6 Best Exercises To Grow the Medial/Middle/Lateral/Side Delt

Arms 5 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

One of the muscles that will make the biggest difference in your physique is one that is often neglected.

I’m talking about the side delt. It’s the middle part of the deltoid group, and it is the muscle that will make your shoulders pop. This lateral muscle is critical for developing a powerful-looking build, and I want to make sure you’re giving it the attention it deserves.

The side delt needs 2-3 days per week of 60-100 reps of focused work to develop well. Vertical pressing exercises aren’t enough on their own.

Include the moves below into your routine to grow the medial delt to the maximum.

1. Behind-the-Neck Overhead Press

Unlike behind-the-neck pulldowns, behind-the-neck overhead presses are a good idea. When you move the barbell behind your neck, you shift the focus from the front delt to the medial delt.

You’ll have to drop the weight a little, go wider than usual, and take your time. It can take a few sets to find your groove, and you don’t want to knock yourself out by slamming the bar into the back of your head.

2. Arnold Press

Arnold is the G.O.A.T., and you know this because he even has an exercise named after himself.

The Arnold Press. It’s like a seated dumbbell overhead press, but it takes the shoulders through a full range of motion and is a big reason Arnold developed his boulder shoulders.

The Arnold Press is a compound lift, so include them at the beginning of your shoulder work before moving to isolation moves.

Read The 6 Best Vertical Pushing Exercises for even more shoulder exercises.

3. Behind-the-Back Cable Lateral Raise

The behind-the-back cable lateral raise is the single best medial delt isolation exercise.

The reason is that, unlike dumbbell lateral raises, the cable machine provides constant resistance, so you don’t have to fling the weight up. In addition, the behind-the-back position ensures that the delt does the majority of the work.

Take your time with these and go lighter to stress the medial delt without involving other muscles to do the work.

4. “W” Raises

Grab an incline bench and a pair of light dumbbells, then straddle the bench face down.

Do lateral raises with your arms bent slightly to form a “W” shape with your body at the top.

This exercise is excellent because it takes the momentum out of the equation. Of course, you’ll need to use lighter dumbbells, but that’s a good thing because you won’t need to swing the dumbbells up.

5. One-Arm Dumbbell Upright Rows

One-arm dumbbell upright rows made the list because it’s an isolation exercise that allows you to go heavy. When trying to grow a muscle, you need to attack it from all angles, rep ranges, and resistances.

Most delt isolation moves call for light weights, but not these.

One arm at a time lets you focus on a good range of motion because the other arm doesn’t restrict it.

Grab a dumbbell, find a rack to post your free arm on, lean forward, and lift the dumbbell to chest height, focusing on pulling with your elbow.

6. One-Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Most people do their lateral raises with two dumbbells at a time.

That is a mistake.

The better method is to focus on one arm at a time. One arm at a time allows for heavier weights through a larger range of motion with more control.

That is three wins.

It helps to hold a dumbbell in your free hand to counterbalance the working arm but resist the urge to raise both dumbbells at once.

Be sure to lean forward 10-15 degrees and keep your elbow slightly bent.

Looking to develop the rest of your body?

Then you need The Seriously Strong Beginner Program. It’s an introduction to strength training and the perfect place to begin.

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.