Lateral Raise vs Shoulder Press – (Which Is Better For Medial Delts)

lateral raise vs shoulder press

Lateral Raise vs Shoulder Press

Exercise can help to transform and elevate the shoulders. The shoulders are important not only for their appearance, but also for the functional movement of the arms, which are made up of complex muscles and connective tissue.

The lateral and overhead press are the two main exercises for building big, strong shoulders. Although one may appear to be superior to the other when it comes to developing large 3D delts, they are both effective exercises.

While neither one deserves priority over the other, they both have their benefits and should be incorporated in a standard shoulder routine and are optimal for shoulder development.

What Makes Lateral Raise So Effective?

Side lateral raise

A common shoulder isolation exercise that specifically target the deltoids is the lateral raise. The front, middle, and back deltoids are the three parts (or heads) of your shoulders. The middle delts are primarily targeted by the lateral raise.

While they are less difficult to perform than the shoulder press, proper form is required to avoid injuries and maximize benefit.

Performing lateral raises creates larger deltoids and helps you achieve the boulder shoulder look that many people desire.

One way to fully maximize the development of your shoulder is to use a mix of both low and high reps.

You can perform lateral raises with your arms straight or bent and this can be determined by the weight you use, your arms bent allows for heavier weights to be used but through a short range of motion for low reps while keeping your arms straight uses lower weight but with high reps.

How to do the side raises

  • Stand with knees slightly bent, core engaged.
  • Hang your arms at your sides, flexed position, palms facing you, with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Raise your arms to shoulder level to the side of your body, keeping your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement.
  • Return the weight to the initial position with control.

Note: A common cue for lateral growth is to ‘put down your thumb’ or ‘pour a pitcher of water.’

You should also keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement. The stress on the shoulder joint is reduced as a result. When you straighten your arm while doing a lateral raise, the length of the lever (your arm) increases, resulting in markedly more tension at the focal point (your shoulder).

One major point is that keeping your arms bent during lateral raises tends to limit the amount of triceps activation. Always lead with your elbow to ensure that you are moving over your shoulder joint and targeting the right muscles.”

Avoid These Lateral Raise Mistakes

You do not want to use other muscles to help you lift the weight as you get tired or if you choose a weight that is too heavy! Shrugging your shoulders while raising your arms is a common compensation we see when using more weight.

Also, you may find yourself swinging your body or using leg drive to try raising the weights up, this takes away proper form thereby undermining your progress.

If you find yourself cheating, try doing the exercise while sitting. This will make it easier while also ensuring that the correct muscle is targeted.


Choose a weight that is comfortable for both the lateral raise and the shoulder press, and then gradually increase the weight. Gradually increase the weight as you become stronger and more comfortable with the exercise.

Why Do You Need an Overhead Press in the First Place?

As previously stated, the overhead press requires more stability to be properly performed. As a result, the overhead press may appear to be a more difficult shoulder exercise.

As you lift the weight in front of your body, they also recruit more muscles along your ribs.

People frequently make the mistake of choosing a weight that is too heavy. Consider how the weight affects your posture throughout the movement when selecting a weight. If you are unable to maintain good form throughout the exercise, the weight is too heavy.

Choosing the Best Overhead Press Variation

The catch with the overhead press is that it requires a fairly strong core and considerable shoulder mobility to press the weight without causing lower back pain and without causing the ribs to move upward.

When this happens, especially if you’re lifting a heavy barbell, it increases your risk of lower back injury. This is a fairly safe lift when done correctly, but not everyone can do it correctly. At least not right away.

Other types of overhead press:

  • Military press

The military press is an overhead press that can be done with a barbell or a Smith machine. Pulling the barbell from shoulder height to the top of the chest is the motion. The overhead press works the front and side shoulders, as well as the upper chest and triceps.

  • Dumbbell overhead press

lateral raise vs shoulder press

Using dumbbells to press overhead allows for a greater range of motion than using a barbell. Dumbbells can be held with the knuckles facing back and the palms facing forward, or with the knuckles facing out and the palms facing the ears for presses. The dumbbell overhead press is also a fantastic shoulder exercise.

Final thoughts on lateral raise vs shoulder press

Keeping the above points in mind, we can conclude that while choosing between the lateral raise vs shoulder press, choose them based on your capacity and level. The shoulder press is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscles in a single movement.

If you are short on time the overhead press would be the best to do, they can hit many muscles in less time, while if you want more emphasis on the side shoulder, the lateral raise is the best exercise for it.