If you want to build thick and broad shoulders, you’ll have to work out equally on the three parts of the shoulders, such as front, rear, and side deltoid. And here, I’m going to share the best exercises for side delt (also known as lateral and middle deltoid) that you can do with dumbbells, barbells, machines, and bands. I’ve also incorporated bodyweight workouts for the lateral deltoid so you can do without equipment at home.
I’ve already shared an article on rear delt exercises; you can check it out. And for the front part of the shoulder, you can do an overhead press workout.
However, to build up your middle shoulders, you can explore several mid delt workouts in this post.
a quick list of side delt exercises
Below you can see a complete list of exercises for middle deltoid. Then, depending on what equipment you prefer to use and what suits you the most, you can incorporate it into your muscle-building workout regime.
- Dumbbell Side Delt Raise
- Dumbbell Bent-arm Lateral Delt Raises
- Leaning Dumbbell Mid Delt Raise
- Incline Dumbbell Y Raises
- DB Bent-over Lateral Raises
- 45-Degree Incline Chest Supported Row
- Cable Lateral Delt Raises
- Barbell Upright Row
- Behind the Head Shoulder Press
- Resistance Band Middle Delt Raise
- Elbow Out Pushup
- Bodyweight Lateral Raise
Below, I’ve shared how to do each workout with a step-by-step guide that I hope you’ll find helpful.
1. Dumbbell Side Delt Raise
The dumbbell lateral Raise is one of the primary exercises for side delt that helps your shoulder grow over time.
A study also suggested lateral raise exercises stimulate a higher level of muscle activation in the medial deltoid in resistance-trained individuals.1 Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals – Journal of Human Kinetics
Let’s see how you can do it:
- Holding one dumbbell in each hand, stand upright in the shoulder-width stance.
- Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms are facing inward.
- Raise your arms out to the sides (with a soft bend in your elbows) until they are in line with your shoulders.
- You can pause for a couple of seconds before returning your arms at your sides.
- Complete eight to ten repetitions. And depending on your strength, you can increase weight in the next sets.
2. Dumbbell Bent-arm Side Delt Raises
The bent-arm side raises isolate your mid delt and build stable shoulders.
Bent-arm lateral raise exercise came out on top when it comes to contracting medial deltoid, as shown in the American Council of Exercise (ACE) study.2 Dynamite Delts: ACE Research Identifies Top Shoulder Exercises – American Council of Exercise
- Grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip and stand upright or sit on the end of bench with your flat on the ground.
- Keep your arms straight at your sides with your elbows bent in front of you (assume half hammer curl position). Your palms should be facing each other.
- Raise your elbows and dumbbells up and out until they at your shoulder height. You can hold there for a moment before returning to the start.
- Do as many rounds as you like.
3.Leaning Dumbbell Lateral Delt Raise
You can try out some other variations of medial deltoid workouts, and leaning lateral raise is one of them.
The leaning position allows you to put more stress on your delts and help you boost strength and mobility.
- Grab a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip and stand beside the rack, door, smith or cable machines with your feet together.
- Hold the rack with your left hand for support and slightly lean against it until your arm is straight. Keep your working arm straight at your sides with your palm is facing inward. That’s the start.
- Raise your arm and dumbbell up to the side till it’s reach your shoulder height. You can keep your elbows softly bend.
- Feeling the contraction in your side delt, hold for a moment at the top before lowering the dumbbell to the start.
- Suggested sets – 3 and reps – 8 to 10.
4. Incline Dumbbell Y Raises For Side delt
Not quite famous, but dumbbell Y raises can be helpful to grow the shoulder muscles gradually.
Whether you’re a newbie or pro, you can incorporate it into your strength and hypertrophy workout plan to build defined shoulders.
- Set the bench at 45 to 60 degree incline and lie on it on your stomach until your chest with your face down.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral or overhand grip and keep your arms straight downward.
- Raise the dumbbells up, making “Y” shape, until your arms are in line with your shoulders.
- Pause for a couple of seconds and then lower your arms to complete the first rep.
- Do two to three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions each.
Also, check out: IYT Raises Exercise
5. DB Bent-over Lateral Raises
The bent-over lateral raise is primarily a rear delt workout; however, it also engages mid deltoid. So you can do it alternatively with other shoulder workouts.
- Holding a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip, stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Pushing your backward, slightly bend your knees, and lean your torso forward.
- Keep your arms straight below your trunk and maintain a neutral spine position.
