9 Best Side Delt Exercises For Stronger And Broader Shoulders

Building your shoulders with targeted exercises will give you a broad and powerful upper body and make you stand out. Explore the best side delt exercises for strong and well-formed shoulders

best side delt exercises

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Side delt exercises must be high on your strength training regimen if you want your shoulders to stand out.

The deltoid muscle, or the delts, is responsible for the rotation of the arm. It makes it possible for you to carry objects safely away from the body. It is also responsible for protecting the shoulders from injury and dislocation. It works with other shoulder muscles to help you to carry out the many moving activities undertaken by the hand.

The deltoid muscle is very close to the skin’s surface at the crown of your shoulders. It comprises the Anterior or the front delts, the Lateral or the side delts, and the Posterior or rear delts.

side delt exercises

The lateral deltoid, or the side delt, which is the theme of this article, is responsible for shoulder abduction or abduction of the shoulders. Side delts that are well-formed will give your shoulders definition and width, making them stand out.

You can make your shoulders stand out with exercises that target your side delts. Building your shoulders through targeted exercises will give you a broad and powerful upper body that will make you stand out from the crowd. Side delt exercises or lateral deltoid exercises can help you to achieve that.

Best side delt exercises for stronger and healthy shoulders

Below are some of the best side delt exercises that can help you strengthen and grow your shoulders. Incorporate these into your fitness training for the overall health and better functioning of your shoulders.

The mobility and endurance of your shoulders are very vital for your well-being and these lateral deltoid exercises can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Barbell Upright Row

upright row with ez bar - side delt exercises

Depending on how you hold the barbell, you can use the upright row to target different muscles

A grip wider than shoulder width will target the lateral deltoid, making it one of the best side delt exercises. Apart from your deltoids, you can use the upright row to target other shoulder and back muscles.

Take care though when doing these side deltoid exercises. You need to master the form correctly to get the best results and to protect yourself from injury

Equipment Required: Dumbbells

Steps to follow

  • Pick up the barbell, either from a rack or the floor with an underhand grip, ensuring the distance between your grips is more than shoulder width
  • Stand upright with feet slightly more than hip-width apart and hands fully stretched
  • Engage your core
  • While bending your elbows to your sides, slowly pull the bar up towards your neck. Ensure you keep the bar very close to your body
  • Keep pulling the bar till it reaches your chin and your arms are parallel to the ground
  • Pause for a second at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the bar down to your starting position
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps to complete a set

Cable Lateral Raise

cable lateral raise - best side delt exercises

The lateral raise is one of the most popular isolation exercises for strength training. It is also one of the best side delt exercises for building the outer portion of your deltoids.

Follow good form to achieve good results, attaining broader shoulders.

You will need 2 cable machines with low pulleys for the cable lateral raises

Steps to follow

  • Attach cables with a stirrup to the low pulley on each cable machine
  • Stand between the 2 cable machines. Then reach out and grab each stirrup at the opposite side. That is, grab the right stirrup with the left hand and vice versa
  • Stand upright with feet at hips width and stirrups in hand.
  • Bend your elbows slightly and pull and raise the cables sideways in the direction of each hand. Ensure you maintain the bend in your elbows throughout the movement
  • Continue raising till your arms are parallel to the floor
  • Pause and lower till your arms meet in front of your body. Keep arms fully stretched throughout the movement
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps to complete a set

Tip: You must raise the stirrups by shoulder abduction and not by external rotation. Simply put: Just raise your arms up. don’t rotate them.

Cable Y Raise

You need a dual cable machine for the cable Y raises side delt exercises.

Steps to follow

  • Attach cables with stirrups to the low pulleys on the cable machines
  • Stand facing the cable machines and grab a stirrup at the opposite end. That is, grab the left stirrup with the right hand and vice versa.
  • Slightly move back from the pulleys and with the cables crossed in front of your hips, stand upright, feet slightly apart.
  • Bend your elbows slightly and raise your arms upward and outward to your sides in a Y shape.
  • Continue lifting until your elbows are above your head
  • Pause for a second, and return to your starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps to complete a set. Ensure you keep the bend in your elbow throughout the movement

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

lateral raise with dumbbells

The dumbbell lateral raise is an isolation exercise. Thus, your emphasis should be on the contraction and stretching of muscles. The weight of the dumbbells you use is, in this case, not very relevant.

