Bent-Over Lateral Raises – Get Those Shoulders Ready for Summer

Want great shoulders right in time for summer?  You have come to the right place. 

There are plenty of excellent workouts for your posterior deltoids (muscles in the rear of the shoulder).  Some of the best bodyweight exercises focus on building your shoulder strength and mobility

The bent-over lateral raise provides work for your shoulders that is essential for functional fitness.  Think of how many times you use your shoulders to lift something. 

Lifting our luggage into the overhead bin on an airplane is a prime example of needing shoulder strength.  Trust us.  Things are getting better, and we will get on those airplanes again, people. 

Before we do, let’s perfect those bent-over lateral raises.

What Muscles Do A Bent-Over Lateral Raise Work?

We are so glad that you asked.  A lateral raise works the posterior deltoid muscles, the muscle at the back of the shoulder, and the anterior deltoids, the muscle at the shoulder’s front. 

This exercise can increase body strength by increasing muscle mass in the shoulders and the upper back.  What does all of that mean?  It means that in addition to incredible upper body strength and awesome-looking shoulders, it helps with your posture. 

You will look like Michael Phelps and have the posture to balance a book on your head.  Sounds pretty cool, right?  

Different variations of the lateral raise activate both the anterior and posterior deltoids.  All of the shoulder muscles worked to lift the weights. 

The research has shown that the best way to work your rear deltoids is by having a neutral rotated position.  Keep reading for the most effective way to perform this exercise.

How to Perform a Bent-Over Lateral Raise

When performing a lateral raise, you must have the correct form.  Many people think that lateral raises are inadequate for you. 

If you have a previous shoulder injury, it makes sense that you would be wary.  The truth lies in improper technique when executing a lateral raise. 

Anything from bad posture to bouncing to lifting your weights incorrectly can lead to shoulder and back injuries.  That said, once you practice proper technique, lateral raises will boost your overall upper body strength and promote those impressive shoulders we discussed.  

Bent-Over Lateral Raises

It’s time to get your learn on.  The starting position for a bent-over lateral raise is with our feet planted about hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. 

Hold dumbbells in each hand and make sure that they are not too heavy. 

You always want to work up in weight once you are comfortable with your technique.  By going too heavy too quickly, you risk injury. 

As you bend your knees, tip over slightly from the hip so that your upper body is parallel to the floor.  Your arms should be directly under your shoulders, and keep a slight bend in the elbow.  Never lock your elbows.  

As you raise your arms out to the side, keep your back straight, your core tight, and your torso tipped forward.  This exercise is a compound one. 

Multiple muscle groups are working together to raise those weights.  You need to raise your arms with your palms facing the floor and stop the move once your dumbbells are in line with your shoulders.  

Now stop, collaborate and listen!  Sorry, but it’s always a good idea to sing some Vanilla Ice.  We mean it, though.  Stop the move at the top and pause. 

If you thought the exercise was challenging before, adding this pause at the top of the action makes it even more challenging and more effective for those delts.  Don’t hang out forever.  Just pause for a second or two before descending back down.

The move isn’t over yet.  As you slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, use muscle to power the arms down. 

Never just let the weight fall or let momentum take over your movement.  Your workout depends on the position movement (lifting the weights) and the negative movement (lowering the weights back down). 

You want to feel the delts working the entire time to achieve the benefits from this exercise.

Incorrect Technique to Avoid

As we previously discussed, improper technique leads to injuries and a wasted workout. 

If you aren’t doing an exercise correctly, the muscles aren’t going to get worked. 

You could do lateral raise reps all day long and never see any improvement in your shoulder muscles.  To avoid that, let’s go over some of the common mistakes made when doing a bent-over lateral raise.  


You never want to bounce when you are lifting weights. 

For one, it throws off your center, and you could lose your balance and fall.  For another, it adds momentum to the exercises. 

When momentum takes over, the muscles aren’t being worked as hard.  The swinging takes over, and the muscles kind of just follow along for the ride. 

Let the muscles be the main attraction.  More often than not, the reason for the bouncing is that your dumbbells are too heavy. 

You know that you can’t use the delts to lift the weights, so you bounce as a way to get the exercise completed.  Lower those heavy dumbbells and pick up some that are lighter. 

That will help you maintain proper form.  

Lifting your arms on an angle

Yes, there are alternatives ways to perform lateral raises. 

However, if you raise your arms on an angle, pulling them towards your back, you aren’t utilizing the deltoids as much as you are the rhomboids and lats. 

While it’s great to work the back muscles if you want to get excellent shoulders, you need to make sure you are raising your arms directly to the side without the angle.  

Arching your back  

This title kind of speaks for itself. 

Arching your back is only good when you want to stretch.  Other than that, you need to keep your back flat during the lateral raise. 

Tightening your core will aid in a flat back.  This enables you to perform the exercise correctly without straining your back.  This is like injury avoidance 101.  You’re welcome!

Arms up!

Get to work and raise those arms.  Think about the swimmer’s shoulders you will get with the bent-over lateral raise. 

We are talking epic shoulders and the upper body strength you have always wanted.  Think of the suitcases you could lift. 

Cue that vacation in paradise.  We’ll see you there.

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Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost

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