Dumbbell Lateral Raise for Wide Delts

If you are looking for  an exercise to sculpt your shoulders and add width to them, a properly executed dumbbell lateral raise can really be your ally. This is because dumbbell side lateral raises target the lateral head of the shoulder, also known as the side head, which greatly contributes to the width of your shoulders.

When looking to build a V-shaped physique your deltoids, specifically the side deltoids, play a crucial role. You can work your chest and arms as much as you want, but nothing looks more athletic and powerful than a set of wide shoulders. And nothing works your side shoulders like the dumbbell lateral raises. 

Even though the lateral raises look like a very easy exercise, it’s very important that you learn how to properly execute dumbbell lateral raises to minimize the risk of injury and maximize its muscle building effect.

What muscles do lateral raises work ?

The dumbbell lateral raise enhances your physique’s appearance by creating size contrasts between your shoulders, waist and hips. The primary muscles used in this movement are side deltoids (a.k.a lateral deltoids). Secondary muscles that assist the movement are rear and front deltoids, trapezius, as well as the forearms.

dumbbell lateral raise muscles worked

Besides working on the size of the shoulders, dumbbell side raises also increase the total strength of the shoulders as well as their mobility.

Dumbbell lateral raise exercise guide

1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Your feet should be a bit narrower than shoulder width apart and hands should be facing your body. Your arms should be slightly bent in the elbows and legs should be slightly bent in the knees

2. Raise your upper arms to the sides until your elbows are at shoulder height. At the top of the movement your elbows should be a bit higher than your wrists.

3. Once you reach the top position, hold for a moment and squeeze your shoulders after which you will slowly lower the weights to the starting position.

dumbbell lateral raise execution

Lateral raises useful tips:

– Lead with your pinky finger. This will increase the engagement of the side deltoid and decrease the trapezius engagement.

– Keep your elbows pointed high while you are maintaining an angle of 10-20 degrees in your elbows. Even though the exercise is called side raises (lateral raises), your arms should not be fully at your sides. To protect shoulder health your arms should be moving in, what is known as, the “scapular plane”. In other words your arms should move at an angle of 10-20 degrees in front of your torso.

– Try to execute the movement in a controlled manner, without swinging the dumbbells. Many people do the mistake of using too heavy dumbbells. This is not a compound movement, so you’ll prevent injury and benefit more from using lighter weights and using controlled, strict movement

– The arms are raised with a shoulder abduction (Lateral movement away from the mid-line of the body) instead of rotation.


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