Side Lying Lateral Raises

Lie on one side on the floor or on a bench holding a dumbbell with an overhand grip:

  • Inhale and raise the arm to vertical.
  • Exhale at the end of the movement.

Unlike standing raises, which progressively work the muscle to maximum intensity at the end of the movement (when the arm reaches horizontal), this exercise works the deltoid differently by focusing the effort at the beginning of the raise. Sets of 10 to 12 repetitions work best.

Comment: This movement contracts the supraspinatus, the muscle mainly responsible for initiating abduction. Varying the initial position (dumbbell in front of or behind the thigh) allows you to work all the deltoid fibers.

Front Arm Raises

Stand with the feet slightly apart, holding the barbells with an overhand grip as they rest against the front of the thighs or slightly to the side:

  • Inhale and alternate raising the arms to the front to eye level.
  • Exhale at the end of the effort.

This exercise uses mainly the anterior deltoid, the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, and, to a lesser degree, the remaining deltoids. All movements that raise the arms contract the muscles that anchor the scapula to the rib cage, such as the serratus anterior and rhomboids, which create a stable support for the humerus to move from.

Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Stand with a straight back, with legs slightly apart, arms hanging next to the body, holding a barbell in each hand:

  • Raise the arms to horizontal with the elbows slightly bent.
  • Return to the initial position.

This exercise mainly uses the middle deltoid.
The three divisions of the deltoids create a multipennate muscle whose different fiber directions converge on the humerus. Their function is to support relatively heavy weight and to move the arm through its full range of motion with precision. 

Therefore, it is important to adapt training to the specifics of this muscle by varying the initial position of the movement (hands behind, to the side, or in front). This thoroughly works all the fibers of the middle deltoid. Because everyone’s physical structure is different (length of the clavicle, shape of the acromion, and height of the insertion at the humerus), you must find the angle of the initial position that is best for you. Lateral raises contract the supraspinatus, although you can’t see this because it is located deep in the supraspinatus fossa of the scapula (shoulder blade), where it attaches to the lesser tubercle of the humerus.

Raising the arm above horizontal contracts the upper part of the trapezius; however, many bodybuilders don’t work above horizontal so that they isolate the the lateral deltoid. This exercise should not be performed with heavy weights, but instead in sets of 10 to 25 reps, while varying the working angle without much recuperation time until you feel a burn. To increase the intensity, maintain an isometric contraction for a few seconds with the arm at horizontal between each repetition.

Bent-Over Lateral Raises

Stand with legs slightly apart and knees slightly bent and lean forward at the waist while keeping the back straight. With arms hanging down, grasp the dumbbells with the elbows slightly bent:

  • Inhale and raise the arms to horizontal.
  • Exhale at the end of the effort.

This exercise works the shoulder group, accenting the work of the posterior deltoid. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the end of the movement to contract the middle and lower portions of the trapezius, rhomboids, teres minor, and infraspinatus.
Variation: The exercise may be performed facedown on an incline bench.