10 Lateral Raise Variations For Bigger Shoulders

If you superintendency well-nigh creating an stimulating physique, then you have engaged in the quest of the coveted v-taper — wholesale shoulders and a wide when leading lanugo to a slim but hardened midsection.

The “swimmer’s look” is often admired, and if you want to unzip it, you need well-developed shoulders. In particular, the lateral throne of the deltoid gives your shoulders visible width.

muscular athlete swimming in pool
Credit: Nejron Photo / Shutterstock

The trick is that this particular soul part is hands overlooked and there aren’t many exercises that directly focus on it. The lateral raise is the prime boulder-shoulder builder, but the vital movement is often poorly performed. This useful exercise is unconfined for improving your shoulders’ size, strength, and joint health, but you can take things plane further.

Here are 10 lateral raise variations to refresh your workouts and provide your muscles new stimuli to help you get rounded delts.

Best Lateral Raise Variations

Cable Lateral Raise

The subscription lateral raise provides unvarying tension and shifts the hardest part of the range of motion from the top position — in a dumbbell lateral raise — to the bottom, stretched position.

Switching the equipment from a dumbbell to a subscription pulley moreover changes the stimulus of the exercise and delivers a serious deltoid stretch, which is scrutinizingly nonexistent with the dumbbell variation.

When to Do It

This is a unconfined movement for working on your unstipulated technique and your mind-muscle connection, improving muscle-growth at the same time. (1) Program this exercise the same way you would do dumbbell lateral raises — at the end of a shoulder workout or “push” workout. Alimony the reps relatively high, use pristine form, and focus on the muscle burn.

How to Do It

Stand next to a subscription station set to the lowest point. Grab a single handle with the hand uttermost from the station and flex your abs. Alimony a rigid upper soul and raise your arm out to your side while keeping your shoulder stipule lanugo and your wrist lower than your elbow.

Stop virtually shoulder-level, when you finger the load shifting yonder from your shoulder and to your traps. Exhale and lower with tenancy to the starting position. Start light and stave using momentum. If the subscription station is big enough, you can do the exercise with both stovepipe at the same time.

Leaning Lateral Raise

The leaning lateral raise emphasizes the shortened position or peak contraction. Considering of the leaning position, a portion of the side delt’s range of motion is not trained considering gravity’s pull doesn’t significantly stupefy the weight, but this allows you to use a relatively heavier weight and trigger new growth. (2)

Along with the lateral throne of the deltoid, this differently emphasized range of motion moreover works the rotator mitten muscles, notably the supraspinatus.

When to Use It

Even though you can use increasingly weight than the standard lateral raise, this variation is weightier performed without your heavier recipe (multi-joint) lifts of the workout. Use it as your primary lateral deltoid exercise of the day or in a spicy superset combining this exercise, which targets the peak contraction, and a delt exercise focusing on the stretched contraction, like the subscription lateral raise.

How to Do It

Grab a sturdy power rack with one hand, place your feet near the support, and lean yonder at an wile supporting yourself from a locked arm. Hold a dumbbell in your self-ruling hand and lift the weight sideways from a straight hanging position. You can raise the weight higher than shoulder-level without worrying well-nigh muscle recruitment, considering the goal is to emphasize the shortened range of motion which ways your traps will be recruited no matter what. Make sure you tenancy the movement speed to optimize time under tension. Don’t swing the weight from the marrow position.

Seated Lateral Raise

This variation is for the “accidental” cheaters out there or anyone who has trouble executive a strict movement. The stable, upright position makes it scrutinizingly untellable to swing your torso without noticing.

The seat support ensures strict form for largest muscle tension and a well-constructed range of motion to trigger hypertrophy (muscle growth).

When to Use It

The seated lateral raise is a unconfined way to learn the standing variation without interference from the rest of your body. It prevents involuntary cheating, as well as helping to focus with laser precision on your lateral delts. Perform it in lieu of standing raises until you finger your form is impeccable or when you want to go heavier while still lamister any cheating.

How to Do It

Sit on a seat with a dumbbell in each hand and seem an upright torso position. Raise your hands out to your sides, near shoulder-level, without succumbing to the temptation of swinging your torso or shrugging your traps to recoup for this increasingly challenging execution. Lower the weights with tenancy to stave momentum in the marrow position.

