Lateral raises are a great shoulder-building exercise when a suitable weight is chosen. This post reveals dumbbell lateral raise weight standards to benchmark your performance.
A respectable dumbbell lateral raise for the average male beginner is around 7% of body weight for a single repetition (both dumbbells combined). Intermediates and advanced lifters should be able to lift around 37% and 60% (respectively) for 1 rep.
The weight standards in this post will help you determine what is a respectable weight to be lifting based on your gender, body weight, and training experience.
- How To Use These Weight Standards
- Beginner Lateral Raise Weight Standards
- Intermediate Lateral Raise Weight Standards
- Advanced Lateral Raise Weight Standards
- How Good Is Your Lateral Raise Vs Others?
- 5 Reasons Why The Dumbbell Lateral Raise Is Hard
- Other Weight Standards For Lateral Raise Muscles
How To Use These Weight Standards
1) Determining your training level:
- Beginners have practiced the lateral raise for 1-12 months.
- Intermediates have practiced the lateral raise for 12-36 months.
- Advanced lifters have practiced the lateral raise for 4 years or more.
2) Choosing your rep range:
The weight standards are given for:
- 1-rep max (1RM)- this is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a single repetition. It’s often used as a strength standard.
- 6-10 working reps- this is generally considered to be the ideal rep range for building muscle.
3) Selecting your gender and body weight:
- Average lateral raise weight standards are revealed for common body weights.
- Male lateral raise standards are given.
- Females can use a 60% conversion (multiply the weight standard by 0.60).
4) Reading the charts:
- Weight standards are given as lbs on the top and kg on the bottom.
- If you’re doing the lateral raise with dumbbells at or above the weight standard for your given training level, body weight, and gender, then you are lifting a respectable amount of weight.
Beginner Lateral Raise Weight Standards
Here’s how much weight you should be lifting on the lateral raise with dumbells as a beginner:
Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.
Generally speaking, beginners should be able to lateral raise with dumbbells that weigh 5 to 10% of their body weight (both dumbbells combined) for a single repetition (1-rep max).
Intermediate Lateral Raise Weight Standards
Here’s how much weight you should be lifting on the lateral raise as an intermediate:
Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.
Generally speaking, intermediates should be able to lateral raise with dumbbells that weigh 35 to 40% of their body weight (both dumbbells combined) for a single repetition.
Advanced Lateral Raise Weight Standards
Here’s how much weight you should be lifting on the lateral raise as an advanced lifter:
Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.
Generally speaking, advanced lifters should be able to lateral raise with dumbbells that weigh 50 to 70% (both dumbbells combined) of their body weight for a single repetition.
How Good Is Your Lateral Raise Vs Others?
Here’s the average percentage of people who can do the dumbbell lateral raise a fraction of their own body weight:
|Lateral Raise 1RM Weight (as a fraction of body weight)
|% Of People Who Can Do It
Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.
This allows you to compare your standards with others and determine how respectable your strength standards are.
To calculate your lateral raise as a fraction of your own body weight, simply divide the weight of your 1RM by your body weight.
For example: if you weigh 150lbs and your 1RM is 100lbs, then you’re lifting 0.66x your body weight (50lbs ÷ 100lbs).
The above chart indicates:
- 75% of people can lateral raise with dumbbells 0.25x their body weight for 1 rep. This represents the lower quartile of lifters and is a respectable weight for beginners to achieve.
- 50% of people can lateral raise with dumbbells 0.40x their body weight for 1 rep. This represents the median quartile of lifters and is a respectable weight for intermediates to achieve. It’s also a realistic target for beginners to aim towards with enough training.
- 25% of people can lateral raise with dumbbells 0.55x their body weight for 1 rep. This represents the upper quartile of lifters and is a respectable weight for advanced lifters. It’s also a realistic target for intermediates to aim towards with enough training.
5 Reasons Why The Dumbbell Lateral Raise Is Hard
The lateral deltoids (primary target muscles in the lateral raise) are some of the most difficult muscles to build.
Here are 5 common reasons why you may find it difficult to do the lateral raise using dumbbells, and why your strength standards are below average.
I’ve also shared solutions for each problem.
These solutions can help to improve your lateral raise.
1) Internal rotation in the shoulders
Internal shoulder rotation describes a type of movement where your shoulders round down and inwards.
For a better idea of what this looks like, you can hold your arm out towards the side (parallel to the ground) and rotate it towards the floor.
You’ll notice shoulder discomfort once a certain amount of internal rotation has occurred.
The same discomfort occurs when you do the lateral raise with your arms too far out to your side, making the exercise difficult to perform and reducing your overall strength.
Avoid the common mistake of performing the lateral raise with the dumbbells held to your side and traveling directly outwards (like a crucifix).
Instead, the dumbbells should be held slightly to your front, with your arms slightly bent at the elbows, and travel at a slight angle from your frontal plane.
It also helps to use a lighter dumbbell to practice this form cue before progressing to heavier dumbbells.
