Build Strong Shoulders Safely With This Lateral Raise Upgrade

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
Photo credit: Eric Rosati
Photo credit: Eric Rosati

From Men's Health

The classic lateral raise is a tried-and-true way to build size on muscle on the outer (or lateral) head of your shoulders, a staple exercise in any hardcore, shoulder-growing routine. It's also a move that invites a lot of momentum and cheating.

Thankfully, there's a fix for that, and it comes in the form of the Seated Floor Lateral Raise, a variation from Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. "The seated floor lateral raise is going to help you maintain strict form and execution on your lateral raises," says Samuel, "and that's going to keep constant, consistent pressure on your shoulders in all the best ways."

The downfall of the classic lateral raise is that it lets you cheat in two ways. First off, you can rock at the hips, creating momentum to propel your weights upwards. Secondly, you can swing your arms low, even touching the dumbbells on the bottom, again creating momentum that pushes them upwards.

That momentum takes focus off the muscle you're really trying to attack, the lateral head of your shoulder. The floor raise, however, puts it back on. "We're eliminating the momentum-generating portions of the movement," says Samuel. "We're also letting you focus on each individual rep, locking in core positioning and focusing on moving only with the shoulder."

Indeed, the floor lateral raise lets you "rest" between each rep, but that's not a bad thing, says Samuel. "Reset between each rep, contracting abs to own ribcage position, sitting straight up, and making sure your traps aren't lifting," he says. "It'll be more productive in the long run."

All you need is a pair of dumbbells to do it. Stuck at home? Heavy gallons of water will challenge you more than you think, too.

  • Start seated on the floor, legs straight, two dumbbells held in each hand, touching the floor. Your arms should be angled slightly in front of your torso.

  • Tighten your core and sit up straight. Exhale and raise the dumbbells, focusing on using your shoulders (and not your traps) to drive the motion.

  • Pause when your wrists are in line with your shoulders (or a hair below that). Hold.

  • Return to the start. Reset for your next rep. Do 8 to 12 reps. Do 3 sets.

The Seated Floor Lateral Raise works well as a shoulder movement that you include on a push day, or as a move you include in a standard shoulder circuit, along with a dumbbell overhead press variation and a rear delt exercise. It also can work in other rep formats, says Samuel. "This is an exercise that delivers plenty of bang for your buck," he says. "Use it in an AMRAP for your upper body if you want too."

It's as safe as they come, Samuel, since you can't cheat and you can get plenty of benefit out of using a lighter weight.

For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb's New Rules of Muscle program.


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