The Most Efficient Lateral Raise

The Most Efficient Lateral Raise
Louis Degnan, EP



The lateral raise the best isolation exercise for the side deltoids. It elicits the most activation of the side deltoid when compared to other common exercises that involve the shoulder joint.  While many variations of the lift exist, there are tips and tricks to make sure one gets the most out of the exercise. In this blog, we’ll discuss a few of them and why they are helpful.

Optimal Grip
Typically, we grab dumbbells directly in the center without thinking of how biomechanics and physics can affect the lift. However, just a slight adjustment in hand position can change the workload of a specific muscle especially in isolation exercises like the lateral raise. By gripping the dumbbell towards the front of the weight as opposed to the middle, this forces the shoulder into a slight internal rotation to counterbalance the weight. This allows for a more optimal line of pull for the side deltoid and minimizes involvement of the front deltoid.

Sweeping Instead of Raising
Despite what the name implies, a common technique que trainers may tell their clients when performing this exercise is to think of sweeping in a deep circular motion instead of directly raising the weight. This is to help limit scapular elevation and therefore limit how much one’s trapezius or “traps” are involved in the lift.

Be Honest With the Weight
Does lifting heavier weight yield increases in muscle mass, size, and bone density? Yes.  Is the purpose of isolating the side deltoid with specific exercises to grow the muscle and make it stronger? Yes. With all that being said, a significant increase in weight will most likely cause a dependency on momentum, improper lifting mechanics, and potential injury. As with all exercises, progressive overload is important to stimulate muscle growth. However, for specific isolation exercises such as the lateral raise, we should prioritize other intensity variables like tempo, time under tension, and mind-to-muscle connection.

Shoulder muscle forces and tendon excursions during glenohumeral abduction in the scapular plane – PubMed (

IJERPH | Free Full-Text | An Electromyographic Analysis of Lateral Raise Variations and Frontal Raise in Competitive Bodybuilders (