Lateral Raise Variations for Big Delts

Lateral Raise Variations for Big Delts

The lateral raise exercise is ideal for strengthening the shoulders and improving stability. All lateral raise variations target the trapezius and deltoid muscles, though athletes can engage them from different angles to get better results.

Lateral raise variations are necessary for building strength, flexibility, and stability throughout the shoulders and upper back. These classic exercises are necessary for injury prevention and sometimes recovery. All athletes can benefit from healthier, more stable shoulder muscles, including strongmen and bodybuilders.

One of the appealing factors for incorporating a lateral raise variation into a workout is that the exercise doesn’t require much weight. It’s possible to make gains with lower weight than athletes use for alternatives, like bench presses. That said, advanced athletes might choose to do lateral raise weight variation for a personal challenge.

Lateral raise variations include the following.

  1. Cable Lateral Raise
  2. Wall Press Lateral Raise
  3. Three-Way Lateral Raise
  4. Landmine Lateral Raise
  5. Kneeling Lateral Raise
  6. Leaning Away Lateral Raise
  7. Lateral Raise Hold
  8. 1.5 Rep Lateral Raise
  9. Dead Stop Lateral Raise
  10. Y Raise

Additionally, there are kettlebell lateral raise variations that allow athletes to switch out equipment to meet their needs. However, for those trap bar fans, there are no trap bar lateral raise variations, so grab some dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a cable machine and get to work.

1. Cable Lateral Raise

The cable lateral raise is a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoids and rotator cuffs for all athletes, including weightlifters and bodybuilders. 

Men and women can benefit from the exercises because it strengthens the entire shoulder, including the subscapularis and infraspinatus muscles that support the rotator cuff. Many athletes combine the cable lateral raise with a version of the frontal raise to increase shoulder stability and develop aesthetically appealing shoulders.

Since the cable lateral raise is a variation of the traditional version, it has several alternatives, including a barbell military press, inverted row, and chin up. 

The reason it works so well is that its cable lateral raise variations help to keep your medial deltoids under tension throughout the motion of the exercise. By crossing the cables in front of yourself, you stretch the shoulders deeply, and they remain under tension as you raise the handles up to your sides until you’re at the top of the raise.

Compared to the other variations on this list, the cable version can reduce stress on the shoulder like most cable machine exercises. It’s also easy to modify the exercise to make it easier or more challenging by adjusting the tension and weight on the machine. Beginners and those working back from injuries might prefer the cable lateral raise.

The most common mistake with a cable lateral raise is using too much weight. This exercise provides plenty of gains without using excessive weight, so it’s important to go lighter and focus on form. Instead of adding weight, try increasing the number of reps per set.

The cable lateral raise is a beginner-friendly exercise. It’s also ideal for any athletes who need to rehab from a shoulder injury.

The cable lateral raise is a classic lateral raise variation that provides consistent tension to the shoulder muscles throughout the exercise. It’s easy to alter the exercise by extending or shortening the motion. However, lifters should master the standard cable lateral raise before attempting an alternative.

2. Wall Press Lateral Raise

Wall press lateral raises are a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoids, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus muscles for strength, mass, and stability. All athletes can benefit from adding a wall press lateral raise into their shoulder routine, including bodybuilders and weightlifters.

Men and women can improve stability, flexibility, and control by using the wall press lateral raise that forces good posture by using the wall for support. By standing next to a wall, the lifter focuses on standing straight while isolating the target muscles in the shoulder.

The only alternative for this lateral raise variation is using a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell.

The most common mistake is using too much weight. Like other lateral raise variations, this one requires less weight and perfect form to make gains. Try a lighter weight and focus on keeping a tight core throughout the exercise to maintain posture.

Wall press lateral raises work well for beginners and bodybuilders because it’s an excellent way to learn proper form and prevent cheating. Since the body is against the wall, it’s almost impossible to rely on swinging momentum to lift the weight, meaning the athlete works the target muscles.

The wall press lateral raise is a classic lateral raise variation that encourages proper posture and reduces the tendency to use momentum instead of the shoulder muscles. 

