When you were younger, you probably had a wish list for Santa. Now that you’re a big boy, I bet that list includes new things like bigger pecs, an inch on your arms, or wider shoulder caps.
Bigger delts are high on every trainer’s list because they create the illusion of a smaller waist, improve the visual delineation from the upper arm, and add the kind of cap that says you’re a serious lifter. That little extra stretch in your shirts? That’s what I’m talking about!
Like a lot of lifters, you might be starting your shoulder workout with overhead presses. That works. But adding lateral-raise movements is the best way to isolate the middle delts in the lateral (side) plane.
The lateral raise is popular. So is blowing the technique, often in more ways than one. Here are seven ways to screw up the most common variation, the standing dumbbell lateral raise.
Blunder 1: Changing Your Elbow Bend During The MovementTo do a lateral raise correctly, you create a very slight bend in your elbows, then maintain that same degree of bend throughout the set. The angle in your elbows at both the bottom of the rep should be the same it is at the top.
If you start opening and closing at the elbows, you’re bringing the triceps into the equation, undermining the middle-delt isolation you’re trying to achieve. Ideally, as you raise the weights, they should follow more of an arc than a straight line. Watch yourself, or have someone watch you as you do this move; this blunder isn’t hard to correct if you’re paying attention.
Blunder 2: Lowering The Weight Too FarThe best way to build these target muscles is to maintain tension on the middle delt throughout each rep. If you bring your hand all the way down so that it’s hanging by your side or in front of your thigh, you’re not putting any tension on your delt at all.
What’s more, when you start lifting from this fully extended position, the supraspinatus (a rotator-cuff muscle) initiates the movement before the middle delt head kicks in. That means the first few degrees of your lift aren’t working your target muscles.
Your best bet is to stop the movement with your hand several inches from your side. This will make lifting the weight back up a little harder, which is what you want, right? If you do want to work your supraspinatus a bit, then go ahead and lower the weight all the way. But when you lift it again, be careful not to use too much weight or make jerky motions, both of which can lead to injury.