It is one of the best side delt exercises for a V-shaped upper body.

Equipment Required: Dumbbells

Steps to follow

  • Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand and by your sides. Your palms must face your body when holding the dumbbells. Keep your feet at about a hip’s width.
  • Keep your torso upright and straight, and let the dumbbells hang by your sides.
  • Slowly raise the dumbbells up and sideways.
  • Continue raising till they are at shoulder height. Do you raise your wrist above your elbows when raising the dumbbells. That will help target the side delts.
  • Pause for a second at the top of the movement and slowly return the weights to your starting position. Do not let the dumbbells touch your body.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps to complete a set.

Tips

  • Ensure you keep your elbows above your writs throughout the movement. Doing so will shift the focus onto the front delts. You can achieve this by tilting the dumbbells down as if pouring water from a cup when raising them.
  • You can bend your torso slightly to shift more resistance onto your side delts
  • Master these few tricks to make the dumbbell lateral raises one of the best lateral deltoid exercises for a V-shaped upper body

Dumbbell Incline Y Raise

Unlike the standing dumbbell raise, you can’t cheat when doing the dumbbell incline Y raises.

The movement puts the resistance and the lateral deltoids in line. That is because you must naturally move the dumbbells directly up and sideways. It is one of its great attributes, making it one of the best side delt exercises for your training.

It has an excellent range of motion and will hit your lateral deltoids very hard if executed well.

You will need a pair of dumbbells and a weight bench set to about 45 degrees for the exercise

Required equipment: Dumbbellsweight bench

Steps to follow

  • With a dumbbell in each hand, lie on the bench face downwards and with feet planted on the floor.
  • Keep your torso upright and straight. Ensure you place your chest on the bench and your shoulders in line with the top of the weight bench.
  • Extend your arms and let the dumbbells hang straight downwards.
  • Slightly bend your elbows, but do not lock them. Ensure you keep your elbows in that shape throughout the movement
  • Then, lift your arms upwards and outwards to your sides until they form a Y shape above your head.
  • Pause at the top of the movement and then, lower to your starting position, bringing the dumbbells below your shoulders.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps to complete a set.

Side Plank With Lateral Raise

If you want an exercise that will target the lateral head of your deltoids while challenging your oblique and core muscles, then look no further than the side plank with lateral raise.

Supporting your body weight on your arms will place the resistance on your shoulders while raising the dumbbells from the side incline position will hit the lateral deltoids. One of the must-include side delt exercises for serious consideration

Steps to follow

  • With a dumbbell in one hand, get into the side plank pose. Do that by supporting your body on your lower arm that is not holding the dumbbell and your feet. Ensure your body, from head to your foot, is in a straight line.
  • Stretch the arm holding the dumbbell and place the dumbbell on top, and in line with your body.
  • Raise your arms until it is close to about 90 degrees with your body.
  • Pause and lower the dumbbell to your starting position
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps, about 10-15 reps
  • Switch sides and go through the movement.

Seated Arnold Press

Perfected by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the seated Arnold press is another good exercise for building strength and mass in your shoulders. Aside from the lateral head, the exercise targets the front and the rear delts as well.

Compared to the standard overhead press, you wouldn’t have to use much weight to enable you to achieve your goals. It is the long period you put your muscles under tension that helps you to grow your muscles.

