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When we look at the different shoulder exercises, we will find lateral raises as one of the popular exercises. From beginners to advanced lifters, all can be seen doing this exercise. The reason is obvious, it is one of the best ways to hit the side delts. Lateral or side delts give that round and broader look to your shoulders that everyone wants. And that’s the reason it is very popular.

However, some people feel pain while doing lateral raises. This happens due to the internal rotation of the scapula which happens during lateral raise. You can fix that problem by doing lateral raises by keeping your thumbs up at the end. But still, many beginners or people with shoulder pain will not be comfortable with this exercise.

In this article, I have shared with you some of the best alternatives to lateral raises which are effective and are much safer. Most of these exercises discussed below are some of the top shoulder exercises. So you must know about them and how to perform these exercises properly.

Also, some of these exercises might not be safe for people with shoulder problems, so I have mentioned that inside each exercise section so that you know before doing the exercise.

Lateral Raise Alternatives

1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

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The dumbbell shoulder press is one of the popular exercises to add size and thickness to your shoulder. Here you will not only hit the lateral but the entire head of the shoulder. So you can add this as an alternative to a lateral raise.

Also, there are fewer chances of any injury because you can move your arms freely either by keeping them to the side or bringing the weights to the front and then pressing them up. So you must include this compound exercise in your workout to build and strengthen your overall shoulder muscles.

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 with the help of your thighs to bounce it up over your shoulders.

3. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height. Your palm should face forward. This will be your starting position.

4. From this position, lift both dumbbells and focus on squeezing your delts at the top.

5. Return to the starting position and then repeat the movement.

Recommended Reps– 10- 12

Before lifting, make sure that your wrist is in line with the elbow. Your arms should go back and overhead like an arch rather than going straight up.

Always keep the dumbbells on the lap after completing your set to avoid any injuries. Don’t just throw the weights away!

You can also do this exercise while standing with both feet at about shoulder-width apart. This is more athletic and is generally preferred.

2. 45-degree Incline Row

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This is one of the best ways to target your mid-deltoids. There was a study which was conducted by ACE which concluded that 45° incline rows are the best way to train your lateral deltoid when compared with those 10 exercises. So instead of a lateral raise, you can try this alternative.

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 bringing 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 to the starting position.

Recommended Reps– 10- 12

If you feel any pain in the shoulder joint during the movement, then discontinue the exercise. Also, don’t go heavy on this. Make sure that you do this with the proper form and technique. Stop whenever you feel pain in the joints.

3. Standing Military Press

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This is one of the best compound exercises for your shoulders. It will give you that big and broad shoulders which you would be getting from behind the neck press too, but it also comes with the risk of injury.

The military press will engage your core more and will be a great exercise, to begin with. Do this as a compound exercise for your delts and then isolate it with the other exercises like front and lateral raises for maximizing growth.

So as it is a compound exercise targeting many other muscles apart from the lateral deltoid, you can replace or skip lateral raise if you are doing military press.

How to do

1. Grab the bar and bring it up towards your shoulders. Your hands should be slightly wider than the shoulders. Your elbow should be under the wrist and this will be your starting position.

2. Start pushing the bar up while contracting your shoulders and fully extending your elbows at the top.

3. The bar should be in line with your ears when you reach the top. Don’t stop when the bar is in front of the head.

4. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Recommended Reps– 10- 12

Your core should be engaged throughout the exercise to keep the lower back in a stable position. If you had any shoulder injury or impingement then consult the physical therapist before doing any overhead exercise.

4. Leaning Away Lateral Raises

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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 raises.

How to do

1 Hold one dumbbell in 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 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.

Recommended Reps– 12-15

Keep in mind that your elbow should be in line with the wrist or slightly up. As you get advanced, you can do lateral raises by bringing your hands back as you bring your hands down.

5. Kettlebell Clean And Press

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Clean and press are great unilateral exercises you must do to improve your strength and power. You can do this with either a kettlebell or a dumbbell. This is an athletic move that engages your core, quads, and arms, which makes it an amazing compound movement.

This exercise is safe for your joints and elbow if you do it with proper form and technique. So next time you try behind-the-neck presses, then do try this one out. So it is a great alternative option you have.

How to do

1. Hold a kettlebell from one side and stand at about shoulder-width stance. Bend down while keeping your back straight and chest up. Keep the other hand behind the body.

2. Bring the kettlebell down and then press with your legs to generate force and then bring the kettlebell to the side while rotating the kettlebell.

3. Rest the kettlebell on your shoulder. Now lift the kettlebell and extend your elbows at the top.

4. Now bring the kettlebell down again to the starting position and then repeat the movement. Do the same from the other side.

Recommended Reps– 8-10

You can also use a dumbbell to do this exercise instead of a kettlebell. It can be easily done at home if you have a dumbbell or a kettlebell. Make sure that your form is correct and stop the exercise if you feel pain or discomfort.

6. Wide-Grip Upright Row

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This is a great exercise to give your shoulders. This will hit your lateral and rear delt which will give you that fuller look from the sides.

This exercise might be difficult for some, especially for beginners. Also, you can hurt your joints due to internal rotation happening during this exercise. So if you cannot feel it in your muscles, then you should not do this. Instead, do a dumbbell press and other overhead presses mentioned in this article.

