T Nation

Dumbbell Lateral Raises


While training shoulders, I realized that I may have some balance issues regarding my left delt.

When I execute a dumbbell lateral raise (neutral grip) on my left side, the arm likes to drift forward (the dumbbell ends up more in front of me at the end of the movement); that or my torso will shift resulting in the same outcome, preventing me from performing the raise completely to the side. I don't have the problem on the right.

I also experience on and off left shoulder pain (comes and goes), leading me to believe there is indeed some kind of muscular balance issue. I've tried stretching the pecs but it hasn't really helped. Other than that, and the possibility of dominant anterior delt, I'm not sure what else could be causing this problem; I've also integrated more rear delt work to balance it out.

Any thoughts or suggestions?


A. Drop the weight
B. focus more

IMO, If you can perform the movement without weight just fine, then you can do it with weight. Some things like that could be as simple as form/psychological barrier. The question could be are you overloading your left lateral head, in which case you have a situation of imbalance between your right/left lateral heads, Something youd have to fix. My advice would be to power through it. Concentrate, and stick your form. you may have to drop your weight, but itd be the best thing for you.

Shoulder pain COULD be a rotator cuff issue type deal, and you could try some strengthening movements for that. Ive noticed that shoulder pain usually comes from using weight you really shouldnt be using, in terms of muscular strength. In which case, drop the weight.


As above drop the weight.

Also Consider getting some ART or deep tissue therapy


Hey Akuma,

Instinctively, thats what I did today; I lowered the weight and concentrated on the proper form. It was tough but hopefully it irons out this imbalance. I just don't want to ignore the fact that there may be some muscle tightness or mobility issues that need to be addressed as well.

The pain wasn't present today, I just put two and two together and it got me thinking about the correlation.



I actually went to a A.R.T guy not too long ago for my shoulder problems. It helped a lot. I just wish more people would realize that working on the quality of the soft tissues goes a long way.

I didn't experience any pain today, but obviously its a faulty movement pattern I need to address before I even get that pain.


Remember to keep your pinkies up.


Try this out, it's called The Jobe Test:

Jobe's relocation test is a physical exam maneuver used to detect anterior shoulder instability.[1]
In this medical test, patient is positioned supine, shoulder in abduction to 90 degrees with elbow in flexion to 90 degrees. Then the shoulder is externally rotated until the patient becomes apprehensive (apprehension sign). The amount of external rotation at the onset of apprehension is noted. The shoulder is brought back to resting position and the shoulder external rotation is repeated, this time with posteriorly directed force over the humeral head. The amount of external rotation when the patient becomes apprehensive is again noted. The test is considered positive if the external rotation range with posteriorly directed stress over the humeral head is greater than when there is no posteriorly directed stress. (supraspinatus tear)

You can also try the 'Drop Arm Test':

in this test the examiner will raise the arm 90º out to the side and have you hold the arm in that position
patient slowly lowers arm.
signs of Rotator Cuff Tear -
the arm drops to side quickly and not smoothly
a gently applied pressure to the abducted arm may force arm to give way

If either of these are positive they could be indicative of either a supraspinatus tear or a tear of the rotator cuff, in which case you should get them checked out by a doctor and follow his guidance. I KNOW IT SUCKS, cause that means time off or geared back off in the gym (at least for shoulders and chest), but it's worth it to prevent further injury and possibly re-constructive surgery!

Another thing that it could be is an impingement in the acromioclavicular joint:

I'd get it checked out so you don't end up screwing yourself!


Trigger points on the subscapularis may prevent you from achieving external rotation, and may cause your arm to drift in more as you raise your arm up, to avoid painful ROM.

You can massage subscap very easily, almost anytime. Just dig in your armpit with the thumb of your other hand, and press the sensitive bit against the back of your shoulder blade. Slow, steady massage should enable you to achieve your goals. Obviously other advice like 'focus on the movement' from akuma was also good



Yeah I consciously try to keep the pinky above the thumb. I'm assuming this allows me to work "back lateral/rear delt" area, correct?

I jacked that incline movement that akuma was talking about, the one seen in Kai Greene's shoulder workout.



Haha, don't scare me like that man. I really hope its nothing that serious. I've performed a couple tests Eric Cressey talks about and ruled out impingement.

It might be a matter of scapular stability which I'm trying to work diligently on. I don't always get pain, and even in that range of motion, I don't always get pain. I do need to pay attention though before faulty movement patterns lead to impingement.



Ahh you own the trigger point therapy book eh? It's a very useful and resourceful tool. Funny thing is, I do lack external rotation on the left side (at least compared to my right). I've tried massaging the subscap, found some sensitive spots but those are gone now. It may be still tight pecs which need to be stretched; mobility work wouldn't hurt either.

Since the lateral raise is an abduction movement, I didn't really consider the lack of external rotation to be the cause of the drifting of the arm; should probably hammer this more.


Yeah, you're right, I'm only guessing. Could be nothing more complex than your left lateral delt not being quite as strong as your right lateral delt. As insurance i'd still work on all internal shoulder rotators (with special care on teres major/lats as well)
Good luck mate