best exercises to grow the lateral delts
Fitness

7 Best Exercises To Grow The Lateral Delts

Your deltoid muscle is made up of 3 heads – the anterior, lateral, and posterior. Of the three, the lateral, or medial deltoids is the one that produces width through the shoulders. This, in turn, helps to achieve the classic V-shaped upper body.

Yet, many people don’t know what exercises to put into their delt workout to specifically target the lateral deltoids. In this article, I will provide you with the 7 seven best exercises to add to your workout routine to target the lateral delts.

1. Cable Machine Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great lateral deltoid move 

The cable lateral deltoid raise is a fantastic exercise that places constant resistance on your middle deltoid throughout the complete range of motion. The angle of pull of the resistance lines up perfectly with the muscle fiber direction.

This exercise also provides early phase loading to more perfectly replicate the natural strength curve of the side deltoids. A final benefit of the cable side lateral is that you can very easily change the selector pin weight resistance.

Equipment used

Cable pulley machine

Step-by-step how-to

1. Set the pulley on a cable station pulley machine to the level of your hips and stand side on to it, grabbing the cable with your outside hand.

2. From a starting position with your arm by your side, bring your straightened arm directly out to the side, stopping when your arm is just below shoulder level.

3. Lower and repeat.

4. Do sets of 8-15 repetitions.

Tips

Do not bring your arms up higher than your shoulder level; control the movement on the way and do not allow momentum to do the work for you. Hold the top position for a couple of seconds to increase your time under tension. 

2. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great lateral deltoid move 

The dumbbell lateral raise allows you to isolate and move the middle delts through the full range of motion. 

Related Post:  10 Exercises That Are A Great Alternative to Burpees

Equipment used

Pair of dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to

1. Stand with a pair of dumbbells held at arm’s length in from of your body with dumbbells touching in front of your groin. Your elbows should be slightly bent but licked in position.

2. Pivot from the shoulder joint to bring your arms up and out to the side to shoulder height.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions

Tips

Many people go too heavy on this exercise; use a lighter weight and save the heavier weights for overhead presses. Keep your core tight. 

3. Lying One Arm Side Dumbbell Raise

Why it’s a great lateral deltoid move 

The lying one-arm side dumbbell raise provides the early phase loading that you do not get with the standing version of the dumbbell side lateral. In other words, this lateral deltoid exercise gives more resistance at the beginning of the range of motion.

Equipment used

Single dumbbell

Step-by-step how-to

1. Lie on the floor on your left side with a dumbbell in your right hand and an elbow position at your side. 

2. From this starting position, pivot from your shoulder to bring your right arms up to shoulder level.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets with rep ranges between 10-12 reps.

Tips

Use a relatively light weight and focus on the quality of movement: do not use momentum. 

4. Machine Side Deltoid Raise

Why it’s a great lateral deltoid move 

A well-designed side lateral raise machine will have a cam that allows the resistance to decrease toward the end of the range of motion. The pivot point should also match the width of the shoulders. If you get a good machine that does these things, you will be able to give your side delts the kind of isolation that you will not be able to achieve with a free weight lateral deltoid exercise. 

Related Post:  8 Hyperextension Alternatives

Equipment used

Cable pulley machine

Step-by-step how-to

1. Position yourself on a cable pulley machine and adjust the settings and weight. 

2. From a starting position with your elbows under the pads, press up to shoulder level.

3. Lower and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions.

Tips

Use a light weight and focus on proper form.

5. Incline Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great lateral deltoid move 

The incline lateral range is a stricter version of the standing DB raise as your body is supported by the bench. This prevents you from swinging and bringing momentum into the movement.

Equipment used

Dumbbell, incline bench

Step-by-step how-to

1. Set an incline bench to between a 30-45 degree angle. Lie side on the bench with a light dumbbell in your top hand.

2. Bring your straightened arm up to the level of your shoulder joint.

3. Slowly lower with a controlled motion to the start position. 

4. do 3 sets of 12-20 repetitions.

Tips

Keep the weight light enough that you can keep the movement strict and use proper form.

6. Press Behind the Neck

Why it’s a great lateral deltoid move 

The press behind the neck is primarily a front, or anterior, deltoid exercise. However, of all of the versions of overhead pressing, this classic exercise involves the middle delts more than any other. This is a good exercise for adding muscle mass to your side deltoids as you can use heavy weights more so than on medial delt isolation exercises. 

Equipment used

Barbell

Step-by-step how-to

1. Stand with a barbell behind your neck, resting across your shoulders, and middle traps with a shoulder-width overhand grip.

2. Press the bar directly up to just short of lockout.

3. Lower with a  controlled motion and repeat.

Tips

Do not push either backward or forward, the movement should be directly overhead. Shoulder presses can also be done as a dumbbell military press. Be sure to maintain strict form. Do not use a staggered stance on this exercise. 

Related Post:  Leg Press vs Leg Extension: Which is Best for You?

7. Resistance Band Side Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great lateral deltoid move

Performing the side lateral raise with a resistance exercise band will allow you to get an awesome shoulder workout at home. The resistance band provides a unique resistance that gets heavier as you progress through the exercise. 

Equipment used

Cable pulley machine

Step-by-step how-to

1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and a resistance exercise band under your mid feet. Hold the band in your left hand in an overhand grip in front of your groin.

2. Now pivot from the shoulder joint to bring your arm up to shoulder level.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. 

Tips

Adjust your positioning so that the band is taut in the start position. 

Conclusion

For full, wide, and detailed shoulder muscles, you need to add middle delts exercises to your workout programs. You now have the 7 best shoulder exercises to do just that. Most of these are isolation moves, and lateral raise movements, so don’t make the mistake of going as heavy on them as you would on compound exercises.

Add one of these to your regular shoulder workout routine, along with an exercise for your rear deltoids and anterior deltoids. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best anterior delt exercise?

The best anterior delt exercise is the seated front cable press, which does the best job of isolating the front delt and moving t through its complete range of motion. It is also early phase loaded, where it is easier at the beginning of the exercise to better simulate the strength curve of the muscle. This is the key exercise to do to develop boulder shoulders. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

You may also like...