6 Best Side Delt Exercises to Build Perfect Shoulder

Well-toned and muscular shoulders enhance your physical appearance, making you stand out. If that’s what you want – to grow stronger and captivate those around you, make sure to incorporate side delt exercises into your workout routine.

What are side delts? Why should you do exercises for them, specifically? What benefits can you gain? We’ll discuss all this in this article today. We’ll share the six best side delt exercises that you can perform to get the shoulders of your dreams. 

Before that, let us first understand deltoid muscles and their anatomy. After all, you can’t go to level 10 of your fitness without learning the basics, right?

What Are Deltoid Muscles?

Deltoid muscles are the ball and the socket joints that connect your arm to the trunk of your body. 

Commonly called Delts, these muscles are responsible for moving your arms in different directions. They also provide protection and stability to your shoulder joint. Thus, ensuring you don’t dislocate your shoulders when you move them.

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Deltoid Anatomy 

Deltoid muscles are the primary muscles of your shoulders. These are of 3 types:

  1. Anterior deltoids: Also known as the front deltoids, these are a group of muscles that help you move your arm forward. They attach to your clavicle, which is the bone that joins your arm with the rest of your body. When you reach for something on a shelf, you use your front delts.
  2. Lateral deltoids: Also known as side deltoids or medial delts, these muscles allow you to move your arm out to the side and up and down. Jumping jacks are a type of side delt exercise that use your side deltoid muscles.
  3. Posterior deltoids: Also called rear deltoids, these muscles aid in the backward movement of your arm. You use them when you do backwards stretching or when you pitch a baseball. 

Why Are Deltoid Workouts Necessary?

To keep your shoulder muscles functioning it is essential to train them. Deltoid exercises are the perfect way to do that. But you can get more than just a well-functioning body. Here are the benefits you should look out for:

  • Improved posture

Having big, strong shoulders enables you to have a splendid posture. It is also effortless to move your arms if you have strong shoulders. So, performing day-to-day activities like throwing a ball or lifting a heavy suitcase become easier. 

  • Reduced shoulder injuries

Weak shoulders are often prone to a variety of injuries. You may easily sprain your shoulder while lifting an object if your delts aren’t developed.

  • A boost in confidence

Having a set of big and attractive shoulders can add a lot to your physical appearance. Taking your shoulder training seriously will make you look and feel powerful. After all, not everyone can do what you can, with developed shoulder muscles.

But which delt muscles should you be working on? 

Now, the front delts are commonly used in upper-body pressing exercises such as bench presses. These muscles can easily get overdeveloped if you are a regular at the gym. Front delts may, therefore, cause the side delts and chest to look weak. That’s why focusing on front delt exercises is not a great idea.

Out of the remaining two – side delts and rear delts – we’ll focus on side delt exercises in this article today.

These exercises can also be called lateral deltoid exercises or medial delt exercises. But for the sake of clarity, we’ll be using the term ‘side delts’ from hereon.

6 Best Side Delt Exercises to Incorporate in Your Fitness Routine

Exercises You Can Do with Weights – Using Any Type of Weight Like Dumbbells or Barbells

1. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

side delt exercises

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It is a weight exercise that targets your side deltoid and is simple to execute. To get the most out of this workout, use light to moderate weights that allow you to lift the dumbbells with control and without swinging them overhead. Extra leg or back movement can reduce the effectiveness of this workout.

This side delt exercise can correct shoulder discrepancies like shoulder pain if you do it regularly.

How to Do It? 
  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand up straight. Keep the dumbbells at your sides. Your palms should be facing in the direction of your body. Hold the dumbbells slightly off your body to keep the strain on the side delts. 
  2. Now, slowly lift the dumbbells to approximately shoulder height. Don’t raise the weight with your wrists over your elbows. Doing this will shift the work away from the side delts and onto the front delts workout.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement before gradually lowering the weight back to the starting position.
Mistakes to Avoid:
  • Avoid using heavy-weight dumbbells if you’re a beginner. Lifting heavy weights will cause you to move your upper body back and forth. It will increase the chances of spraining your shoulders.
  • Do not maintain a 100% upright posture. It will prevent the activation of your side delts. Instead, bend your knees and lean forward slightly. 

