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6 Side Delt Exercises for a Stronger Lateral Deltoid

    If you want to build a well-defined upper body but struggle to grow your shoulders to create your desired definition, you are probably not engaging the deltoid muscle group to its full potential. The shoulders consist of the anterior or front deltoid, the lateral or side deltoid, and the posterior or rear deltoid. 

    Before, I have worked with many trained professionals with different work ethics and goals. They all agreed that the deltoids are quite a stubborn group of muscles. This is why today we would look at six side delt exercises for a stronger lateral deltoid.

    It requires serious dedication to efficiently grow the lateral (side) deltoid and the posterior (rear) deltoid, but it is not impossible with proper training.

    Side Delt Exercises for a Stronger Lateral Deltoid

    The lateral deltoid is on the outside of the shoulder. It assists the shoulder joint that aids in the elevation of our arms upwards and to the side.

    Many benefits come with growing the lateral deltoid. It makes your shoulders appear broader and more prominent, making your upper body look more toned, but it also holds many day-to-day benefits.

    The lateral deltoids are responsible for daily activities, including pulling, pushing, or lifting items above your head.

    Strong side delts would make these activities more effortless and reduce the likelihood of injuring yourself while performing this wide range of shoulder movements. 

    Strong side delts also assist in stabilization when performing weighted exercises in the gym, such as bench-press.

    Since you have to put in a lot of effort to grow defined side deltoids, you must include around three exercises targeting the side delts in your workout at least twice a week.

    Luckily the recovering time of the side delts is not long, so you can push for maximum reps when working these guys!

    This post will look at the following six exercises to strengthen your lateral deltoids:

    • Overhead dumbbell press
    • Dumbbell side lateral raises
    • Side plank with lateral raises
    • Dumbbells standing around the world
    • Dumbbell Arnold press
    • Dumbbell upright rows

    Also, see our posts on big bigger traps and 30 best shoulder workouts.

    Bodyweight exercises sufficiently targeting the side delts are at a minimum.

    With that in mind, if you plan on working out at home, you will need some dumbbells for the most significant part of the following exercises.

    Let’s look at a few side-delt exercises in more depth.

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    What Can I Do to Strengthen My Side Delts? 🤔

    Here is a list of exercises you can do to grow your lateral deltoids that will add the finishing touches to your dream upper-body physique.

     

    1. Overhead Dumbbell Press

    Overhead Dumbbell Press

    According to Healthline, the dumbbell press activates the deltoid muscles and works the chest, shoulders, triceps, upper back, and lower back.

    You can do the overhead press in a seated or standing position.

    If you perform an overhead dumbbell press in a standing position, the core is also activated to provide stabilization.

    For overhead dumbbell press, choose a weight that allows you to comfortably raise your arms above your head (of course, you should still feel the burn!). 

    You can also do this exercise by alternating between your left and right arm or moving both arms simultaneously. 

    See below for a demonstration of how to do this exercise correctly- the arm movement applies to the standing or sitting overhead press.

    How to do the overhead dumbbell press:

    • Stand with your feet separated hip-width apart from one another and bend your knees slightly. Alternatively, sit down on a bench. Grip a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms outwards, and bend your elbows to point to the ground with your palms facing forward.
    • Press the dumbbells towards the ceiling with controlled movement until the dumbbells are above your head.
    • At the top, your arms should not fully extend. Keep your elbows slightly bent and the dumbbells away from each other.
    • Slowly lower it back to just above your shoulders- the lower, the better, as long as your elbows stay pointed downwards. Do the movement for the desired number of repetitions. Masterclass suggests completing 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions each.

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    2. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

    Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

    Many beginners struggle with side lateral raises, yet it is one of the most fantastic isolation exercises for strengthening the side-deltoids.

    Choosing a weight range that allows you to do the entire movement is critical to ensure maximal efficiency.

    Watch a YouTube demonstration below on correctly doing dumbbell side lateral raises.

    How to do dumbbell side lateral raises:

    • Stand with your feet separated hip-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Alternatively, sit down on a bench. Grip a dumbbell in each hand while you let your arms hang straight down your sides with your palms facing you.
    • While concentrating on keeping your torso upright and still, slowly raise your arms to parallel with the ground (your body should make a T-shape). Keep your arms straight and core engaged throughout the whole movement.
    • Hold that position for two counts when you are in the T-shape, and then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

    Repeat this movement and do not fully rest until the set is complete. Base the size of your sets on the number of repetitions your fitness level allows. A good goal is to do 2 or 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

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    3. Side Plank With Lateral Raises

    Side Plank With Lateral Raises

    The side plank already does a great job in targeting the core and side deltoids, but adding movement to the arm not engaged (the one in the air), increases the efficiency of the exercise.

    I needed to include this exercise because the side plank and the lateral raise target the same muscle in different ways, making it a brilliant and versatile workout.

    For this exercise, you only need one dumbbell.

    Choose a weight that you feel comfortable raising above your head.

    Choose a lighter weight rather than failing to complete a full set or injuring yourself.

    See below a YouTube video demonstrating side-plank lateral raises.

