Workouts & Exercises

Shoulder Press Vs Lateral Raise: Which Is the Better Upper Body Exercise?

Lateral raise and shoulder press are the bread and butter of building a stronger upper body, but when it comes to working the inner and outer layers of your pecs, which one outshines the other? Keep reading this shoulder press vs lateral raise comparison to find out which is better.

I have come across some trainers who swear lateral raise is the ultimate upper-body building move. Others may consider shoulder press the key to honing in on your pecs.

Bottom line? Each exercise, whether it's jumping on trampoline or performing zotttman curl, has its praise and criticism. Certainly, every exercise is no exception.

I make this point for a reason: a lot of newbies I have encountered in my career start their fitness journeys, believing there is a winning formula for whatever goals. But this mindset is wrong.

Ideally, a combination of both exercises makes for a comprehensive workout. Blending together the best of both worlds is what I would recommend. Still, the lateral raise is superior at activating the shape, density, and strength of shoulder muscle, whereas the shoulder press is invaluable to multiple muscles with every motion.



Which Exercise Is for Beginners? – shoulder press or lateral raise

Here is comparison between shoulder press and lateral raise - Which one is better

Lateral Raise Vs Shoulder Press

There is most definitely someone to help you at the gym. Often, that help comes in the form of personal-training sessions, which will help you identify the best movement to get you closer to your fitness goals.

For a beginner workout, I’d get you started with the shoulder-press as a solid first step.

The shoulder press works for just about anybody. Besides working your muscle mass and shaping your body to look toned, the shoulder press fits well with a beginner workout routine. You can make plenty of progress through this movement before advancing to the lateral raise.

What’s more, the biggest perk of the shoulder press is you get an amazing workout even with a short session. By honing in multiple muscles, you are maximizing your calorie burn in a fraction of the time of lateral raise workouts.


Improves Performance of Other Exercises

There is no better indicator of the impact of the shoulder press routine than improving your performance in other workouts.

Each rep improves your overall strength and fitness, which affects your ability to push more weight, and that’s what you are pushing your body to achieve with every progress.


Builds Multiple Muscle

Shoulder Press is a compound exercise; in addition to working on your shoulders, it strengthens, shapes, and helps grow the triceps and trapezius muscles, which are essential for stability and overall strength. Putting it another way, the impact of your shoulder press workout is on carrying out daily activities.


Strengthens Core Muscle

As an exercise done in an upright posture, mostly while standing, the shoulder press strengthens your lower back, spinal stabilizer, oblique, and transverse abdominal muscles. You can improve your postural imbalance and target back injuries by including this essential core exercise in your workout routine.

Finally, assuming you have a couple of dumbbells, you can do such exercises at home or in your own backyard gym. There is no need for sophisticated equipment or too much space. Apart from dumbbells, you can do this exercise using kettlebells and barbell. 


How to do shoulder press (Mistakes to avoid)

Here are some steps that you must follow while doing a shoulder press workout and mistakes that you should avoid

The shoulder press is a weight exercise that starts in either a standing or seated position and involves lifting a weight above your head and then pulling it down to the shoulder level. It’s simply moving resistance above your head.


Here's how I do dumbbell shoulder press:

To begin, brace your abs and squeeze your butt with your head tilted back to keep your body engaged. Drive the weights towards the ceiling and stack them above your head. 

Next, pull down the weights to shoulder level, return back your head, and lock your arms.

Avoid bending your lower back. It is a common mistake with people thinking that it's going to better target the lower back area, but instead, it does the opposite by putting your back at risk of injury. Making minor changes to your shoulder press form impacts its effectiveness.

With these thoughts in mind, make sure you have plenty of room around you, enjoy your natural pre workout and get to work.


How to do lateral raise (Mistakes to avoid)

Some basic steps and common mistakes you should know before starting your lateral raise workout

Let me get this point across first - the lateral raise is a weightlifting routine usually done either while standing, seated, or bent-over. It is designed to hone in on the lateral head of the delts. All your need is some space, a pair of dumbbells, and flexible shoulders to perform a complete rep.


