Are Lateral Raises Necessary? – Vekhayn

Are Lateral Raises Necessary?

Lateral raises are present in any serious workout program. But, most people get frustrated by them and wonder- are lateral raises necessary?

Well, simply put, yes and no. Most shoulder exercises workout your lateral muscles well enough. But if you REALLY want your shoulders to explode in size, lateral raises are necessary to really build that 3D shoulder.

Let’s cover this more in-depth!

What Are Lateral Raises?

A lateral raise is one of the most commonly used exercises to develop strong shoulders, but for some, it can be difficult to progressive overload and a pain in general if shoulders aren’t your favorite muscle group to work on, so why is it so widespread in the bodybuilding culture?

Deltoid Anatomy

First, we should understand the muscle group we are dealing with. The deltoid (shoulders) is divided into three parts.

First, in yellow, the front deltoid. This part of the muscle helps to raise your arms forward.

Second, in red, the lateral deltoid. This part of the muscle helps to raise your arms to the side, up and down.

And last, in purple, the rear deltoid. This part of the muscle helps to raise your arms backwards.

These are the muscles that compose our shoulders, and as you can see, they help you a lot in your day-to-day life.

What Do Lateral Raises Do?

So, what do lateral raises really do to your body?

Lateral raises will help you develop and focus on the lateral deltoid (side delts), giving you wider shoulders with a shredded appearance.

But lateral raises have a bigger value than you think. Other than hypertrophy for looks, strong shoulders should give you more stability in a lot of upper body exercises, preventing injury and shoulder pain in the long run.

Another point that’s important to mention is that as you get older, your mobility and strength are seriously affected, so developing strong shoulders and muscles, in general, will lead you to a better quality of life in the long run.

Are Lateral Raises Really Necessary?

A lot of people in the bodybuilding community don’t really like working deltoids in their upper body workout routine. Simply put, they’re a small muscle group that can’t support a lot of weight and can be hard to progressively overload.

The deltoids, in general, can’t really support that heavy of a weight. And dumbbells typically only go up in 5 pound increments. This makes it so difficult to grow your side/front laterals because a 5 lb increase is just too much on the muscle to really get good quality reps in. A 5 lb increase on the bench press is easy, on the side laterals that’s basically like adding 30 lbs randomly. It’s incredibly frustrating for most bodybuilders.

That raised the question: are lateral raises necessary to build good shoulders? The short answer: Yes and no, they are not really necessary as you can substitute lateral raises for other exercises that will still target the same lateral deltoid. But, lateral raises themselves will help build that ‘3D’ shoulder and make you look even more shredded.

Are Lateral Raises a Waste Of Time?

Well, yes and no. Lateral raises have their spot, they can help build 3D shoulders but most other shoulder exercises will workout your lateral/deltoid muscles enough. Unless you’re a serious bodybuilder, you can usually safely skip them to save time.

What Normal Exercises Build Your Deltoids/Lateral Muscles?

When working out, most shoulder exercises build your deltoids/lateral muscles. So let’s take a look at two of them that usually build those laterals- that way you can determine if you need to add more side-lateral focused exercises.

The Overhead Press

Overhead presses are well known to target your front delts, but if we make some adjustments to the bar placement, we can still target the middle of the shoulder.

What we are going to do here is place the bar behind our necks, as shown in the picture, then complete the overhead press and return to the same position.

Behind the Bar Overhead Press
Behind the Bar Overhead Press

The Arnold Press (BEST ONE TO USE)

Another way to target the same muscles is with an Arnold press. The Arnold press is a technique developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in an effort to work all three parts of the deltoid in the same exercise, so while it’s not specifically targeting the middle of the shoulder, it will help you develop the area.

To perform the Arnold press, put your hands facing your chest, in the same position as a bicep curl, then, rotate the dumbbells as you lift them up above your head and return to the initial position.

This can be tricky to learn, so master the form with lightweight until you can progress to heavier ones, that way you prevent injuring yourself. (recommend doing it in front of a mirror for better reference).

Arnold Press being performed.
Arnold Press being performed.

But Are These Normal Shoulder Exercises As Good As Lateral Raises?

If your main objective is to target the middle part of the deltoid and get wide shredded shoulders, no, you will want to introduce lateral raises in your workout routine, but why?

Well, as you could see from the information above, there are other exercises that work on the same muscle group, but they require more advanced techniques and may not focus so much on the side delts.

On the other hand, to perform a lateral raise you won’t need advanced technique, just two dumbbells, reducing the chance of injury. Another good point for lateral raises is that they are so simple and work so well, if you want shredded big shoulders, lateral raises it’s the way to go. They truly build that ‘3D’ part of your shoulder that makes you look huge.

Bony to Beastly - Taylor B shows his shoulder development.
Bony to Beastly – Taylor B shows his shoulder development.

If we observe the before and after there are clearly visible changes we can see. Take a look at the shoulder development after only 5 months of training.

How To Squeeze The Most Out Of Your Lateral Raises

The first thing to get better results on your lateral raises is to practice good form.

You should never put your elbows on an “L” position, try to imagine a 30-degree angle when executing the movement, that way, you prevent injury and can work specifically on the middle delt. Almost think about ‘Pushing through your elbows’ when doing side lateral raises.

Progressively overloading on this muscle group is hard, so you need to take advantage of different sets, increasing or decreasing the reps so you can get the most out of your exercise.

The deltoid is a small muscle group, this means it recovers quickly and you can introduce it to your workouts several times a week, just make sure you rest properly so you don’t injure yourself.

  • Read: Rich Piana Feeder Workout – How to ‘Hack’ Your Fast Recovering Muscles Like Deltoids & Biceps to EXPLODE The Growth in Them


  • A lateral raise is one of the most commonly used exercises to develop strong shoulders, especially the middle deltoid.
  • Strong shoulders should give you more stability in a lot of upper body exercises, preventing injury and shoulder pain in the long run.
  • Lateral raises are not really necessary as you can substitute it for other exercises that will still target the same lateral deltoid, but if you want to build big shredded shoulders it is the best exercise to do it due to its simplicity and focus on the middle deltoid that brings that ‘3D’ shape.
  • Always pay attention to form to avoid injury. Shoulder pain can affect a lot of your upper body exercises.
  • Progressively overloading is difficult, so take advantage of different sets and reps before increasing the weight, as you can get injured.

If you want wider and bigger shoulders, go for lateral raises, master good form, and increase your sets and reps before prioritizing weight.

About the author


Vigilant is an author extremely dedicated to his blog. From a hard life of growing up paycheck to paycheck, he somehow took advantage of the opportunity to make himself a stronger person and pushed through to keep on pursuing his career an Emergency Medicine doctor, wrestles, and lifts 2 hours a day all with a full-time job and in college. Learn more about Vigilant and the "mustang gang" here at the About Me section.

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