The lateral raise can be done with dumbbells or a cable machine, but in either case it is an exercise intended to work the deltoid muscles of the shoulder. Do it wrong however, and not only could you be transferring the effort away from this area, you could be doing long-term damage to the numerous muscles of the shoulder.
What Is A Lateral Raise
The lateral raise works the deltoid muscle of the shoulder but the effort is focussed on the lateral area, which is in-between the anterior (front) and posterior (rear) deltoid. Its purpose is to raise the arm away from the body to the side (abduction). Also involved, even with correct technique, are the trapezius and anterior deltoid muscles.
The lateral raise sounds like a pretty straightforward technique – simply raise your arms to shoulder height and then lower back to the sides, but while there are a couple of slightly different ways to do it correctly there are many ways to do it wrong. The main differences you will see in the gym are the start position can be at the hips or in front of the waist, and the arms can be bent up to 90 degrees or virtually straight. Either is technically correct but one is more effective than the other.
Starting with your hands at your hips is slightly safer in terms of injury prevention during a lateral raise, but there is a greater range of movement with hands in front of the waist and with good technique elsewhere, the risk is very small. Safety is also the issue with bent or virtually straight arms because with bent arms you can lift heavier weights, but as straighter arms means a longer lever the effort and therefore the muscle tension can be the same even if using a lighter weight. This means that there is less pressure on the joints, which is an important issue at the shoulders due to the complex system of muscles and tendons that make up the shoulder joint.
Another factor with the lateral raise is that, like all other exercises that are usually done standing up, swaying back and forth during each rep makes it easy to cheat and therefore lose exercise effectiveness and increase the risk of injury. One way to avoid this is to be sat on bench but even better is to stand with your back against a wall, which is a great way to find out how strong your deltoids really are when they’re not getting help from any cheating!
How To Do A Lateral Raise
1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your knees soft and your core engaged to keep your back aligned.
2. Start with dumbbells in front of your waist and your hands facing together (palms in). Your arms should be kept straight with only a slight bend at the elbows throughout the exercise.
3. Keeping your elbows higher than your hands, raise your arms to shoulder height. This is the finish position.
4. Lower your arms back to the start position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Notes For Lateral Raise
1. While you can start with your hands close together, when lowering the weights back to this position stop just inside your hips and begin the next rep. If you allow your hands to get any closer there is no longer any tension on the shoulders and they are effectively getting a rest. Maintain tension at all times.
2. Keep your arms straight throughout with only a slight bend at the elbows.
3. Lift your arms no higher than shoulder height, where your upper arms are horizontal, as not only is this no longer working the deltoids it can lead to injury.
4. If you find it hard not to rock back and forth as you do the lateral raise, sit on a bench with your back against the pad or stand with your back against a wall.
5. Lower the bar back to the start position so that you get an eccentric contraction that takes 3 – 7 seconds depending on your training goals, until you feel a slight pull on your shoulders.
As always, any questions or feedback leave a comment below.