3. Three-Way Lateral Raise

The three-way lateral raise is a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoids and building strength, stamina, and endurance for all types of athletes. Men and women can benefit from adding this to an upper-body routine. It increases shoulder stability and complements the bench press and shoulder press by moving the muscles differently.

The only alternatives for this exercise are the ones on this list, but none work the musculature in quite the same fashion. This variation targets the medial and anterior delts in unique ways to increase mass while improving endurance and stability.

Three-way lateral raises require the athlete to move the dumbbells out to their sides, in front of them, and overhead. This approach works in some rotation and targets the muscles from different angles. It also engages the abs and other core muscles at various points.

The most common mistakes are using excessive weight and relying on momentum. As noted, lateral raises don’t require as much weight as other exercises, and it’s important to make the muscles work instead of swinging the weights. 

This is a beginner-friendly exercise, though advanced lifters can increase the difficulty but adding weight or reps. It’s an excellent shoulder stabilizing exercise.

Three-way lateral raises are a classic lateral raise variation that allows athletes to target the deltoids in several ways with one exercise. The only alternative is using a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell.

4. Landmine Lateral Raise

A landmine lateral raise is a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoid muscles for strongmen and athletes. It’s ideal for building bigger, stronger shoulders because it targets the delts and takes them through a complete range of motion.

Intermediate and advanced athletes of all genders can benefit from adding a landmine lateral raise to their shoulder day routine. It requires slow, controlled movements and combines the rear-delt, lateral, and front raises into a single exercise. The alternatives to a landmine lateral raise are doing each exercise separately. 

This variation is ideal for those athletes hoping to shorten their workout without neglecting their shoulders. 

The most common mistake with this exercise is using too much weight to maintain proper form. Using a lower weight and focusing on form is the best way to make gains, and that includes not relying on momentum at any point. 

This variation is not beginner-friendly and should only be attempted by intermediate to advanced athletes who need a challenge and have an excellent understanding of front raises, lateral raises, and rear delt raises.

Landmine lateral raises are a bodybuilding lateral raise variation that combines three exercises into one for a more comprehensive shoulder workout. 

5. Kneeling Lateral Raise

The kneeling lateral raise is a lateral raise variation focused on developing the deltoid muscles for all athletes. 

Athletes of all genders can benefit from using this lateral raise variation because it reduces the tendency to swing the weights. Since the athlete kneels, there is more stability, and it’s easier to focus on using the shoulder muscles to lift the weight. The kneeling lateral raise is helpful for people working on balance and control.

The only alternatives to the kneeling lateral raise are the ones on this list. This variation requires the athlete to kneel on a soft mat and engage one shoulder at a time while stabilizing the body with both knees and the other arm. 

Like other lateral raises, the most common mistake for this variation is using too much weight. Excessive weight reduces the athlete’s ability to maintain proper form. Focus on slow, controlled movements with lighter weights to reap the greatest results. 

This is a beginner-friendly exercise and ideal for those returning from a shoulder injury.

The kneeling lateral raise is a classic lateral raise variation for athletes of all skill levels. It’s one of the easier variations and helps recovering athletes alleviate pressure while still working the muscles.

6. Leaning Away Lateral Raise

The leaning away lateral raise is a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoid muscles and core for bodybuilders and weightlifters. Other athletes of all genders who want to develop shoulder strength and stability can also benefit from incorporating this variation into a shoulder-day routine.

There are no alternatives that address the shoulder and core muscles in the same way as the leaning away lateral raise. Because the athlete holds a bar and leans out to perform the exercise at an angle, it increases the range of motion and creates more tension through the muscles. Athletes can increase the difficulty by leaning further from the bar. 

This variation is ideal for athletes who need to make gains in strength and mass. It’s ideal for heavy weightlifters, strongmen, and bodybuilders.

The most common mistake is moving too fast through the reps. Slow, controlled motions are ideal, even if that means using less weight.

The leaning-away lateral raise is not for beginners. It’s best for intermediate and advanced athletes who have the strength and body control to perform the exercise.

The leaning away lateral raise is a bodybuilding lateral raise variation that challenges athletes by creating additional tension in the muscles and increasing the range of motion.

