My Favorite Exercise: Dumbbell Lateral Raise Alternatives
With 16 years of experience in coaching and training clients, I can confidently say that the dumbbell lateral raise is my favorite exercise. However, it is also one of the most commonly misused exercises in the gym. Many people perform the lateral raise with incorrect form, swinging back and forth and removing tension from the target muscle. This not only decreases the effectiveness of the exercise but also increases the risk of shoulder injuries. In this article, I will introduce you to 10 dumbbell lateral raise alternatives that will help you build strong and well-rounded deltoids.
Arnold Press: No shoulder workout guide would be complete without mentioning the Arnold press. This exercise targets all three heads of the deltoids – anterior, medial, and posterior. I always recommend my clients to do this exercise at the beginning of their workouts, when they are fresh and can perform it with proper form. To do the Arnold press, sit upright on a utility bench with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder level with your palms facing you. As you raise the dumbbells overhead, rotate your wrists internally so that they face the wall in front of you at the top of the movement. Avoid locking out your elbows and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. I find that using a slow eccentric tempo on the lowering phase is the most effective for targeting the lateral deltoid head.
Resistance Band Lateral Raise: Resistance bands are a powerful tool for performing lateral raises as they limit the use of momentum and increase time under tension. This alternative exercise promotes hypertrophy and muscle stimulation. It is important to remember that the goal is not to rush through the recommended reps, but to load the deltoids properly. To perform the resistance band lateral raise, grab the ends of a resistance band with an overhand grip. Place the center of the band on the floor and stand on it with a shoulder-width stance. Lift your arms slightly to the side, keeping a slight elbow flexion, and raise them until they are parallel to the floor. Pause at the top and slowly lower back to the starting position. It is crucial to maintain control throughout the movement and avoid letting your arms crash to the bottom.
Machine Side Lateral Raise: The machine side lateral raise is a staple in my shoulder training routine as it eliminates the use of momentum and ensures that the target muscles are doing the work. It is important to maintain an upright torso while performing this exercise to avoid transferring tension from the medial to the posterior deltoids. To perform the machine side lateral raise, adjust the pads of the machine so that they are just above your elbows. Place your chest flat against the machine’s pad and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Pause and contract your delts at the top of the range of motion. Repeat for the recommended number of reps. If your gym has a standing lateral raise machine, I recommend standing as close to the weight stack as possible to minimize the use of momentum.
Cable Lateral Raise: Cables and machines provide constant tension on the target muscle throughout the range of motion, making the cable lateral raise an excellent alternative if you don’t have access to a dedicated lateral raise machine. To perform the cable lateral raise, connect a D-handle to the cable pulley and adjust it to the lowest setting. Stand with your side facing the pulley and grab the handle with the hand farther from the pulley using an overhand grip. Hold onto the pulley with the closer hand for stability. Engage your core and glutes and raise the handle until it is at shoulder height. Hold the contraction for a second and slowly return to the starting position. Make sure to maintain control and avoid letting the weight touch the stack at the bottom.
Plate Lateral Raise: The plate lateral raise is a great exercise for shoulder activation and can help improve form by limiting the use of momentum. Start with lighter weights and focus on mastering the movement mechanics before progressing to heavier weights. To perform the plate lateral raise, insert your middle, ring, and index fingers through the center hole of a weight plate and grip it on the other side. Stand upright with your arms at your sides. Keeping a slight elbow flexion, raise your arms until they are perpendicular to your torso. Rotate your palms externally at the top for a deeper stretch in the medial deltoids. Lower and repeat. Holding the weight plates at the grip handles can cause wrist strain, so it is important to hold the plates at the centers for equal weight distribution.
These 10 dumbbell lateral raise alternatives will not only add variety to your workouts but also help you achieve well-rounded and strong deltoids. Remember to always prioritize proper form and control to maximize the effectiveness of each exercise. Happy training!