What do Lateral Raises Workout?

Lateral raises are a great way to work your shoulders, but what other muscles do they target? We break down the lateral raise and its benefits.

Overview of Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are a great way to build strength and add definition to your shoulders. This popular exercise is a simple and effective movement that works the deltoids, a major muscle group in your upper body. It can also be a great addition to any workout routine and can even help improve your posture. Let’s take a closer look at lateral raises and how they can help you build strength.

Muscles Targeted

Lateral raises, when performed correctly and with the proper form, target your shoulder muscles — also known as deltoids. Specifically, this exercise works your anterior (front) delts along with your middle and posterior (back) delts. This exercise also works your rotator cuff muscles for extra stability in the shoulders and to help build balanced strength. You’ll likely feel the burn throughout the entire area between your collarbone and shoulder blades.

Another small muscle group that receives some attention during lateral raises is the teres minor — a muscle located near the top of your scapula that assists with rotating and moving your arms while they’re overhead. Your trapezius (traps) are also activated during this exercise to support movement at the shoulder joint by maintaining stability in that part of your body. Some people also perform a slight shrug at the same time as completing a lateral raise for even more traps activation.


Lateral raises are a type of strength training exercise that focus on the middle and side deltoids, the muscles in your shoulders. It can also engage other muscles, such as your arms and trapezius. Regularly performing lateral raises can help improve your posture, strengthen your shoulders, and support a wide range of activities you might do in everyday life, including carrying groceries or picking up a baby.

Aside from helping with everyday movements, performing lateral raises can also contribute to overall strength gains. Incorporating lateral raises into a regular strength training routine can improve both shoulder strength and shoulder stability. This makes performing heavier lifts easier and less risky; it will also keep you safe when engaging in sports or physical activities that rely on forceful or sudden movements.

In addition to these gains in physical ability, working out with lateral raises releases endorphins into the body that create a sense of well-being and reduce stress levels. If you are looking for ways to increase muscle tone and improve fitness level without having to join a gym, lateral raises are an option worth exploring.

Proper Form

Lateral raises are a great exercise that can help strengthen your shoulders, upper back, and arms. It is important to use proper form when performing lateral raises to maximize muscle engagement and reduce the risk of injury. With proper form, you can also make sure that you are using the correct amount of weight for your level of fitness. Let’s dive into the details of proper form for lateral raises.

Starting Position

Before you start the exercise, be sure to establish the correct starting position. Stand with your feet hip width apart, your toes slightly turned out and your shoulders back and relaxed. Keep your hands at your sides and keep a slight bend in your elbows to reduce stress on the joint. Your core should be engaged and you should have a slight bend in the knees.

Once you are in position, hold one dumbbell in each hand with palms facing downward. Your arms will be slightly bent and form approximately a 90-degree angle between the upper arm and forearm near the elbow joint. Make sure that both arms are parallel to each other and now begin to lift out away from the body until they reach shoulder level.


When performing lateral raises, it is important to maintain proper form to ensure optimal results. Begin by standing or sitting in a comfortable position with the weights resting at your sides. Keep your chest up, back straight and abdominal muscles engaged as you raise the dumbbells out in front of you from shoulder height up to shoulder width level with the palms facing downwards. Lower the weights back down slowly after a short pause at the top of the movement and repeat for desired reps before switching arms if performing unilateral exercises. Care should be taken to move within a full range of motion while maintaining good body alignment throughout, avoiding any rocking or swaying motions that could ruin proper form in order to prevent possible injury or inefficient exercise execution.


Lateral raises are a great way to strengthen the muscles in your shoulders, which is needed for any overhead movement. There are many variations of the lateral raise exercise that help to target different muscle groups. The different variations allow you to adjust your workout to suit your needs and focus on the areas you want to work on the most. Let’s talk about the various variations of the lateral raise.

Standing Lateral Raise

The standing lateral raise is an exercise designed to strengthen and tone the shoulder muscles. It works the side deltoids and can also target the upper trapezius and serratus anterior, depending on how widely the arms are raised. This exercise can be done with free weights or bands.

When performing this exercise, stand up with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold weights in your hands – either dumbbells or barbells – or attach resistance bands to something stable behind you. Keep your arms straight as you lift them outward until they reach shoulder level, parallel to the floor. Be sure not to shrug or swing your torso upward as you lift; instead keep it stationary and focus on contracting the shoulders in a controlled manner. At the top of each rep, hold for a brief moment before slowly returning to start position in a smooth motion. Make sure to keep tension on the band throughout each rep of this exercise if doing it with resistance bands.

As always with weight training, start off light by using lower weights that allow you to focus on proper form before gradually increasing weight increments over time as you get stronger and more comfortable with this movement pattern. Standing lateral raises are a great accessory exercise for both building muscle size and strength when combined with other compound movements such as presses and rows, so have fun experimenting around different rep ranges (usually between 10-15) until you find what works best for you!

Seated Lateral Raise

The seated lateral raise is a strength training exercise that involves raising a weight out to the side of your body until your elbow is at shoulder height. This exercise works the deltoids, commonly referred to as the shoulders, as well as muscles in the upper back and arms. It can be performed with weights, resistance bands or free weights such as dumbbells. To ensure proper form and maximum benefit from this exercise, it’s important to keep your core engaged and always begin with lighter weights or resistance bands before progressing to heavier weights.

First, sit on an elevated bench or in a chair facing forward with both feet planted firmly on the ground. With elbows slightly bent, hold a weight or resistance band in each hand at waist level with palms facing inward. Begin by lifting both arms out to the sides of your body at shoulder height until they reach parallel with the floor, engaging core muscles throughout this motion. After taking a few seconds of pause at shoulder height turn palms downward and slowly lower them back down to starting position at waist level for one full repetition. This exercise can be repeated for 10-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets depending on fitness level and desired results.