7. Lateral Raise Hold

The lateral raise hold is a lateral raise variation that focuses on the deltoids for building stamina and strength for all athletes. It’s ideal for every type of athlete of all genders because it strengthens the muscles and increases both stability and endurance.

The only alternatives to the lateral raise hold are the ones on this list, though it’s possible to make any of them in a lateral raise hold. This exercise simply requires the athlete to hold the position at the top of the motion for three seconds before releasing. Additionally, athletes can substitute a kettlebell for the dumbbell. 

Lateral raise holds are all about reps and form instead of weight, so lighter weights are necessary. The hold at the top makes this maneuver extremely difficult but effective, and it engages the core muscles to improve posture and address weak spots in the shoulders.

The most common mistake with lateral raise holds is using too much weight to maintain the hold at the top. Choose a lighter weight and focus on the hold. To increase difficulty, start by adding reps or hold time instead of weight.

Lateral raise holds are good stamina-building exercises for most weight lifters, including beginners, bodybuilders, and strongmen. It is beginner-friendly, provided that the athlete can maintain the hold.

The lateral raise hold is a classic lateral raise variation for stability and stamina. It’s ideal for any athlete who needs to build strength and stability to protect and support the shoulder muscles and joints.

8. 1.5 Rep Lateral Raise

The 1.5 rep lateral raise is a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoids muscles and stamina for all athletes, including weightlifters and bodybuilders. Athletes of all genders can benefit from using less weight and more reps with perfect form. 

The only alternatives to this variation are the others on this list. Compared to the others, this variation focuses most on strength because it requires exceptional control and keeps tension in the muscles.  

This variation should only be used by intermediate and advanced lifters who have the strength and control to manage the maneuver. Since the lifter never returns to the starting position until after they complete the reps, it creates more tension in the muscles longer. 

The most common mistake for this variation is trying to use the same amount of weight used for other lateral raises. Drop the amount of weight to accommodate to focus on form and the burn will be obvious. Don’t forget to stabilize the core throughout the exercise.

The 1.5 rep lateral raise is a bodybuilding lateral raise variation that allows athletes to make gains in strength. Athletes only lower halfway down to the starting position before pushing back to the top of the motion, increasing the tension in the muscles for longer periods than other variations.

9. Dead Stop Lateral Raise

The dead stop lateral raise is a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoid muscles and building control for bodybuilders and weightlifters. However, all athletes of all genders can benefit from the dead stop at the end of the motion.

This variation ends at the body and stops all momentum, so each rep relies on the shoulder muscles to move the weight. That means athletes have to create their own momentum and not swing the weights. 

The only alternatives to this exercise are the ones on this list, though this particular variation reduces the chances of swinging the weights. It’s ideal for people who want to strengthen their shoulder muscles and have a tendency to rely on momentum too much. 

The most common mistake with dead stop lateral raises is using too much weight. Not only will it hurt when the weight comes to a dead stop, but it’s also not easy to maintain proper form. Athletes should gravitate toward lighter weights and increase reps to make the most gains. 

Though most people would consider this variation a beginner-friendly exercise, the dead stop lateral raise requires some degree of control and mastery of proper form. Some beginners might not feel comfortable with it.

The dead stop lateral raise is a power-lifting lateral raise variation that eliminates the athlete’s chances to use momentum to raise the weight. It’s all about working the delts, especially the side deltoids. 

10. Y Raise

The Y raise is a lateral raise variation focused on the deltoids and upper back muscles for all athletes. It’s commonly used in shoulder rehab routines for athletes of all specialties and genders because the Y raise targets the middle delts. 

The Y raise shifts the athlete’s leverage to make any weight feel heavier, and there are no alternatives that accomplish the same feat. Since the athlete stretches out on an adjustable bench and lets the arms hang to the sides, the exercise works the muscles from a different angle. Athletes hit the deltoids and trapezius muscles with this variation.

The most common mistake is using too much weight. Even the lightest weights will feel heavier with the Y raise. Athletes should opt for much lighter weights and focus on the proper form until they master the exercise from this angle. 

Traditional Y raises are beginner-friendly and common in rehab and injury prevention routines.

The Y raise is a strengthening lateral raise variation. It builds muscle and stability while improving posture.

