Bend your elbows to perform lateral raises.
Your shoulder is surrounded by three deltoid muscles - the anterior deltoid in front, the lateral on top and the posterior in back. A casual exerciser may be content to perform shoulder exercises that simultaneously engage all the delts to some degree, but if you're interested in developing maximum strength all around your shoulders, you need to do exercises that target each deltoid muscle individually. The dumbbell lateral raise is an ideal activity to build up your lateral deltoid.
Use Proper Form
To perform lateral raises, stand erect with your feet no more than hip-width distance apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Flex your knees a bit and bend forward slightly at your hips Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing each other and your elbows slightly flexed. Exhale as you lift the weights to about shoulder height at your sides. Maintain your elbow bend throughout the exercise. Inhale as you return the dumbbells slowly to the starting position. Stop completely before lifting the weight again; don't use momentum to help move the dumbbells upward. As an alternative, hold the dumbbells at your hips in the starting position, but don't let the weights touch your hips at the bottom of the movement.
Vary the Movement
To perform a one-arm lateral raise, stand one arm's length away from a sturdy structure, turn your right shoulder to the structure and then grasp it for support. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and bend forward slightly at your hips so your left arm extends down fairly naturally near or in front of your left hip. Exhale as you raise the weight to shoulder level and then inhale as you return it, with control, to the starting position. As with the two-arm raise, keep your elbow bent approximately 10 to 30 degrees at all times. Do the exercise, which targets the lateral deltoid, on both arms.
Avoid Common Mistakes
If you keep your elbows higher than your wrists as you raise the weights, the dumbbell lateral raise targets the lateral deltoids. If you raise your wrists above your elbows as you lift the weights, the emphasis shifts to the front deltoids. The exercise also works the anterior deltoid, the trapezius muscles in your upper back and the serratus anterior on the sides of your chest. The levator scapulae at the sides of your neck are engaged as stabilizing muscles, along with your forearm muscles and the upper trapezius.
Warm it Up
Warm up before you perform lateral raises with five to 10 minutes of light cardio exercise and then perform dynamic stretches of all the muscles you plan to work out. Do arm swings to loosen up your shoulders and upper back. You don't need to use heavy weights to get a good workout, because the lateral raise isolates the lateral deltoid. Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program. Stop performing lateral raises if you feel any pain, particularly in your shoulders or upper back.