How to Do a Lateral Raise

This is a shoulder strengthening exercise that requires the weights to be lifted out to the sides of the body to form a T shape. The movement very specifically targets the lateral and anterior heads of the deltoids (shoulders). As an isolation exercise, the lateral raise can help to correct any weakness in the shoulders that you may be experiencing.

Strengthening the deltoids can help to stabilize the rotator cuff in the shoulder and lead to overall stronger and more flexible shoulders. Lateral raises can help increase range of motion in the shoulders and assist with everyday activities such as picking up and carrying heavy loads.

How To

  • To begin, pick up your weights and stand with feet firmly planted on the floor at about hip width apart. Stand up straight with shoulders back, and engage your core. Hold the weights at your side with thumbs facing forward and palms facing the body.
  • Raise the arms just a couple of inches out from the body. Pause here for a second. This pause disengages the trapezius, allowing the deltoids to do most of the work.
  • Now inhale as you slowly raise your arms up to about shoulder height. Keep the arms as straight as possible without locking the elbows. At the top of the movement your body should be creating a “T” shape.
  • To complete the exercise, exhale as you very slowly lower the weights back down to your sides. You should aim to lower the weights twice as slowly as you lifted them.  


Aim for 10 – 12 repetitions at a time. Keep in mind that you want to be able to complete all repetitions with perfect form. If your form begins to fail, either switch to lighter weights or reduce the number of repetitions.


Bent arm raises: Bending your arms during this exercise results in the weights being close to the body, ultimately taking strain off the arm and making the maneuver easier.

Kettlebell raises: To increase the difficulty, try using kettlebells instead of dumbbells. Keep the same grip on your kettlebells, with thumbs pointed forward and palms facing each other. The uneven distribution of weight in the kettlebell forces you to engage your muscles more to complete the exercise with good form.

Seated raises: For those unable to stand or simply needing to give their lower body a break, this exercise can be performed from a seated position. Just make sure to maintain a straight back and avoid slouching or arching the back.

Resistance band: If you don’t have weights, a resistance band work perfectly well for this exercise. Stand on the middle of the band and take the ends in your hands remembering to keep thumbs facing forward. You may have to play around with where you hold the band in order to get the right tension.

Cautionary notes

Don’t use momentum to perform the lift. If you need momentum, you may need to look at decreasing your weights.

The fact that this exercise targets a very specific group of muscles, and those muscles are working independent of each other, means that lighter weights are always the better choice. You should not be working towards failing at the end of the exercise.

Although generally a safe exercise to do, discontinue the exercise if you feel any sharp pains in the shoulders or arms. You can try the bent arm variation to see if that helps, but otherwise its best to stop and consult your doctor before continuing.

Othe Great Deltoid Exercises

Front Raise
Military Press
Rear delt raise
Shoulder press
Upright row

More Lateral Raise Related Resources

The Lateral Raise: How To Do It And Five Top Form Tips | Coach
How to Properly Execute a Dumbbell Lateral Raise | Muscle & Fitness
How to Do Lateral Raises – The Best Variation for Lateral Raise Workout Move
Side Lateral Raise | Exercise Videos & Guides |
How To Do Lateral Raises – Get Healthy U
Dumbbell lateral raise exercise guide and video | Weight Training Guide

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