A good looking physique doesn’t just have bulging front delts, but side and rear delts to. I talked about building shoulder mass in a previous blog post. If you never directly worked your front delts they would grow as long as you’re doing pushing movements like the bench press. The same isn’t true for the side delts, they need a little encouragement. Side delts are lagging muscles on a lot of lifters. That’s why I do isolation and direct targeting exercises for my middle deltoids.
The best exercises for side delts in my humble opinion is clearly the dumbbell lateral raise or cable side raises. I don’t use a lot of heavy weight when doing these movements. Use a weight that is light enough for you to have strict form, but heavy enough to build muscle. Work within 8-12 rep range and don’t throw the weight around. Improper lateral raises with horrible form could lead to a serious shoulder injury.
I typically go heavier on side raises when using a db and lighter when using cables. After my db sets, I jump on the Marcy and do burn out sets with high reps and light weight. The one arm dumbbell lateral raise works well for building side delts, as well. Raise the db slowly and hold it for a couple of seconds before bringing back down. A few sets of these on each arm will give you a serious pump and fatigue your middle deltoids.
You can’t talk about putting on side delt mass without mentioning the tried-and-true upright row. This movement also has to be performed correctly. Rushing into upright rows without properly warming up or rushing into heavy weight will leave you in a world of hurt. There are quite a few lifters who skip upright rows cause they’re not for everyone. I’ve heard tons of guys and gals talking about upper chest and shoulder pain after doing the exercise.
The most common cause of the pain is using too much weight, improper grip and not warming up your rotator cuff and shoulder. Stay around 8 reps and 3 sets. Use a grip that’s not too wide and not too close. I like to grab the bar just outside the shoulders. These are my best exercises for building side delts.
Chris Jones shows you how to hit side delts
If you’re having pain from lateral raises, try lighter weight and warm your shoulders up with a few very light sets. I warm up with 10 lb. and 15 lb. db before going into working sets. The OH press does hit the side and rear delts, but very little. Try cable side raises. Use a nice fluid movement with a comfortable weight.
@Coach_CThib Christian, Question: I have shldr pain on lateral raises, does OH-press build all 3 heads including side delts????
— Preston Hutchins (@MrIn_GAME) June 1, 2017
The anatomy of the side delt
Blockhead lateral raises