9 Best Lateral Raise Alternatives: Substitutes For Home Gyms

Lateral raises are most often done with a cable weight machine, and they’re great for building the muscles of the shoulders and upper back. But using a cable-driven weight machine isn’t the only way to perform lateral raises; there are plenty of alternatives for those who work out in their home or garage gyms and don’t have access to a full-sized weight machine.

If you’re on the hunt for effective lateral raises alternative movements to do at home, keep reading! We’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, though, it’s best to use a set of dumbbells, a barbell and weight plates, or resistance bands.

While the movements listed below may not be as effective at isolating the lateral deltoid as a cable weight machine, they’re a great alternative for your at-home delt-defining regimen. 

1. Seated Arnold Press 

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

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. For the upright position, just make sure to keep your core in a neutral position and not hyperextend the spine.

Next, raise the dumbbells to your eye level, with the palm facing your face and an underhand grip. While in this position, Rotate the wrists and raise the dumbbells overhead, all while maintaining your back position. At the top, your palms will face outwards, and then you’ll return the dumbbells to the starting position.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

This exercise is an absolute shoulder blaster! You will be able to hit almost all parts of the deltoids including the lateral and front heads.

Read More - Adjustable Vs Fixed Dumbbells

seated arnold press

2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 

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

To start, stand with a pair of dumbbells held in front of your body with your arms slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. From this position, bring your arms out to the sides to shoulder level, pause for a moment, and lower your arms slowly. Do a few sets of 8 to 12 reps - that’s it! 

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

Don't go too heavy on this exercise. Keep it slow and controlled when you lift the weights and when you bring them back down. 

Read More - PVC Vs Rubber Vs Urethane Dumbbells

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

3. Band Side Lateral Raise 

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.  

Performing side lateral raises with bands is simple. Start by standing with a resistance exercise band looped under your right foot and held in your left hand while keeping your feet hip-width apart.

Lift your left arm out to the side until it is at shoulder height, and avoid bending your elbow. Pause for a few seconds, then slowly lower back to the starting position. Just like with dumbbell lateral raises, try to do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

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.

Related Article - Can You Build Muscle With Resistance Bands?

Band Side Lateral Raise

4. 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.

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

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

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.

One Arm Side Lateral Raise

5. Lateral Raise Hold 

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’ll perform this alternative exactly as you would a normal dumbbell raise, but once you reach the top, hold your position for 3 to 5 seconds before lowering your arms back down.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

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.

Read More - How Are Dumbbells Made?

Lateral Raise Hold

6. Side Plank with Arm Raise 

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.

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. Lift your hips with a dumbbell hovering over the floor, or take a modified plank bending your lower knee if necessary.  

Keeping your core engaged, raise the dumbbell directly over your shoulder, then lower it with control back to the starting position.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

These types of isometric hold exercises are excellent for adding to the end of your workout. If you finisher with these types of movements, you're certain to feel it in the morning.

See Also - Core Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Side Plank With Arm Raise

7. Landmine Lateral Raise 

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 delts while also hitting the core and simultaneously strengthening your forearm and grip strength. 

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. Extend your arm out fully to a 45-degree angle, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position. It may sound easy, but it’s actually quite challenging. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

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.

Other Training Options - 10 Landmine Press Alternatives

Landmine Lateral Raise

8. 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.  

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. 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. On the following rep, lower the weights behind your body. See what we mean by “3-way” raise? 

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

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.

3 Way Lateral Raise

9. Dead Stop Lateral Raise 

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 more delt muscle in the long run.

All you have to do is perform a dumbbell side lateral raise as normal, but at the bottom of the rep, make sure to come to a complete stop and pause for a 2-second count before starting the next. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

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.

Dead Stop Lateral Raise

Muscles Worked With Lateral Raise Alternatives 

A lot of people assume that the word lateral refers to working out the lat muscles, which are the large muscles that stretch across both sides of the back. In actuality, lateral refers to the lateral deltoid muscles of the shoulders. 

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

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

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 


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. 


Conclusion

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

Last Updated on May 24, 2022