The standard lateral raise is one of the greatest shoulder workouts for people trying to bulk up their shoulders. It’s also a very forgiving movement: simply raise weights to the sides and up to shoulder level, then drop them while keeping your arms at a slight bend. And it’s also for this very reason why many upgrade their shoulder strength and stability game by switching to its more challenging form: The Leaning lateral Raise.

Shoulder exercises are a key element of training regimens because they produce a more tapered-v look and play a crucial role in performing other exercises effectively. Shoulder stability and strength account for upper body strength and core stiffness.

Because of the wider angle for arm movements of the leaning lateral raise, the triceps, delts, traps, and other secondary muscles recruited in the exercise are more activated, thus upping your hypertrophy and muscle endurance. 

Now, it is important to note that the correct form is more critical than the weights in this awesome exercise. And if you want to effectively isolate the lateral deltoid muscles, here’s everything you should know to score those buffed-up and strong shoulders.

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:

  • How To Do Leaning Lateral Raise
  • 5 Benefits of Doing The Leaning Lateral Raise
  • Common Leaning Lateral Raise Mistakes To Avoid
  • Leaning Lateral Raise Muscles Worked
  • The Leaning Lateral Raise vs Cable Pulley
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
  • Variations On The Leaning Lateral Raise 
  • Leaning Lateral Raise Alternative Exercises
  • FAQs About The Leaning Lateral Raise

How To Do Leaning Lateral Raise

What You’ll Need:

  • Dumbbells: You complete the leaning dumbbell lateral raise with this by keeping your back straight and a dumbbell in each hand dangling behind your chest.

Alternative Equipment:

  • Cable Machine: Using a cable machine to do lateral raises allows you to keep constant tension on the muscle in both the eccentric and concentric phases.
  • Kettlebells: This equipment can be a substitute for dumbbells when performing leaning lateral raise alternatives.

Step 1: Hold The Dumbbell In Starting Position

As your starting position, hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand up straight. Slightly bend only your arm as should be at your sides with your palms facing in as you place your feet about hip-  apart.

Assess your posture by rolling your shoulders back, engaging your core, and looking straight ahead.

Step 2: Lift Your Arms Slightly to Maintain Tension

Raise your arms simultaneously out to each side for about an inch, then hold. This little delay should assist you in deactivating your trapezius muscle from the exercise, allowing you to focus on the deltoids as planned.

Step 3: Raise Your Arms While Keeping Them Straight

Lift the dumbbells up and out to either side, maintaining your arms almost perfectly straight, and stopping when your elbows approach shoulder height, and your body forms a “T” shape. As you raise the weights, take a deep breath in and exhale.

Step 4: Hold The Weight In Place

As the dumbbells reach the movement’s peak, hold your position and maintain proper form.

Step 5: Control The Weight’s Descent

Lower the weights steadily, taking roughly twice as long as it took to raise them and lowering your arms back to your sides. As you drop the dumbbells, exhale, which counts as one repetition.

Repeat the process from the starting position until you’ve completed your desired number of reps.

5 Leaning Lateral Raise Benefits

1. Wider Range of Motion

Leaning the body generates a broader plane for the arms to travel on. This gives the shoulder joint a wider range of motion than regular side lateral raises. It also provides sufficient stimulation to guarantee that the muscles contract more during movement.

2. The Best Workout For Your Delts

The leaning dumbbell lateral raise is an excellent workout for toning the delts. It not only targets the lateral, anterior, and posterior deltoid muscles but also guarantees muscle hypertrophy on the lateral deltoids.

3. Strengthens The Upper Body

This deltoid builds, stabilizes, and tones the shoulders, which strengthens and tones the entirety of the upper body. This has a significant impact on shoulder strength as the stronger your shoulders are, the more weight you can handle in the gym.

4. Improves Posture

Leaning dumbbell lateral raise also helps you activate your traps, which keeps your back muscles pushed back and maintains proper posture. While the delts aid with strength, the trapezius muscles help with upper body stability.

5. Activates And Builds Rotator Cuff Muscles

Leaning lateral raises engage one of the muscles in the rotator cuffs, the supraspinatus, by giving you additional arm mobility when raising the dumbbell. The supraspinatus muscle aids in arm flexibility and muscle strength, which is useful in activities such as bench presses.

Common Leaning Lateral Raise Mistakes to Avoid

Using Your Trapezius to Power The Motion of The Exercise

Almost 80% of the errors connected with leaning lateral lifts are due to poor weight choices. With too-heavy weights, you won’t be able to power the action with the right muscle group, which is the deltoids and will instead use other muscles to assist.

The trapezius muscle in the upper back is the most prevalent cause. If you begin the workout by shrugging your shoulders up to try to draw the weights up and away from your sides, you’ll notice this occurring.

Keep an eye out for any shrugging motion on your movement, and when in doubt, substitute a lighter set of dumbbells.

Lifting Too Much Weight

Side lateral raises are isolation exercises that target the lateral deltoids. Furthermore, because the activity is performed with dumbbells, you individually address each side of your body.

If you’re new to the workout, start with relatively light weights and gradually increase the weight. It is usually preferable to begin with a lighter weight and gradually increase than starting with an overly heavyweight. Starting with a heavyweight load will also shift the focus on your traps instead of the lateral delts. Once you’ve gained sufficient shoulder and upper body strength, that’s when you can start adding up on loads to even contract the arm muscles further. 

Moreover, you are more likely to do the shoulder exercise with poor form or improper momentum, which can lead to injury.

Using Momentum For Lift The Weights

When someone chooses a set of too heavy dumbbells but refuses to move to a smaller weight, you nearly always observe them leveraging momentum to swing the dumbbells upward. 