Machine Lateral Raise

Some exercise machines can be scoffed by experienced gym goers for their simplicity or design, but the fact is that they can often be as efficient as self-ruling weight exercises for towers muscle. (4)

Certain machines might not be as useful for improving strength or coordination, but as long as your primary goal is towers muscle, you’re covered with a well-designed machine. It might be plane largest in some cases. For instance, beginners can find some machine exercises easier to perform that with barbells or dumbbells. Many machines are moreover designed to minimize interference from non-target muscles.

When to Do It

If you’re a beginner or wide lifter, or just want to transpiration things to refresh your workouts and prime new growth, requite this variation a try. For beginners, machines are usually very easy to use and they can ensure proper form, so you’re training the desired muscles. Advanced lifters will fathom the fact that machines will isolate and fatigue a specific throne of the deltoid, increasingly hands stook quality training volume for a soul part.

How to Do It

Sit lanugo in the machine and place your elbows under the pads. Raise your elbows to your sides until they are parallel to the ground, then lower them with control. The machine lateral raise can serve as a unconfined teaching tool for learning to “lead with your elbows” and not your wrists, focusing increasingly on the lateral throne of your shoulders and less on straining the joints of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

Partial Lateral Raise

You’re used to light weights when you perform lateral raises, right? It’s time to shock your muscles into growth. Research has shown that using a limited range of motion can be useful for promoting strength and hypertrophy under the right conditions. (3)

Use a shortened range of motion to your wholesomeness and provide the lateral delts something they never experienced to promote hypertrophy — very heavy weights and super-high tension.

When to Do It

Partial movements and “calculated cheating” can be beneficial, but should be reserved for experienced lifters who’ve once mastered the full movement with good form. If you’re using heaving weights just for the sake of it, and start swinging the dumbbells like a monkey with a pair of cymbals, you might trigger injuries instead of growth.

If you’re a gym veteran that has lagging shoulders, requite this high-intensity variation a go. You can use it older in your shoulder or upper soul push workout without trouble, considering it’s a heavy-duty exercise.

How to Do It

Just considering it’s a partial range of motion doesn’t midpoint you can just whack yonder at it without care. Stand up holding a pair of relatively heavy dumbbells. Alimony your torso stable and rigid without swaying your hips. Raise your stovepipe to your sides, similar to performing regular lateral raises. Stop at roughly half of your usual range of motion, when your stovepipe are at an wile toward the ground.

Even though you’re using heavier weights, it’s still an isolation exercise. To prevent trap vivification and emphasize you shoulders, think well-nigh pushing the weights to the side walls and not up in the air. Stave shrugging your shoulders with the heavy weights. Do not be wrung of trying longer elapsing sets of 15 to 20 repetitions to recoup for the shorter time under tension.

Landmine Lateral Raise

The landmine is a versatile tool which can provide myriad exercise variations, and the lateral raise is no exception. The thick handle will rencontre your grip and the unique barbell path will train your cadre to a greater extent than other lateral raises.

If you’re concerned with athleticism or stuff functional while moreover increasing shoulder size, this variation will provide an constructive upper soul stimulus.

When to Do It

This unique single-arm movement can be used either at the start of a workout to prime you for a heavy pushing exercise, during a circuit combining variegated sturdy attributes, or at the end of your session to focus on hypertrophy.

How to Do It

Set a barbell in a landmine unit and grab the sleeve with a palm-down grip. Stand tall with the weight virtually pelvis-level. Brace your core, transiently hold your breath, and lift your arm “up and out” to the side. Lead with your elbow to ensure maximum deltoid engagement and alimony your arm straight. In the top position, your palm should be facing forward. Slowly lower the weight to its initial position. Perform all reps with one arm surpassing switching to the other side.


This exercise is often used in rehab or “prehab” considering it is restorative and not strenuous on the shoulder joint, but that doesn’t midpoint it can’t be used for towers muscle.

The Y-raise is an constructive deltoid-builder and it will moreover reinforce other key muscles responsible for shoulder health, such as the middle and lower trapezius and the supraspinatus.

When to Do It

This variation is relatively harder than many others on this list, so you’ll have to refrain from using heavy weights. As such, use it at the very whence of a workout, to warm-up your shoulders, or at the end of your session to finish the lateral throne of the deltoid.

