Rear Delt Raises vs Lateral Raises

Rear Delt Raise vs Lateral Raise (What’s the Difference?)

The shoulder muscles consist of three heads – the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids. While exercises like the Overhead Press and Push-Ups work all three heads of the shoulder, isolation exercises like the Rear Delt Raise and Lateral Raise specifically target the medial and posterior deltoids, respectively.

In this article, I’ll compare the Rear Delt Raise and Lateral Raise, looking at their respective benefits, proper form, and variations to help you decide which exercise to include in your training program.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned vet, understanding the differences between these two exercises can help you make the most of your shoulder workouts and achieve your training goals.

Rear Delt Raises

Seated Rear Delt Raise

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells*


  • 5 or 10-pound iron plates*

*Either is fine for most lifters. Advanced lifters may want dumbbells heavier than 10 pounds.

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Grab your dumbbells (or plates) and bend at the waist until you are close to perpendicular to the floor.
  • I recommend slightly bending the elbow and keeping your palms facing each other. As you execute the movement, the palms will face the floor.
  • Initiate the movement by bringing your arms out to the side and squeezing the shoulder blades.
  • Pause at the top of the movement for about 1 second.
  • Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

In the setup, be sure to bend at the waist enough so that you are perpendicular as much as possible. In this movement, the burn should be felt in the upper back and rear shoulders. If your setup is too vertical, you may feel the burn in the traps or medial delts.

Rear Delt Raises can be done standing or seated (as shown in the picture above).

Don’t hitch (bounce) into lockout. If you find yourself using your torso to hitch, go down in weight. The emphasis here is on time under tension and quality movement still matters.

Do not bang the dumbbells together at the bottom of the rep. Stay in control of the movement throughout.

Benefits of Rear Delt Raises

Rear Delt Raises are an effective way to target and strengthen the posterior deltoid muscle, which is an important part of the shoulder complex. By improving the strength of your posterior deltoids, you can improve overall shoulder stability and reduce the risk of injury.

There are several variations of Rear Delt Raises that can be performed using dumbbells as described above, but also with resistance bands or cable machines, making it a versatile exercise that can be adapted to many different situations.

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Lateral Raises

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells


  • Hold dumbbells-palm in, arms straight down at sides.
  • Raise dumbbells in semicircular motion slightly above shoulder height tilting the head of the dumbbell down.
  • A slight pause, then lower to starting position under control.
  • Keep your arms straight with just a slight bend in the elbow.
  • Use the same path to continue repeated reps.
  • Exhale up, inhale down.

Coaching Points

To keep the focus on the medial delt, make sure to keep your palms down at the top of the movement. Many lifters like to pull back, instead of lift straight out to the sides, which brings the stronger muscles of the upper back into play.

Also, always start the movement at the side of the thigh. Bringing the dumbbells in front of the body allows for more of a momentum swing and takes away from the stress placed on the delts.

RELATED –> 11 Lateral Raise alternatives for growing shoulders

Benefits of Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Dumbbell Lateral Raises provide several benefits, including:

  • This exercise is one of the best movements for isolating the lateral deltoids, improving their strength and stability.
  • By strengthening the shoulders, Dumbbell Lateral Raises can help to reduce the risk of injury, particularly in sports that involve overhead movements and repetitive motions.

Rear Delt Raises vs Lateral Raises

Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at the two exercises and discuss their differences and if one is better than the other for common training goals.

What’s The Difference

There are two main differences between Rear Delt Raises and Lateral Raises.

Starting Position: Lateral Raises are done standing up tall (and then dumbbells are lifted up and out to the sides). Rear Delt Raises are done bent over with the torso roughly parallel to the ground (and then the dumbbells are lifted up and out to the sides).

Muscles Worked: Because of the different starting positions, the muscles that are targeted and isolated are different. Rear Delt Raises (as the name suggests) target the rear delts and Lateral Raises target the (you guessed it) lateral deltoids.

Both exercises are equally effective for improving strength and building muscle mass – for their respective area of the shoulder.

Both exercises are also very beginner-friendly. Whether it’s your first day in the gym or your 1,000th, Rear Delt Raises and Lateral Raises are two simple, yet very effective exercises to have in your strength program.

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Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this quick guide has helped you decipher the difference between these two shoulder movements. Just remember, the details are right in the names themselves:

Rear Delt Raise = Rear Delt

Lateral Raise = Lateral Delt

Simple as that.

More Links and Info

Check out how Lateral Raises compare to other popular shoulder exercises:

Lateral Raises vs Front Raise

Lateral Raises: Dumbbell vs Cable

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