What are the side risers for?
The lateral raises are an ” isolation ” exercise, the aim of which is to train mainly the medial head of the deltoid. Apparently, it is a simple motor pattern, but the different variations and the measures proposed over the years have created a lot of confusion.
This veil of uncertainty is quite dangerous considering the delicacy of a joint such as that of the shoulder.
On the other hand, the side lifts have many variations that make them an absolutely versatile exercise that can be contextualized in a different way within our programming.
Lateral raises: correct execution
The lateral raises consist of a 90 ° abduction of the humerus in the frontal plane. In simpler and more immediate terms: we raise our arms sideways with the dumbbells. As we have said, the execution does not require particular caution, but we can identify some fundamental points to keep in mind.
The shoulder blades must not be adducted by trying to “open the chest”, but to remain in a position that we perceive as comfortable. The humerus during the movement moves on the scapular plane by about 30 °.
One way to identify the correct plane of movement is to stand behind the subject by placing the hands on the shoulder blades with the thumbs of both hands which will be approximately parallel. You will notice that the hands will not appear as if they were in contact with a flat wall, but on the contrary, on two surfaces inclined forward, sliding the hands towards this direction and extending the arms we will find the correct amplitude that the subject must maintain during the exercise.
The elbows are slightly flexed (bent) and the palms of the hands look downwards during the climb (neutral rotation). It is possible to slightly extra- rotate the humerus during the ascent to minimize the risk of impingement, but it is not an obligation, we will deepen this discussion.
As you go up, you need to think about bringing your entire arm towards the ceiling, but without lifting your shoulders towards your ears (shoulder blade elevation).
At the end of the concentric, we reach 90 °, so with the elbows at shoulder height. Going further would lead, due to the scapulohumeral rhythm, to the strong involvement of the trapezius muscle.
The descent is gradual and we do not let our arms go to our sides. You can keep a minimum of tension during the movement even in the lower part: for example, by stopping before touching your legs with the dumbbells.
The advice is to use a full range of motion, so ideally to go down until the arm is perpendicular to the ground and then go back up until the elbows are at shoulder height.
For supporters of the Roma media, we must remember the bachelor-humeral rhythm. Without getting into technicalities, in the first 90 ° of humerus abduction movement (the movement that occurs during this exercise), the main work is carried out by the deltoid. The successive degrees (from the shoulder up) are increasingly borne by the upper trapezius, bearing in mind that there is a synergy and never an exclusivity of work.
To delve even further into the matter:
- during the first 30 ° of abduction (therefore in the first degrees of movement of the lateral lifts) the mainly active muscles are supraspinatus, infraspinatus and subscapularis.
- The activation peak of the deltoid (anterior and medial) occurs from 60 ° to 90 ° (when the elbow is at shoulder height).
Ok, but what do you need to take home?
- That working with an incomplete range of motion is disadvantageous, as it limits the overall muscular work of muscles that are important for shoulder health and stability.
- If you want to contemplate a partial movement in the side lifts, doing it in the ” low ” portion of the movement makes little sense.
- A possible intensity technique based on these considerations: when you reach the end of the series with full movement, you scale the load and perform partials in the “upper part of the movement”, if the main goal is the medial deltoid.
Up over your head?
Reaching with dumbbells up over your head is possible, but we need to make some considerations and contextualize.
It is not recommended to perform the lateral raises in neutral rotation, therefore with palms facing down, overcoming the shoulders with the elbows: this could increase the risk of compression and inflammation of the soft tissues that we find between the acromion (a portion of the shoulder blade) and humerus. This movement leads to a dangerous and quite useless forcing from a muscular point of view.
It is possible to perform lateral lifts reaching above the head by performing an external rotation of the humerus (thumbs upwards). This variant, however, will involve the anterior head of the deltoid more, furthermore, once the shoulder is exceeded (from 90 ° of abduction, lateral lifting of the arm) the muscular involvement will gradually shift in favor of the trapezius.
In external rotation or internal rotation?
The advice is to avoid the variant in internal rotation (with “thumbs pointing down”), this generates a dangerous movement that leads to the compression of some muscles, in particular the supraspinatus, which can generate inflammation and discomfort. The work also moves more towards the posterior deltoid.
An external rotation allows you to work safely; It is not mandatory to perform the lateral lifts in this mode, in particular, if a maximum involvement of the medial deltoid is sought, since, during the lateral lifting of the arm in external rotation, the muscular work moves more to the anterior deltoid.
Finally, avoid lifts in internal rotation: favor the exercise with neutral rotation or partial external rotation.
Each variation and exercise must take into account the subject and its history.
As for breathing, the advice is to:
- Breathe in during the concentric phase.
- Breathe out during the eccentric phase.