What to Know About Lateral Raise Variations?

Facts about Lateral Raise alternatives are listed below.

  1. Muscle Growth: lateral raise alternatives can benefit certain muscle groups better than Lateral Raise, such as the dead stop lateral raise that eliminates reliance on momentum.
  2. Increase Endurance with some lateral raise alternatives, like the lateral raise hold or 1.5 rep lateral raise that keeps tension in the muscles longer.
  3. Recover from Injury with lateral raise alternatives that focus on lighter weight and proper form, like Y raises and kneeling lateral raises.

Lateral raise variations offer athletes the chance to target the deltoids from different angles and focus on strengthening mass building, stamina, or a combination of all three. Additionally, athletes can avoid variations that aggravate shoulder injuries while selecting those that aid in recovery.

What are the Common Mistakes in Doing the Lateral Raise Variations?

Using too much weight and relying on momentum are the most common mistakes with doing the lateral raise variations. Many lateral raise variations require less weight than the standard version but deliver better results.

Which Type of Lateral Raise Variation is Beginner-friendly?

The Y raise is a lateral raise variation that is good for beginners. It’s one of the best exercises for beginners to learn proper form while not feeling bad about using limited weight. Since the upper body has some support, beginners can focus on developing proper form, building the deltoids, and addressing any shoulder weakness.

Additionally, Y raises are common with rehabbing from shoulder injuries, so they are easy to learn and complete. 

Common mistakes involve using excessive weight. Beginners should notice the burn with extremely light weights, as little as two-pound dumbbells.

Which Type of Lateral Raise Variation is Good for Weightlifters?

The three-way lateral raise is a lateral raise variation that is good for weightlifters because it targets every aspect of the deltoid muscles and challenges them from every angle. The three-way lateral raise combines three individual shoulder exercises into one, which also reduces the amount of time necessary to make gains.

To avoid making the common mistake of relying on momentum, athletes should use lighter weight until they master the proper form.

This variation is doable for athletes at any skill level.

Which Type of Lateral Raise Variation is Good for Athletes?

The leaning away lateral raise is a lateral raise variation that is good for athletes. It works the deltoids and allows athletes to determine how difficult they want the reps to be. Athletes can alter the difficulty depending on how far they lean and how much weight they use. 

The most common mistake is using too much weight. Grab some lighter weights and focus on form, then start with leaning out farther before adding extra weight.

This variation is best for intermediate to advanced athletes with good control of their bodies.

Which Type of Lateral Raise Variation is Good for Bodybuilders?

The 1.5 rep raise is a lateral raise variation that is good for bodybuilders because it is excellent for building strength fast. Athletes of all genders can benefit from stopping partway down and pushing back into the top motion because it keeps more tension in the muscles.

The most common mistake with 1.5 rep raises is using too much weight to sustain the movement for the desired reps. Use less weight to begin and add more reps before increasing the amount of weight used.

Only intermediate and advanced lifters should use these bodybuilding exercises because it requires exceptional strength, stamina, and control.

Which Lateral Raises are Better for Building Big Delts?

The dead stop lateral raise is a lateral raise variation that is good for building big delts because it eliminates an athlete’s tendency to rely on momentum. By coming to a dead stop at the bottom of every rep, the athlete must rely on their shoulder muscles to lift the weights every time.

To avoid making the most common mistake, start with lighter weights and master the proper form. Additionally, it helps to increase the number of reps before adding more weight. 

This variation can be beginner-friendly, but it’s important to understand the proper form first.

What Can You Use for Lateral Raise instead of Dumbbell?

Try using kettlebells for the lateral raise instead of dumbbells. Other alternatives to dumbbells include resistance bands, water bottles, and canned goods.

What are the Alternatives of Lateral Raise Exercises?

There are some alternatives of lateral raise exercises that target the deltoids. Some lateral raise alternatives are listed below. 

  1. Military press
  2. Shoulder press
  3. Chinups
  4. Planks
  5. Inverted Rows
  6. Supermans 

Since lateral raises are compound exercises, alternatives should also work for multiple muscle groups. 

Athletic Insight

Athletic Insight Research

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.