2. Overhead Press

side delt exercises

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If you’re new to the overhead press, try the sitting dumbbell shoulder press first. You will be able to avoid overstretching your lower back by using an upright bench during the activity. Thus, helping you focus on maintaining tension through your shoulders when pressing the weight. 

Dumbbells provide better control and range of motion, which are excellent for learning new movement patterns of an exercise.

How to Do It? 
  1. Hold the dumbbells at your shoulders, palms forward, elbows out to the sides and bent at a 90° angle.
  2. Keep your core engaged the entire time.
  3. Raise your elbows above your head without leaning back.
  4. Gradually return to your starting position.
Mistakes to Avoid:
  • Avoid hunching your shoulders when practising this side delt exercise. Keep them down for stability.
  • Avoid lowering the dumbbells too far from your shoulders as it can cause shoulder strain.
  • Don’t go for heavy weights as they can cause your form to get sloppy and thus cause shoulder injury.

3. Barbell Upright Row

side delt exercises

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Upright rows are a free-weight side delt exercise often done with dumbbells or a barbell. It’s a basic workout, but your execution should be flawless to gain the best results and avoid injury.

How to Do It? 
  1. Keep your back straight and lift the barbell with your palms facing down. Make sure you grip the barbell tightly. 
  2. Pause for some time.
  3. Return to the starting position.
Mistakes to Avoid:
  • Avoid moving your torso too much and keep it straight. Ensure there is no movement in the legs.
  • Avoid using a very heavy barbell unless you’re experienced.

Exercises You Can Do Without Weights – Using Things Like Ropes and Towels

1. Lateral Towel Raise

side delt exercises

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This side delt exercise usually involves hinging at the hips using a dumbbell to bring your body nearly parallel to the floor. But you can also use a towel instead of a dumbbell to avoid any weight-related injury.

How to Do It? 
  1. Hold a long towel firmly between both hands.
  2. Lift the arm to the side and away from the body.
  3. Hold for some time and slowly come back to the original position.
Mistakes to Avoid:
  • Avoid letting your elbows fall below your wrists. Doing this will make the exercise anterior deltoid instead of side delt exercise, because it will shift the emphasis to the anterior head.

2. Battle Rope Shoulder Circles

side delt exercises

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The two-arm circles battling rope workout is one of the best side delt exercises for your shoulders. You can use battle ropes for conditioning, mobility, or even strength exercises, depending on your rep and set scheme.

How to Do It? 
  1. Stand tall, knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and both hands gripping a rope.
  2. Complete arm circles at the shoulder while keeping your knees softly bent.
  3. Use your arms to generate force and your legs to absorb impact.
  4. Repeat for the chosen period, duration, or the number of reps.
Mistakes to Avoid:
  • Don’t grip hard or pull tight on the ropes. Doing this can cause shoulder injury.

3. Standing Arm Circles

side delt exercises

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This uncomplicated warmup side delt exercise gets your circulation flowing and can help develop the muscle tone in your shoulders.

How to Do It? 
  1. Stand with a flat back and raise your arms to the sides.
  2. While focusing on the shoulders, slowly rotate your arms in a circular motion. 
  3. After completing one set of a predetermined number (such as 10 repetitions), reverse the direction.
Mistakes to Avoid:
  • Ensure you keep your abs tight the entire time. 

Also Read: 7 Rear Delt Exercises to Build Perfect Strong Shoulder

How to Include Deltoid Exercises in Your Fitness Routine?

side delt exercises

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  1. The best way to train delts is with isolation exercises. It will be ideal if you dedicate one of your weekly training sessions to them since you would have more stamina.
  2. We recommend you work out your deltoid muscles for 20 to 35 minutes. Despite the brief period, it will be enough to stimulate all three deltoid areas without the risk of over-exertion.

Wrapping Up

To keep your deltoids functioning well, it is crucial to add side delt exercises to your regular fitness program. 

Build your shoulder workouts around these movements, but make sure to not overwhelm your body. If you put in the effort, you’ll soon be on your way to having the most fantastic shoulders you’ve ever had.

Have any questions? Drop them in the comments below!

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