Dumbbell Lateral Raises for Shoulder Workout

Don't get fooled by the secondary muscles that take part in dumbbell lateral raises, it is still an isolation exercise for shoulders.

Shoulder muscles can be divided into three areas (anterior, lateral, posterior) and this exercise is the one I prefer for lateral deltoids.

You can perform it with one or two arms at the time, standing, sitting, sitting on an exercise ball but the purpose doesn't change. You still work out your lateral deltoid as primary muscle.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises Details

PRIMARY MUSCLE: Shoulders (Lateral Deltoid)

SECONDARY MUSCLES: Anterior/Posterior Deltoid, Upper Traps

EQUIPMENT: Dumbbells

TYPE: Isolation


As primary or secondary muscle, the whole shoulder muscle works in this exercise. You can focus more on the anterior if you raise the dumbbells pointing your thumbs up, or the posterior deltoid if you point your thumbs down.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises


INITIAL POSITION: From a standing position, grasp two dumbbells with your palms facing in (towards your body). Your arms are almost extended along your sides, with your elbows slightly bent. Dumbbells should be parallel to the ground.

MOVEMENT: Lift your arms towards the outside up to the point where the dumbbells reach the height of your shoulders. After a moment of contraction lower your arms slowly to the initial position.

BREATHING: Exhale when you lift the weights and inhale when you lower them.

TIPS and ERRORS: If you raise the dumbbells higher than your shoulders your traps will work in the last part of the movement. The lateral deltoid works more if you keep the dumbbells parallel to the ground. If you raise them pointing your thumbs down the rear deltoid will work more. If you point them up the anterior deltoid will work more instead. If the dumbbells are on your sides in the initial position you focus of lateral deltoid. If they are in front of you you focus on the anterior deltoid while if they are behind your hips you focus on the rear deltoid.

Execute dumbbell lateral raises with your elbows slightly bent to avoid injuring your joints. Also, don't move your upper body and don't swing during the execution.

Also your legs should be slightly bent, don't lock your knees to protect your back.


You can do dumbbell lateral raises in a few different ways:

  • Standing lateral raises: the one just described, from a standing position
  • Seated lateral raises: from a sitting position, with or without a back support. You can use an exercise ball as well
  • One arm lateral raises: just one arm at the time
  • Cable lateral raises: same movement, just using cables
  • Incline lateral raises: executed on an incline bench, from a 45 degree angle you feel the burn like crazy!

For the last two forms maybe it's useful to show you the picture:

Cable Lateral Raises

Incline Lateral Raises


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