    How to do side plank with lateral raises:

    • Lie on your right side, legs straightened, with your left foot resting on the right. Place your forearm flat on the ground and press down to lift your weight from the ground into a side-plank. Grip a dumbbell with your left hand your fingers should be the closest to your body. Extend your arm in line with your body.
    • Slowly raise your left arm to just beneath 90 degrees.
    • Lower your dumbbell back down to the starting position with controlled movements.
    • Repeat this exercise for the desired amount of repetitions. Aim to do 10 to 15 reps.
    • Turn around and get into a side-plank position, with your left arm assisting your bodyweight. Repeat the same movement with your right arm for 10 to 15 reps. 10 to 15 reps on each side concludes one set. 
    • Aim to complete 2 or 3 sets, depending on your fitness level. Both your shoulders should feel the burn!

     

    4. Dumbbell Standing Around the World

    Dumbbell Standing Around the World

    The around-the-world movement ensures maximal fiber activation in the shoulders.

    This movement put constant strain on the deltoids, specifically the side delts, making it a fantastic exercise to grow and tone those lateral deltoids.

    See an illustration of this movement before you get into it.

    You can also lie down on a bench for this movement if you have one in your vicinity.

    See a video below demonstrating how the movement should look using a bench.

    You can use light dumbbells for this exercise, especially if you have not perfected this movement yet.

    The standing around-the-world exercise could be quite challenging without the necessary arm strength.

    How to do dumbbell standing around the world:

    • Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart, with your knees slightly bent for stabilization. Grip a dumbbell in each hand, and let your arms hang, elbows slightly bent, in front of you. Your fingers should face upwards, gripping the dumbbells.
    • With a circular motion, slowly lift your arms sideways with your palms facing forward until your arms are stretched out sideways and parallel to the ground.
    • Continue the movement until the dumbbells touch above your head.
    • Slowly retrace the same movement back to the starting position.
    • Continue this exercise for the desired amount of repetitions. A good goal would be to complete 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

     

    5. Dumbbell Arnold Press

    Arnold Press

    According to Coachman, the Arnold press is one of the most efficient deltoid workouts− named after professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    When doing the Arnold Press, your shoulders move through many planes of motion, targeting the whole deltoid muscle group. 

    Therefore, extremely heavy weights are unnecessary for this exercise to be super effective.

    The Arnold Press targets muscles often neglected, with its main focus being the lateral deltoids.

    The extensive range of motion ensures that the muscles stay under pressure for longer, maximizing muscle growth and making it a crucial component of your shoulder workout routine.

    See below for a demonstration of how to do the Arnold press correctly.

     

    How to do dumbbell Arnold press:

    • If you have a bench in your vicinity, you can sit down on it. If not, stand upright, core engaged, and feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, elbows pointing to the ground, and palms facing you (top position of a bicep-curls).
    • Spread your arms to the side so that your upper arm is parallel to the ground and your elbows are bent 90 degrees. During this movement, rotate your wrist to the front.
    • In the same movement still, press up and reach as far as you can so that your dumbbells nearly touch above your head.
    • Slowly retrace this movement to the starting position: Bend your elbows as you lower the dumbbells until your upper arm is horizontal and parallel to the ground.
    • In the same movement, rotate your wrists inwards so your palms face you as you lower back into the top position of a bicep curl (the starting position).
    • Repeat this movement for the recommended amount of sets. Only completely relax once you finish an entire set. Aim to complete 8 to 12 reps for 3 or 4 sets.

     

    6. Dumbbell Upright Row

    Dumbbell Upright Row

    Dumbbell upright row is a versatile exercise that targets the upper back and the shoulders, especially the lateral deltoids.

    It is crucial that, like with all the activities mentioned above, you choose a weight that will allow you to complete the sets while maintaining the correct technique

    Here is a YouTube video illustrating dumbbell upright rows.

     

    How to do dumbbell upright rows:

    • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent for stability, and weight evenly distributed along your entire feet. Let your arms hang, elbows slightly bent, in front of your body while gripping the bar with your palms facing you.
    • Pull the dumbbells straight up to your chest. By doing this, your elbows should move away from your body, pointing outwards.
    • Stop when your elbows exceed shoulder height or when you cannot lift your elbows any higher. The dumbbells should stay close to your torso throughout the whole movement.
    • Focus on contracting your shoulder muscles for maximal efficiency. Hold it there for two counts.
    • Lower the dumbbells slowly and back to the starting position in a controlled fashion. Pause for two counts.
    • Continue with this movement for the desired amount of repetitions. Masterclass recommends doing 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of the dumbbell upright row, depending on your fitness level.

     

    Conclusion 🤗

    What Can I Do to Strengthen My Side Delts

    Training the deltoids is critical to achieving an overall toned upper body.

    Strong lateral deltoids are helpful for everyday activities and a good posture. 

    They largely contribute to the general toning of the shoulder area, especially in giving you the broad shoulder and thin waist physique.

    Remember that muscle growth takes a lot of time and dedication. Progress is a slow process− even more so with stubborn muscles like the lateral deltoids.

    Nonetheless, the six side delt exercises for a stronger lateral deltoid mentioned in this post are some of the most efficient lateral deltoid exercises.

    Adding these into your shoulder workouts would help you reach your personal shoulder goals.

    Ensure you check out our posts on the perfect shoulder and abs workout for beginners and at home chest and shoulders workout before you go.

    Last update on 2022-10-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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