Before attempting this exercise, it is important that the shoulder joint is healthy. If you have pre-existing injuries or are unaccustomed to exercise, check with your doctor. It is normal to experience muscle fatigue when resistance training, but if you feel pain when lifting the arms, you should avoid this exercise until the problem is resolved.
Why is this so important? The shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint and is working every time the arms are used. Because of this, it is susceptible to repetitive overuse syndrome. To avoid overtraining, start out with light weights, increasing only slightly as you become stronger, and gently stretch the muscles after your workout.
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For those with healthy, flexible shoulder joints, lateral arm raises can be performed through a fuller range of motion by lifting dumbbells completely overhead rather than stopping at shoulder height. Doing so helps to keep shoulders from becoming tight, and maximizes development of the upper and lower trapezius, serrates anterior, and deltoid muscles.
If dumbbells are not available, acceptable substitutions are resistance bands, cables, or wrist weights. Most health clubs have machines available for shoulder strengthening. Beginners can start with one to two sets of eight to 12 repetitions, no more than twice weekly.