The Leaning Lateral Raise Holds the Power to Explode Your Delts

Egyptian lateral raises

Using support to lean on for lateral raises, take your medial delts through a greater range of motion. 

Should exercises play a pivotal role in sculpting a V-taper. Moreover, they contribute to fortifying your upper body and core, amplifying your overall form across various routines. One exemplary exercise that stands out is the leaning lateral raise, which takes the standard dumbbell lateral raise up a level. 

The regular dumbbell lateral raise is a simple exercise that mainly targets your medial delts while engaging your trap muscles for stabilization. The leaning lateral raise takes dumbbell lateral raises a step further, increasing your range of motion and allowing you to use more weight. 

In simple terms, leaning lateral raises are dumbbell lateral raises done with support. This exercise guide examines the benefits of doing lateral raises this way. We also share the proper form for doing this routine and other alternatives that you can use to spice your workouts.

Techniques and Muscles Worked

The leaning lateral raise primarily targets your lateral delts. It also works on your anterior delts, posterior delts, upper traps, rotator cuff, and serratus anterior. During this exercise, your wrist flexors, abs, and obliques also play a stabilizing role.

When doing the leaning lateral raise, your position creates leverage and maximizes the isolation of your shoulders. It also introduces a significant overload at the top of the movement. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do leaning lateral raises.

  1. Find a stable support and stand by it while holding a dumbbell in one hand. This support can be a Smith machine or a squat rack.
  2. Grab onto the support with your free hand and put both feet under this hand. 
  3. Lean out to the side of the hand, holding the dumbbell while allowing it to hang down straight. Then, lean a little forward by slightly flexing your hips. This is your starting position.
  4. Lift the dumbbell to a point slightly higher than shoulder height and pause at the top.
  5. Then, slowly control and lower the dumbbell to return to the starting position to complete the rep.
  6. Repeat for as many reps as you desire, then switch to the other hand and repeat.

Benefits of Adding Support for Leaning While Performing Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are significant for your shoulder strength, health, and size. Research shows lateral raises activate your posterior and lateral delts more than the shoulder press, bench press, and dumbbell fly (1). Adding support for leaning while performing lateral raises increases the benefits, and below, we look at what you get from this exercise.

Greater Delt Isolation

Due to the leaning angle, your delts are more isolated than they would be with the regular lateral raise. As a result, this exercise is a powerful shoulder builder. It also isolates the lateral delts, essential for adding size and definition to the shoulders.

Increased Range of Motion

Leaning for this exercise creates a more significant plane for your arms to move. This allows for a greater range of motion and more intense contraction of your delts. Research shows that a greater range of motion leads to more tension in the muscle and greater hypertrophy (2).

More Joint Friendly

Leaning while doing lateral raises puts less load on your muscles at the start of the rep. As a result, this exercise feels more joint-friendly than many other variations. People who have shoulder pain may find it easier to do leaning lateral raises. Just be sure to shorten your range of motion and use lighter weight. 

Identifies and Fixes Strength Imbalances

The leaning lateral raise is a unilateral exercise. As a result, you’ll notice if the delts on one of your sides are stronger when performing it, and you can fix that by starting with and doing more reps with the weaker arm. Research also shows that due to cross-education, unilateral exercises improve strength gain in both arms (3)

Different Strength Curve

Leaning lateral raises become more challenging as you raise your hands — due to being at a slight angle from leaning. This provides a unique strength curve that overloads your lateral delts to a greater extent, which the standard version can’t offer. 


Doing one type of exercise for too long could lead to strength loss. While lateral raises are excellent for your shoulders, varying them with leaning lateral raises will help to prevent training monotony. If you’ve hit a plateau in your training with lateral raises, leaning lateral raises can help you break out.

Leaning Lateral Raise Alternatives

Speaking of variety, while the leaning lateral raise is a great movement, you can’t always do it. Here are some other great alternatives that you can do instead. 

Victory Raise

The victory raise is a combination of lateral and front raises that challenges your delts uniquely. This routine builds all three delt heads and also works on your traps. Victory raises are a great way to improve your mobility and joint stability.

Single Arm Lateral Raise

Single-arm lateral raises are a unilateral variation of the dumbbell lateral raise. As a result, they’re also great for your medial delts. Doing this unilaterally helps improve your mind-muscle connection and build muscle while improving strength gains in both arms, like the leaning lateral raise.

Arnold Press

The Arnold press is an exercise that builds muscles in all three deltoids — anterior, lateral, and posterior. 

Cable Lateral Raise

The cable lateral raise is also an isolation exercise for your shoulders. It works mainly on your lateral delts while engaging the front delts. Cable lateral raises help to broaden your shoulders, giving them a more balanced look.


What does a leaning lateral raise do?

The leaning lateral raise increases the range of motion in the lateral raise and further isolates your medial delts. It’s also a unilateral exercise and can help you find and fix any strength imbalances between either side. 

What muscles do lateral raises work?

Lateral raises isolate and build the muscles in your shoulders. For a more detailed breakdown, check the guide above.

Should I lean during lateral raises?

Leaning during lateral raises helps to increase your range of motion, which can lead to more muscle growth. It can also help to make lateral raises more joint-friendly. 

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  1. Campos, Y. A. C., Vianna, J. M., Guimarães, M. P., Oliveira, J. L. D., Hernández-Mosqueira, C., da Silva, S. F., & Marchetti, P. H. (2020). Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals. Journal of human kinetics, 75, 5–14. 
  2. Valamatos, M. J., Tavares, F., Santos, R. M., Veloso, A. P., & Mil-Homens, P. (2018). Influence of full range of motion vs. equalized partial range of motion training on muscle architecture and mechanical properties. European journal of applied physiology, 118(9), 1969–1983. 
  3. Green, L. A., & Gabriel, D. A. (2018). The cross education of strength and skill following unilateral strength training in the upper and lower limbs. Journal of neurophysiology, 120(2), 468–479.
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.