If you have a history of joint pain, or if vital lateral raises leave you feeling achy (in a bad way, not simple muscle soreness), then make the Y-raise your middle-delt builder of choice. It’s one of the least stressful movements on your joints.

How to Do It

Get an willowy seat and set it at a low incline, virtually 30 degrees. Lay squatter lanugo on it with a dumbbell in each hand, hanging your stovepipe lanugo toward the ground. Alimony your stovepipe mostly straight as you raise your stovepipe up and out. At the top of the motion, your soul should resemble a giant “Y” if viewed from above. If you can’t lift your stovepipe until they’re in line with your head, reduce the weight. This exercise is not meant for moving heavy weight, so aim for sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.

6-Way Raise

The 6-way raise takes the vital lateral raise up a notch by increasing the range of motion and recruiting plane increasingly muscles.

This exercise, popularized by late bodybuilding legend John Meadows, is a combination of shoulder raises in various directions. It’s designed for well-constructed minutiae of the deltoids and trapezius. This is the variation you want to employ if you desire to build an impressive “yoke” — the muscles of the shoulders, upper back, and neck.

When to Do It

Consider this exercise if you have a bit of wits under your belt, without you’ve mastered standard lateral and front raises. It is a unconfined finisher, performed as the last exercise of your workout. Try this exercise at the very end of a shoulder or push session, to provide a urgent session and terminate the deltoids. It’s moreover the perfect fit when you don’t have time or energy to perform several shoulder exercises without your main work.

How to Do It

Sit on a seat holding relatively light dumbbells and perform a strict lateral raise, bringing the weights from your sides your to shoulder-levels. From there, bring your thumbs together while keeping the weights horizontal to the ground. Next, raise your stovepipe over your head. Then, you have to execute all of these motions in reverse — lower your stovepipe in front of you, then bring them to your sides, and lower them lanugo straight. That’s one single repetition.

You can understand why it would be nearly untellable to use heavy weights. Each repetition is very long, so you can’t go crazy with the load, but it provides a very long time under tension for your whole shoulders and upper traps, which is wondrous for muscle growth.

Barbell Upright Row

The upright row isn’t technically a lateral raise variation, but the exercise follows the same corporeal motion — humerus abduction, or lifting your upper arm out to the side — and it trains the same target muscles in pretty much the same fashion. Using both stovepipe to lift a barbell will moreover indulge you to use a heavier weight, triggering increasingly muscle growth.

This movement does have a reputation as a “shoulder wrecker,” but it unquestionably depends upon the individual and the context. It may put stress on your shoulders and wrists, but lamister a close-grip movement and adjusting the range of motion can help reduce the risks.

When to Do It

If you want to embark on a muscle-building, bulking phase while lifting some heavy weights, this movement is perfect for you. The barbell upright row will recruit slightly increasingly muscles overall, but it is still focusing on the side deltoids and upper trapezius. As such, you can perform it in a full-body workout, or during your shoulder or push sessions. Increasingly weight and increasingly muscle recruited ways that you’ll trigger a greater anabolic response from the body, leading to largest growth.

How to Do It

Grab a barbell or EZ-curl bar with a shoulder-width, palm-down grip and stand tall with your stovepipe straight lanugo in front of you. Raise your elbows to the sides to lift the barbell while keeping it tropical to your body. Lead the movement with your elbows, like you would do with a lateral raise. Stop when your upper stovepipe are virtually parallel to the ground or near shoulder-level.

You can often go heavier with this movement, but that doesn’t midpoint you should shift the focus of the exercise yonder from the key muscled. Don’t start swinging the weight up or excessively shrugging your shoulders. Alimony your shoulder blades lanugo and think of your elbows as the prime movers. Don’t get too crazy with super-heavy weights. Sets of eight to 12 reps will do the trick for towers size and strength.

Rope Upright Row

If you have persistent joint problems and can’t find a way to safely or comfortably perform the barbell upright row, try this subscription variation to enjoy the same feeling and benefits.

The rope handle allows increasingly self-rule of movement in your wrists and shoulders, while the unvarying tension from the subscription allows a good training stimulus without heavy weights.

When to Do It

With this exercise, you can’t and shouldn’t go as heavy as with a barbell. So perform it at the end of your shoulder sessions, to finish off your delts. If you’ve been wrung of the barbell upright row, or if you have often painful joints, think well-nigh giving this exercise a go. You should be worldly-wise to trigger hypertrophy with a longer range of motion and with less pain.

