Lateral raises are great to target your lateral delts (basically the side of your shoulder muscle) spicily. Your delt muscle has 3 distinct areas the front, lateral and rear delt. Each is responsible to make movement in this direction possible. In all pressing exercises you also use your delts quite a lot. “So why do I have to train them separately?” – you might ask. The reason is that your front delt usually does most of the work in pressing movements. The side and the rear delt get neglected. That’s where exercises like lateral raises and reverse fly come into play, to target the side and rear delt specifically. An in depth article about how to perform a reverse fly you can find right here.
In the first part of this article, we will show you how to execute a lateral raise with resistance bands properly and in the second part, you find some tips for alternative ways to do lateral raises to find the perfect variation for you.
Lateral Raises With Resistance Band
Let’s jump right into how you do the basic lateral raise with resistance bands.
Bands VS Weights & Machine
Doing your lateral raise with a resistance band gives you several advantages over doing them with a cable machine or free weights
- Follow the natural strength curve of your muscle! The resistance of a band will always increase the more you stretch it and that’s also the natural strength curve of your muscle, having the most power in the full contraction. With a cable machine, you often fatigue in the expanded part of your muscle without fully fatiguing the whole muscle.
- Fewer Injuries & Home Workout! Recovering from an injury? Use bands! Want to build bigger and better triceps? Use bands! Since bands force you to perform the exercise with a good form simply by using them, this will provide an automatic injury prevention. Nice!
A home gym or even dumbbells need space, bands on the other hand can be stored in any drawer or in a small bag. Especially if you have little space for working out, bands are perfect.
- Versatility! With one band you can simulate a variety of resistances depending on the stretch and also use it to train your whole body.
- Perfect Resistance! Your side delts are not strong muscles and you can work them to fatigue pretty fast and especially with weights you will often get at a point where you won’t be able to get into full contraction. With bands, you can easily adjust the resistance while you do the lateral raise and get some extra reps in.
There are also more reasons to favor resistance bands over traditional free weights or machines, like reducing the stress on your joints, getting more peak contraction, and many more. But we’re talking here about doing a lateral raise, so if you’re interested in background info about what benefits resistance bands give you in strength training and bodybuilding, check it out here.
How To Lateral Raise The Right Way
The lateral delt is used then you lift your arms to the side of your body. And this is exactly what we gonna do. On disclaimer upfront There are different band types out there. For this exercise handle tube bands are actually more suitable than loop bands. I will still recommend you using loop bands since they are way more versatile in their use. To get a good overview about different band types check out this article, where we looked at different band types as well as their pros and cons.
So let’s start with handle tube bands: Take a handle in each hand and step with one or both feet on the band. From here you will lift your arms until they are parallel to ground. Hold here for a second and then return to the starting position. Make sure to fight against the pull of the bands on the way down. Don’t simply relax and let the band pull your arms.
With loop bands things are a bit different since we have a closed loop to work with. The best way to perform lateral raises with loop bands is to simply bend your arms to a 90-degree angle or slightly larger. Now you won’t have the band pull your arms together then you lift your arms. Now imagine your fore and your upper arm are fixed and you can only lift them up and down. Key here is that you don’t have any rotation in your shoulder but simply the up and down movement.
Many people now have problems using their lateral delts and start using their front delts to help out because they are the stronger muscle. Since we don’t want that here are some tips that will make sure you will target your side delt and target it good.
Important Do’s & Don’ts!!!
⓵ Clean Reps > Ego – after a few reps you will start to feel how your side delts will fatigue with lateral raises quite fast. If you feel that you can’t pull anymore, step your feet a little closer or grab the band further upwards to get less resistance and get some more reps in. It’s about progress, not about your ego using a stronger band. Use the lightest band if you must to work your side delts.
⓶ Neutral Upper Body Position – the most import thing about lateral raises is doing actual lateral raises and not turning it into a front delt movement. How do we do that? Simply keep in mind two things. Don’t lean backwards with your upper body and don’t let that thumb rotate towards the ceiling or sky. Have your upper body and your hands in a neutral position and you’re good to go.
⓷ No Slack – when you’re in the starting position of your lateral raise, there shouldn’t be any slack in the band. The band should already be stretched a little bit so you feel a force pulling you towards the ground a little bit. If you have a slack here you will lose a lot of time under tension!
If you’re not able to get the band into a full contraction with the raise without having a slack you need to use a lighter resistance band (below you find tips on how to increase the force with a lighter resistance band).
Alternative Ways To Lateral Raises With Resistance Bands
With every version of an exercise, you will find people that really like it and others that don’t like it that much. If you have problems with the traditional way of doing the lateral raises as shown above (while executing it the right way), you might want to try one of the alternative ways.
Single Arm Lateral Raises – Uni lateral work is awesome to focus on only one side at a time and really feel the muscles working. Also, if you have any imbalances between your right and left side, you can correct them by working one side at a time. Loop bands are especially great for this variation.
You will step inside the loop with one foot and grab the other end with your hand. From here you will perform the raise as described above. You can actually adjust resistance by the one or the other foot you step on the band with. Same side foot will have less resistance. The further you move this foot outside the less resistance you will have. The opposite foot will have more resistance. The further you move this foot outside the more resistance you will add. Simply awesome.
Use 2 Bands – This basically the above variation but you will perform it with two bands of the same resistance. You can work both sides at the same time and safe time and shorten your workout in this way. This variation also conquers the small disadvantage of loop band mentioned above.
Seated Lateral Raises – The seated version is great to get used to the movement and really focus on the shoulder movement. The lower body is out of the picture and you can really concentrate on the contraction of the shoulders.
Loop Band Alternative – I mentioned a little disadvantage above of the loop bands. The fact that it’s a loop and therefore you have also a string of band between your hands. If you raise your arms to the side, the band in between your hands will also stretch and you have to work against that tension as well. But we can actually embrace it and add this extra rasistance to the exercise.
Get Your Pump
If that doesn’t get you that pump, here are some tips that will help you work those side delts to the ground.
Shorten The Band – many people make the mistake to use a band with a resistance level that’s simply too high for the exercise. The full effect of bands results from getting the right resistance and if you use a band that’s too heavy you can’t get a clean range-of-motion and clean reps and get lower progress.
Instead of taking a stronger band simply shorten the band, you use and you can do that perfectly by wrapping it around your hand once or twice and get the extra resistance without losing the ability to do clean reps.
That’s also one reason why I don’t like the resistance bands with handles attached to it and prefer the loop-style bands.
Step Your Feet Apart – you can adjust the resistance by simply stepping your feet further apart. This will stretch the band further and adds resistance. The best thing about this tip is… You can do it mid set. Want more resistance? Take your feet apart! You are at the end of your set and the form starts to get ugly? Put your feet together! Easy.
Double Time – If you feel that there is only a little bit of resistance missing and a jump to the next thicker band would be too much, simply add a second one of the lighter ones. It will give just that extra resistance you’re looking for without taking it over the top.
Time Under Tension – compared to weights where you have the same force applied to any position of the movement, bands will add more resistance the further you stretch them – this will lower the time under tension your muscle has during a set in the starting position. Focus on doing the exercise controlled and try to hold it for a second or two in the fully contracted position and don’t let the band snap back but slowly go back to the starting position.
Full Shoulder Workout
Simply doing lateral raises is not a full shoulder workout as there are multiple muscles working there – we have here a full shoulder workout with different exercises that will give you the strongest pump you can ever think of – check THEM out here.