Lateral raises are a great exercise for building the muscles of the shoulders and upper back and often done with the cable machine.

The great thing about this shoulder exercise is how versatile it is, there are plenty of alternatives for those who work out in their home or garage gyms and don’t have access to a cable machine. 

If you’re on the hunt for effective lateral raises alternative movements to do at home, keep reading! I'll cover 9 of the best options for strengthening the shoulders.

There are plenty of alternative exercises to work out the deltoids, and a lot of them can be done with no equipment at all.

For a more challenging lateral raise workout, it’s best to use a set of dumbbells, a barbell and weight plates, or resistance bands for more stimulus.

While the movements listed below may not be as effective at isolating the lateral deltoid as a cable lateral raise, they’re a great alternative for your at-home delt-defining regimen. Let's dive straight in to my favorite lateral raise variations.

1. Seated Arnold Press 

man doing seated arnold press in garage gym

This first alternative comes from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, and it’s quite possibly one of the best options for deltoid isolation if you want massive shoulders.

The seated Arnold press is very similar to a standard dumbbell shoulder press, but it hits the deltoids much harder. 


  • Great exercise for increasing shoulder muscle size due to the time under tension.
  • Targets all muscles in the shoulder in one exercise.
  • Increases range of motion in the shoulder joint.

How To Do A Seated Arnold Press:

  1. Start by laying on a flat weight bench with 2 dumbbells (one in each hand), or you can adjust the weight bench to 90 degrees if you prefer to sit upright and have your back supported. 
  2. For the upright position, just make sure to keep your core in a neutral position and not hyperextend the spine.
  3. Next, raise the dumbbells to your eye level, with the palm facing your face and an underhand grip.
  4. While in this position, Rotate the wrists and raise the dumbbells overhead, all while maintaining your back position.
  5. At the top, your palms will face outwards, and then you’ll return the dumbbells to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

The seated Arnold press exercise is an absolute shoulder blaster! Make sure you don't rush the movement and you prioritize form over weight. If you find your back rounding then it's too much weight.

2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 

Man Doing Dumbbell Lateral Raise Exercise In The Gym

The dumbbell lateral raise is a simple (yet effective) alternative workout that isolates the medial deltoids by putting them through their full range of motion. This is one of my favorite exercises for targeting the shoulders. 

Best of all, it’s a simple movement that only requires a set of dumbbells.  


  • Increases range of motion in the shoulders.
  • Creates a more stable shoulders.
  • Build round shoulder muscles. 

How To Do A Dumbbell Lateral Raise:

  1. To start, stand with a pair of dumbbells held in front of your body with your arms slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. From this position keep your core engaged and bring your arms out to the sides to shoulder level, pause for a moment, and slowly lower to the start. 
  3. Complete 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't go too heavy when you perform dumbbell side lateral raises. Keep it slow and controlled when you lift the weights and when you bring them back down, don't rely on momentum to get the weight up.

3. Band Side Lateral Raise 

Man Doing Band Side Lateral Raises

This next alternative is very similar to dumbbell raises, only you’ll be using resistance bands instead. 

Using resistance bands to exercise comes with a lot of benefits, especially if you’re interested in increasing tension as you progress through your deltoid-strengthening routine.[1 


  • Resistance bands are great for beginners and those who need to rehab a shoulder injury. 
  • Increases the work in the core muscles. 
  • Can help reduces stiffness in the neck by increasing mobility in the shoulder joint.

How To Do A Band Side Lateral Raise:

  1. Performing side lateral raises with bands is simple. 
  2. Start by standing with a resistance exercise band looped under your right foot and held in your left hand while keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift your left arm out to the side until it is at shoulder height, and avoid bending your elbow.
  4. Pause for a few seconds, then lower slowly back to the starting position. 
  5. Just like with dumbbell lateral raises, try to do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. 

Tips From A Trainer!

When you set up your resistance band for this exercise, make sure you don't have too much slack in band. You want to keep constant tension during the concentric and eccentric portion of the movement. 

4. One Arm Side Lateral Raise 

Man Doing One Arm Side Lateral Raise

Number 4 on the list of best lateral raise alternatives is exactly like the dumbbell lateral raise, only it’s done with a single arm instead of both.