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

The bent-over lateral raise is an excellent exercise for strengthening the muscles at the sides of your shoulders. This exercise can be performed with both dumbbells or a barbell, and it works best when performed in multiple sets of eight to twelve repetitions.

Begin by standing with your arms at your sides and feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward until your upper body is parallel to the ground. With a dumbbell in each hand or using a barbell atop your thighs, lift both arms simultaneously in an outward direction as though you are trying to touch the wall behind you with both hands. Make sure you keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the entire motion. After a short pause at the top, lower your arms back to starting position and repeat for desired number of reps.

This exercise serves as a great way to increase shoulder strength and muscle definition, but it’s important that perfect form is maintained throughout all sets of this movement in order to maximize effectiveness as well as protecting yourself from any possible injury due to incorrect movement or fatigue form overuse of muscles.

Common Mistakes

Lateral raises are a great exercise for targeting and strengthening your shoulder muscles. However, if done improperly, they can lead to poor form, excessive strain on your shoulders, and possible injury. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the proper form for lateral raises and common mistakes to avoid so that you can maximize the effect of this exercise. Let’s get into the details.

Incorrect Starting Position

Incorrect Starting Position is one of the most common mistakes made when performing lateral raises. To correctly perform the exercise, start in a standing position with back straight, feet about shoulder width apart and arms by sides with palms facing inwards. Bring your arms out to the sides, parallel to the ground, then slowly lower them back down to your sides. It’s also important to keep your wrists straight throughout the motion and elbows slightly bent as you lift and lower your arms. Doing lateral raises with poor form or from an incorrect starting position may lead to shoulder injuries, so it’s important stay within a comfortable range of motion that avoids overexertion or stress on skeletal joints.

Moving Too Quickly

When performing lateral raises, it’s important to control the movement and shoulders should do the majority of the work. Many people new to this exercise tend to jerk it with their arms, swinging up way too quickly. Moving too quickly emphasizes momentum rather than targeting the muscles and won’t activate your shoulders properly. Additionally, jerky motions put extra strain on your shoulder joints as well as ligaments and risk straining or otherwise injuring these connective tissues.

To properly perform lateral raises, start with a light weight dumbbell where you can maintain full control of the movement instead of relying solely on momentum for that extra push. As you bring the weight up, focus on contracting your upper back and shoulder muscles before slowly bringing it back down in a controlled manner to ensure the correct muscle groups are being targeted. You can also keep your feet firmly planted while maintaining upright posture during your reps so that you don’t lean into them or sway at all – these actions defeat the purpose of stabilization and proper form?

Not Engaging Core Muscles

When performing the lateral raise exercise, it’s important to engage your core muscles to ensure that your spine is properly stabilized and that you are working with correct posture. Many individuals who are performing the lateral raise incorrectly do not engage their core muscles. Not engaging the core can lead to poor form, resulting in decreased effectiveness of the exercise as well as potential back pain from incorrect form.

It is also important to ensure that you are using proper form when doing this exercise. This includes starting each set of reps with a straight back and ensuring your shoulders are down and relaxed throughout the entire movement. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells (one in each hand) by your sides. Engage your core muscles while slowly raising your arms out to the sides until they reach shoulder height (or slightly higher). Keep your shoulders away from ears and arms straight, but not locked out. On completion of one set, lower weights slowly and repeat for desired number of repetitions.


Lateral raises are a great exercise for targeting the shoulder muscles and building strength in the arms. To maximize your results, it is important to use proper form and gradually increase the weight or resistance that you are lifting as you become stronger. As you progress with this exercise, you should be aiming to improve your form and intensity to ensure your body is getting the most out of it.

Increasing Weight

As you progress with these lateral raises, it’s important to increase the weight each time. However, don’t increase the weight too quickly — do so gradually as your body adjusts and gets stronger. Increasing the weight slightly over a longer period of time is more effective than raising it significantly in short periods of time. If you do not have access to weights or other equipment, you can also use light hand weights for this exercise. Depending on your individual strength and fitness level, start with a light weight that allows you to easily complete 10 repetitions. Then slowly increase the weight by approximately 5% each time you complete 10 repetitions without difficulty.

Increasing Reps

Once you have become comfortable with the lateral raise and can do it with perfect form, you can switch to maintaining a higher number of reps. For example, start by doing 10-12 reps of the lateral raise with two or three sets total. Once that becomes easy, move to doing 15 reps for each set. You can further add intensity and challenge by using heavier weights as you progress. Doing higher-rep sets helps build endurance in your shoulders and also increase muscle definition in that area. To make the most out of your workout plan, combine a variety of exercises in your shoulder routine such as shoulder presses and overhead shoulder raises to target specific shoulder muscles.

Increasing Sets

To progress in the lateral raise exercise, you can either increase the number of sets or the weight of the dumbbells used. Adding additional sets increases both the duration and intensity of your exercise. Increase the number of sets gradually over time as your muscle strength and endurance improve. For example, start with one set and gradually add a new set every week or two until you reach 3-4 sets.

When increasing weight, make sure to choose a light enough weight that allows you to complete all repetitions with proper form. Choose an appropriate weight initially and then gradually increase the poundage as soon as it begins to feel easy. Always start with lighter weights when attempting a new routine and slowly increase over a few weeks time until you become comfortable with the exercise. If staying within one set, increase weight by only five to ten pounds at most when progressing into your next workout session for best results.

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