T Nation

Overhead Pressing and Lateral Raises


Hey Brick,
I’ve read your training logs some time ago and I seem to remember you’ve always done a lot of lateral raises. Been some time so I might be wrong, tho.
From your list here it seems you give the same importance to overhead pressing as to the lateral raises - can you be more specific about it?
I’ve always done almost only overhead pressing and just recently started adding some lateral raises as assistance stuff, was curious about your opinion (and everyone’s opinion) on what would be the pros and cons of each one under all aspects (strength - hypertrophy - joints health).

You’re not wrong. As you can see in the contest prep log, the shoulder workout was:
Machine lateral raises
Lateral raises
Rear delt raises
Seated dumbbell press

So the priority was on lateral raises. Before the contest prep, I was stuck in the trite and trendy notion of the past generation that all one needs to develop a bodybuilder’s body is overhead pressing of any sort and if one just tacked on a token lateral raise here and there, then everything will workout.

Now I know better and very few people are going to have capped delts just doing overhead presses and that lack of lateral raise variations are a recipe for pain and injury down the line.

I think all bodybuilding programs should include presses and lateral raises and many bodybuilders have said that lateral raises were extremely important for their delt development.
In this picture you can see how much lateral raises did for me. I never thought my delts would ever look like that.

03 AM


Damn body builders going against years of gym lore and actually getting better results… and stay off my lawn!



How do you implement lateral raises? Do you do them once or twice a week for a lot of reps?

I keep a big focus on lateral raises in my training too. I know a lot of bodybuilders who focus more on raises than actual press’s. Press’s are great too don’t get me wrong but I think lateral raises are KEY to bring out the side delts

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Thanks a lot for chiming in.
I understand this is purely (mostly?) from a bodybuilding standpoint.
I’m into strength training and running 5/3/1 (love it), do you think lateral raises do have some kind of transfer into strength too?
The portion about lateral raises preventing pain and injury is interesting, this alone has value for anyone training seriously, be it for bodybuilding or strength or generic athleticism.
I second @mytittyhurts question, how do you implement them and how would you do them with a more strength oriented focus?
My right shoulder is not 100% fine, been working on it for over an year now and improved a lot, but the only lateral raises I managed to do comfortably are cable lateral raises, done with a miserable 11lbs of weight - I can do sets up to about 15-20 reps with 11lbs, then 22lbs feels like a “heavy” weight already.

PS: by chance have you tried the behind the neck press? Any opinion about it?

If you are going to do lateral raises, they should be light or moderately heavy. Actually doing lateral raises for high reps will benefit you so much in developing the delts plus injury prevention

When it comes to lateral raises, while I DO agree that lighter raises are VERY effective, I ALSO do partials with very heavy weight and this has really made my delts pop

Yeah, what I was referring to was the momentum driven lateral raises

I was a big fan of doing higher rep Strict laterals followed with lower rep leaning away 1 arm laterals.

Anyone who appreciates “pain with a goal”, should give these a run!


I tried the 25-15-10 laterals of paul carter , absolutely murdered my delts man , but the gains are/were worth it

It was once every six days for high reps.

Yes. If I recall correctly lateral raises are an assistance exercise featured in the original 5/3/1 book and of course many powerlifters have done them for size.

Just as an aside, although I have no interest in participating in powerlifting and am not much of a fan, some of the most successful powerlifters ever performed all sorts of isolation/bodybuilding exercises or even did full routines that closely resembled bodybuilding routines, with exercises such as calf raises, flys, lateral raises, lat pulldowns, dumbbell rows, and so on.

If I were to do 5/3/1 strictly, I would simply use lateral raises like any of the other assistance exercises or considering they’re hardly taxing, you can just do them at the end of a workout. Although I actually have 5/3/1 (it came in the mail last week) I have not gotten around to reading it, I did the standard 5/3/1 program for awhile a long time ago.

So an upper body day could look like this:
Bench press: 5/3/1
Assistance exercises:
Dumbbell bench press
Lateral raises
Barbell curls

I haven’t seen anyone of any strength with alright form use so much damn weight for this exercise and it’s not an exercise in which enormous progress in weight can be made.

I never did them regularly and I am not fond of them considering the risk to benefit ratio. I know there are some people who love them and have lifted a lot of weight with that exercise, but I don’t see it offering anything a front press or dumbbell press can’t.


cable laterals leaning forward a bit are the best lateral variation, IMO.

@BrickHead - you really think laterals are important for injury prevention? I’m not so convinced.

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Seems interesting, I’ll try that.

You’ll curse me during, and then you’ll thank me after :wink:


I do, especially read delt raises. This might sound silly, but I am heavily influenced by Dr. John Rusin. He’s one of the few trainers out there who has a doctorate in physical therapy and much of what he says about training is congruent with what is said by my own physical therapist, a former bodybuilder and athlete himself.

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Did you super set theses or did you do all your high rep set and then do the low rep sets?

I wouldn’t do all my sets of the strict work, and then do all my sets of the leaning variation (using a little momentum on the concentric and then Really fighting the eccentric portion).

Simply doing them in this order makes a huge difference, without needing to do them as a superset.


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@The_Mighty_Stu are you a fan of heavy partials with lateral raises a la Meadows?