There's nothing better for us guys than a pair of round, broad shoulders. If you're looking to build up a nice set of bowling balls, the side lateral raise should be a key tool in your arsenal. This particular exercise targets the lateral head of the shoulder a/k/a side delt, which is the most important for shoulder width and thickness (but also tends to be the hardest to hit).
On the surface, side lateral raises are deceptively basic. Although there's not much to this move at first glance, many lifters make key mistakes when performing side laterals that greatly lessen their effectiveness not to mention increase the risk of injury. Here are four of the top errors people make when rocking out their side laterals, as well as corrective tips to address them:
1. Remaining Completely Upright.
Too many people stand with their upper body totally erect during their side lateral raises (or worse yet, with their torso leaned back). This shifts the focus of the exercise to the shoulder's anterior head (the front) and reduces the engagement of your side delts. To avoid this mistake, be sure to keep a slight bend in your knees and lean forward when performing your side lateral raises.
2. Going Way Too Heavy, Way Too Fast.
If you find yourself using an amount of weight on this lift that requires you to swing your upper body back and forth and heave the weights around in an uncontrolled manner . . . yeah, you're doing it wrong. All this does is reduce engagement of the side delts and boost chances of shoulder injury - not good.
With side lateral raises, it's important to bear in mind that the amount of weight you're lifting isn't what counts - it's the direct amount of tension placed on the lateral head of your shoulder. So stop trying to look macho and focus on proper form. (Trust me, if I had a quarter for every person who cared how much you can side lateral raise I wouldn't even have enough to buy a piece of bubblegum.) Grab a lighter weight and concentrate on doing the exercise with minimal momentum, strict control, and maximum tension.
3. Having Saggy Abs During the Exercise.
Always maintain a nice, tight core when performing side lateral raises (or any other weightlifting move, for that matter). Flexing your abs in a forceful manner and maintaining a locked ribcage throughout the full movement happens to be one of the best ways to maximize the level of tension on your side delts since it keeps your body from swaying backwards as you lift. Try doing that type of hardcore contraction just once and you'll realize what a difference it makes!
4. Lifting to the Front Instead of the Side.
Guys, there are front raises for a reason! When performing side laterals, you should be lifting out perpendicular to your body, not towards the front. If you do the latter, you're just training the anterior head of your shoulder instead of the side delt. To get the most out of your side lateral raises in terms of shoulder width and thickness, keep a slight bend (no more than 10-30 degrees) in your elbows and be sure to raise your arms fully to the sides.