You can check out my other post for more details on how to choose the ideal dumbbell weight for arm and shoulder exercises.
2) Training with a reduced range of motion
Range of motion (ROM) describes how far your dumbbells travel between their lowest and highest points in the exercise.
Generally speaking- reaching a full range of motion (i.e. a full rep) is better than doing a partial range of motion (i.e. a partial rep).
Partial reps have a place for training strength in specific portions of the movement.
But full reps are ideal if you are a beginner looking to build overall strength in the lateral raise and improve your weight standards.
Perform the dumbbell lateral raise with a full ROM.
You can do this by allowing the dumbbells to touch your thighs in the lowest portion of the exercise, and bringing the dumbbells fully up in the highest portion of the exercise.
A good cue to know when to stop the upward phase of the lateral raise is when your arms reach parallel to the ground (avoid going past this point).
To do this effectively, it helps break the conventional muscle-building rule of lifting heavy for low reps, and instead reduce dumbbell weight and work in a higher rep range of 10 to 15 reps per set.
3) Cheating with body momentum
Another common form mistake made by beginners is to use body momentum to help you “swing” the dumbbells up.
This is called a cheat rep and this should be avoided.
Cheating usually happens by using leg drive and opening the hips to create an upward rocking force that helps you to lift the dumbbell.
Experienced lifters can use cheat reps to facilitate strength gains.
But when newbies do it incorrectly, it can result in severely reduced deltoid activation from the lateral raise.
As a beginner, avoid cheat reps if your goal is to increase deltoid strength from the lateral raise.
The best way to do this is to simply perform the exercise seated on a weight bench. This prevents you from opening the hips and driving with your legs to create momentum.
All gyms have weight benches readily available. If you’re training at home, then an affordable midrange bench like this folding Flybird weight bench does the job.
Performing the lateral raise with strict form should allow you to see the first signs of strength gain within a few weeks.
4) Using too much weight
Choosing the correct dumbbell weight matters a lot in the lateral raise.
This is a small exercise targeting a very specific muscle- the lateral delts.
As such, it’s not a good idea to load too heavy in a low rep range (as is usually recommended for bigger compound lifts like the shoulder press).
Doing so may encourage cheating which will reduce deltoid activation.
But it’s not good to lift dumbbells that are too light either.
Doing so can cause you to miss out on a lot of mechanical tension. This is one of the stimuli required for muscle growth ad strength gains. Heavier weights provide greater mechanical tension.
As a beginner, start by doing the lateral raise using a manageable dumbbell weight that challenges you for the recommended 10 to 15 reps per set.
You’ll naturally get stronger as you gain training experience.
When your current workload starts to become easy, you can apply progressive overload adding weight to your dumbbells in small increments.
Increasing weight by 1-2lb increments is sufficient to build a stronger lateral raise.
Now you can rinse, repeat, and work towards building your lateral raise to the strength standards given in this post!
5) Not performing a variety of shoulder exercises
The shoulders comprise three deltoid heads- anterior (front), lateral (middle), and posterior (rear).
The problem with only performing lateral raises is that the exercise mainly works your lateral delts.
But your anterior and posterior delts play a vital role in stabilizing the movement and allowing you to perform the lateral raise more effectively.
Thus, weakness in the anterior and posterior delts can make the lateral raise more difficult and lead to strength standards that are below average.
Train all three delts for balanced shoulder strength development.
The lateral raise should be performed alongside other shoulder exercises as part of a balanced workout program:
|Deltoid Heads Worked
|Anterior, lateral, posterior
|Incline bench press
For more details, you can check out my home routine for skinny guys. It’s a ready-to-go 3-day workout program that builds full-body muscle, including the shoulders!
Other Weight Standards For Lateral Raise Muscles
The dumbbell lateral raise is an isolation-type movement that primarily works the lateral delts in the shoulders. But the anterior and posterior delts serve as stabilizers. Here are weight standards for other exercises that hit similar muscles:
- Shoulder press with dumbbells– vertical compound pushing exercise that works all 3 deltoid muscles.
- Reverse dumbbell fly– an isolation-type movement that focuses tension on the posterior deltoids.
- Incline dumbbell press– a compound chest movement that not only works the pecs, but also the anterior deltoids.
- Pull-ups– vertical compound pulling exercise that works all back muscles including the posterior deltoids.
- Dumbbell rows– horizontal pulling exercise that works all back muscles including the posterior deltoids.
You may also be interested in my other post on the heaviest shoulder press records.
These dumbbell lateral raise weight standards help you to determine whether or not you are lifting a respectable amount of weight for your capabilities.
Beginners should be able to do 1 rep using around 7% of their body weight (both dumbbells combined). Intermediates should be able to lift approximately 37% of their body weight, and advanced lifters around 60%.
If you’re lifting at or exceeding these strength standards, then you’re doing a good and respectable job.
I’ve also shared common problems and solutions to a lateral raise strength that is below average.
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printables) I used to go from skinny to ripped!