You will need an adjustable weight bench set to 90 degrees and a pair of dumbbells of appropriate weight to enable you to do these side delt exercises

Required equipment: Dumbbellsweight bench

Steps to follow

  • Pick up the dumbbells, using a neutral grip, i.e. with palms facing one another.
  • Sit on the bench and place the ends of the dumbbells on your knees
  • With a controlled and safe movement, kick or push your knees up, one at a time to get the dumbbells into position, just above the front of your shoulders or above your upper chest. Then rotate the dumbbells so that the ends face each other. Your palms should face you when you do this.
  • With a deep breath, extend your elbows, contract your delts, and while rotating your palms so that they face forward, push the dumbbells up overhead.
  • Pause and while rotating your palms to face you, lower the weights slowly back to your starting position
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps to complete a set.

Tip:
For side delt exercises, do not fully extend your arms at the top of the movement. A 90% extension will focus the tension on your lateral deltoids, and not on your traps

Suspended Y Lateral Raise

You will need a TRX Suspension Trainer, or similar for the exercises.

Required equipment: TRX Suspension Trainers

  • Affix the suspension trainers at an anchor point at a height above your head
  • Grap the handles and step back until your arms are fully extended in front of you
  • With arms straight and extended, and moving your shoulders back, take a step or 2 forward to recline your body behind the suspension handles
  • with your arms fully extended, move your upper body forward while raising your arms upward and outward in the shape of a Y. Keep your body straight, and don’t move your feet while doing this.
  • Then, return to your starting position by lowering your upper body back in the opposite direction.
  • Repeat

Tips:

  • Resistance is at its lowest when you position your body upright at the top of the exercise
  • To make the movement easy, take a staggered position, with one foot forward
  • You can make the exercise more challenging by moving a bit forward, keeping your feet together, and leaning back. That means you will be standing on your heels with your forefeet pointing upward when doing the TRX Y Raise side delt exercises.

Steps to follow

Leaning Lateral Raise

leaning lateral raise

The leaning lateral raise places your body at an angle, making the exercises more challenging and also more effective in targeting your shoulder muscles.

The angle and height of your raise will determine which shoulder muscles you will hit better.

Raising the dumbbell to shoulder height, or just as your hand is parallel to the floor will squeeze the side of your shoulder. It is a unique angle that will hit the sides of the deltoid very hard for you to achieve maximum development.

Master it correctly and you will find the leaning lateral dumbbell raise to be one of the best side delt exercises for sculpting and building more rounded shoulders

Equipment Required: Dumbbells

Steps to follow

  • With a light dumbbell in one hand, hold onto a rack or any stable object for support. Stand no more than a foot away from the rack
  • Then, lean sideways and away from the rack to angle your body from the floor. Ensure you extend your arms fully when you lean sideways.
  • Let the other arm holding the dumbbell hang downwards with your palm facing you
  • Without bending your arm, slowly raise the dumbbell up and sideways until your arm is parallel to the floor, or at your shoulder height.
  • Pause, and lower the weight to return to your starting position in a slow and controlled movement. Ensure you keep your arms straight throughout the movement
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps to complete a set
  • Reverse and go through the movement with the other side of your body.

Final words from LiveLIfe

These are the best side delt exercises that can help give you stronger and broader shoulders.

Incorporate these into your shoulder workouts and fitness training regimen to help target your lateral deltoids.

While it may not be very easy to build your shoulders, your choice of exercises will go a long way to determine how far you succeed in your quest.

Work hard at these side delt exercises and master their forms correctly. Sooner or later, you will achieve the V-shaped upper body you want.

  1. American Council on Exercise. Shoulder exercises: lateral raise.
  2. Coratella G, Tornatore G, Longo S, Esposito F, Cè E. An electromyographic analysis of lateral raise variations and frontal raise in competitive bodybuildersInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(17):E6015. doi:10.3390/ijerph17176015
  3. Campos YAC, Vianna JM, Guimarães MP, et al. Different shoulder exercises affect the activation of deltoid portions in resistance-trained individualsJ Hum Kinet. 2020;75:5-14. doi:10.2478/hukin-2020-0033
  4. Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review of advanced resistance training techniques and methodsInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(24):E4897. doi:10.3390/ijerph16244897
  5. McAllister M, Schilling B, Hammond K, Weiss L, Farney T. Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright rowJ Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(1):181-7. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824f23ad
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Deltoid Muscles.

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