This frequently incorporates knee hopping and a forward-backward tilt of the chest as they yank the weights up and out to the sides. This sort of momentum-generating action is troublesome because it prevents you from effectively targeting the muscle group that the shoulder exercise is designed to target.

Instead of isolating the lateral head of the deltoid, you end up propelling the weight upward with your legs and back. This will actually prohibit you from getting the sort of strength and hypertrophy gains you desire.

Leaning Lateral Raise Muscles Worked

  • Deltoids
  • Trapezius in theUpper Back
  • Supraspinatus
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Core

The shift in body alignment is what helps to engage the shoulder muscles in leaning lateral raises. With each rise of the weight, the angling helps isolate the shoulders’ muscles, which add to strength and hypertrophy.

To get the desired impact, leaning lateral raises demand attention to body form and shoulder angling throughout each repetition. In other words, you should avoid ‘cheat’ repetitions. This is also vital to ensure that there are no muscular injuries since things might go wrong easily.

With proper form, it develops and broadens these muscles, resulting in larger shoulder muscles and a more buffed-up appearance.

Leaning Lateral Raise: Dumbbell vs Cable Pulley

Dumbbell lateral raises can be executed either standing or seated. Maintaining the elbows on the lateral sides as a starting point, raise the arms laterally until they are in line with the shoulders. Similarly, you could practice lateral raises with one hand at a time using a cable pulley.

On the other hand, lateral raises via a Cable Pulley is one of the best alternatives since it allows you to maintain constant tension over the muscle throughout both the eccentric and concentric phases. When executing the lateral raises with dumbbells, the strain across the medial deltoids is essentially non-existent at the start or finish of the stretching process.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs:


New trainees who want to do the lateral raises to develop their shoulders should use lesser weights that enable them to isolate the middle deltoid. With that in mind, it’s advised to perform two to three sets of 15-20 reps of lateral raises.

As an indication of fatigue, look for a burn across the middle deltoid and difficulties obtaining a full range of motion.


Trainees who have trained immediately have most likely built a mental-muscle connection. Their capacity to isolate their middle deltoid has increased, but so has the strength of their obnoxious synergists who want to hog all the stress.

Complete two to three sets of 12-15 reps of lateral lifts with slightly heavier loads, focusing on the descent in a controlled manner and explosive change of direction at the bottom of the movement.


If you’ve had a lot of gym sessions, you’ll probably need to be more severe and dynamic with your shoulder workout to continue progressing. In three to four times a week, perform 3-4 sets of 10-12, 12-15, or 20+ repetitions of lateral raises.

Overall pain and delayed strength recovery are important markers of whether to back off or if you can continue at a relatively high frequency.

Leaning Lateral Raise Variations

Dead Stop Lateral Raise

With lateral raise holds, you come to a complete halt at the top of the lift. The pause will occur at the bottom of the lift in this case. Typically, you’ll want to maintain your delts active at the bottom by keeping your hands away from your body.

But in this case, you want the weights to come to a complete stop by touching your hips or each other.

Landmine Lateral Raise

By executing lateral raises with a barbell locked into a landmine posture, you can strengthen your core while stabilizing the bar and even get some extra grip training because you’re required to hold the barbell’s thick sleeve.

As with all lateral lifts, begin slowly and gradually as these are more difficult than they appear.

Wall Press Lateral Raise

Consistently pushing one hand into the wall while completing lateral raises with the other arm increases tension in both shoulders via a process known as irradiation.

The basic concept is straightforward: when you’re pressing against a wall, you’re less inclined to “cheat” on your reps as you do the lean-away lateral raise.

Kneeling Lateral Raise

If you have a habit of swinging on your lifts, this is one of the best lateral raise variations you could try, as you could do the exercise from a kneeling posture. The kneeling lateral raise prevents undesirable body wobble and provides strong tactile feedback. You’ll notice fast if you’re shoving the weights up with hip action.

Leaning Lateral Raise Alternatives

Side Plank with Arm Raises

The side plank appears little compared to the plates stacked on the bars and the grunting bodybuilders. On the other hand, this underappreciated exercise can attack the lateral deltoid muscles like no other.

You can even add weights to the opposite arm that you elevate if your form is good, as this works as effectively on both deltoids.

The Seated Arnold Press

People have been using Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding when they first started lifting weights. One of the most common is the Seated Arnold Press.

With one crucial distinction, even though it’s similar to a sitting shoulder press. It moves the deltoids all the way through their range of motion, which means it hits the side deltoid head hard.

Upright Rows

As the name indicates, the upright row is similar to a bent-over strength training row but is performed while standing up straight.

Because of the difference in posture between the Bent-over Row and the upright row, the upright row is a lateral raise option that works mostly on different muscle groups, including more on your shoulders. We have also included a post on Upright Row Alternatives that will help you rip the same benefits.

Behind The Neck Shoulder Presses

A barbell rack at chest or below shoulder height and a Barbell are ideal for the behind-the-neck press. It’s a lateral raise option that is not recommended for shoulder problems individuals.

This exercise appears to be similar to Shoulder Presses, but owing to the altered location of the barbell, there is more emphasis on the middle part of your deltoids and less on the front section of your deltoid and triceps, as in lateral raises.

Pike Pushups

Pushups are a complex workout that primarily targets your chest muscles. By adjusting the angle of the pushup, you may direct more attention to all the shoulder muscles equally, making it a viable dumbbell lateral raise alternative.

One advantage of this method is that you could perform it at home without any special equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Leaning slightly forward somewhat allows you to pull your weights together in front of you, resulting in a greater overall range of motion for the exercise.

Leaning dumbbell lateral raises are fundamental upper body exercises to strengthen and stimulate many muscle groups at once, such as your pectorals or chest.

To get the most out of the workout, make sure you follow the proper set, rep, tempo, form, and rest times exactly, and don’t go too heavy with the weight at first.

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