Side/Lateral/Middle Delt Exercises (An Ultimate List)

If you want to build thick and broad shoulders, you’ll have to work out equally on the three parts of the shoulders, such as front, rear, and side deltoid. And here, I’m going to share the best exercises for side delt (also known as lateral and middle deltoid) that you can do with dumbbells, barbells, machines, and bands. I’ve also incorporated bodyweight workouts for the lateral deltoid so you can do without equipment at home.

I’ve already shared an article on rear delt exercises; you can check it out. And for the front part of the shoulder, you can do an overhead press workout.

However, to build up your middle shoulders, you can explore several mid delt workouts in this post.

Here’s a quick list of side delt exercises

Below you can see a complete list of exercises for middle deltoid. Then, depending on what equipment you prefer to use and what suits you the most, you can incorporate it into your muscle-building workout regime.

  1. Dumbbell Side Delt Raise
  2. Dumbbell Bent-arm Lateral Delt Raises
  3. Leaning Dumbbell Mid Delt Raise
  4. Incline Dumbbell Y Raises
  5. DB Bent-over Lateral Raises
  6. 45-Degree Incline Chest Supported Row
  7. Cable Lateral Delt Raises
  8. Barbell Upright Row
  9. Behind the Head Shoulder Press
  10. Resistance Band Middle Delt Raise
  11. Elbow Out Pushup
  12. Bodyweight Lateral Raise

Below, I’ve shared how to do each workout with a step-by-step guide that I hope you’ll find helpful.

1. Dumbbell Side Delt Raise

The dumbbell lateral Raise is one of the primary exercises for side delt that helps your shoulder grow over time.

Dumbbell Side Delt Raise
dumbbell side delt raise

A study also suggested lateral raise exercises stimulate a higher level of muscle activation in the medial deltoid in resistance-trained individuals.1 Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals – Journal of Human Kinetics

Let’s see how you can do it:

  1. Holding one dumbbell in each hand, stand upright in the shoulder-width stance.
  2. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms are facing inward.
  3. Raise your arms out to the sides (with a soft bend in your elbows) until they are in line with your shoulders.
  4. You can pause for a couple of seconds before returning your arms at your sides.
  5. Complete eight to ten repetitions. And depending on your strength, you can increase weight in the next sets.

2. Dumbbell Bent-arm Side Delt Raises

The bent-arm side raises isolate your mid delt and build stable shoulders.

Bent-arm lateral raise exercise came out on top when it comes to contracting medial deltoid, as shown in the American Council of Exercise (ACE) study.2 Dynamite Delts: ACE Research Identifies Top Shoulder Exercises – American Council of Exercise

Dumbbell Bent-arm Side Delt Raises
DB Bent-arm Side Delt Raise
  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip and stand upright or sit on the end of bench with your flat on the ground.
  2. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your elbows bent in front of you (assume half hammer curl position). Your palms should be facing each other.
  3. Raise your elbows and dumbbells up and out until they at your shoulder height. You can hold there for a moment before returning to the start.
  4. Do as many rounds as you like.

3. Leaning Dumbbell Lateral Delt Raise

You can try out some other variations of medial deltoid workouts, and leaning lateral raise is one of them.

The leaning position allows you to put more stress on your delts and help you boost strength and mobility.

How to:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip and stand beside the rack, door, smith or cable machines with your feet together.
  2. Hold the rack with your left hand for support and slightly lean against it until your arm is straight. Keep your working arm straight at your sides with your palm is facing inward. That’s the start.
  3. Raise your arm and dumbbell up to the side till it’s reach your shoulder height. You can keep your elbows softly bend.
  4. Feeling the contraction in your side delt, hold for a moment at the top before lowering the dumbbell to the start.
  5. Suggested sets – 3 and reps – 8 to 10.

4. Incline Dumbbell Y Raises For Side delt

Not quite famous, but dumbbell Y raises can be helpful to grow the shoulder muscles gradually.

Whether you’re a newbie or pro, you can incorporate it into your strength and hypertrophy workout plan to build defined shoulders.

