In 6 steps to the perfect side lateral raise

Lateral raise, side raise, side raise. All three are names for the same exercise for the side of your shoulder. If you have read the previous blog, it has already become clear that the front shoulder head usually gets more than enough to endure. That while the sides and back could use some extra training. So it’s a good idea to make lateral raises an important part of your workout for full, rounded shoulders.


Although lateral raises are important for full shoulder development, it is unfortunately also one of the exercises that are most often performed incorrectly! At first glance, the movement seems very simple. However, when you look at the performance of most people, everything is trained, except the side shoulder! The following examples are probably familiar to you:

  • A lot of momentum making the exercise more like a power clean than a lateral raise
  • Raising the arms way too high, so that the trapezius takes over a large part of the exercise
  • Do not raise the arms sideways, but obliquely forward, so that the front shoulder takes a large part
  • And perhaps the most common: the execution where your hands are way above your elbows, making the final position more like a shoulder press than a lateral raise

Although in different ways, all these cases provide the same result: less focus on your side shoulder!

Below you will find the step-by-step plan for the perfect lateral raise!


Something that is not only crucial for lateral raises, but literally for every exercise. Keep your body tense! A neglected attitude at the beginning of the exercise where you are not under tension increases the chance that you will cheat. Not only that, but the risk of injury also increases considerably.

So keep your feet stable on the floor, tighten your abs and lower back and keep your shoulder blades low and back.

Side lateral raise


“Keep your body as straight as possible, then raise your arms straight out.” While this may seem like good advice, it doesn’t always hold true for lateral raises.

When you stand straight, there is a very good chance that as soon as the exercise becomes heavier, you will immediately compensate. You are no longer able to hold your position properly or you unconsciously start to raise your arms a little further forward. Slowly but surely you perform a front raise more and more and the focus on the side disappears.

The solution? Tilt your body slightly forward at the beginning of the exercise. Of course not so far that it becomes a rear delt raise, but just enough so that you can really raise the arms sideways throughout the exercise. Not only is this more effective for your shoulders, but it also makes it clearer when your technique deteriorates.


While too much exercise isn’t meant to be, it doesn’t mean you should never move anything. The problem is with the word ‘too much’. Too much movement means that you no longer have control over the weight, the exercise is performed by the wrong muscle groups and the risk of injury increases very quickly.

What we’re talking about here is strategic momentum . A controlled amount of exercise, which is the same with each repetition, with the sole purpose of making the dead center of the exercise disappear.

At the start of the lateral raise, your supraspinatus mainly provides movement. This is a deeper muscle that mainly has a stabilizing function, but also has less strength than your shoulder heads. When no physical activity is allowed, this section quickly becomes your sticking point. That while your shoulders are not even fully stimulated.

So by applying a small amount of strategic momentum at the beginning of the move, you will overcome the dead center at the beginning of the exercise. But note that this is not a license to throw your body uncontrollably! This strategic momentum should be the same from first to last iteration!

TIP: Are you aware that you often throw too much? Try starting the exercise with the dumbbells next to you instead of in front of you. Because of this you can’t ‘swing’ so much in the beginning and the chance that you go far forward with your body is also smaller!


In this heading, 3 words are crucial, they are ‘checked’, ‘sideways’ and ‘shoulder height’.

First of all, control: Yes, some strategic momentum is allowed at the start of the move. But after that, you should be able to lift the dumbbells through your shoulders in a controlled manner! If you are unable to do this, you are probably training too heavily and explosiveness in your legs or swinging your back will cause the weight to lift. Not your shoulders.

Then sideways. We’re already assuming a slightly forward stance, but we can’t emphasize this point enough. Constantly make sure those arms go sideways, not slanting forward! Your brain is really good at fooling you once the weight gets heavy. “It was so hard, but I think the technique was good.” Don’t fall for that. Check your technique with a mirror on the side or let your training buddy watch. Technology always has priority!

And finally shoulder height. Unless you also want to use this exercise to train your trapezius, stop as soon as your elbows are at shoulder height. Here you want to avoid the mistake we mentioned earlier: namely that your hands are higher than your elbows.

Imagine that you are holding two glasses that you want to empty. Hands in line with your elbows, pinkie higher than index finger!

Side lateral raise


Okay, once you get to point 5, don’t make it too easy on yourself by swinging or raising your hands too high. So where could it go wrong? Yes, bend your arms!

It’s dead simple: lateral raises are tough. The weights come far outside your body, so you have to deal with a heavy lever. What do you do when it gets heavier? The arms are bent up to 90 degrees, making the exercise many times easier!

So while you think you are making big gains because you are now performing the lateral raises with 16 kg, nothing has happened other than that you have made the lever lighter. This is not progress! This is fooling yourself.

So keep your arms fixed with a slight bend in your elbow to avoid excessive pressure on the joint. Just as you want to keep doing the movement sideways throughout the exercise, you also want to keep the arms in the same position!


Finally, the last part of the exercise: the eccentric part. Everyone has heard of it: lowering a weight in a controlled manner (also known as ‘negative training’) can contribute to more muscle mass. Yet you often see the opposite happening with the lateral raise.

The weight is thrown up and down so quickly, as if trying to ascend. Control is hard to find, especially in the return movement. Don’t participate in this!

If you can’t bring the weight down with control, you’re probably training too hard and chances are you’re training a lot of things, but not your side shoulder. We are by no means saying that the negative movements need to last countless seconds, but at least make sure that this is a smooth, controlled movement.