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 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.

4. Slowly bring the bar back to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Recommended Reps– 10- 12

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 that you can handle with the proper form.

7. Landmine Side Raises

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You can use a barbell in many ways. Here we do the exercise in a landmine setup. This exercise is great for athletes who use their shoulders a lot in their sports.

So if you want to add some new variation or you have pain during dumbbell lateral raise and looking for other alternatives, then this exercise is for you.

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.

Recommended Reps– 12-15

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.

8. Pike Push-Ups

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This is a great bodyweight exercise to strengthen the shoulder muscles. The movement pattern is similar to that of a military press. It is a much safer and a powerful exercise to strengthen your shoulder. So you should try this alternative.

How to do

1. Place your hands on the floor with both hands slightly wider than the shoulder. Place your legs at the back and move your hips up.

2. Your hands should be in line with your head and your hips should be raised such that your body looks like an inverted V from the sides.

3. Now start bringing your head down without moving your hips and pause when it’s almost touching the floor or mat. Your elbow should be at about a 60° angle.

4. Push on the ground and bring your head back to the starting position. Always look at your feet during the movement.

Recommended Reps– 10- 12

You can do this exercise at the beginning of your workout. It can be replaced with behind-the-neck presses especially when you are at home without equipment.

9. Single Arm Kettlebell Press

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You can also use a kettlebell to target the shoulder. Single-arm kettlebell press is a great exercise to strengthen the shoulders and give that wide look. This is a unilateral exercise where you can focus on one side separately. So if you have one side weaker than the other, you must do this exercise.

How to do

1 Hold a kettlebell in one hand and keep the other hand down. Bring the kettlebell to your shoulders. keep your chest up and look straight. This is your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by lifting the kettlebell by pressing the weights up. Keep the tension on the shoulders s you press.

3. Bring the kettlebell up and stop when the elbows are extended. Slowly bring the kettlebell back to the shoulder level.

4. Then repeat the same procedure for the other side.

Recommended Reps– 10- 12

Make sure that you focus on your shoulders as you lift. Many times, your traps will take charge during the movement. So always focus as you do the exercise and don’t shrug as you press.

10. Arnold Press

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This is another great alternative to the behind-the-neck press. You can do this as a prime compound exercise to add size and roundness to your shoulders. This is a much safer and easy exercise you can do easily at home. You just need dumbbells and you are good to go.

One of the best things about this exercise is that it targets both the front and lateral heads together. Also, the rotational movement makes it more challenging. So if you cannot do lateral raises, at least do Arnold presses.

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 and hold them in front of the shoulder with your palm facing towards you. This will be your starting position.

3. Now start moving the dumbbells up by rotating your wrist and then squeezing your shoulders at the top.

4. Slowly return to the starting position the same way you went up.

Recommended Reps– 10- 12

Arnold presses are very effective in building big and strong shoulders. You can go heavy on this. But do not overach your lower back as you lift heavy as this can injure your lower back.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Muscles Do Lateral Raises Work?

Lateral raise as the name suggests, targets the lateral head of the shoulder, which is your side delt muscles. This muscle is responsible for making your shoulder look wider and bigger.

Along with that, some secondary muscles like traps are also engaged to support the delts in lifting the weight. Sometimes during a lateral raise, you will find your traps engaging more than delts. this is because either you are lifting heavy or your side delts are weak. Therefore traps become a prime mover than side delts.

Can I Skip Lateral Raises?

To answer this question directly, I would say yes! you can skip lateral raises. However, you should know some things before you skip lateral raises.

Lateral raise targets the side deltoid muscle, so if you are skipping this exercise then you should have some other exercises that target the same muscles. All of these exercises are discussed in this article. So make sure that before skipping lateral raises, check your workout and see if there are exercises that target the lateral head of the shoulder.

Are Lateral Raises Bad For Your Shoulder?

This is a very common question that most people ask. Many of you might have felt pain or discomfort in your shoulder joint during lateral raises. This is because there is an internal rotation happening when you perform the movement. This puts an extra load on the joints if your delts are not fully developed or if you already have any shoulders.

To avoid pain or injury, you should do this exercise by making sure that your wrist is always above the level of your elbow when your hands are at a 90-degree angle. Another way to avoid pain is by doing alternative exercises mentioned in this article. You don’t need to do lateral raises if you are having pain doing it.

Final Words

So these were some of the best alternatives to lateral raise. You can do any of these exercises in place of lateral raises, however, make sure that you design your workout properly. If you are looking to substitute lateral raises with any of these exercises, make sure to choose one or two. You should not do too many exercises in a single workout.

Make sure to include some rear delt exercises as well because these are the most neglected ones and most people have weak rear delts. So always have one exercise of rear delts as well in your workout program. You can find rear delt exercises here.

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Also Read

  1. 10 Safer Front Raise Alternatives
  2. 8 Best Reverse Pec Deck Fly Alternatives ( Without Machine)
  3. 7 Awesome Behind The Neck Press Alternatives (Safe And Better)
  4. 13 Best Rear Delt Exercises (With Videos)
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