12 Best Lateral Deltoid (Side Delts) Exercises You Must Know
One of the most important muscles to give that round and wide look to your shoulders. Yes, I am talking about lateral delts or in other words mid or side delts. It is located in the mid part of your shoulder which gives you the width of your shoulders.
You must train these muscles in different angles and positions to get the best results. And for that, I am here to share with you those amazing lateral/ side deltoid exercises which you can include in your workout. Some you might know and some will be new to you. So let’s begin!
Lateral Deltoid ( Side Shoulder) Exercises
1. Dumbbell Lateral Raises
This is one of the traditional exercises for your side deltoid. Almost all lifters might have done this exercise. If you are beginner who want to specifically target your lateral delts, then this exercise is for you.
Even the most advanced bodybuilders and athletes do this exercise so its not just for beginners.
How to do
1. Hold the dumbbells on your hands and stand with both feet at shoulder’s width. You can also do this exercise while sitting.
2. Lift both the dumbbells to each side of the body and stop until your arms are parallel to the ground.
3. Hold the top position for a second and then return back to the starting position. Keep the tension on your side delts throughout the movement.
Make sure that your wrists are in line with the elbow or slightly up. It should not go too far up. You can also do this with one hand at a time to focus on each side separately.
2. 45-degree Incline Row
This is one of the best ways to target your mid deltoids. There was a study which was conducted by ACE which concluded that a 45° incline rows are the best way to train your lateral deltoid when compared with those 10 exercises.
How to do
1. Grab two dumbbells and place your chest on the bench which is set up at a 45-degree angle.
2. Start pulling the dumbbells up by flexing the elbow and bring the dumbbells up towards the chest. Both dumbbells should be away from each other.
3. Pause at the top for a second and then return back to the starting position.
If you feel any pain in the shoulder joint during the movement, then discontinue the exercise. Also don’t go heavy on this.
3. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
This will give you the size and thickness of your deltoids. Its a great compound exercise for your shoulders. Your side delts will get bigger with this exercise!
How to do
1. Pick two dumbbells and sit on a bench with your head and back supported on a bench. Your dumbbells should be on your thighs.
2. Lift each dumbbell up using your thighs. Your palm should face forward and dumbbells should be at the shoulders height.
3. From this position, lift both the dumbbells up and extend your elbow at the top. Squeeze at the top and Come back to the starting position slowly.
Before lifting, make sure that your wrist is in line with the elbows and not forward. Make sure that your hands move straight up rather than going forward.
Your core should be tight and your neck should be tucked in. Don’t bend your lower back during the movement
Spotting – You can use a spotter to support you with the movement. Only use a spotter at the last one or two rep. The spotters hands should be closer to the wrist rather than on your elbows.
4. Leaning Away Lateral Raises
This is another way of doing lateral raises. By leaning forward, the exercise becomes harder at the top. You can use it as a substitute for lateral raise.
How to do
1 Hold one dumbbell on one hand and stand with the other hand on a pillar or a bar for support.
2. Now lean away towards the side and the dumbbell should be at the lateral side of the thigh. This will be your starting position.
3. Raise the dumbbell up to the side while breathing out and stop at the top such that your hands are parallel to the ground.
4. Hold the top position for 1 second and then gently come back down to the starting position while breathing in.
Keep in mind that your elbow should be in line with the wrist or slightly up. As you get advanced, you can take your hands back and do the same movement.
5. Arnold Press
Arnold presses are great to increase the size and strength of your shoulders. It works your front and lateral head. You can do this either seated or in a standing position.
How to do
1. Grab two dumbbells and sit down on a bench, or a flat chair if you are at home.
2. Raise the dumbbells up to the shoulder height with your palm facing towards you. This will be your starting position.
3. Now raise the dumbbells by rotating your wrist and reach to the top. Extend your elbows and squeeze your shoulders at the top.
4. Come back to the starting position the same way you went up.
It’s a very popular old school dumbbell exercise for shoulders. So try it if you have not done it before. You can also do this with one hand at a time.
6. Wide-Grip Upright Row
This is a great exercise to give the width to your shoulders. This will hit your lateral and rear delt which will give you that fuller look from the sides.
How to do
1. Grab each end of the straight bar and stand straight with both feet at shoulder width apart.
2. Slightly lean forward and then start lifting the bar up by keeping the bar closer to the body. The elbow will face up and your shoulders should be internally rotated.
