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In Weight Training, what is a Lateral Raise?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In weight training, a lateral raise is a type of weight-resistance exercise. It is used to work muscles of the shoulder called deltoids. Lateral raises may be performed using either dumbbells or a lateral-raise weight machine.

When a person performs lateral raises, he works to build his shoulder muscles and give them better definition. Weight lifters cite many benefits for working the deltoids. Well-defined deltoids create a rounded shape at the top of the lifter's arms and makes the lifter’s shoulders look broader. They also help improve the look of the bicep and tricep muscles, which are located in the upper arms. Well-defined deltoids can even make a person's waistline appear smaller.

To perform a lateral raise, a person starts by holding one dumbbell in each hand, with his hands down by his sides. For proper form, his elbows should be bent just a little as he begins. When ready, the lifter raises both of his arms out to the side, holding them parallel to floor. Then, the lifter lowers his arms to their original position. Often the movement of a lateral raise is likened to a bird slowly flapping his wings by lifting them upward and out to the side.

It’s important to perform lateral raises with light weights and controlled movements. Using too much weight and yanking it up instead of maintaining control can lead to ligament and tendon damage. It can even adversely affect a person’s shoulder joint. The deltoids are not a large muscle group. To focus on them specifically requires only a little weight.

The exerciser should not lock his arms when he is performing a lateral raise. Slightly bending the elbows helps make the exercise easier because it gives the lifter some leverage. Some beginners bend their elbows a bit more at first to make the exercise easier and gradually work up to bending them only slightly.

It's important to avoid lifting the arms above the shoulders during lateral raises. If the exerciser raises his arms too high, he will take the focus off of his deltoids. He may even damage his shoulder by performing the exercise in this manner.

Besides the basic lateral raises, there are many variations of the exercise a person can perform. Among them are one-arm lateral raises in which a person holds onto something for support while working the other arm. Another type, called bending lateral raises, requires the individual to bend slightly at the waist while performing the exercise.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By gravois — On Dec 29, 2011

You can do a ton of great lateral raises if you have a cable pulley machine. There are all kinds of variations and tweaks that can be performed with the cable machine to give yourself the biggest and strongest shoulders possible.

If you have access just put on a moderate amount of weight and start experimenting with all the lifts you can do that engage your shoulders. You will be surprised at how quickly they get worn out.

By chivebasil — On Dec 28, 2011

Lateral raises are a great way to build muscle mass and develop that sexy V shaped body that so many men are trying to achieve.

People think that there is some crazy secret to having a V shaped body. Really it takes nothing more than building a big upper body and slimming down your waist. If your arms, chest, back and shoulders are built up and your mid section is lean and strong you will get that classic V shaped look. Lateral raises are a great place to start.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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