The dumbbell lateral raise might well be the one exercise most often performed not only incorrectly – but dangerously. Here’s how to master this shoulder-widening move to build a bigger, stronger and wider upper body!
With the dumbbell lateral raise, more than any other free weight exercise you can do, form must come first. But bad exercise execution is preventing so many guys from building the broader set of shoulders they need to achieve a strong and athletic upper body.
If you ask 100 men to do a single dumbbell lateral raise and 99 will perform the move poorly, and the most common error is choosing dumbbells that are far too heavy. The result is that the target muscle, the medial deltoids (better known as the side shoulder muscles), are nowhere near strong enough to lift the dumbbell up, so momentum is required to raise it. With momentum responsible for most the movement, the shoulders barely get worked at all so have no reason to grow bigger, stronger or wider.
Instead of a nice, slow and controlled range of motion to raise the dumbbells up to the sides, then lower them back down, there’s loads of wild, flapping of the arms up and down that not only fails place any tension on the medial delts (which is what you want if you’d like broader shoulders), but also places a huge amount of damaging stress and strain on the shoulder joints, the most delicate and vulnerable in the human body. And there’s no way you’ll build an impressive upper body if you’re constantly battling shoulder injuries.
We can’t stress this enough: start with lighter dumbbells and master the movement, then gradually increase the weight! Proper form and muscular maximising time under tension are the two essential elements behind broader shoulders, and going too heavy will stop you getting the result you want.
Here’s how to perform this important shoulder-sculpting move to perfection so you can start to build your best-ever body.
The Dumbbell Lat Raise
Targets: Medial deltoids (side shoulders)
How to do it
Stand tall or sit on an upright bench holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your side with palms facing your thighs. Raise your chin, keep your chest up, have your back straight and tighten your abs.
Lift the weights up and out to the sides a few centimetres then pause and hold this position for a second to fire up your medial deltoids and switch off your traps (this ensures your side shoulders do all of the work and prevents your stronger traps muscles from taking over).
Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, now raise the weights up to shoulder height, leading with your elbows (your elbows should be the highest part of your arm, not your hands).
Once the dumbbells are at shoulder height, tilt your wrists to raise your little finger so it’s pointing at the ceiling and hold this position for one second (doing so will fire up your delts even more, recruiting more muscle fibres so you work the muscles harder with every single rep).
Slowly lower the weights back down to your sides under complete control, fighting gravity the whole way. That’s one rep. At the bottom pause before doing the next rep to minimise any bouncing or momentum.