3. Stop when the bar is just below your chest. You don’t have to move above than that.
4. Bring the bar back to the starting position and repeat the movement.
Don’t add too many weights for this exercise. Your shoulders are internally rotated and in an unstable position during this movement. So choose a weight which you can handle with the proper form.
Also it is an advance exercise so it’s not recommended for beginners.
7. Incline Cable Lateral Raises
Another great isolation exercise for your side delts. The mind and muscle connection are largely enhanced with these exercises.
How to do
1. Attach both handles at each end of a cable machine. Place a bench in between the machine and set the bench at about a 60° angle.
2. Grab the right side of the cable with your left hand and the left cable with your right hand.
3. Hold the handles and lay down onto the bench. Keep your hands down together with a slight bend in the elbow. This will be your starting position.
4. Now start raising your hands up to the sides and phase when your arms are parallel to the ground. You elbow should be bend slightly.
5. Bring your hands down to the starting position and repeat the exercise.
8. Incline Lateral Raises (Single-Hand)
It’s one of the old school exercises which you might have seen it before. Here, you create an enormous tension on those lateral head of your shoulder.
How to do
1. Hold a dumbbell and place your sides onto the bench which is set up at about 60° angle. Your dumbbell should be at the other side.
2. Hold the bench with one arm and keep the other arm in front of the body while holding the dumbbell.
3. Now start raising your hand to the side while maintaining a slight bend in the elbow.
4. Pause at the top and then slowly bring your arms back to the starting position.
9. Landmine Side Raises
You can use a barbell in many ways. Here we do the exercise in a landmine set up. This exercise is great for athletes who use their shoulders a lot in their sports.
How to do
1. Place one end of the bar at the corner edge of the wall and stand close to the bar with your legs facing the bar.
2. Bend down and hold the end of the bar and then stand straight with your hands down at one side.
3. Now start moving the barbell towards the side while keeping a slight bend in the elbow.
4. Pause at the top and then bring the bar back to the starting position.
Here, your arm will move slightly back rather than going straight to the sides which makes it a lot different than the regular lateral raises.
It will also engage your core more and is an athletic movement. It will be a unique way to train your side delts.
10. Snatch-Grip Behind the Neck Shoulder Press
This is an advanced version of behind the neck press. It will give you an amazing width to your shoulders. If you are not comfortable with behind the necks, then stick with the regular shoulder press.
How to do
1. Grab the bar such that both hands are wider than the shoulders width. Keep the bar on your traps just like squats and step back from the rack.
2. Both feet should be at shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight and shoulders back before moving the weights up.
3. Start pushing the bar up while contracting your shoulders and fully extend your elbows at the top.
4. Return back to the starting position and the repeat the movement.
Your core should be engaged throughout the exercise to keep the lower back in a stable position.
If you have shoulder pain or lack mobility to bring your hands behind the neck, then don’t perform the exercise. Stick with the regular military press.
This exercise is usually used by advanced lifters so if you don’t have much experience with lifting weights, then this exercise is not for you.
11. Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise
This exercise will stretch your shoulders a lot more than the regular lateral raises!
To get the most out of any exercise, you should increase the range of motion of the movement and this exercise will allow you to completely stretch your delts at the bottom.
How to do
1. Pick two dumbbells and sit on an incline bench with your back resting on the bench and keep your hands on to the sides.
2. Now start moving your arms up with a slight bend in the elbow. Puase when your hands are parallel to the floor.
3. Slowly bring your hands back to the starting position and then repeat the movement.
Don’t use heavy dumbbells for this exercise. Its an isolation exercise so focus on quality over quantity.
12. Cable Lateral Raise
This is a perfect isolation exercise for your side delts. You can focus on each part of your deltoid separately with this move.
How to do
1. Attach a handle at the lower end of a cable machine. Stand at a shoulder-width stance with your sides facing the cables.
2. Hold the handles and keep your hands in front of the body. This will be your starting position.
3. Now start raising your hands to the sides with a slight bend in the elbow and pause when your hands are parallel to the ground.
4. Return back to the starting position and stretch your shoulders at the end. Do the same movement with the other hand.
You can do the same movement by taking your arms behind the body. This version will not let you cheat and will put constant tension on your side delts.
So these were some of the unique and most effective exercises for your lateral deltoids. Add at least 2-3 exercises in each workout when you train your shoulders. Also, keep changing the exercise to continuously get results and to avoid a plateau.
Compound exercises like military press should be included in each workout. In the end, you can do some lateral raises to create a metabolic response for growth.
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Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com, and has worked as a fitness coach in gyms and is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.