Dumbbell Lateral Raise Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameDumbbell Lateral Raise
Also CalledSide Lateral Raise, Side Raise
Primary MusclesShoulders (Lateral Deltoid)
Secondary MusclesShoulder (Rear Deltoid)
Required EquipmentDumbbell
Rep Range8-15
VariationsOne Arm Lateral Raise, Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise
AlternativesUpright Row, Dumbbell Raise

Dumbbell Lateral Raise Instructions

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

Swinging torso backAvoid 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 elbowsEnsure 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 rotationAs 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.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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