You train shoulders. You’ve gotten good results. Now it’s time to take things up a notch and build a pair of 3D, “what-are-you-on?”-looking delts.
The secret is classic lateral dumbbell raises, done right. Sound simple? It can be. But nearly everyone in the gym does them wrong.
There’s a trick to blowing up the medial deltoid and forcing stubborn shoulders to grow.
When doing lateral raises, raise the dumbbells leading with your elbows, so that they’re always the highest part of your arm.
Take a closer look at the cover pic for this article, featuring champion bodybuilder Chris Bumstead (who just might know a thing or two):
The image was taken the top of the rep; we’ve marked the elbow position vs. where the hand/dumbbell end up. The dumbbell remains below the elbow through the entire rep – the wrist and forearm aren’t straining to raise anything.
All drive upward is coming from the deltoid via its attachment to the humerus (the bone in the upper arm that connects the elbow to the shoulder).
Here’s a gif of the same motion so you can see it in action.
Step by step: Lift until the elbows reach shoulder-level. Your wrists, hands, and the dumbbells themselves should remain lower than elbow/shoulder-height. In fact, there’s a sequence to it – the elbow is higher than the forearm, the forearm is higher than the hand/dumbbell.
Think about sweeping outward until the upper arm is almost parallel with the floor. Try to pause at the top, even if only for a fraction of a second. Then lower the weights under control.
From the paused position, re-initiate the move by raising your elbows up and out to the sides, maintaining that slight bend in the joint. Concentrate on how your side delts feel and contract as the weights are raised.
Don’t lift with stiff or straight arms, and don’t lift the weights all the way to shoulder height.
Doing everything stiff and straight might look like “stricter” form, but it shifts tension from the deltoid to the joints and strains the muscles in the forearm. It’s a recipe for less gains and more risk of tendonitis at the bicep, forearm, and elbow. Not fun.
Another bonus: making your elbows lead the move will keep the focus on your delts and minimize the stress placed on your rotator cuffs, a small group of delicate but crucial stabilizing muscles in the shoulder.
Start using this tweak on your lateral raises and watch the cannonball delts come in!