How to Do It

Stand in front of a subscription station set at the lowest point. Attach to it a rope, grab it with your thumbs pointed lanugo and your palms facing your body. Momentum your elbows up and out, as upper as you comfortably can without feeling pain. Alimony your elbows higher than your wrists during the movement.

Do not specifically think well-nigh your hands, just let them move freely so you can focus solely on your deltoids. If you want to get spicy, pause at the top for several seconds.

Muscles Worked by the Lateral Raise

The lateral raise is an isolation movement focusing on the lateral throne of the deltoid, but other muscles moreover contribute to the exercise. In fact, no exercise can technically “isolate” a single muscle, it just emphasizes one. Here are all the muscles trained by these variations.


The deltoids, or shoulder muscles, are well-balanced of the three heads, all tying to the humerus (arm bone). The proemial throne is on the front of the shoulder, tying to the clavicle, and shares function with the pecs — internally rotating the arm, raising it forward, and adducting it (bringing the stovepipe together).

The lateral throne is located on the middle of the shoulder and its fibers upspring from the acromion process of the scapula (shoulder blade). This is the prime mover during the lateral raise, considering it is responsible for arm snatching (raising it to the side). Finally, the posterior deltoid, moreover tying to the scapula, can be found at the rear of the shoulder and is involved in externally rotating and extending the arm.

shirtless person in gym performing dumbbell shoulder exercise
Credit: Paul Aiken / Shutterstock

When you perform a lateral raise, all three heads will contribute to the movement, but the focus should be on the side delts. Rotating your arm internally or externally will make the front or rear delts contribute a bit more, so you can moreover use that to target your weakness.


This big and strong when muscle, going from the wiring of your neck to the middle of your spine, is a big freelancer to the lateral raise. The traps are well-balanced of several regions having slightly variegated functions, but they’re all responsible for scapular motion and stability.

Your middle and lower traps hold your shoulder blades when together and down, while the upper traps are recruited extensively considering the motion of raising your arm moreover involves raising your scapulae, to indulge full range of motion. Unless you don’t move your scapulae at all, which is scrutinizingly impossible, you will finger the exercise in your upper traps.


This tiny shoulder muscle is one of the four members of the rotator cuff. It’s located on the scapula in a incision between the acromion and clavicle and it attaches to the humerus. The supraspinatus assists the deltoids in arm adduction and will be involved during the lateral raise. Having a strong and healthy rotator mitten is key for injury prevention, strength, and longevity. (5)

Lateral Raise Form Tips

The lateral is often butchered for the sake of ego-lifting and moving increasingly weight. This creates the typical unreliability of shrugging the weight up as your stovepipe are raised, which uses the traps squire the delts.

The problem is that the traps will then overshadow the shoulders, considering they are a relatively stronger muscle, which leaves the shoulders undertrained. Alimony your shoulder blades lanugo and limit scapular motion to a minimum. A good cue is to try to lift the weight outward, not upward. This will cue your lateral delts to be recruited first.

person in gym doing subscription shoulder exercise
Credit: Kzenon / Shutterstock

Hand and arm position can moreover be difficult. If you’re not careful, you can very hands ask for the assistance of a closely related muscle: the proemial deltoid. The front delts are once overstimulated by many pressing movements, so it’s often weightier to focus on your side delts with this exercise. To do that, momentum the weight with your elbows and have your wrists lower than your elbows at all times. You can plane slightly rotate your stovepipe internally (forward) to focus increasingly on the outer delts. And alimony your elbow tropical to in-line with your shoulder, not far in front of your body.

Finally, flipside mistake caused by ego is to employ excessive momentum. This increases the risk of injuries, recruits the traps too much, and diminishes the range of motion. Flex your abs nonflexible to stabilize your upper soul and prevent swinging. Use your shoulders, not your lower back, to lift the weight.

Raise Your Shoulders to the Next Level

The lateral raise is a must for any lifter who desires wholesale shoulders. Focusing on your side delt is the weightier way to get there and unzip the coveted v-taper look. If the simplicity of the archetype dumbbell lateral raise isn’t unbearable and you’re ready for increasingly challenges, include one of these variations in your training plan to get your delts to the next level.


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