The Best Side Delt Exercises For Shoulder Growth

side delt exercises

Work on both look and feel with these great side delt exercises.

You want those upper arms to pop and side delt exercises can give you that look and feel you want most out of those well-defined arms. Whether it be wearing a tight tee or showing off your toned aesthetic with a tank, your arms are one of the first things people notice. With hard work and a solid training plan, those shoulders on the whole will look round and defined that others will certainly envy. Knowing which exercises to perform will give you a good foundation to really build strength and size and boost all areas of your physical health and performance.

By focusing on your upper arms, you can promote the growth and development you want to see most. Your side delts give those shoulders the look and feel you want most and it would be a disservice to neglect this muscle. With these exercises, you will also work your front and rear delts to give that overall shape, but with an emphasis on the side delt you can see those gains grow.

Let’s take a look at some great side delt exercises. With the right plan, you will be well on your way to receiving the benefits and overall development you want most so you can show off those arms with pride.

side delt exercises

About The Side Delt

Your deltoids are what make up the shoulder and upper arm region of the body. The front and rear delts accompany the side delt to make up the entire muscle. The aim of the side delt is to move the arm to and from your body from side to side. While we all know about exercises like the side lateral raise, there are a host of others that can target this muscle so you see the growth and development you want most (1).

strong man

Best Side Delt Exercises

Let’s take a look at some great side delt exercises to really focus on that shape and definition while also boosting strength for any of your training and performance needs.

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

A great exercise to target the movement of the side delt, the dumbbell side lateral raise is a traditional exercise to target this muscle (2). Standing with your feet around shoulder width apart, grab two dumbbells and hold them next to your body. With a tight core and straight back, raise the weights to the side until they parallel to the floor. Lower back down and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Upright Rows

This rowing motion with the upright row will work your abs and back but also really target the side delts (3). With your feet about hip-width apart, hold dumbbells or a bar in front of your body and raise to chest level. Your hands will be slightly lower than your elbows. Return to the starting position and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Seated Arnold Press

A great exercise from bodybuilding legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold press be done either standing or sitting. With the bench at a 90-degree incline, keep your feet planted and core tight. Hold the dumbbells next to your head with your elbows bent and palms facing you. As you raise over your head, begin to rotate the weights so your palms face away from you at the top. Lower back down and repeat for your desired number of reps.


While the skullcrusher is primarily a triceps exercise, it works your delts peripherally and should not be overlooked. Laying on a bench, hold the bar over your head and gently lower the bar so it falls behind your head. Keeping a tight core and stable posture, return to the staring position and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Military Press

A simple and basic exercise, using dumbbells is a great way to target the side delts with the military press (4). With your feet shoulder-width apart, hold the weights with your palms facing outward. Push the dumbbells straight up and once at the top, don’t fully lock out your elbows. Lower back down and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Behind The Back Press

The behind the back press can be done standing or sitting and is a nice exercise to work for all around shoulder development. Hold the bar above your head and gently lower down behind your head, almost to the base of your neck. Raise back to the starting position and repeat for your desired number of reps.

side delt exercises

Featured Supplement For Side Delt Gains

When looking to boost overall strength and size, while also looking to optimize health and performance, having a solid supplementation routine can work wonders for your gains. A pre-workout or intra-workout BCAA will give you a great boost as well as other supplements like creatine, fat burners, or testosterone boosters. But protein powders work to enhance growth and recovery so your gains never falter and you see the results you want most (5).

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Wrap Up

These best side delt exercises will work wonders for you as you seek to build that desired strength and size out of your arms. With well-defined arms, you can show off a physique others will envy and most certainly boost your training and performance goals. Give these exercises a try and really see what they can do for you as you build those strong and developed shoulders.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Williams, Martin R. Jr.; Hendricks, Dustin S.; Dannen, Michael J.; Arnold, Andrea M.; et al. (2020). “Activity of Shoulder Stabilizers and Prime Movers During an Unstable Overhead Press”. (source)
  2. Stiggins, Chuck; Allsen, Phil (1987). “Exercise Methods Notebook: Side lateral raises”. (source)
  3. Schoenfeld, Brad; Kolber, Morey J.; Haimes, Jonathan (2011). “The Upright Row: Implications for Preventing Subacromial Impingement”. (source)
  4. Waller, Mike; Piper, Tim; Miller, Jason (2009). “Overhead Pressing Power/Strength Movements”. (source)
  5. Pasiakos, Stefan M.; McLellan, Tom M.; Lieberman, Harris R. (2015). “The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.