Tip: lean slightly forward on lateral raises

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While shoulder presses are the ultimate bulking exercise for your shoulders, lateral raises are the indispensable finishing touch to the lateral deltoids, the sides of your shoulders. But if you keep your upper body completely upright, you won’t train those sides optimally.


It’s not for nothing that we speak of lateral raises (or ‘side raises’): you want to isolate the sides of your shoulders with this exercise. But when you stand (or sit) fully upright, the fronts of your shoulders (the deltoid anterior) also do a lot of work.

Coach Menno Henselmans about this:

If you stand up straight, you’re actually mostly doing a front raise. The anterior fibers of the deltoid are actually mostly in line with the pull, so you have to lean forward a little bit to let the lateral fibers in the primary line of pull of the exercise. i ]

Isolated training of your front shoulder heads is not only at the expense of that of the lateral heads, it is usually also more or less unnecessary. The anterior delts are the dominant shoulder heads in most forms of shoulder press (just not in the controversial behind-the-neck variant). In addition , they play a big part in chest pressing. So they usually don’t need additional, isolating training.


That’s why you should lean slightly forward with lateral raises.

For the standing version, hinge your hips slightly back (about 10-20 degrees), tighten your glutes and turn your feet into the ground. So you have a kink in your knees. The following applies to both the standing and sitting version: tighten your core and maintain a natural curve in your back (neutral spine). Hold this pose for all reps and notice the difference!

Also, don’t lean too far forward, because then your rear delts come into action.

It’s not for nothing that we said “hold this pose”: often people lean forward and then wave back, to create momentum. This usually happens when one uses too heavy weights. Lateral raises are most effective when done strictly and controlled, with a good mind-muscle connection. You can only do that with relatively low weights. So it’s just a matter of putting your ego aside.


The problem with leaning forward is that one time you may do that a little more or less than the other time. Or that you stand up a little more during the exercise if it gets heavy. You can solve this by performing lateral raises seated with the chest against the back of the bench: prone incline lateral raises. This way you can be sure that your upper body is and will remain at the right angle.


  • i ] https://soundcloud.com/jmaxfitness/stop-doing-this-if-you-want-to#t=7:18 (removed)

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