Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

Image of how to do Side lateral raises


Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Shoulders

Equipment: Resistance Band or Dumbbell

Level: Beginner

What are Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises?

Side lateral raises or also know as dumbbell side lateral raises are a very effective shoulder-strengthening movement which is designed to isolate the lateral head of the deltoid muscle. When performed regularly, this exercise can help you develop stronger, broader shoulders. All you need is a pair of light dumbbells and enough shoulder flexibility to lift the weights out and away from your body until they form a “T” shape at your shoulders.

Lateral raises should be incorporated into upper-body strength training routines, and they should be performed after compound exercises that involve the shoulder, such as incline dumbbell press, shoulder press, pushups, or pull-ups.

If you need a dumbbell one can be purchased here: Dumbbells

Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

Side Lateral Raises Muscles Worked

primary: whole of the deltoid
secondary: Trapezius

Benefits of Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

Greater Control of Full Range of Motion

When looking at movement coordination/control and injury prevention, Lateral raises allow a lifter to promote loaded movement throughout a wide range of motion. By developing the ability to contract at varying speeds, promote force, and have the awareness to move the arms and shoulder joint throughout both sides of the body can help to diversify one’s fitness and increase injury resistance. Lateral raises, in combination with other angular movements such as front and varied angles are a great way to stimulate new movement coordination and awareness.

Correct Muscle Imbalances

You may find that some muscle groups are lacking and need to be addressed, which can be difficult at times when the muscles that are failing are small and often overshadowed by larger muscles groups. By confronting the shoulders with specific movements like the side lateral raises, we can specify our shoulder training to increase muscle hypertrophy, control, and develop weaker groups that may be shadowed by the upper pectorals and triceps during movements like the overhead strict press.

Muscle Hypertrophy

Side lateral raises have been a staple movement for bodybuilders looking to add quality shoulder size and width to their frames, and for good reason. The lateral raise is one of the few movements that can hit all Muscles of the deltoid, based on the slightest of angles taken during the lateral raise and in turn increasing shoulder size and growth (hypertrophy) which is key to any strength, power, and fitness athlete as it allows the newly built muscle fibers to learn skills like force production, movement integrity, and how to contribute greater amounts of strength to bigger lifts like presses such as the bench press.

How to do Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

Side Lateral Raises

    If you need a dumbbell one can be purchased here: Dumbbells

  1. 1. Stand tall, a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, your palms facing in. Position your feet roughly hip-distance apart. Check your posture—roll your shoulders back, engage your core, and look straight ahead.
  2. 2.Raise your arms simultaneously just a couple inches out to each side and pause. This momentary pause should help ensure you disengage your trapezius muscle from the movement, targeting the deltoids as intended.
  3. 3. Lift the dumbbells up and out to each side, keeping your arms almost completely straight, stopping when your elbows reach shoulder-height, and your body is forming a “T” shape. Breathe in as you lift the dumbbells.
  4. 4. Pause and hold for a second at the top of the movement.
  5. 5. Lower the weights slowly (take about twice as long to lower the weights as you took to lift them), bringing your arms back to your sides. Breathe out as you lower the dumbbells.

Repeat for desired reps


  1. 1. Side lateral raises are one of those exercises that so many people do incorrectly. First, this is an isolation exercise, so you should be focusing on stretch and muscle contraction, not using heavy weights.
  2. 2. Second, you MUST keep your rep timing slow and controlled. So many people use momentum to swing heavy weights up, and this is not going to get you the best results from the dumbbell lateral raise.
  3. 3. Third, it very important that your elbows stay above your wrists. If your wrists come up too far, the focus comes off your side delts and onto your front delts. A good trick to ensure this does not happen is to tilt the dumbbells down as if you were pouring a jug of water as you raise them up. This makes it very hard to raise the wrists higher than the elbows.
  4. 4. And finally, keep the side delts under stress for the whole set by not allowing the dumbbells to touch your body or “hang” at the bottom of the movement.

Mistakes commonly made in the Dumbbell side lateral raise


When performing the side lateral raise you should not move or sway, you should always keep a stationary and strong form. If you sway or find that you are moving back onto your heels in order to complete the exercise, then this could be an indicator that the weights you are using are most likely too heavy.


When performing the side lateral raise do not use your momentum to lift the weights as this actually reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Quickly moving the weights allows momentum to reduce the tension within the muscles, especially at the top of the lift which reduces how much your muscles end up working in the exercise.

Too Heavy Weights

The side lateral raise is targeting each side of your body independently (unilaterally) due to the dumbbells being in each hand. This means that you need to select a lighter weight than you might use for exercises which require barbells and use your combined strength of both arms.

It’s always better to start with a lighter weight and adjust to your maximum weight further into your sets than to start with a weight that’s too heavy. When you use too much weight, you are more likely to perform the exercise with unwanted momentum or poor form that could leave you vulnerable to potential injuries.

Bent Back

It is important that when performing the side lateral raise that you should keep your back straight and brace your abs throughout the exercise instead of performing with a rounded back and careless abs.

Safety when performing Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

Selecting the correct weight is the best thing you can do to prevent injury while performing the dumbbell side lateral raise and in fact every other exercise for that matter.

The dumbbell side lateral raise is a generally safe movement, but if at any point during the exercise you feel a sudden or sharp pain, stop your reps and if the pain persists then stop the exercise for the day.

Variations of Side Lateral Raises

Resistance band lateral raise

Side lateral raises are a great exercise to use resistance bands for, because you don’t need much weight to get great results and the bands will provide more of a challenge at the top of the lift. It’s also a gentler option on your joints if you’re worried about any shoulder injuries and, of course, using easily-portable bands mean you can get a spot of lateral raising whenever and wherever the mood takes you.

Side Lateral Raise with Resistance Band

    If you need a resistance band a high quality one can be purchased from here: Resistance band

  1. 1. Place your left foot onto the middle of a resistance band. Step forward with the right. Tighten your abdominals and avoid arching your back.
  2. 2. Maintaining a slight bend in the elbows at all times, slowly raise your arms up from the sides of your body. Be sure to favor the front as you lift.
  3. 3. Once your arms reach parallel with the floor, pause, feel the contraction, and slowly lower back down.
  4. Repeat for desired reps

Write below in the comments your opinion on the dumbbell side lateral raise, if it works for you and any questions you might have.

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