How to do a side elevation: 11 steps (with pictures)

How to do a side elevation: 11 steps (with pictures)
How to do a side elevation: 11 steps (with pictures)

Lateral raises are a simple and effective exercise that helps tone shoulder muscles and improve physical strength. They only require the hands and dumbbells (or a resistance band) and can be performed virtually anywhere at any time of the day. If you do them correctly and as often as needed, they will help you build your shoulders. Side elevations improve overall physical appearance as they make the shoulders wider and squarer, making the waist appear slimmer. To get the most out of these exercises, you will need to exercise practice and discipline, but you will also need to employ the right technique.


Part 1 of 3: Prepare

Do a Lateral Raise Step 1

Step 1. Choose the right loads

Select dumbbells of different weights to see which ones you can lift comfortably and repeatedly. The goal of side elevations is to improve muscle tone, not heavy lifting.

  • Dumbbells are regularly used for this exercise, but they are not necessarily necessary. If you don't want to use it, you can just as easily use a resistance band.
  • The main difference between using a resistance band and using weights is that with a resistance band you use your feet to keep the band in place as you pull on its ends. The form and technique are the same in both cases.
  • Choosing the right load is essential for side elevations, but don't let finding the perfect load distract you. Using a lighter load will cause tension and resistance as you increase the reps with each set.
Do a Lateral Raise Step 2

Step 2. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand

To keep your body stable, start in a standing or sitting position with your legs shoulder-width apart, hip-width apart, or with one leg bent in front of you.

Do a Lateral Raise Step 3

Step 3. Straighten your back and pull your shoulders back

During this exercise, the arm can remain straight, but not locked. If you are using dumbbells, you can also bend your elbow 90 degrees (don't bend your elbow 90 degrees if you are using a resistance band).

Do a Lateral Raise Step 6

Step 4. Outline the torso and slightly bend the elbows

Pull your shoulder blades back and down. You will feel a slight tension in your shoulders, which is completely normal.

Part 2 of 3: start the elevation

Do a Lateral Raise Step 7

Step 1. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand

Turn your palms inward so that they are facing your body. Keep your thumbs wrapped around the dumbbells or pointed towards the ceiling if you want to work different muscle groups.

  • Tighten your abdominal muscles to prepare your torso for the elevations.
  • If using a resistance band, stand in the middle of the band and grip a handle or end in each hand. The tape should be tight.

Step 2. Lift the dumbbells

In a side elevation, lift the dumbbells on either side of your body (like wings) to below shoulder height (your arms should be almost parallel to the floor). Slowly exhale while using the muscles at the top of your shoulders to lift the weights.

  • Keep your head straight and in line with your spine.
  • If the latissimus dorsi muscle is engaged and the shoulder blades are retracted (as they are supposed to be), it will be impossible to lift the arms above shoulder height. If you can lift your arms above shoulder height, it means the latissimus dorsi muscle is not engaged and the exercise is not being performed correctly.
  • If you are using a resistance band, pull its ends while raising your arms to shoulder height or slightly below.
Do a Lateral Raise Step 9

Step 3. Stay 2 to 3 seconds in this position

With the elbows slightly bent, keep your arms in the air for 2 to 3 seconds, the time to feel a slight tension in your shoulders in order to make the exercise more effective. Your abdomen should be engaged and still.

  • Do not flex your wrists or position your arms so that they are higher than the elbows (wrists and elbows should be about the same height or aligned). Placing the wrists too high will prevent you from properly targeting the shoulders.
  • To avoid this, imagine that the dumbbell is a water bottle and you tilt it forward to pour water.

Part 3 of 3: complete the rehearsal

Do a Lateral Raise Step 10

Step 1. Slowly lower your arms

Return to your starting position by slowly lowering the dumbbells for 2-3 seconds while inhaling steadily. Your movement should be slow and controlled.

If using a resistance band, slowly lower your arms to the starting position. Do not let the tension of the band rush your movements. The descent must be controlled

Do a Lateral Raise Step 11

Step 2. Do not press your arms against your body

Keep your arms a few inches from your body to keep your deltoids energized.

Don't let your arms touch your body once they're down

Do a Lateral Raise Step 12

Step 3. Repeat the exercise

Raise your elbows sideways, making sure they are the highest part of your arm during the lift. Your elbows should “lead” the movement to allow the exercise to target the deltoids.

During the lift, focus on how your muscles relax and contract

Do a Lateral Raise Step 13

Step 4. Do 10 to 12 repetitions per set

To build resistance in your arms, the repetitions should be slow and constant. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

  • Aim to do 3 sets, 3 days a week for at least 6 weeks to hope to see results.
  • To change the difficulty level, increase or decrease the amount of repetitions per set.


  • For faster results, alternate between vertical pulls and side elevations without taking a rest before the end of the set.
  • To prevent the risk of injury to the shoulder joint, rotate your arms 60 to 70 degrees as you raise them.
  • Start with short breaks the first time you do side raises, then gradually increase the duration over time.


  • If not performed correctly, this exercise can lead to potential lower back injuries.
  • Do not let the dumbbells touch your body or “hang” down in any phase of the movement.
  • Do not lift your arms too high if you have previously injured your rotator cuff.

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