Here's how I do dumbbell lateral raise:

To begin, pick up dumbbells from dumbbell rack, hold a dumbbell in each hand and position your legs shoulder-width apart.

Tilt your shoulders back with your core and glutes engaged, raise your arms simultaneously with your palms facing inwards, pausing a couple of inches out to target the deltoid muscle. Stop at shoulder height.

Avoid cranking out heavier weights on your first try. Start with the lighter weights and make the necessary adjustments when needed. I started this workout using my cheap adjustable dumbbells as they were perfect for me as a beginner.

For both exercises, a common mistake implies training shoulders and other muscle groups in the same day. While you can train shoulders and legs, for example, other combinations are not recommended. Also think twice before doing shoulders after chest day as you won't be able to push your shoulders.

 


Key Differences between shoulder press and lateral raise

Learn about key differences between shoulder press and lateral raise to make workout choices as per your fitness goals

While the lift an inch and pause approach in the lateral raise is designed to improve the longer your weights are under tension, it is not doing your trapezius any favors. Lateral raise is an isolation exercise that is designed to work your middle head to shoulder more than any other part.

Your deltoid muscle benefits the longer these isolations work these muscles under tension, and that fails to impact the larger shoulder area. That’s where the shoulder press comes in with a routine that targets all the head and shoulder areas.

This feature explains why the shoulder press is considered a compound exercise, giving a lasting effect on multiple muscles at once. Shoulder press impacts most mobile joints in your body, making it a favorite in shoulder press vs lateral raise.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are lateral raises better than shoulder press?

Yes. The lateral raise is an upper-body routine and, by isolating the muscle, can grow them at a higher degree compared to the shoulder press – or any other exercise, for that matter. There are even multiple variants of the lateral raise exercise designed to improve targeting muscle strength and shape.

In any case, a neutral grip hones in on the critical muscle in developing the lower and upper pecs area, alongside the deltoid muscle. It gives more focus on muscle development, shaping, and strengthening better than the shoulder press workout.


Does shoulder press work lateral delts?

Yes. As a compound exercise, the shoulder press is quite effective at strengthening and shaping the lateral delts muscle, among other upper-body muscles, which improves your ability to push heavier loads and jumpstart muscle growth. Besides, it is easy to progress to heavier sets and more reps. 

Since the shoulder press allows for a wide range of motions for pecs compared to the lateral raise, your deltoid muscles are able to fully contract and relax, thereby promoting overall function and strength. If your goal is lateral delts, the shoulder press workout works just fine.


Why are shoulder presses bad?

If you can’t do a shoulder press, then your body is trying to tell you that you need to strengthen your core. Implement a solid abs workout and never overlook the back. Focus on these muscle groups and try again in a couple of months.

When your lower back is bending during a shoulder press, your core is likely to culprit since it pulls your body out of its proper alignment, making the shoulder press more challenging.

You might want to strengthen your mobility and stability by adding mobility drills into your overall workout routine. These exercises will help correct the imbalance that makes a shoulder press harder to do and improve the strength of your shoulder to hold form during this exercise.


Wrapping up…

Let me set the record straight, my shoulder press vs lateral raise comparison does not mean that you should scrap one routine for the other altogether. There are pros and cons to each routine, and the best exercise is the one that combines both workouts for a holistic workout.

I believe I have made it clear that none is better than the other, , that all comes down to your goals, strength level, and the kind of space and equipment you have access to. Either way, both the shoulder press and lateral raise are essential, everyday workout exercises. 

Related Readings:

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/rear-lateral-raises#about
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/overhead-press-muscles#benefits
  3. https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/side-laterals-better-overhead-presses-8440.html
  4. https://www.setforset.com/blogs/news/lateral-deltoid-exercises

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