How To Do The Dumbbell Lateral Raise: The Complete Guide

The Dumbbell Lateral Raise is an excellent exercise that targets your Medial Deltoids(Side Delts) as the primary muscle group and the Anterior (front) Deltoid, Posterior (back) Deltoid, Upper Trap, Supraspinatus (a Rotator Cuff muscle) and Serratus Anterior (muscles along your ribs under your armpit) also contribute to the movement.

It is an excellent exercises that gets you wide shoulders which enhance the v-shape of the torso. Having said that, this is also one of the most controversial exercises of all time where everyone seems to have a different and correct way of doing it which leads to all kinds of shoulder impingement and rotator cuff issues. In this article, I will go over on how to correctly perform Dumbbell Lateral Raises without messing up your shoulders.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Photo by Derwin Edwards from Pexels

Learning The Dumbbell Lateral Raise

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them right in front of your torso, about 20 – 30 degrees, your palms should be facing each other.
  2. Now, raise the dumbbells with a slight bend in your elbows and your thumbs should be facing upwards.
  3. As soon as your arms are horizontal to the floor, pause, and start lowering the dumbbells to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions with controlled movements and proper mind-muscle connection.


  1. Do Not Swing – A lot of people in the gym swing their torso back and forth so as to lift a heavier weight. Do not do this, this is an isolation exercise so you should be focusing on the squeeze and a proper mind muscle connection with a relatively lighter weight. If you keep on swinging your torso to complete the repetitions, you are not taking the full benefits that the exercise has to offer. So consider squeezing your Glutes and tightening your abs while doing this exercise as it will help in keeping the torso stable.
  2. Do Not Put Dumbbells On The Sides – Instead, you want to work the lateral raise in what is called the “scapular plane.” That is about 20 to 30 degrees in front of your torso, so your arms are at a slight angle when you’re raising the weight. You will still get plenty of work for the lateral heads of your shoulders, but you are working at an angle that makes stuff far easier on your rotator cuff tendons.
  3. Do Not Pour Water From The Pitcher – You will listen a lot of people telling you to keep your pinkies up as you get your arms to the top of the motion, do not do this, you are closing down the space between your shoulder bone and your clavicle and opening the door for shoulder impingement issues. A far better way is to turn your thumbs up as your arms get parallel to get ground as it will externally rotate your shoulders which opens space for your rotator cuff tendon to move.

This is everything that you need to know the next time you are going to perform the side lateral raises. Always make safety a priority before performing the exercises in the gym and always warm up before lifting weights.



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