How do I do lateral deltoid lifts to strengthen my shoulders and back?

Stand or sit up right with your head straight forward, spine in neutral alignment, with a dumbbell in each hand's palm facing towards the body (neutral grip), with the dumbbells hanging near the hips. Exhale and contract your shoulder muscles to raise your straight arms to the sides until they are parallel with the shoulders then inhale and lower them back to your sides. 
Stand up straight with your arms by your sides and feet slightly apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Slowly raise your arms up and out to the side until they are level with your shoulders. Hold, then slowly lower the arms back to the start position. Keep a slight bend in your elbows throughout the movement.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Tip: To make this exercise a little more challenging, try holding your arms at shoulder height for a few seconds with every repetition.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You can strengthen your shoulder and back muscles by doing lateral deltoid lifts using free weights.

Primary muscles worked: Posterior deltoid (back of shoulders), upper and middle trapezius (upper back), and rhomboids (middle back)

Starting position: Find a solid, comfortable bench or chair without wheels. With your back parallel to the floor, put your left knee on the bench and your left arm on the bench. With your right hand, which should be hanging at your side, pick up the weight.

Action: Keeping your shoulder blades drawn in towards the spine and down towards your lower back, your natural arch in your lower back and navel pulled in towards your spine, head in line with your spine, and your wrists firm and elbows slightly bent, pull your arm up and out to the side until your elbows are slightly higher than the level of your torso, and your hand has reached the level of your shoulders. With your shoulder blades squeezed together, slowly return to the starting position.


  • Don't allow your body to move back and forth in a rowing position: Your body should be anchored, and all the work should be done by your arms and shoulder muscles.
  • Don't allow your shoulder blades to separate between repetitions.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.