Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Exercise Name:
Name: Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Also Called: Side Lateral Raise, Side Raise
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Shoulders (lateral deltoids)
Function: Strength
Mechanics: Isolation
Force: Pull
Main: Dumbbell
Ancillary: None
Optional: None
Experience: Beginner
Rep Range: 8-15
Training Tempo: 2 – 1 – 1 – 0
Related Exercises:
Variations: One Arm Lateral Raise, Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Alternatives: Upright Row, Dumbbell Raise

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Grasp dumbbells with a neutral (palms in), overhand grip.
  • Stand with feet hip width apart or just a bit wider.
  • Bend over slightly at the waist; let hang arms down.
  • Hold dumbbells at thighs with elbows slightly bent.
  • Keep a neutral spine position for the duration of the set.

2. Concentric Repetition

  • Abduct shoulders (lift arms to sides) until each shoulder and elbow align horizontally. Height of wrists should be just below that of the elbows.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause briefly and squeeze the lateral deltoids with emphasis.

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Lower arms back down into the starting position.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the motion for the number of reps left in the set.
  • The dumbbell lateral raise yields the best results in the 8-15 rep range.

Common Dumbbell Lateral Raise Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Swinging torso back Avoid the temptation of swinging to garner momentum. Stay focused on remaining slightly bent over. Don’t extend your back or thrust your hips forward. NOTE: “Controlled cheating” can be effective in some scenarios, but it’s an advanced technique.
Wrists higher than elbows Ensure your elbows always higher than your wrists at every point in the movement. Don’t rotate externally rotate your shoulders, as this causes the elbows to point down and the wrists to rise above them. This results in the front delts taking over, and the side delts getting almost no work.
Too much internal shoulder rotation As you reach the top of the motion, there should be slight internal rotation to bring the elbows barely above the wrists. Further rotation causes the elbows to point toward the ceiling; forearms toward the floor. This shifts attention away from the lateral delts, and strains the shoulder joint. So, keep your elbows pointed to the rear, and forearms just below parallel to the floor.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise Tips

  1. Rotate wrists internally (pinky-side up, thumb-side down) as you complete the concentric rep. Pretend like you’re holding a milk jug in each hand and are slowly pouring them out at the top of the motion.
  2. Try using a thumbless grip. Some people find that this lets them raise their arms into position more easily. Whereas, a regular grip restricts their wrist rotation and/or shoulder movement.
  3. Try holding the dumbbell diagonally across your hand. That is, with one end near the pinky’s tip; the other end at the thumb’s base (or below the thumb if using a thumbless grip). This facilitates wrist rotation and shoulder abduction.
  4. It’s important to focus on using the lateral delts to perform the movement, since it’s easy to accidentally cheat by using momentum or the front delts to perform the movement.
  5. Don’t bounce the dumbbells off each other at the bottom of the rep, as this can provide momentum for the next rep.
  6. Don’t let the dumbbells touch your thighs at the bottom of the rep, as doing so allows the shoulders to rest.
  7. Transition immediately from one rep to the next. In other words, don’t pause to rest at the bottom of the motion. This way, the delts work extra hard to stop, then immediately reverse and accelerate the weight.
  8. You’ll have to resort to “controlled cheating,” eventually, to progress to heavier dumbbells. Since this is an isolation movement with a long range of motion, you can only progress so far using strict form. You must compromise your form in a safe and intelligent way to get beyond this plateau. The best way is to generate momentum by subtly extending your hips and back.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The dumbbell lateral raise is best suited for experienced trainees seeking to increase shoulder breadth and build a more “capped” deltoid shape.

It’s a waste of time for beginners if they’re doing it for the aforementioned purposes (outer deltoids development).

It is only justified for a beginner to do this movement is if it’s one of a handful of isolation exercises done “for fun,” which encourages adherance to training.

Still think you’re a good candidate for this exercise? The only reason to avoid it would be if you have any shoulder issues that could likely be aggrevated…

…However, even if have a troublesome shoulder problem, a potential solution is to modify the technique: Bend your elbows to form a “V” with your arms and bring the dumbbells closer to your center.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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