The shoulder is by far the most mobile joint you have. Granted, this exposes the shoulder to injury, yet at the same time allows you to use a greater variety of exercises in the gym to ensure full development of the delts. So why on earth do people perform only the basic versions of lateral raises on shoulder day?
Every time I go to the gym, I see guys doing standing and seated dumbbell lateral raises, standing cable lateral raises and, well, that’s it. There are so many other variations you could incorporate into your training to build the biggest, most detailed delts possible. Here are a few favorites of mine:
Seated One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise
This isn’t all that different from your typical standing lateral raise with a cable. When you stand up, however, you tend to use muscles other than the deltoids to lift the weight. The key is to isolate the middle delts, which sitting down helps to accomplish.
Position a bench or seat a couple of feet in front of the low-pulley cable. Sit sideways to it, with your working arm opposite the weight stack. Begin with the handle in front of your waist (you may have to spread your legs a bit for an unimpeded path of motion), then pull it out to the side until your arm is at least parallel to the floor. Repeat for reps, then switch arms.
Reverse Overhead Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Here’s one variation you almost never see. It targets the middle and rear delts, and it helps develop the upper traps, too. It used to be a favorite among British bodybuilders.
The technique is similar to a standard lateral raise, with two major differences: 1) You lift the dumbbells past parallel to overhead, and 2) your palms and forearms are supinated the entire time — meaning your palms face out at the start of each rep, face the ceiling most of the way up and face each other as the weights meet at the top. You can do this exercise either standing or seated, just keep your elbows slightly bent throughout.
Lying Lateral Raise
This was always one of my favorites because it isolated the middle delts (and the rear delts to some extent) and allowed for maximum muscle tension over a greater range of motion. Lie on one side on a slightly inclined bench with your head at the top end, grasping a light dumbbell in your free hand. Begin with the weight hanging toward the floor, your arm across your body and your elbow slightly bent. From there, squeeze your delt to pull the dumbbell straight toward the ceiling until your arm is perpendicular to the floor. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.
Incorporate these novel versions of lateral raises into your shoulder training and your delts will respond. - FLEX