Every bodybuilder or fitness and physique enthusiast would always want to have broad shoulders. Sure, the biceps and the triceps may be the “guns” of the arm and are the muscles you flex whenever you show off to your friends. However, what really makes a man look large and in charge or intimidating are his broad shoulders. Even if you aren’t a competitive bodybuilder, you would still want to have broad shoulders because they give you a manlier vibe.
By now, it’s needless to say that having big shoulders is an important aspect of a man’s physique. While there are plenty of ways to build huge shoulders, arguably the best isolation exercise you can do are lateral raises.
Lateral raises or lat raises, as they are commonly called, is an exercise that is always favored by bodybuilders whenever they want to build their shoulders. Shoulder and bench presses, as well as snatches, may be important to build strength and improve athletic performance but lateral raises are just as vital because they isolate and target the specific groups to increase hypertrophy in the shoulders muscles.
What are the muscles worked by lateral raises?
The two main muscle groups worked by lateral raises are the deltoids or delts and the trapezius or traps.
- The deltoids are the muscles on the upper part of your arm and the top of your shoulder. Lat raises target the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoid muscles. Bigger delts broaden the shoulders and add width to the body.
- Meanwhile, the traps are the muscles surrounding the middle part of your shoulders, the neck, and the upper middle part of the back. Lat raises only work the upper and middle areas of your traps. Bigger traps don’t necessarily add width to the body but they are necessary to balance out the physique and add size to the upper area of the back.
Benefits of lateral raises
If you are not convinced to add lateral raises to your shoulder exercises, here are some benefits you might want to consider knowing:
1. Hypertrophy (muscle growth):
Lateral raises hit all parts of the deltoids and add size to the shoulder muscles. Also, having bigger shoulders means having more strength in lifts that incorporate the shoulder muscles.
2. Improves range of motion:
When it comes to preventing injuries and promote more control over your movements, it is ideal to improve the muscles’ range of motion. Lat raises are great in this regard because they make use of the shoulders’ full lateral range of motion at varying speeds.
3. Isolates the shoulder muscles:
A lot of exercises target the shoulders but they incorporate a lot of other muscles such as the triceps and the biceps. But if you want to isolate the deltoids and the traps without having to fatigue or hit other muscle groups, you should consider doing lateral raises.
4. Ideal for supersets:
Since lat raises don’t tire the muscles out as much some compound exercises do, they are ideal for supersets. You can do them after overhead shoulder presses to maximize muscle fatigue and hypertrophy.
5. Builds a more balanced physique:
You don’t have to worry about having exceptionally bigger biceps or triceps when doing shoulder exercises because lateral raises isolate the shoulder muscles and make sure that only the deltoids and the traps get worked.
How to do lateral raises
Now that you probably are already convinced that you need to do lateral raises, it’s time for you to learn how to perform them. Follow this step-by-step guide to eventually master the form:
- The equipment you need to do lat raises is a pair of dumbbells. You can also use kettlebells if you don’t have dumbbells. Use weights that aren’t necessarily too heavy and ones that you can do at least 10 reps with.
- Stand up with both your feet planted firmly on the ground while keeping your back straight and your core braced. Keep a shoulder-width distance between your feet and don’t bend your knees.
- Hold a dumbbell in both hands and place your arms next to your sides in a neutral position.
- Slightly bend your elbows and keep your core squeezed or engage while raising your arms to the side. Make sure you maintain the slight bend in your elbows as your arms reach the height of your shoulders. Your body should look like a cross at this point.
- Pause at the height of the exercise and bring the dumbbells back down to the original starting position in a controlled and slow manner. The number of repetitions and the sets you do depends on your goals and your fitness level. You can do four sets of 10-12 reps.
Common mistakes and blunders
Lat raises seem simple to do but even the smallest change in form can derail the purpose of doing the exercise. Here are some of the mistakes and blunders you should avoid:
1. Bad starting position:
The ideal starting point of a lateral raise is to place your arms next to the sides of your body instead of placing them at the front of the quads while bending over. When the latter happens, you are raising the dumbbells to the front instead of laterally.
2. Changing the elbow position:
It is important to keep the starting bend of the elbow while performing the exercise. Further bending the elbow during the movement will incorporate the triceps, which defeats the purpose of isolating the shoulders.
3. Using momentum:
Some people try to use momentum to help them lift heavier weights. They do this by slightly bending their knees at the starting point and then raising them up throughout the movement so that they would be able to create momentum, which makes the lift easier. This is a wrong approach because you are not isolating the shoulder muscles enough.
- Locking the elbows: The purpose of putting a slight bend at the elbow while doing this exercise is to relieve pressure off of the elbow joints. It’s never ideal to lock the elbow to fully extend the arms because it can cause injury.
- Not adding variations: When you are doing a certain exercise long enough, your body gets used to it and stops growing. The shock your muscles, add variations to your lateral raises. You can do so by sitting down or bending, by using cables, or by doing unilateral raises.
Whatever your fitness goals are, you can always benefit from having big shoulders by doing lateral raises. However, do keep in mind to focus more on form than weight. Strength always comes naturally as you progress through the workout.