By Sammy Cusimano
Shoulders impress! Men and women alike look better, feel better, and perform daily activities better when their shoulder muscles are strong and functional.
Whether you want more toned arms while playing basketball, looking fitter in your wedding dress or being able to grab a can from a high cabinet in the kitchen, muscular and strong shoulders are the key.
The shoulders will help other muscles develop faster because of the part that they play in so many different exercises. So what is the most effective method of toning and building strength in them?
One of the best isolation exercises that can be performed at home or the gym is the lateral raise.
The side deltoid (shoulder) muscles move via a ball and socket joint with an extremely diverse amount of directions for motion. This makes the lateral raise an easy exercise to do improperly.
Even some of the most experienced athletes and fitness enthusiasts surprisingly do not get the maximum amount of deltoid muscle isolation when they perform lateral raises: too much swinging, too much lower back bending and too much range of motion.
Technique is everything. There is absolutely no substitute for proper form on any exercise. Correct technique is crucial to prevent injury and ensure muscle development.
The goal of any fitness program is to achieve results through consistent training over a period of time. In order to keep an injury from delaying results, proper technique is imperative.
The main aspect of the proper lateral raise technique for total side deltoid stimulation is zero momentum. If you use any heaving or pulling motion with a lateral raise, the shoulders will not be worked out nearly as effectively as a smooth, controlled motion.
Follow the proper techniques for lateral raises and you will see much better results from your shoulder and arm workouts. Not only will your quality of life improve, but you will love the way your upper arms feel in the clothes you wear as well.
Here are the steps for a proper lateral raise:
-Start by holding two dumbbells with a neutral (hammer) grip by your side.
-Stand or sit up straight with the chest up and maintaining good posture.
-With a very controlled motion raise the dumbbells from the sides of the body while maintaining a slight bend in the elbows. The elbows should not be bent more than a few degrees.
-Stop the motion at shoulder level. Do not break the horizontal plane that goes around the body at the shoulders.
-Lower the weights with good posture and control until they almost touch the sides of the body near the hips and then repeat until the set is complete.
Tips for an effective lateral raise:
-Breath out each repetition as you raise the weights. It is always so important to exhale during the tense part of an exercise. The body naturally will perform better with a good rhythm of breathing during all sets.
-Refrain from bouncing with the legs while raising the dumbbells. Any momentum will instantly take away the shoulder benefits of the exercise.
-Do not bend the elbows more than a small amount. Some people bend their elbows a full 90 degrees while doing lateral raises. This is not the way to get the most out of the exercise. Increase the amount of tension on the muscle fibers by straightening the arms as much as possible without locking the elbows.
-Start from the sides of the body and end at the sides of the body through the motion of the raise. Converging the dumbbells in front of the body makes the lower back strain. As the muscles fatigue it becomes harder to maintain good form. Stay very strict with straight posture and a completely lateral plane of motion from the hip up to the shoulder level.
Sammy Cusimano is the founder of Genesys Training based out of New Orleans, LA and has been a professional trainer since 2001. His experience with training clients ranges from competitive athletes to senior citizens. Cusimano’s goal as a trainer is to help clients safely reach their fitness potential and become the best version of themselves for overall health and wellness.