Seated Lateral Raise Guide

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: October 26, 2023

Are you seeking a simple and effective exercise to help strengthen and widen your shoulders? Look no further than the dumbbell seated lateral raise!

This exercise isolates the shoulders more effectively than pressing movements and enables you to build the size and shape you’re after. In this blog post, I’ll dive into how to properly perform the seated lateral raise, along with tips on how to make the most of this exercise.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned lifter, performing this exercise properly can help you unlock new shoulder gains!

Seated Lateral Raise Cover

What Is A Lateral Raise?

A lateral raise is a strength training exercise that primarily works the shoulder muscles. It involves raising the arms out to the sides, with the elbows slightly bent, until they are at shoulder level.

This exercise can be done with dumbbells, resistance bands, or machines. It can also be performed in the standing or seated position.

Lateral Raise Muscles Worked

The seated lateral raise is a single-joint isolation exercise that primarily works the shoulder muscles. In particular, it targets the lateral or side deltoid, which is in the middle of your shoulder.

However, the lateral raise also involves the anterior or front delt and the posterior or rear delt to varying degrees. The extent to which each deltoid muscle is worked depends on the technique used for the exercise, which I will explain in detail.

Seated Lateral Raise Muscles Worked

Seated Lateral Raise Benefits & Limitations

The most significant benefit of the seated lateral raise compared to standing variations is that your legs are removed from the equation, making it easier to isolate the shoulder muscles without generating momentum.

Another benefit is that the dumbbells don’t bump into your thighs at the bottom, making them more comfortable with a slightly larger range of motion. The only drawback of seated lateral raises is that you need a bench or a chair.


  • Reduces momentum generated by the legs.
  • Helps isolate the shoulder muscles.
  • Dumbbells don’t hit thighs at the bottom.


  • Requires a bench or chair.

How To Do Seated Lateral Raises

Here are the basic steps to perform the dumbbell seated lateral raise correctly.

  1. Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a bench facing forward with your arms straight down by your sides. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, engage your core, and keep your chest up and shoulders back.
  2. Slowly lift the dumbbells simultaneously to the sides, away from your body. As you lift, keep your arms slightly bent at the elbows.
  3. Continue raising the dumbbells until your arms are at shoulder level or slightly above it. Avoid lifting higher, as this is the point where the trapezius muscles take over.
  4. Hold the position at the top briefly, focusing on squeezing your lateral deltoids.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, not letting them drop or swing. Maintain control throughout the exercise.
  6. Perform the desired number of repetitions. A typical set may consist of 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, but you can adjust this based on your fitness level and goals.

Dumbbell Seated Lateral Raise Video Demonstration

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Seated Lateral Raise Form

The description and video above should give you a great starting point for performing the seated lateral raise effectively. But here are some additional tips to help you master perfect form.

  • Arm Position – Your arms should typically be slightly bent during the lateral raise. But you can also perform this exercise with your arms bent at 90-degrees if that helps you contract your side delts.
  • Hand Position – To maximize side delt activation, it helps to rotate your hand so your thumb tilts slightly down at the top of the movement. Picture yourself pouring out a bottle of water.
  • Visualization – It can also be helpful to think about pushing your elbows up toward the ceiling instead of your hands because your upper arm is directly connected to the deltoid muscles.
Seated Lateral Raise Range of Motion
Seated Lateral Raise Hand Position

Seated Lateral Raise Alternatives

Here are some of the best seated lateral raise alternative exercises to change things up and add variety to your shoulder training routine.

1. Standing Lateral Raise

The standing lateral raise is an excellent alternative to the seated lateral raise. The exercise is exactly the same, except you need to be more mindful about keeping your legs and upper body perfectly still.

2. Machine Lateral Raise

The machine lateral raise is another seated exercise that usually also provides chest or back support. Additionally, the machine maintains constant tension on your delts, where free weights lose tension at the bottom of the lateral raise.

3. Kneeling Landmine Lateral Raise

The kneeling landmine lateral raise involves holding one end of a barbell while the other end is secured in a pivoting base. This exercise reduces momentum like the seated lateral raise but doesn’t require a bench to sit on.

Related: 9 Best Landmine Shoulder Exercises

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More Shoulder Exercises & Workouts

The seated lateral raise is an effective exercise for isolating and building the side delts. But a complete shoulder workout should still include some compound movements like shoulder presses.

So here are some additional articles that should help you design your ultimate shoulder training routine.

Seated Military Press Benefits, Muscles Worked, & Variations

How To Do The Plate Front Raise for Bigger Shoulders

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press – How to Fix Your Form

Push Press vs Overhead Press Muscle Activation & Power Output

Arnold Press vs Shoulder Press for Size and Strength Gains

11 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises With Example Workout

Best Lateral Deltoid Exercises for Broader Shoulders (+Workout)

Based on the information provided, you have a solid foundation for achieving your goals of building bigger, broader shoulders. If you found this article helpful, I believe you may also find these additional resources to be valuable.

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By |October 26, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on Dumbbell Seated Lateral Raise Tips for Targeting Side Delts
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