How to do Dumbbell Side Raise: Complete Video guide

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dumbbell side raise

Shoulder exercises are an absolute must if you are striving to develop a V-shaped torso. Dumbbell side raise, also known as the lateral raise, is one of the simplest and effective shoulder-strengthening movements designed to isolate the lateral and anterior heads of the deltoid muscle.

Performed regularly, can help you develop stronger, broader shoulders. However, the dumbbell side raise is very hard, even with very light weights, so the weights need to be picked wisely. Here we bring you a brief insight into the important aspects of this amazing exercise!

Dumbbell Side Raise Shoulder: Benefits

Dumbbell side raise is a shoulder exercise that specifically targets the lateral head of the deltoid muscles, although it also engages the anterior and posterior heads but to a lesser extent.

dumbbell side raise

Done regularly, this exercise enables you not only to isolate the lateral deltoid but also to achieve muscle hypertrophy in these particular muscles, giving you the appearance of broader, stronger shoulders.

Moreover, the dumbbell side raise exercise also helps strengthen your shoulders independently. This can help correct potential strength discrepancies between your right and left sides along with improving and extending the shoulder mobility.

And because the shoulder joint is the least stable in the body, a well-rounded strength-training routine designed to target all three heads of the deltoid can help keep this particular joint healthy. Also, strong and flexible shoulders are key to warding off intermittent pain or potential injuries.

How to do Dumbbell Side Raises? Step-by-Step Instructions:

dumbbell side raise

To perform the standing lateral shoulder raises, follow the following steps.

  1. Start by standing tall with your feet either hip-distance apart or in a split stance. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and keep the arms at your sides. Your grip should be closed and neutral. Keep your thumbs around the handles and your palms should face in.
  2. Check your posture—Contract your abdominal muscles and pull your shoulders down and back. Your head should face forward in a neutral position aligned with your spine. You can bend your knees slightly if it helps keep you stable in the movement.
  1. 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.
  2. 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 should be pointing slightly upward.
  3. Pause and hold for a second at the top of the movement.
  4. 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.
  5. Repeat the movement. Perform 10 to 12 reps, with up to 3 sets.

Selecting the correct weight is key to doing lateral side raises properly and safely. You’ll find that even with relatively light weights, the last few raises are a real challenge. Don’t go beyond parallel when you’re raising the weights, and ensure you keep your arms out to your sides. If they start creeping forward it’s time to opt for a lighter weight.

Lateral Raises: Tips for Perfect Form

Here’s how to tweak your form to greatness, and reduce the chances of injury.

  1. Start each rep by slowly moving your hands out to the sides, then stopping.Moving the dumbbells slightly places tension on your shoulders. The pause switches off your traps, which will otherwise muscle in on the move, taking emphasis off your shoulders.
  2. Raise the dumbbells leading with your elbows, so that they’re the highest part of your arm. Ensuring your elbows lead the move will again keep the focus on your delts and minimize the stress placed on your rotator cuffs, a small group of delicate but crucial stabilizing muscles.
  3. As your hands approach shoulder height, rotate your wrist so that your little fingers are uppermost. Turning your wrists as the dumbbells reach the top of the move activates more muscle fibers in your side delts, meaning each rep works the muscle even harder.
  4. From the top of the move lower the weights back to the start as slowly as possible.Taking your time to lower the dumbbells forces your shoulders to work harder to manage the weight, so you recruit more muscle fibres in order to maintain control. The more muscular damage you do, the greater your growth return.
  5. Make a strategic stop just before the top of the move. Adding a pause is great for muscle enhancement.

Common Mistakes:

The side dumbbell raise for shoulders is an easy exercise to master, but because it involves free weights, there’s almost always room for error, some of which are discussed below:

  • Selecting Too Much Weight:

If you’re new to the exercise, start with low-weight dumbbells, then make adjustments as needed. It’s always better to start with a lighter weight and adjust upward than to start with a weight that’s too heavy. When you use too much weight, you’re more likely to perform the exercise with poor form or unwanted momentum that could open you up to potential injuries.

  • Using Momentum to Swing the Dumbbells:

When someone selects a pair of dumbbells that are too heavy, but they don’t want to switch to a lighter weight, you almost always see them using momentum to swing the dumbbells upward. This often involves a kind of bouncing with the knees and a forward-backwards tilt of the torso as they jerk the weights up and out to the sides.

This type of momentum-generating motion is problematic because you stop efficiently targeting the muscle group the exercise is intended to target. Instead of isolating the lateral head of the deltoid, you end up using your legs and your back to propel the weight upward. This will actually prevent you from seeing the type of strength and hypertrophy improvements you’re hoping to achieve.

  • Dropping Your Head Forward:

Another common mistake is craning your neck forward or dropping your chin toward your chest which happens most often when you’re using too much weight, or you’re nearing the end of a set and your shoulders are feeling fatigued. It’s important to maintain good posture with a neutral neck and spine alignment throughout the exercise to prevent neck strain and to ensure that you are targeting the lateral head of the deltoid, rather than allowing your back muscles, specifically your trapezius, to take over.

Dumbbell Side Raises Variations:
  1. Dumbbell Front Raise:

These involve the same movement, but with your arms straight out in front of you, focusing on a different part of your shoulder muscles. Hold dumbbells in front of your thighs with palms facing you. Lift to shoulder level. Lower back down under control.

  • Front/Lateral Raise:

You can even do lateral and front raises at the same time in your workout if you have the coordination required to raise your arms in different ways simultaneously. Hold one dumbbell by your side and one in front. Lift to the side and front simultaneously. Lower back down under control. Alternate sides with each rep.

  • Resistance Band Lateral Raise:

The lateral raise is 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. Stand on the middle of the band holding one end in each hand, then raise your arms out to the sides until they are parallel to the ground. Lower slowly, working against the pull of the band.

  • Bent-Over Lateral Raise:

Also known as the reverse lateral raise, this variation puts more focus on the muscles in your upper back because of the change in the angle the movement is performed at. Stand with dumbbells by your sides. Hinge at the hips and bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor, or close to that point, keeping your back straight. Let the dumbbells hang down beneath your chest. Raise the weights out to the sides until your arms are parallel with the ground, then slowly take them back down.

Safety and Precautions:

Dumbbell side raises are a great shoulder exercise to add to your weekly strength training routine. The 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 repetitions. You may want to try it again with the bent-arm modification to see if that alleviates the pain, but if the pain continues, discontinue the exercise for the day.


What muscles do dumbbell side raises work?

The lateral raise or side lateral raises are effective shoulder-strengthening exercises that help tone your shoulder muscles and a part of the upper back muscles. Lateral raise exercise targets the deltoid muscles and some trapezius fibers as well.

What is a good weight for lateral raises?

You can do a standard side lat raise with some trusty dumbbells. Go for a weight of 2 to 10 pounds each, depending on your fitness level.

Do shoulders respond better to higher reps?

Shoulders tend to respond best to heavy weight, followed by some lighter, higher rep training. For heavy lifting, stick to the 4 to 6 rep range on compound movements like the overhead press or upright rows

What are dumbbell lateral raises good for?

The lateral raise is one of the best exercises shoulders and these lateral raise tend to increase the shoulder mobility

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