How to Bring Up The Middle Delts (Most Effective Lateral Raise Form)

well developed middle delts

A pair well-rounded shoulders gives the upper body a desirable v-shape and pop - the trademark of any impressive physique.

The million-dollar question is how to achieve this look. Some are genetically blessed and will develop a good set of delts regardless of what they do.

Other gym-goers are not so fortunate.

They find themselves lacking the so called 'mind muscle connection' with the deltoids, especially the middle (lateral) part of the shoulder.

Despite how many sets of presses are performed, heavy or light, with dumbbells or barbells, in front or behind your neck nothing seems to happen.

In order to build a pair of round delts it's crucial to have a basic understanding of the shoulder muscle, so we know from which angle to attack the muscle. 

The deltoid muscle

delt muscle

The delts are actually made up out of three muscles that work in different planes or motions.

The front delts are the set of fibers closest to the chest, marked with red in the picture above. 

They are activated in all sorts of presses - bench presses, incline presses, dumbell presses, barbell or dumbbell shoulder presses, hammer strength presses etc.

To isolate the front delts you can perform a front raise - simply by raising your arm in front of you with a weight. 

The rear delts are the set of fibers closest to the upper back region, marked with blue in the picture.

This part of the shoulders are not stimulated by presses, but by pulling movements. Back exercises such as rows, facepulls, chins and rear delt flys will most effectively stimulate this part.

The middle delts is what you're going to want to focus on for building big, rounded delts. They are to a great degree responsible for the full and wide look of the shoulder region along with the rear delts.

The middle delts, or lateral delts, are activated in barbell and dumbell shoulder presses as well as isolation movements such as lateral raises, upright rows and facepulls.

This set of fibers can be difficult to 'feel' for many trainees and consequently they don't achieve the muscular development they seek. 

However there is one very helpful exercise to remedy this problem that'll help you find and develop the mind-muscle connection - so can start packing on shoulder mass. 

Side lateral raise (done correctly)

man standing with dumbbells

To get your shoulders firing the best bet is the excellent delt exercise dumbbell side lateral raises, done with the correct form.

Often what I see in the gym is people using far too heavy weights, turning this into some sort of sloppy trap/whole-body exercise. 

So drop the notion of swinging around heavy dumbbells with your torso rocking forwards and backwards. For the goal we're trying to achive it's necessary to use really light weight.

Use 3 kg or 7 pound dumbbells if you need to. With the right technique this is going to hammer the hell out of your side delts. 

You are not doing yourself, except for your ego, any service by doing lateral raises with too much weight. Here is what you need to do

  1. Stand with your torso leaning forward slightly, let the dumbells hang in front of your body with the palms of your hands facing eachother.
  2. Elbows will have a slight bend in them.
  3. Don't initiate by raising your hands out to the side. Instead try and emphasize that you're moving the dumbbells with your elbows - this will encourage a stronger mind-muscle connection.
  4. Make sure that during the movement your upper arm is above your hands.
  5. Done in this fashion the dumbbells will not travel straight out to your sides - but also slightly in front of your body.
  6. Stop when your elbow is parallel to your shoulder and lower the weight back to the starting position.
  7. Slow down your rep cadence. 2 seconds up, pause at the top, 2 seconds down and don't rest at the bottom. 

For visualisation purposes here is a video that demonstrates the proper technique pretty well. There is no need to use a bench as shown in the video and I would advise to do them even slower. 

To encourage even stricter form you can perform a seated lateral raise which takes a lot of momentum out of the movement. 

Do a couple sets of 20 reps with this technique and you will feel the middle delts working.

If you have never experienced any delt stimulus before, the very first set might not yield any heavy activation.  

But on the second set you should start to feel the shoulders working a bit more.

Done correctly, at the end of the fourth set your shoulders should hopefully be on fire.

As with anything practice makes perfect and it'll become easier and easier to find that sweet spot to target the delts effectively.

With due time you can go up in weights - but not at the expense of good, strict form. 

Try and incorporate this style of light weight, slow cadence, and strict lateral raises 2-3 times per week. It's guaranteed to get stubborn delts to respond and developd that shoulder mind-muscle connection.

I hope this was informative and that you with this information may see some new gains where you before had none. Good luck on the path to swoleness!


Hey there! I’m Alex and I’m obsessed with a vegan diet, strength training and bodybuilding, as well as health and nutrition. When I’m not writing articles on here I am either in the gym, playing electric guitar or cooking vegan food!

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