9 Best Side Delt Exercises To Grow Your Shoulders

best side delt exercises to grow your shoulders

The side delt plays an important role in how your shoulders look and feel. Focusing on this area can really make a difference in your upper arm so you want to give it the best exercises that’ll promote growth and development

So what are the best 9 side delt exercises?

By including these exercises in your training, you’ll get an upper arm workout that’ll challenge you and maximize results. Let’s dive into these exercises in more detail so you know how to perform them properly!

Need a workout program? Try Fitbod for Free.

What Is The Side Delt?

What Is The Side Delt.jpg

The deltoid muscle is the triangular-shaped part of your upper arm and shoulder muscle. Its purpose is to move the arm away from the body and to the side.

There are three parts to the deltoid muscle: the front, middle and rear. While each is important in the functioning of your upper arm and shoulder, this article will focus on the middle deltoid, also known as the side delt.

Related Article: 3 Awesome Resistance Band Shoulder Workouts

The 9 Best Side Delt Exercises


How To Perform

  1. Get a pair of dumbbells of equal weight. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, planted firmly in the ground. Hold one dumbbell in each hand in an overhand grip with your arms by your sides. This means that your palms should be facing your body.

  2. Engage your core and keep your back straight as you raise your arms to the side. Keep raising them until they are parallel to the floor. Your arms shouldn’t be completely locked out straight either; your elbows should have a slight bend in them. Also, be careful not the “shrug” the weight up—you want your side delts to be doing all the work.

  3. Lower the weights back down to your side in a slow and controlled motion. Don’t just let them drop down.

Notes: If you have to swing your body to get the weight up, then you’ve chosen dumbbells that are too heavy. Lower the weight until you find one that is challenging enough to work your side delts while still allowing you to execute it with good form. Remember, you’ll only be doing yourself a disservice if you have to swing it up as it’s not really isolate the delts so don’t worry about having to drop the weight.

In addition, don’t lift higher than shoulder level. This won’t work the side delts more. In fact, it’ll actually take the focus away from the side delts and onto your traps instead.

Related Article: The Best V-Taper Dumbbell Workout (Step By Step Guide)


This exercise will not only challenge your side delts but also your core, particularly your obliques.

How To Perform

  1. Lie on the floor on your side, resting on your left elbow.

  2. Engage your core and lift your hips up, supporting yourself on the left elbow. You want to be as high in the air as possible while staying grounded. Ensure that your body is in a straight line with your right foot either on top or in front of your left foot (the side that’s bearing the weight).

  3. Extend your right arm (the one that isn’t on the ground) in the air so that it makes a straight line with your other arm. By using your resting arm this way, you can work both side delts simultaneously.

  4. Lower your hips back to the floor and lift it back up in position again. Repeat your reps on one side before switching to the next.

Notes: If it’s too challenging to include an arm raise with your side plank, then omit the arm raise until you’ve built enough strength and core work to include it. When you change sides, you’ll be working the other arm anyway, with or without the arm raise.

Related Article: The Ultimate V-Shaped Body Workout (3 Workouts Explained)


How To Perform

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width. Hold the barbell in front of you in an overhand grip, in this case, your palms should be facing your body. Make sure that your hands are slightly closer than shoulder-width apart.

  2. Keep your back straight and engage your core. Slowly, bring the barbell up, bending your elbows out to the side. You want to keep the bar as close to your body as possible. Keep pulling the bar up until it reaches your chin.

  3. Pause at the top before slowly lowering the bar, and repeat.

Notes: Likewise with the lateral raises, keep your body still. Using momentum to row the barbell up will only do you a disservice as you won’t be getting the most out of the exercise.


How To Perform

  1. For this exercise, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells of equal weight. Sit on an incline bench set at a 90-degree angle. Ensure that your back is flat against the surface. Plant your feet firmly on the ground.

  2. Hold the dumbbells in one hand each as if you’re in the top position of a dumbbell bicep curl. Your elbows should be bent and your palms facing towards you with the dumbbells close to your body.

