Dumbbell Bent Laterals Exercise Guide

Have you been wanting stronger, well-defined shoulders but don’t know how to start? Well, the dumbbell bent lateral is a simple yet effective movement using just a pair of dumbbells. It is a great isolation and strength-building exercise that anyone can perform regardless of their fitness level.

Dumbbell bent laterals develop the posterior deltoids and the rhomboids, which are responsible for the pushing and pulling movements that we carry out in our daily lives and gives the shoulders a toned and complete look that many desire.

Good body form and position are key to getting maximum results in dumbbell bent laterals. In this article, we’ll guide you through the proper way of doing this fantastic exercise, as well as discuss some alternatives that you can add to your routine to increase the intensity and results.

So put on your workout clothes and get ready to bust those delts!

How to Do Laterals

How to Do Dumbbell Bent Laterals

Setting Up

To start the exercise, stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Bend your knees slightly and bend forward at a 45-90 degrees angle from the waist while keeping your torso and back flat and head up.

Next, position your arms in front of the body, hanging straight down from the shoulders, and bent your elbows slightly. This is your starting position.


Start the movement by raising your arms sidewards until they reach your shoulders’ height. Make sure to contract your rear deltoids and rhomboids as you do so. Pause briefly at the top of the movement and slowly lower the weights back down to the initial position.

Repeat this until you reach your desired number of reps.


  • Use slow and controlled movements when lifting the weights. This way, you will not rely on momentum to help you perform the movement and will ensure that you are activating the correct muscles.
  • Avoid rounding your back as it can cause unwanted strain and injuries to your spine and back.
  • Lift weights that will allow you to have control of your form and movements. Do not go too heavy as it can result in pain, aggravation and injury. Start by using a light weight and gradually progressing with the weights as you get stronger.
  • When lifting weights, do not go too high – this will engage the wrong muscles and cause pain on your shoulders.


  • Builds and strengthens your shoulder muscles, improving your capacity to perform other pushing and pulling exercises.
  • Reduces the risks of getting injuries, especially in your shoulder and shoulder joints
  • Helps improve shoulder function and posture
  • Provides aesthetic benefits as it builds and tones the muscles in your shoulder and back area.

Illustrated Guide

How to Do Dumbbell Bent Laterals

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles

  • Trapezius
  • Posterior deltoids

Secondary Muscles

  • Anterior delts
  • Biceps
  • Brachialis
  • Forearm flexor

Dumbbell Bent Laterals Variations

Seated Dumbbell Bent Laterals

This variation is done the same way as the standing bent lateral, except that you will be sitting on the edge of a bench with your chest touching your thighs as you bend.

This change in position gives you the same benefits while providing better balance and reducing the risk of straining your back.

One-Arm Dumbbell Bent Over Lateral Raise

Just like the standing bent laterals, this variation works and targets the upper body muscles effectively. Instead of performing with two hands, do the raises with one arm each time while in a bent position. Make sure to hold on to something stable like a bench with your free hand for better stability.

Bent Over Cable Lateral Raise

Performing bent lateral raises using a cable pulley machine is a great variation to build the back and shoulder muscles. Pulleys provide uniform resistance throughout the movement, working your muscles consistently as you perform the exercise.

Incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise

Incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise is an excellent variation for working the posterior deltoids. By using a bench, it takes away the potential of using momentum as you lift and lower the load, strengthening the muscles more effectively. This also gives you a fuller appearance on your shoulders as muscle density increases in the right areas.

To do this, sit on a 45-degree incline bench with a dumbbell held in each hand and contract your deltoids as you perform the raises.

Dumbbell Bent Laterals Alternatives

Standing Barbell Delt Row

Standing barbell delt row is a strengthening, free-weight exercise that effectively targets the rear delts and middle back muscles, making it a great substitute for the bent laterals. This alternative provides more stability and resistance but make sure to choose a weight that will allow you to have full control of your form and movement.

To do this exercise, stand up with feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing your body). Your hands on the bar should be in a position that’s wider than shoulder-width.

Bend over at the waist until your chest is parallel with the floor and with a slight bend on your knees. Start pulling the load up towards your chest while squeezing your rear delt to ensure that you activate the correct muscles.

Breathe in and slowly lower the barbell back down to go back to the initial position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Reverse Cable Crossover

The reverse cable crossover is one of the best exercises to give your shoulders the definition and strength that you desire. It is an effective alternative to bent-over lateral raises as it engages several muscle groups including the upper back and strengthens the rear deltoid muscles.

Start by adjusting the weight as well as the pulleys to the appropriate height, which should be above your head. Stand in the center of a cable crossover. Extend your arms to the front, crossed at shoulder height.

Pull your elbows out to the side and back until your arms are in line with your back. Ensure that you are using your rear delts in this movement to activate the right muscles.

In a slow and controlled manner, return to the starting position where your arms are crossed in front of you. Repeat this until you reach the desired number of reps. 

Back Exercises Guide

Kevin Harris