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How to Do the Lateral Raise

Side Raises with Dumbbells


Updated May 30, 2014

The lateral or side raise is a basic isolation arm exercise. You do it with dumbbells or machines at the gym. The arms hold dumbbells at the sides and the movement is out to the side while maintaining a slight bend in the elbows to provide support for the shoulder joints. The exercise works and strengthens the shoulder muscles. This description describes the dumbbell lateral raise.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise. See more dumbbell exercises.

1. How to Do the Lateral Raise - The Starting Position

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  1. For this exercise, you will not select weights that cause undue stress to the shoulder joint.
  2. You should select a weight that allows you to do 8 to 12 lifts in one set without too much straining at the shoulder. Aim for 2 to 3 sets.
  3. Stand upright with feet about shoulder width apart or a little less depending on your personal comfort.
  4. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the sides or in front.
  5. Brace the abdominal muscles and inhale ready for the movement.

2. How to Do the Lateral Raise - The Exercise Description

Photo (c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness
  1. Together, raise both arms upward while bending the elbows just a little, rather than locking the arms straight at the elbows.
  2. Raise the weights no higher than level with the shoulders -- a little lower is fine -- then lower to the starting position at the sides or in front.
  3. Remember to breathe out on exertion (the lift) and in on the return phase.
  4. This exercise works the deltoid shoulder muscles, particularly the middle deltoid.
  5. Variations include sitting down, lying face down on a bench, going above horizontal with the lift (standing), or starting with weights at the sides, in front or even behind. Variations can target different deltoid muscles and the trapezius.

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