The one-arm movement allows for unilateral training so that you can lift heavier and concentrate more on each side of the lateral deltoid head.


  • Helps create more balanced shoulders by working on one side at a time. 
  • Good for mind-muscle connection.
  • Increases the work in the core and increases balance. 

How To Do A One Arm Side Lateral Raise:

  1. Begin by standing with feet shoulder width apart and a single dumbbell held in your right hand in front of your torso at arm’s length. 
  2. Hold onto upright support with your other hand, or keep your hand firmly planted on the corresponding hip.
  3. Then bring your right arm out to shoulder level without bending the elbow, pause, and lower it back down slowly.  

Tips From A Trainer!

I find this exercise to be easier when I only use one dumbbell at a time. For more stability, I hold onto a power rack with one hand and my feet close to the base. 

5. Lateral Raise Hold 

Woman Doing Lateral Raise Hold Exercise At Home

The lateral raise hold requires a set of dumbbells as well as some willpower to hold the weights at shoulder height for a few seconds. 

You don't need to go heavy to perform lateral raises like this that require good form and an upright torso.


  • Builds strength and size in the shoulders.
  • Improves shoulder strength for compound lifts such as overhead pressing.
  • Improves muscular endurance of the shoulders. 

How To Do A Lateral Raise Hold:

  1. To start, stand with a pair of dumbbells held in front of your body with your arms slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. From this position, bring your arms out to the sides to shoulder level and hold for 3-5 seconds keeping your core engaged the entire time. 
  3. Then lower your arms slowly to the starting position.
  4. Complete 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

This one might not be best for folks who suffer from shoulder injuries. If you feel any pain during this exercise, switch it out for one of the others on my list. 

6. Side Plank With Arm Raise 

Woman Doing Side Plank With Arm Raise Exercise

You can get a pretty intense core workout with lateral raises, especially if you incorporate a side plank into your routine.

Side planks are especially good for building the obliques, and you can focus on the deltoids by holding a small weight while you rotate your arm up and down.


  • Creates a more stable shoulder joint.
  • Great exercise for any one of any fitness level to do to improve balance and stability.
  • Works through the obliques as well as the shoulders.

How To Do A Side Plank with Arm Raise:

  1. Start by bringing your body in one straight line on the floor, stacking legs and hips with your shoulder directly over your elbow into a forearm plank. 
  2. Lift your hips with a dumbbell hovering over the floor, or take a modified plank bending your lower knee if necessary.  
  3. Keeping your core engaged, raise the dumbbell directly over your shoulder, then lower it with control back to the starting position.  

Tips From A Trainer!

These types of isometric hold exercises are excellent for adding to the end of your workout. Make sure you are under control throughout the entire movement.

7. Landmine Lateral Raise 

Man Doing Landmine Lateral Raise Exercise At The Gym

Landmine lateral raises aren’t for the faint of heart, so if you’re new to deltoid workouts, skip this one for now.

The landmine alternative is all about working the side deltoids while also hitting the core and simultaneously strengthening your forearm and grip strength. 

This is a great dumbbell lateral raise alternative for those who don't have access to dumbbells. 


  • Works the deltoids through range of motion.
  • More stable than a dumbbell lateral raise.
  • Builds strength in all shoulder muscles.

How To Do A Landmine Lateral Raise:

  1. Start by standing adjacent to a landmine bar and grab the end of the bar in your closest hand while holding it at chest level. 
  2. Standing upright with feet hip-width apart, keep your core engaged and extend your arm out fully to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

I like supersetting this exercise with landmine overhead presses. I start with a heavier weight and do 5-8 reps. Then, I drop the weight and continue immediately with the lateral raises. 

8. 3-Way Lateral Raise 

Woman Doing 3 Way Lateral Raise

If you want a total deltoid workout, then the 3-way lateral raise is for you.

This movement allows you to work your side deltoids through a range of angles to stimulate all muscle fibers, and all you need is a set of dumbbells.  

This should be done with lighter weight and complete control for the best results.


  • Builds strong shoulders and helps reduce the risk of injuries.
  • More interesting variation that will help you feel less stagnant.
  • Improves mobility and functionality of the shoulders. 

