Have you ever wondered which raise is best for bigger shoulders? In this video I am going to show you 4 different versions of the lateral raise to help you determine which one is best for you and your shoulder training. They might look fairly similar, but it’s the details that matter.
First, it’s important to know how NOT to perform a lateral raise. In the pursuit of big shoulders, we also need to be conscious of the health of our shoulder joints as well. It would be of no surprise to me if you had heard the tip to “pour the pitcher” when performing lateral raises. That is, at the top of the movement, elevate your pinky above your thumb and put your shoulder into internal rotation. If you are doing this, I am begging you to stop!
By “pouring the pitcher,” you are putting your shoulder into internal rotation with elevation. This action creates impingement stress within the shoulder joint which can lead to longterm pain and discomfort. For healthier, bigger shoulders, we should be making sure that the thumb is higher than the pinky at the top of the range of motion. This will actually create external rotation which leads to more room for movement within the shoulder capsule.
Now that you know the proper way to perform the lateral raise to avoid shoulder problems, which way is the best for big shoulders: straight arm or bent arm? Well, it comes down to preference, but it’s important to note how you perform each one as well as understanding the strength and resistance curves.
The straight arm lateral raise will require you to use less weight to perform properly but don’t get discouraged by this. The muscles in your body don’t know the number on weights, but instead simply know the tension that is being applied to them. When it comes to the strength and resistance curves, we know that the shoulder is strongest at the bottom range of motion of the exercise and weakest at the top. We also know that the exercise is easiest at the bottom and hardest at the top, thus the curves don’t overlap. To accommodate for this in your shoulder workout is to shorten the range of motion in the exercise. Perform the raises from the mid-point to the top-end and keep the dumbbell in that smaller range to increase the amount of tension on the middle delt. You can also perform 1.5 reps to accomplish the same thing.
What about the bent arm lateral raise? Well, this shoulder exercise allows for you to use a heavier load to create tension since the moment arm is shortened (arm bent vs. arm straight). To find this weight, take your straight arm lateral raise, cut it in half and then add it to whatever weight you were using for that exercise. For example, if your SALR weight is 20 lb, your BALR would be 30 lb (this is all dependent on limb length and other anatomical features, but maintains a general guideline).
When performing the bent arm lateral raise, something that we need to take note of is the introduction of a second lever that is now in the sagittal plane. This heavier weight will want to bring your forearm down to the ground, creating an opportunity for impingement and a greater recruitment of the front delt. Obviously, when trying to isolate the middle delt as well as keeping your shoulders healthy, this would not be ideal. So, make sure that your thumb is higher than your pinky at the top end of the exercise and try to get your elbow back, so that the dumbbell is more in line with your torso.
Another version of the lateral raise you can add to your next shoulder workout for bigger shoulders is the cable lateral raise. The straight arm cable lateral raise will again require you to use less weight because of the increased moment arm, but the cable introduces the accommodation for the strength and resistance curves that we explored earlier. The same application goes for the bent arm version of this shoulder exercise where you can use a heavier load. Remember, you still want to avoid internal rotation with elevation, so get those thumbs higher than your pinkies!
So which lateral raise should you be doing if you want to get big shoulders? Well, I would say any of them would be good to put into your next shoulder workout as they all share the benefits of creating tension in the delts. Remember, it’s not about the amount of weight you can move, but how well you can create tension in the muscles.
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