Apr 6, 2024


When it comes to shoulder exercises, the lateral raise is one of the most commonly used. However, this simple exercise can cause problems if biomechanical and clinical guidelines are not followed properly. The lateral raise targets the muscle on the side of the shoulder called the deltoid. The deltoid is divided into three parts – anterior, lateral and posterior. The lateral deltoid is the most active while performing a lateral raise, but the other parts of the deltoid muscle are also active. Other larger muscles such as the trapezius muscle (traps) help raise the arm out to the side, by raising the shoulder blade. Another important muscle of the shoulder girdle is the serratus anterior, which also fires during the lateral raise. The shoulder has a very exclusive make-up, which makes the shoulder susceptible to a number of unique problems. If the lateral raise is consistently done incorrectly it can create major problems. Entrapments or impingements are usually the first problems to occur, which result in reduced range of motion, damage to the shoulder and pain.

People are commonly taught to perform a lateral raise just like pouring water from a jug, so that the front of the weight is turned downwards at the top of the repetition. The idea of this is that it places the deltoid in a greater position to engage the lateral head. There is a major problem with this movement because as the shoulder turns internally the bony prominence of the shoulder is driven into the roof of the shoulder. This then causes the biceps tendon and rotator cuff to be impinged between the two bony structures. This can lead to inflammation and pain when performing chest or shoulder exercises. In order to prevent this when performing lateral raises, the shoulder should be kept in a slight externally rotated position. Keep the arm in a neutral or externally rotated position, which means the dumbbell should be horizontal or slightly turned up. Performing the exercise this way will help to reduce any problems with the shoulder. Another thing that can cause impingement/damage to the shoulder is when the ligaments in back of shoulder become too tight. The best way to deal with this is to give the capsule a stretch. Remember, depending on how tight the ligaments are it will take time to stretch the capsule. While lying on the left side put the left arm out straight at a right angle from the body, palm down. Bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle, and use the right hand to put pressure on the left wrist. Repeat on the right side. This stretch will create better shoulder function, which can make chest and shoulder training more effective.

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