- With a slight bend in your elbows, raise your arms out until your lateral delt muscle is engaged.
- Lower your arms to the starting position to complete the first repetition.
- Repeat for the required number of times.
6. 45-Degree Incline Chest Supported Row
The chest supported row also emerged as one of the best exercises that engage side delt muscles in the above ACE research.
- Lie prone on a 45-degree incline bench with your chest at the end.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip and let your arms hanges below your shoulders.
- Pull the dumbbells up until your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
- Hold for a moment and then lower your arms down.
- Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.
7.Lateral Delt Raises with Cable Machine
The lateral cable raise is an alternative to the leaning DB side raises that you’ve seen above. So do it one of two, depending on your choice.
- First of all, set the D handle at an appropriate height and weight according to your strength.
- Stand straight besides the cable machine and grab the handle with your right hand, from behind your legs. Hold the rack with your free hand for support.
- Slightly lean against the machine until your left arm is straight and keep your right hand behind your glutes. That’s your starting position.
- Raise your right arm up and out until it is parallel to the ground.
- Hold there for a moment and then lower it down. That’s one rep.
- Do as many sets and reps as you like.
8. Barbell Upright Row
You can also develop your middle deltoid with a barbell upright row workout. It is a compound workout that works on various muscles, such as delts and upper trap.
If you only workouts with a barbell, you can add it to your barbell home routine to grow your shoulders.
How to do:
Holding a bar in the standing position, pull toward your neck as high as you as can.
9.Behind the Head Barbell Shoulder Press
- Insert the desired weight into the bar and grab it firmly with your hands shoulder-width apart in the seated position.
- Hold the bar behind your head with your elbows pointing forward.
- Brace your abdominal muscles, inhale and press the bar up until your arms are straight.
- Lower it down to the start and repeat for the desired number of times.
10.Resistance Band Middle Delt Raise
- Start with standing upright with your feet two times wider than your hip-with stance.
- Place the one end of the band under your right foot while grabbing the other end with your left hand.
- Raise your arm and band up to the side as high as possible so your side delt muscle can activate.
- You can pause for a couple of seconds before lowering the band to the start.
- Complete a couple of sets of eight to ten repetitions each.
11. Elbow out Pushup
The elbow out or finger facing inward pushups can be challenging to some people. So, please do, only if you’re comfortable with it.
- Sit on your knees and place your hands on the floor below your shoulders with your fingers facing each other and elbows are pointing out.
- Kick your legs behind and get into the “up” position.
- Lower your torso toward the floor until your chest is just above the floor.
- Press back up until your arms are straight. That’s one rep.
- Depending on your strength, do as many times as you like.
- You’ll feel the contraction in your medial delt during the movement.
12.Bodyweight Lateral Raise
If you work out at home, you can try bodyweight lateral raises to enhance your shoulder strength and stability.
How to perform:
- Get into a forearm plank position with your back straight and elbows in line with your shoulder.
- Lift your right elbow off the floor and move your torso to the right until your face is facing forward.
- Return your right forearm on the floor and repeat the same move with your opposite arm.
- Do as many times as you can.
Related: Full Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners At Home
Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals – Journal of Human Kinetics
Dynamite Delts: ACE Research Identifies Top Shoulder Exercises – American Council of Exercise
What exercises target the lateral deltoid? ›
Exercises to isolate and strengthen the lateral deltoid include barbell overhead presses, barbell upright rows, and dumbbell lateral raises, among others.Are lateral raises the best side delt exercise? ›
The lateral raise machine is one of the best ways to train your shoulders, especially the side delts. Most of the benefits from using the lateral raise machine are machine-specific benefits. You're effectively tied down to one motion throughout the entire exercise using the machine.Why is it so hard to grow side delts? ›
The last reason has to do with how often you're training your side delts. Most people aren't training them enough - often just once weekly. But the side delts recover quickly. And with the right programming, they can be trained 2 to 3 times a week to stimulate more growth.Is 3 sets of lateral raises enough? ›
Perform the lateral raise for 3-4 sets of 10-12, 12-15, or 20+ repetitions three or even four times per week. Overall soreness and slower recovery of strength are good indicators of when to pull back or if you can continue with relatively high frequency.Is overhead press enough for lateral delts? ›
The overhead press will absolutely build big shoulders, specifically big front (anterior) delts. I recommend that for a full 3d or 'capped' delt look, you also train your side delts and rear delts separately using movements like dumbbell lateral raises, upright rows and face pulls.Which deltoid head is the biggest? ›
Medial delts are the biggest of all three deltoid heads, and can be activated with a variety of different shoulder workouts and exercises, yet are targeted most effectively with side or lateral raises.
