Machine Lateral Raise Exercise Guide


Machine Lateral (Side) Raises

Machine lateral raise effectively isolates and stimulates the lateral head of the deltoid to impart that highly sought-after appearance of width. While the dumbbell version of this exercise is probably more popular, the machine is actually more biomechanically correct. The resistance is kept more in line with the side shoulders when using the machine.

Exercise Instructions for Machine Lateral Raises

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit down on the machine’s chair and place your elbows on the inside of the rollers or pads and grab the handles (if applicable) with the palms facing inwards. In other words, begin with your elbows bent, arms on the pads, upper arms down at your sides, and the weight off the stack to provide tension. Your arms should be flexed approximately 90 degrees.

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Contract your deltoids to slowly raise the arms outward and upward until they are parallel with the floor. Keep your forearms flush against the pads throughout the movement, your feet on the floor and your back pressed against the pad. Slowly return to the starting position with the arms stopping a couple of inches from your sides.

Machine side raises for lateral deltoid

Machine side raises for lateral deltoid

Different Types of Lateral Raise Machines

Lateral raise machines vary depending on the manufacturer. Some have long arms with handles on the end, which allow you to keep your arm straight, more closely mimicking a dumbbell or cable lateral raise; others have pads like those pictured here. This machine consists of a padded stool to sit on and a small frame with two padded side arms to rest your forearms and elbows against. Most gyms have one or the other. If your gym has both, alternate between the two for variety. The advantage compared to dumbbells is that the machine ensures good posture and a smooth movement.

Types of Lateral Raise Machines

Types of Lateral Raise Machines

Additional Comments & Tips

Many bodybuilders prefer machine raises to dumbbells, as dumbbells place stress on the wrists and shoulder joints. Try not to raise the arms above parallel, as this only brings in the traps as well as adding extra stress to the rotator cuff. Machine lateral raise is an excellent beginning exercise because you don’t have to worry about your form or positioning, and it allows long sets of repetitions.

Muscles Involved in Machine Lateral Raises

Side machine raises primarily work the side (lateral) shoulders but the front and rear shoulders as well as the traps, also come into play. If raising the arm above horizontal, the upper portion of the trapezius also becomes involved. More precisely:

  • Main muscles: deltoid (middle), supraspinatus;
  • Secondary muscles: deltoid (front and rear), trapezius and serratus anterior (especially from
    90 to 150º), biceps (long head), subscapularis;
  • Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major (lower), teres major and minor, triceps (long head), biceps;

Machine Lateral Raise Substitutes (Replacement Exercises)

Use dumbbells or low pulley to perform the same movement.

Furthermore, you can replace lateral raises with upright rows. Anyway, there are plenty lateral deltoid exercises from which you can choose your favorites.

Closing Thoughts About Machine Lateral Raise

Well-developed medial (side) deltoids cap that look of complete development and power. Lateral raises have been the go-to exercise for middle deltoid development for decades. It would be very rare to find any successful bodybuilder who has not trained with lateral raises at one time or another.

We strongly recommend using machines over dumbbells to perform lateral raises. Good lateral raise machines are very effective for many reasons. You must push to the side against resistance that will come from the side. This is exactly the direction required to recruit the middle part of the deltoid in an optimal way. Optimal recruitment does not occur when the resistance comes from the ground, which is the case when using dumbbells or a non-adjustable low pulley.

Furthermore, the movement is guided when you perform machine lateral raises. Because of this, your arm will not shift from front to back as often as it does with a dumbbell or even a pulley.

Finally, most machines require you to bend your arms. Only a few will allow you to keep your arms straight. Whether or not you bend your arms does not matter much when using a machine. The important thing is that you keep the humerus well in line with the lateral part of the deltoid so that you get the best possible isolation.

Therefore, machine lateral raise should be your new exercise of the first choice if you goal is to increase the size of your lateral deltoid heads (those on the sides of you).

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