How To Do A 3-Way Lateral Raise:

  1. Begin by standing with 1 dumbbell in each hand positioned in front of your groin, and then bring the dumbbells up and out to shoulder level. 
  2. Next, lower the weights so that they are touching in the bottom position, but on the next rep, bring the weights down to finish alongside your thighs.
  3. On the following rep, lower the weights behind your body.

Tips From A Trainer!

This is one of my favorite warm ups on shoulder day. I take a light way and complete 3 sets of this exercise. It helps warm up the shoulder joints and tendons. 

9. Dead Stop Lateral Raise 

Man Doing Dead Stop Lateral Raise Exercise In The Gym

A dead stop lateral raise is exactly as it sounds; you come to a complete stop at the bottom of each and every rep.

Why? It’s simple. Reducing momentum - actually, stopping it altogether - makes each rep more challenging, therefore building bigger shoulder muscles.


  • Increases strength by not using swinging or momentum.
  • Improves joint stability.
  • Increases the size of the shoulder muscles. 

How To Do A Dead Stop Lateral Raise:

  1. To start, stand with a pair of dumbbells held in front of your body with your arms slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. From this position, bring your arms out to the sides to shoulder level and hold for 3-5 seconds keeping your core engaged the entire time. 
  3. Then lower your arms slowly to the starting position.
  4. Complete 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're working out at home and using durable dumbbells, don't be afraid to hold this lateral raise variation as long as you can. If you drop the dumbbell, don't worry. The goal here is to completely exhaust your delts throughout the entire movement. 

Muscles Worked With Lateral Raise Alternatives

The deltoid, or shoulder muscles, are the most mobile joint in the body. The deltoid muscles move your arm in many different directions and help protect and stabalize your shoulder joint.

The lateral deltoids are the muscles that move your arms out to the sides, as well as moving them up and down. Lateral raises help you work the lateral deltioid, or side delt, and improves its strength, functionality and appearance. 

While it’s possible to get shredded upper back muscles with lateral raises, the main focus is on the lateral deltoids, or the side delts, which are the rounded muscles on the top of your arms located at the shoulder joint.[2] 

These are the primary muscles worked, but this movement also works the anterior (front) deltoid, posterior (back) deltoid, upper trap, supraspinatus (the rotator cuff muscle), and serratus anterior (the muscles along your ribs under your armpit). 

Benefits Of Alternative Exercises Over Lateral Raises

The cable lateral raise is a great exercise to strengthen the shoulders due more time under tension but these lateral raise variations will provide great results too.

Lateral raises give a balanced shape to your shoulders and make them appear broader and stronger. Better yet, focusing on this muscle group helps to strengthen, tone, and stabilize your shoulders and upper body as a whole.  

Strong deltoid muscles correlate with common movements involving pressing, pulling, and overhead motion. Having strong deltoids means that you can go through your daily activities as well as your fitness regimen with ease while also minimizing the risk of injury.[3]  

Common Lateral Raise Questions

Are side lateral raises necessary in a workout routine? 

Yes, particularly if you want strong, broad shoulders. The side lateral raise is one of the most effective shoulder-strengthening movements designed to isolate the lateral head of the deltoid muscle, and when performed regularly, this can help you to strengthen the shoulders. 

Are lateral raises bad for shoulders? 

No, as long as they’re performed correctly, lateral raises are beneficial, not harmful. However, there are some common mistakes made with lateral raises that can lead to shoulder tension or strain, like using a weight that’s too heavy, performing reps too fast, and locking the elbows.  

Can lateral raises build muscle? 

Yes! Regularly using a cable lateral raise machine or practicing lateral raise alternatives is a great way to build deltoid muscle mass.  

Which is the best exercise on the list for beginners? 

Beginners can start with basic dumbbell lateral raises. If you’re new to this exercise, start with low weights, like 5-pounders, before working your way up to a more challenging weight. 


Even if you don’t have access to a cable machine, there are plenty of cable lateral raise alternatives for strengthening your deltoids.

Whether you choose to use dumbbells, resistance bands, or no equipment at all, just be sure to practice proper form, and you can start by trying some of the exercises covered in this guide. 





Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website