For the medial deltoid, two exercises came out on top: the 45-degree incline row and the bent-arm lateral raise. Finally, for the posterior deltoid, researchers found that the seated rear lateral raise and the 45-degree incline row both provided the greatest muscle activation for the back of the shoulder.Should you go heavy on lateral raises? ›
Don't swing the weight: A common mistake made when performing the side lateral raise is swinging the arms out from the sides. To get the most out of this exercise, your shoulder and arm muscles should do all the work.What is the heaviest lateral raise ever? ›
|Records set||Sum of weight lifted||Notes|
|Lateral raise most weight in minute||1,575 kg (3,472 lb 4.48 oz)||35 lifts with two 22.5 kg dumbbells|
|Rear lateral raise most weight in minute||1,845 kg (4,067.53 lb)||41 lifts with two 22.5 kg dumbbells|
The most weight lifted by lateral raises in one minute whilst standing on a Swiss ball is 621 kg (1 369 lb1.
How do you grow the lateral head of your shoulder? ›
- Behind-the-Neck Overhead Press. Unlike behind-the-neck pulldowns, behind-the-neck overhead presses are a good idea. ...
- Arnold Press. ...
- Behind-the-Back Cable Lateral Raise. ...
- “W” Raises. ...
- One-Arm Dumbbell Upright Rows. ...
- One-Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise.
- Barbell High Row. 6-12 reps. Moderate to heavy weight. ...
- Dumbbell Incline Row. 6-12 reps. Heavy weight. ...
- Lying Facepull. 10-15 reps. Lighter weight. ...
- Rear Delt Cable Pull. 15-20 reps. Light weight.
- Side-Shuffles. In a standing position, turn your body sideways and extend your right leg out to the side of your body. ...
- Grapevines. ...
- Lateral Lunges. ...
- Step Across. ...
- Lateral Band Walks. ...
- Side-to-Side Lunges. ...
- Lateral Step-ups. ...
It is beneficial to keep your side delt exercise sets between 8 and 20 reps. Any weight that is too heavy to lift for more than 8 reps may put your shoulder joint at risk of injury. Sets of 20 or more may indicate that the weight is not heavy enough to stimulate hypertrophy.Which muscle is easiest to build? ›
Chest Muscles are by Far the most easiest muscle groups to Train and grow in human body. Because most of the movements are compound and generally require less form complexities as compared to other muscle groups .Is 10 pounds enough for lateral raises? ›
You can do a standard side lat raise with some trusty dumbbells. Go for a weight of 2 to 10 pounds each, depending on your fitness level.Is 20 lb lateral raise good? ›
The average Dumbbell Lateral Raise weight for a female lifter is 20 lb (1RM). This makes you Intermediate on Strength Level and is a very impressive lift.Can you build big shoulders with lateral raises? ›
Lateral raises help to beef up your shoulders, but can also destroy them if you don't do the exercise properly. Unfortunately, the simple move is also one of the most common exercises to screw up, whether you're an experienced gym rat or a novice.Does Arnold press hit lateral delts? ›
In particular, the Arnold press is a comprehensive exercise to build shoulder muscles. Unlike other upper body exercises like the lateral raise, military press, and overhead press, the movement of an Arnold press activates all three of the deltoid muscles in your shoulder—the posterior, lateral, and anterior deltoids.What is better than lateral raises? ›
Upright rows use a heavier weight than lateral raises, so fewer reps are needed. Aim to do between 8 and 15 reps per set. Starting position. Grab the weights you're using and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
How often should you train lateral delts? ›
You should directly train the side delts at least twice a week. Being that the side delts are often difficult to grow for many people, it's important to target them with enough direct volume in your workout routine. You can choose 2-5 side delt exercises at least twice a week with sets ranging from 3-5 each session.What exercise hits all 3 deltoids? ›
The overhead press is an essential compound movement when it comes to shoulder training. This is due to the ability to easily overload it with weight and target all deltoid heads.Which delt makes your shoulder wider? ›
The hypertrophy and growth of the middle delt is what makes your shoulders look wider and more muscular and is easily targeted when you know the right angle to lift your arm during the exercise.”What is the most important deltoid muscle? ›
The Rear Delts are one of the most important muscles in the upper body. However most people neglect them, train them incorrectly and don't give them the attention they deserve. We take a look at just why they are so important, and why they should be a focus of most of your training sessions.Which is the lateral most muscle of deltoid group? ›
