Get in shape: This is the exercise to strengthen your shoulders

To complete a lateral arm raise, first grasp dumbbells, arms at sides. CONTRIBUTED
To complete a lateral arm raise, first grasp dumbbells, arms at sides. CONTRIBUTED

The Lateral Arm Raise provides strength and stability to the shoulder joint.

Starting position: Stand with dumbbells in hands and arms resting at your sides, feet approximately hip distance apart, as shown in Photo 1. Maintain proper posture, look straight ahead and do not allow the back to round. The arms should be relatively straight throughout the exercise, and avoid locking out the elbow.

Lifting phase: Moving at a slow and controlled pace, raise your arms up and sideways until they are at or near shoulder height (Photo 2). The arms should rise at the same pace and to the same degree, and weights used should be the same in each hand. To establish strength balance, if one arm is weaker than the other, go with the lighter of the two weight loads. Complete the repetition by slowly lowering dumbbells back to the starting position.

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Tips: It is not necessary to use heavy weights. Doing so changes the biomechanics of the exercise, for example, causing the elbows to bend excessively in order to lift the arms. In addition, heavy weights require that greater momentum/speed be used, rather than giving the muscles adequate time under tension.

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.