If you're looking to build big aesthetic shoulders, there's one exercise that you have to include in your routine - lateral raises.

That's because lateral raises are an exercise that primarily works the side deltoid muscles. Having developed side deltoids help you give that chiseled look to your shoulders.

There are numerous different ways to perform lateral raises, and each method has its benefits. You can use dumbbells, cables, or even resistance bands.

This article will take you through everything you need to know about lateral raises. We'll discuss how to perform the exercise, give some tips to improve your form, and take a look at which muscles it works.

So, if you are ready to build 3D Shoulders, let's get started!

What are Lateral Raises?

Lateral raises are a popular isolation exercise that targets the side part of the deltoids. It's hands down one of the most effective exercises if you're looking to create chiseled shoulders.

You'll see that it gets included in pretty much anyone's shoulder workout routine. It's also worth mentioning that it's a simple exercise that is easy to master, meaning you won't have to spend a lot of time nailing down your form.

If you are not already using lateral raises as a part of your shoulder workout, we highly recommend adding the movement to your routine.

Continue reading as we show you the different types of lateral raises you can do.

The Different Types of Lateral Raises

You can perform two types of lateral raises: dumbbell lateral raises and cable lateral raises. Both these are great and easy to perform.

We're convinced that these two options are the most effective, and you can choose which one you want to incorporate into your routine. We like switching it up every now and then to keep surprising the muscles.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Dumbbell lateral raises are the most common variation of the exercise and are typically done with one weight in each hand.

To properly perform lateral dumbbell raises:

  1. Start by standing with your feet positioned roughly shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Keep your abdomen tight and engaged while raising your arms out the sides until they are roughly parallel with the ground.
  3. Slowly lower your arms down to the starting position while controlling the motion throughout.
  4. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

Common Mistakes: Avoid swinging your arms as you lift the weights and, instead, focus on using your shoulder muscles to raise your arms in a controlled manner. Jerking or swinging the dumbbells uncontrollably can injure your shoulder socket and tear a ligament.

Cable Lateral Raises

Cable lateral raises are very similar to dumbbell lateral raises, except that you use a weight machine with cables instead of dumbbells. This version is excellent for keeping tension on the delts.

It's also useful for people who have trouble maintaining good form with dumbbells because the machine provides extra stability.

To properly perform lateral raises with a cable machine:

  1. Set the cable machine all the way down so that the handle hangs at your waist level, and stand with your feet spread about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab the cable handles with your palms facing down and your arms extended straight out in front of you.
  3. Keeping your palms facing down, raise your arms out to the sides until they are parallel with the ground.
  4. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position while maintaining control throughout the entire motion.
  5. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

Common Mistakes: Don't arch your back as you raise your arms or swing your torso from side to side. You want to maintain good posture throughout the exercise and move in a controlled manner. Allowing the weight to overtake you can lead to back pain and injuries.

Which Muscles Are Worked with Lateral Raises?

Lateral raises primarily work the side deltoids, which are the large muscle groups on the top and sides of your shoulders.

As you lift your arms out to the sides in a lateral raise, your delts flex (or contract), working against gravity to move your arms up.

This movement works all three heads of the deltoid, which are the front (anterior), side (lateral), and rear (posterior) - but it hits the lateral head the hardest.

In addition to targeting your shoulder muscles, lateral raises also engage other upper-body muscles, including the Trapezius, Supraspinatus, and the Serratus anterior.

Should You Include Lateral Raises in Your Routine?

Yes, absolutely! Lateral raises are an excellent exercise, and we consider it a staple movement that has to be included in your routine. Many people perform this movement on push day.

Of course, you shouldn't rely solely on lateral raises when it comes to training your shoulders. Your shoulder workout routine should hit all three heads of the deltoids - front, side, and rear.

The best way to do this is to include a variety of shoulder exercises in your routine that target all three muscle groups.

In addition to lateral raises, we recommend adding overhead press, front raises, and rear delt flyes to your routine. Of course, these are just a few examples of effective movements you can do; there are many other exercises.

By including a variety of exercises, you can make sure you are hitting the delts from every angle possible. That will make sure you get big and balanced shoulders.

Our Tips for Performing Lateral Raises

If you've never done lateral raises in your shoulder routine or struggle to really feel the exercise - we can offer a few tips to help you get the most out of the movement.

Check out our tips below and give them a try the next time you do lateral raises.

Use Proper Form

One of the most important things to remember when performing lateral raises is to use proper form. Earlier in this article, we've shown you exactly how to do lateral raises with correct form, so make sure you follow those instructions.

This means maintaining good posture throughout the entire exercise and avoiding any jerking or swinging motions. You want to activate the side deltoid - you don't want your trapezius or other muscle groups to take over.

If you are struggling to maintain good posture, try the following:

  1. Focus your attention on the side deltoids to strengthen your mind-muscle connection. The more you feel the motion, the more you'll be able to control it.
  2. Go slow and make sure to perform the entire range of motion of the movement.
  3. Breath with every rep. Keeping your breath in line with your movements will help ensure that your muscles are getting the right amount of oxygen.

So, with proper control already on the mind, that brings us to our next tip.

Use a Controllable Weight

Lateral raises are a great exercise, but it's important to use a controllable weight. Using light to moderate weight will help you focus on using your shoulder muscles to move the weight instead of relying on momentum.

Swinging heavy weight won't optimally activate your side deltoids. We recommend starting light and gradually increasing the weight until you find a challenging but manageable weight that you can perform for at least 12 reps.

Once it becomes too easy and you're easily hitting your rep goals, you can consider slightly increasing weight.

Try Out High Repetitions

Another tip we recommend you to try out is to do high repetitions when doing your lateral raises.

Don't be afraid to hit between 15 to 20 repetitions in one set. Doing so will emphasize the side delts. Remember, it's an isolation movement, not a compound movement.

You don't have to do each set high reps - you can incorporate one or two sets where you do 15 to 20 reps after you've done your working sets.


There's no doubt that lateral raises are an excellent exercise for targeting the side deltoids. In our opinion, they have to be included when it comes to training your shoulders.

You can choose to perform this exercise with dumbbells or with cables, whichever has your preference. Both these variations of lateral raises are great movements and easy to learn.

When performing lateral raises, always use proper form. This means maintaining good posture throughout the entire exercise and avoiding jerking or swinging motions.

And also, don't forget to try some of the tips we've shown you!

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