Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Introduction to Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Lateral dumbbell raises target the muscles responsible for drawing the arm away from the body. They are a must for anyone wishing to build large, rounded shoulders, and increase the width of their frame. Lateral dumbbell raises can also make the waist appear smaller.

Unlike the dumbbell shoulder press, which targets many different muscles, lateral dumbbell raises are an isolation exercise which target only specific shoulder muscles. Therefore they must be combined with other exercises to form an overall shoulder workout.


  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and a micro-bend in the knees. Lean slightly forward.
  • Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing inwards. There should be a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Under the control of the lateral deltoids, raise your arms until your elbows are at shoulder height.
  • Ensure that the elbows remain above, or level with, the wrists.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Muscles Worked

Lateral Dumbbell Raises Muscles WorkedPrimary

Lateral Deltoids.


Anterior Deltoid, Trapezius, Serratus Anterior, Supraspinatus, Brachioradialis.









  • Ensure that the elbows remain above the wrists at the top of lateral dumbbell raises. If the elbows drop below the wrists, the majority of the tension will be transferred onto the anterior deltoids.
  • It is important that the torso leans forward slightly during lateral dumbbell raises, so that tension is targetted to the lateral deltoids.
  • Avoid swinging the weights as this introduces momentum and relieves the tension from the shoulder muscles.
  • As with all exercises, concentrate on good form before attempting to use heavier weights.
  • Keep the lateral deltoids under tension for the duration of your set. Don’t allow the dumbbells to come into contact with your body at the bottom of this exercise.

Common Errors with Lateral Dumbbell Raises

  • ‘Throwing’ dumbbells up. This decreases the involvement of the deltoids, especially where a sudden extension of the hip or spine is used to induce the momentum.
  • Excessive extension of the shoulders. Where the elbows are positioned behind the shoulders at the top of lateral dumbbell raises, the shoulders are considered to be over extended. In this case, tension on the lateral deltoid is likely to be lessened.
  • Not leaning the torso forward at the waist. This shifts the emphasis onto the anterior deltoids unless the shoulders are subject to extreme rotation.

Preventing Injuries From Lateral Dumbbell Raises

The shoulders are the main fulcrum in the majority of all upper body exercises. If they become injured, you can safely say it will be game over. Avoid causing injuries to the shoulder by considering the following:

  • Always carry out an adequate warm up. This doesn’t mean swing your arms around for 30 seconds before you start shoulder pressing. Make sure the shoulders are suitably warmed up before you put them under any kind of stress.
  • Don’t neglect the rotator cuffs. Training the deltoids can result in weak rotator cuffs, which the deltoids will have to compensate for. The rotator cuffs can be strengthened by doing upward and outward rotations with light dumbbells or resistance bands.
  • Avoid musular imbalances. If one or more heads of the deltoids are trained more often than others, you will develop a muscular imbalance. For example, if the rear deltoids are neglected and the anterior deltoids become stronger, it is highly likely that you will experience shoulder pain/twinges.

Photo Credit: Everkinetic

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