April 10, 2009, Newsletter Issue #372: Lateral Raises

Tip of the Week

The Lateral Raise is an excellent exercise to strengthen the muscles of the deltoid, back and even arms.  Most people do their 'shoulder raises' in front of them while shoving their hips and upper body back and forth, cheating big time.  Others bend at the elbows or bring their head forward.  None of those are proper form, so lets get into what is.
Stand with weights in each hand and arms extended generally straight, down to the sides of the body with a very slight bend in the elbow. Contract the abdomen and the glutes (butt) slightly to ensure that the hips do not shoot forward or have the lower back arch excessively.  Hold the weight with palms facing forward,  then lift the arms laterally (to the sides of the body) while keeping them straight, stopping once parallel with the floor. Make sure that arms are parallel with one another as you lift and not in front of the body, or else rounding of the upper back will occur and the head will shoot forward (better to try and bring the weight almost behind you).  Hold shoulders at 90 degree flexed point for 1-2 seconds with arms straight, then slowly bring the arms back down to the sides of the body. As the weight comes down continue to slightly contract the abdomen, stopping once arms are at your hips.  Repeat for desired amount.
One day I was showing this exercise to a client, explaining all the intricacies of why this exercise is performed as I just mentioned, and a guy exercising blurts out "Bend your elbows!"... I paused, reflected on what just happened, looked at the man  while shaking my head and said "No, keep them straight."  He was a big guy, but his exercise posture was based upon compensation and was not functional (based upon reality). 
When you perform this exercise, keep your arms bent ever-so-slightly, for it makes the shoulder do much more work.  Not only that, but if you contract your core muscles (abs, butt) the exercise becomes even harder!  As the weight is lifted, makes sure that you are watching your arms to see if they are coming in front of your shoulders in any way, for they instead should almost be heind them.  This brings your back into the game and helps with your posture by lessening the chance of giving you rounded shoulders.  
Once this becomes comfortable, do it while standing on one foot or doing a Calf Raise when you are holding the weight at the top.  Using one foot will help your balance and core strength, while the Calf Raise will give you a bit of an added calf workout.

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