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Lateral raises sometimes get cast as a “pure aesthetics” movement, but in actuality, they offer far more than just looks. If you want to build strong and healthy shoulders, lateral raises need to be a mandatory cornerstone movement in your programming.
But if you are experiencing chronic, nagging shoulder pain during pressing and direct shoulder work, chances are good the way you perform lateral raises isn’t helping. Despite its seeming simplicity, it’s very easy to butcher the lateral raise, making this theoretically joint-friendly staple movement pattern a painful, weakness-exacerbating exercise.
When it comes to programming and executing lateral raise variations, there’s a right way that unlocks muscular size and strength potential, and there’s a wrong way that leave you broken down and hurt in the process. Here’s how to use this bodybuilding staple to help you bulletproof your shoulders once and for all, and boost growth in the process.
Before you go rewriting the lateral raise book and reverse engineering your programming due to shoulder pain or plateaus, make sure you’re locked in on the key cues in the foundational version of the lift, the two-dumbbell standing version.
Full-Body Tension: First, ensure that your entire body is creating tension, from your feet rooting into the floor to your glutes, adductor, and core all contracting together. If you create proper full-body tension, you’ll find yourself in a slightly hip-hinged position, around 10 degrees of a forward torso angle with the butt pushing back. This will help target the intermediary muscle tissue between the middle and posterior deltoids, which are most often in need of some concentrated work.
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