  3. Now, you’re going to press the dumbbells like an overhead press until your arms are fully extended above you. However, what makes this different is that as you press up, your hands are going to rotate so that you twist the dumbbells until your palms end up facing away from you in the press position.

  4. Bring the dumbbells back down slowly, once again, rotating your hands so that you end up back in the starting position with palms facing toward you.

Notes: The Arnold press can also be done standing up. The seated version assists in keeping your back flat throughout the movement, however, as long as you keep your back straight and core engaged, you can also execute this with proper form standing up.


How To Perform

  1. Sit down on an incline bench set at a 90-degree angle. Make sure that your shoulders and back are as straight as possible.

  2. Lift two dumbbells (one in each hand) of equal weight to shoulder height. Your palms are facing away from you in an overhand grip.

  3. Engage your core and press up until your arms are fully extended above you.

  4. Hold the position at the top for a second before slowly lowering the dumbbells back down in a controlled manner.

Notes: This was the military press variation that uses dumbbells but you can also perform this exercise using a barbell. It’ll require the same basic movement and overhand grip. When using a barbell, rest the barbell on your collarbone before pressing up.

Not only that, but the military press can also be done standing up so try out these variations to see which one you prefer.

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.


How To Perform

  1. Stand beside a cable-pulley machine at the gym. Adjust the height of the cable to the lowest setting or whatever feels comfortable according to your height.

  2. Your feet should be firmly planted in the ground, knees slightly bent. Grab the handle with your outside hand, that is, the side that is farthest away from the machine. You will have to reach across your body to do so.

  3. Hold the handle in front of you, with your arm loosely hanging down. If you need extra support, grab the cable machine with your inside arm.

  4. Engage your core and pull the cable out to the side and up to shoulder height. Ensure that there is a slight bend in your elbow as you do so.

  5. Hold the position at the top.

  6. Slowly bring the cable back down to the starting position. Complete all the reps on one side of your body before switching over to the other.


This exercise is fairly similar in set up as the one-arm cable raise. However, instead of the working arm being at the front of your body, you’re going to be pulling the cable behind your back.

How To Perform

  1. Stand next to a cable-pulley machine with your feet planted firmly in the ground with a slight bend in the knees, toes facing forward.

  2. Ensure that the cable is set at the shortest height, before grabbing the handle with your outside arm. This time though, reach behind your back to grab it. Use your resting arm to hold onto the cable machine for support.

  3.  Raise the handle up and to the side behind you. Keep going until you reach shoulder height.

  4. Pause at the top for a moment.

  5. Bring the weight back down slowly and carefully. Repeat all the reps on the one side before switching to the other.


How To Perform

  1. Unrack the barbell and place the bar across your traps, behind your neck.

  2. Hold the bar in an overhand position. Your grip should be wider than your shoulders. However, experiment and find a grip width that makes it comfortable for you to press the bar.

  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and activate your core. Keep your back straight and press the bar up until it’s completely overhead and your arms are fully extended.

  4. Make sure that you keep your shoulders activated.

  5. Pause at the top.

  6. Slowly bring the barbell back down, resting it on your traps. Repeat.

Notes: This exercise can also be done standing.


How To Perform

  1. Grab two dumbbells of equal weight and an incline bench set at a 30-degree angle. Lie facing down on the bench with your feet behind you, a dumbbell in each hand.

  2. Bend your elbows so that the dumbbells are slightly in front of you, palms facing down. Keep those elbows tucked in close to your body.

  3. In one smooth motion, lift the dumbbells up and out to either side. Your elbows should remain bent so that your arms form a W-shape.

  4. Maintain the top position for a moment.

  5. Bring the weights back down.

Final Notes

If you’re looking to grow your side delts, give these 9 side delt exercises a go. It uses a variety of equipment and positions such as standing or seated, dumbbells, barbells and even the cable machine, to ensure that your shoulders are constantly challenged and encouraged to grow stronger and get bigger. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to attack those side delts, then check out the FitBod app as well.

Related Articles:

About The Author

Emily Trinh

Emily Trinh

As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.