Focus Physique
How to Build Wide Shoulders – The Lateral Deltoid

To build wide shoulders from a front on view of our physique’s, we need to build the lateral deltoid. The aesthetic of wide shoulders will have a profoundly positive effect on your physique!

It’s an element that contributes to your v-taper which is at the foundation of any great physique! In addition to this, it’s a powerful look that says, “I can accomplish anything.”.

Even though the lateral deltoid is small, it’s a key contributor to wide shoulders that are capped from a front on view of your physique. Let’s learn what we need to do to take these bad boys to the next level!

Anatomy of The Lateral Deltoid

Let’s briefly review the anatomy of the side delts to have a better understanding of the muscle to be worked.

The lateral deltoid, also known as the side delt or middle delt for short, extends from the superior surface of the acromion process of the scapula down to the deltoid tuberosity. This can generally be seen in the graphic below.

The lateral deltoid is also known as the side delt or middle delt.
The lateral deltoid is highlighted in purple.

Although the deltoid muscle is broken down into three general segments, it actually has seven different segments based on the intramuscular tendons. Of these seven segments, only one is technically part of the middle delt, but others will contribute as well to the aesthetic.

The main takeaway here though is that the deltoid muscle is more intricate than most think. Variations in presses and raises will be beneficial on this exercise.

Training for Wide Shoulders

Training for wide shoulders involves a combination of presses (compound movements) and raises (single joint movements).

At the foundation of your shoulder training, you should have overhead pressing movements to build maximum strength and muscle. Once you’ve gotten that out the way, then you can follow up with single joint exercises.

Both of these exercise types should have a place in your routine for full and wide shoulders.

When we look at overhead pressing variations, generally presses with the arms more flared out to the side will have an emphasis on the front of the shoulder, known as the anterior deltoid and the lateral deltoid. Overhead presses with elbows facing more forward will place more of an emphasis on the anterior deltoid.

Lateral Deltoid Exercises

Let’s evaluate some of the best lateral deltoid exercises for wide shoulders.

Compound Shoulder Exercises

Even though these compound exercises aren’t specifically targeting the side delts, they are highly recommended to be incorporated into you shoulder routine before your isolated movements for the lateral deltoids. These exercises will aid in complete shoulder development as well as effectively adding size to the side delts.

Military Press

Military press and overhead press are the same exercises and the names are used interchangeably. Regardless of what you call this exercise though, it’s the king of building the shoulders and overhead pressing strength. The military press should definitely be an exercise taken into consideration when you sit down and do your programming.

The video below shows you how to properly grip the bar, which is the most common part of this exercise that is messed up. In addition to the grip, you’ll want to have a strong base by engaging the legs and glutes.

In terms of the bar path, it is straight up, over the middle of the foot. It will be necessary to move the head out of the bars way and a slight arch in the lower back is necessary.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The seated dumbbell shoulder press is another great option. I’m all for dumbbells whenever it’s appropriate because of the freedom you have in the range of motion. With a barbell, your arms are fixed in place, but this is not the case when pressing dumbbells. This makes presses with dumbbells easier on the joints.

Single Joint Exercises

When most think of lateral deltoid exercises, they think of the classic exercise: lateral raises. Lateral raises are a single joint exercises and are very important in building rounded and wide shoulders! I would definitely give this exercise credit for my shoulder development as well. These have been a staple in my routine for years and it has definitely made a difference (I’m the featured image at the top)!

Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are commonly done with dumbbells although variations can be done with cables or resistance bands. We’re going to look at the classic variation with dumbbells.


The only difference I recommend between my form and the form for those reading this article is to keep it stricter and avoid momentum. Because of my strength level, some momentum snuck in. This is only ok once you have mastered the basics!!

Choosing the Proper Weight: To do lateral raises, you’ll want to choose a lightweight. For most I would recommend a weight of eight to twelve pounds. Lightweight will help you to learn the movement and ensure that you are feeling it in the right spot. Often with improper form and too heavy of a weight, the upper trap takes the bulk of the work.

Body Positioning: With the proper weight, I always recommend that the trainee assumes a slight forward lean. This allows for easier movement at the shoulder joint to avoid impingement; plus most of the people I’ve taught this exercise to think this feels better.

Arm Positioning: Now that your positioning is correct, initiate the raise by scooping down and away. This will shift the focus from the upper traps and send the emphasis to the side delts. When raising the arms, you’ll want to have a slight bend in the arm. This will allow you to lift more weight by shortening the moment arm. It will also put less torque on the shoulder joint.

In addition to the slight bend in the elbow, you’ll want the elbow to lead the movement and have the back of the hands face the sky.

Range of Motion: Lastly, you need to make sure that your range of motion is correct. If we look back at the anatomy section at the top of the article, the lateral deltoid doesn’t originate at the same anatomical location as the upper traps. Therefore, we don’t need to raise ALL the way up to fully work the side delts. Your range of motion will end once the elbow is inline with the shoulder.

Side Delt Training Notes

  • Incorporate both compound shoulder exercises and single joint exercises. Typically compound exercises will come first.
  • Stick with a higher rep range on lateral raises, I wouldn’t recommend anything below eight reps.
  • Be consistent. Wide shoulders take time to develop, but are essential to take your physique to the next level!

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About Brennen Elboeck

I'm Brennen, the founder of I want to give hundreds of thousands of people science based, practical physique and life transforming information! To never miss a post or what's new make sure to sign up for our newsletter above!

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