Exercise 101: Lateral Raise Using Free Weights

Name of Exercise —Free weight lateral raise
Type of Exercise —Single-joint
Muscles Used —Shoulder

Starting Position

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This exercise can be performed while standing or seated.
  • Stand or sit up with your back straight and arms fully extended at your sides.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing the sides of your thighs.

Upward Movement

  • Raise your arms upward, keeping your palms facing the ground, until both arms are parallel to the floor.
  • Pause for a moment before lowering.

Downward Movement

  • Slowly lower the weights until your arms are by your sides again.

Trainer Tip

Do not lean back while performing the movement and remember to initiate the movement from your shoulders not your hands.

Repetitions, Sets, and Weight

The number of repetitions (reps) and sets you should do depends on your strength goals. In general, muscle strength works to increase basic function of the muscle and is the typical workout choice. Muscle endurance is important to people who participate in endurance activities such as running or biking, and muscle power is beneficial for athletes who need to use sudden quick movements (eg, sprinting, basketball, football). Beginners should begin with a basic routine and gradually move toward a strength, endurance, or power routine.

Beginner: 1 set of 8-10 reps 

Muscle Strength: 1 to 3 sets of 5-8 reps

Muscle Endurance: 1 to 3 sets of 15-20 reps

Muscle Power: 1 to 3 sets of 3-5 reps

Use a weight that is heavy enough to perform the desired number of reps and sets for your skill level using good form. Once you are able to perform more reps and sets than is outlined in your category, try to increase the weight you lift by 5%-10%. Your strength goals may change as you progress.


Baechle TR, Earle RW.Essentials of Strength and Conditioning. 2nd Edition. Human Kinetics; 2000.

News and Publications. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Brochures2&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=8144. Accessed January 17, 2008.