should be about 20 degrees in front of your torso, not directly to the sides, to protect your rotator cuffs.
  • Lift your arms only until they are parallel with your shoulders. Lifting higher can shift the focus away from your deltoids and towards your trapezius muscles, which is not the goal of this exercise.

Variations Of Lateral Raises

Lateral raises can be adapted to target different muscle groups and accommodate various fitness levels. Here are a few variations:

Cable Lateral Raises

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Equipment: Cable pulley machine


Attach a single-hand cable to the lowest pulley setting and select an appropriate weight. Stand with your right side facing the pulley, holding the handle in your left hand.


Engage your core and lift your arm to the side, keeping a slight bend in your elbow and stopping when your arm is parallel with the floor. Ensure your arm is about 20 degrees in front of your torso. Pause, back down your arm, and repeat on the other side.

Seated Lateral Raises

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Equipment: Dumbbells, bench

Starting Position

Sit on the front of a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a weight in each hand with your palms facing each other.


Raise the dumbbells to the sides, slightly in front of your torso, until they parallel your shoulders. Pause at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

To maximize the benefits of lateral raises and avoid injuries, be mindful of these common mistakes:

Avoid Swinging

Swinging your arms or using momentum to lift the weights reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and can lead to injury. Focus on a slow, controlled lift.

Lead With Your Elbows

Lifting with your hands higher than your elbows diminishes the tension on your deltoids and reduces the range of motion. Ensure your elbows lead the movement.

Thumbs Up

Turning your thumbs down at the top of the lift can strain your rotator cuff. Keep your thumbs slightly up to promote external shoulder rotation.

Don't Lift Too High

Lifting your arms above shoulder height shifts the focus from your deltoids to your trapezius muscles, defeating the purpose of the exercise. Keep the lift at shoulder level for maximum effectiveness.


Lateral raises are an invaluable addition to any shoulder workout routine. They offer numerous benefits, from enhanced muscle definition to improved shoulder mobility and stability. You can achieve well-defined, balanced shoulders by following the correct techniques, incorporating variations, and avoiding common mistakes. Remember, consistency is a key to unlocking the full potential of lateral raises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Muscles Do Lateral Raises Target?

Lateral raises primarily work the lateral deltoid muscles, which are crucial for shoulder width and definition. Due to the nature of the movement, this exercise also engages the front deltoids and upper trapezius muscles to a lesser extent. This makes it an excellent isolation exercise for enhancing shoulder aesthetics and functionality.

Are Lateral Raises A Push Or Pull Exercise?

Lateral raises are considered a "push" exercise. Typically, pushing exercises involve movements that target the front of the body, including muscles like the anterior deltoids (front shoulders). Although lateral raises mainly focus on the side deltoids, the mechanics of the movement align more with pushing actions rather than pulling.

Are Lateral Raises Among The Hardest Exercises?

Lateral raises are challenging due to their isolated nature and the specific muscle group they target. Maintaining proper form and control without using momentum makes them one of the more difficult shoulder exercises. The challenge increases as you add more weight while ensuring precise execution.