  1. Set the bench at 45 to 60 degree incline and lie on it on your stomach until your chest with your face down.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral or overhand grip and keep your arms straight downward.
  3. Raise the dumbbells up, making “Y” shape, until your arms are in line with your shoulders.
  4. Pause for a couple of seconds and then lower your arms to complete the first rep.
  5. Do two to three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions each.

Also, check out: IYT Raises Exercise


5. DB Bent-over Lateral Raises

The bent-over lateral raise is primarily a rear delt workout; however, it also engages mid deltoid. So you can do it alternatively with other shoulder workouts.

How to:
  1. Holding a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip, stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pushing your backward, slightly bend your knees, and lean your torso forward.
  3. Keep your arms straight below your trunk and maintain a neutral spine position.
  4. With a slight bend in your elbows, raise your arms out until your lateral delt muscle is engaged.
  5. Lower your arms to the starting position to complete the first repetition.
  6. Repeat for the required number of times.

6. 45-Degree Incline Chest Supported Row

The chest supported row also emerged as one of the best exercises that engage side delt muscles in the above ACE research.

How to:

  1. Lie prone on a 45-degree incline bench with your chest at the end.
  2. Hold one dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip and let your arms hanges below your shoulders.
  3. Pull the dumbbells up until your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
  4. Hold for a moment and then lower your arms down.
  5. Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.

7. Lateral Delt Raises with Cable Machine

The lateral cable raise is an alternative to the leaning DB side raises that you’ve seen above. So do it one of two, depending on your choice.

  1. First of all, set the D handle at an appropriate height and weight according to your strength.
  2. Stand straight besides the cable machine and grab the handle with your right hand, from behind your legs. Hold the rack with your free hand for support.
  3. Slightly lean against the machine until your left arm is straight and keep your right hand behind your glutes. That’s your starting position.
  4. Raise your right arm up and out until it is parallel to the ground.
  5. Hold there for a moment and then lower it down. That’s one rep.
  6. Do as many sets and reps as you like.

8. Barbell Upright Row

You can also develop your middle deltoid with a barbell upright row workout. It is a compound workout that works on various muscles, such as delts and upper trap.

Upright Row Shoulder Workout
Upright Row

If you only workouts with a barbell, you can add it to your barbell home routine to grow your shoulders.

How to do:

Holding a bar in the standing position, pull toward your neck as high as you as can.


9. Behind the Head Barbell Shoulder Press

  1. Insert the desired weight into the bar and grab it firmly with your hands shoulder-width apart in the seated position.
  2. Hold the bar behind your head with your elbows pointing forward.
  3. Brace your abdominal muscles, inhale and press the bar up until your arms are straight.
  4. Lower it down to the start and repeat for the desired number of times.

10. Resistance Band Middle Delt Raise

  1. Start with standing upright with your feet two times wider than your hip-with stance.
  2. Place the one end of the band under your right foot while grabbing the other end with your left hand.
  3. Raise your arm and band up to the side as high as possible so your side delt muscle can activate.
  4. You can pause for a couple of seconds before lowering the band to the start.
  5. Complete a couple of sets of eight to ten repetitions each.

11. Elbow out Pushup

The elbow out or finger facing inward pushups can be challenging to some people. So, please do, only if you’re comfortable with it.

  1. Sit on your knees and place your hands on the floor below your shoulders with your fingers facing each other and elbows are pointing out.
  2. Kick your legs behind and get into the “up” position.
  3. Lower your torso toward the floor until your chest is just above the floor.
  4. Press back up until your arms are straight. That’s one rep.
  5. Depending on your strength, do as many times as you like.
  6. You’ll feel the contraction in your medial delt during the movement.

12. Bodyweight Lateral Raise

If you work out at home, you can try bodyweight lateral raises to enhance your shoulder strength and stability.

It is one of efficient bodyweight home exercises for side delt

How to perform:

  1. Get into a forearm plank position with your back straight and elbows in line with your shoulder.
  2. Lift your right elbow off the floor and move your torso to the right until your face is facing forward.
  3. Return your right forearm on the floor and repeat the same move with your opposite arm.
  4. Do as many times as you can.
Related: Full Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners At Home
Latest posts by Murshid Akram (see all)

References