Lateral deltoids: Side delts that help move your arm out to the side, as well as up and down. They connect to your acromion, a bony nob on your shoulder blade. You use your side delts if you do jumping jacks. Posterior deltoids: Rear delts that help move your arm backward.Do shoulders respond better to higher reps? ›
Delts generally respond better to high reps, though the front portion can respond well to lower reps. This is why delt-dominant bench pressers tend to have large front delts. But when training to get that rounded-shoulders look, higher reps of isolation work is best.Do bodybuilders do lateral raises? ›
The lateral raise is among the few bodybuilding exercises targeting the middle or side head of the deltoid.Are lateral raises worth it? ›
Other than benefits to your appearance, lateral raises will help increase your shoulder mobility, range of motion, and stability. This helps you become better at activities like lifts and presses. Another benefit is that you can work each side of your shoulders independently.Can you train side delts everyday? ›
How? Both by directly developing the delts and by improving your capacity to recruit them so they're better stimulated when you do heavy pressing work. When used to develop a solid mind-muscle connection, lateral raises can be done pretty much every day.How do you grow your outer lats? ›
- 6 Ways To Build Bigger, Wider Lats. 6 Back Strength Exercise For A Bigger Back. ...
- Neutral Grip Pull-Ups With ...
- Reclining Rows. We love pull-ups. ...
- W-Handle Lat Pull-Downs With ...
- Meadow Rows. ...
- Unilateral Lat Pull-Downs With ...
- Dumbbell Incline Lat Swings.
Why is it so hard to target rear delts? ›
You're Going Too Heavy
There's a reason your rear delts are underdeveloped and weak – it's because you're using too much weight to get the job done and other muscle groups are actually completing the rep. Since the rear delts aren't easy to hit, we need to respect that it won't take much weight to hit them hard.
The delts, for many, are an extremely stubborn muscle group to develop. That said, because of all the pressing we do, most of us have no problem developing our front delts. It's the side delts where we struggle.How many reps does it take to grow delts? ›
Working in the 8- to 12-rep range is generally the best way to add muscle mass to most body parts (the one exception being legs, which respond better to slightly higher reps).Are lateral delts fast or slow twitch? ›
The lateral deltoid has about the same amount of fast twitch muscle fibers as it does slow twitch muscle fibers (to be precise, it is slightly slow-twitch dominant). As such, it is likely best-suited for moderate to lighter weight with a moderate to higher rep range (i.e. 6-15).How long does it take to grow delts? ›
Make Delts Your Training Priority
In this workout—as in other "blueprint" workouts I've created—I've set 10 weeks as the amount of time you'll need to see some noticeable gains in your shoulders. During these 10 weeks, you'll work shoulders twice a week and every other muscle group once.
- Standing overhead press. The overhead press is one of the most well-known shoulder exercises. ...
- Seated dumbbell press. ...
- Rear deltoid fly. ...
- Frontal raise. ...
- Lateral raise. ...
- Upright row.
The deltoid has three functionally and anatomically distinct parts. The acromial part, sometimes also known as the middle or central, is the largest and the strongest. It is a multipennate muscle.How often should you train side delts? ›
Perhaps around 6 sets per week are needed to maintain side delt size for experienced trainers. We recommend 2 weekly sessions for maintenance, so that's 3 sets per session, and can do up to 3 sessions at 2 sets each as well.Can I train side delts everyday? ›
Yes, trained correctly, you can do these shoulder wideners daily.What do lateral raises grow? ›
The rear lateral raise, also called the bent-over lateral raise, is an exercise that increases strength and hypertrophy (growth in size) of your rear deltoids. These are the small muscles found on the backs of your shoulders.
Do lateral raises work all heads? ›
As you lift your arms out to the sides in a lateral raise, your delts flex (or contract), working against gravity to move your arms up. This movement works all three heads of the deltoid, which are the front (anterior), side (lateral), and rear (posterior) - but it hits the lateral head the hardest.Do delts need heavy weight? ›
Heavy weights increase the power and strength of your muscles without significantly adding bulk or size, especially for women. This means that everyday physical tasks get easier, and consistent training will increase the amount of weight you can lift. You'll look stronger, too.