Almost everyone does (dumbbell) lateral raises. And rightly so, because it is the basic exercise for the lateral deltoids, the sides of the shoulders so to speak. If you don’t feel those sides right during the exercise, there’s probably something wrong with your performance. As a result, your anterior deltoids (front shoulder heads) and upper traps do most of the work. With the following tips you improve the execution and therefore also the mind-muscle connection with the lateral delts.
1. TURN YOUR ARMS SLIGHTLY INWARD
Although we are talking about side raises (as opposed to front raises), you should not keep your arms completely at your sides. The safest and strongest posture is the so-called scapular plane, where you keep your arms slightly inwards, at an angle of 15-30 degrees with your torso. In addition, there should be a kink in your elbows.
2. RAISE YOUR THUMBS SLIGHTLY
Some coaches sometimes recommend the “empty can” lateral raises, where you keep your thumbs slightly down — like emptying a pitcher. While you may activate your lateral delts a little more that way, you’re also putting your shoulders in a risky position. You limit the space between your shoulder bone and collarbone, which can cause a shoulder impingement.
It is therefore better to point your thumbs slightly towards the ceiling as soon as your arms approach the parallel position. A little bit is enough.
3. PUSH THE WEIGHTS AWAY
The word ‘raise’ implies that you have to lift the weight. While that is true, you should start the move by actually pushing the weights sideways away from you instead of lifting them. This helps to put tension on the lateral delts and minimize the role of the upper traps. See also the explanation below from coach Christian Thibaudeau (from 2:00).
4. LEAN SLIGHTLY FORWARD
Do you always stand straight during lateral raises? Then you mainly put your front shoulder heads (the anterior delts) to work. These rascals always try to get ahead – for example, they also do most of the work during a regular shoulder press. It is not without reason that the anterior delts are much better developed than the lateral delts in many bodybuilders.
By lifting your body slightly forward during lateral raises, the lateral muscle fibers are more in line with the lifting movement. As a result, they are trained immediately and you can feel it! You can reinforce that by thinking on the side of your shoulders during the exercise, creating a mind-muscle connection. This increases the tension on the trained muscle.
For the standing version of the lateral raise, the following applies: hinge your hips slightly back (about 10-20 degrees, so not too far forward), 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. Hold this pose for all reps and notice the difference!
5. USE A RELATIVELY LIGHT WEIGHT
Many people use too much weight when doing lateral raises. And that also leads to incorrect output. First, you don’t lift the weights purely on muscle strength, so you start swinging your torso to create momentum. Scenes like these are the result:
Second, you can’t control the important eccentric, or downward, phase of the exercise. All this also comes at the expense of the previously mentioned mind-muscle connection.
In fact, you should choose a weight that, even on your last rep, you can hold for a moment in the top position. And with which you can do at least 10 repetitions.