Lateral raises strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your shoulders and improve your muscular balance. Performing lateral raises with bent arms is one modification of this popular and effective exercise. You can also choose other variations to make the traditional lateral raise easier or more challenging. It is important, however, that you understand how to properly perform a standard lateral raise before you decide which variation is best for your current fitness level and goals.
Stay With the Standard
Start by standing with your feet a little wider than hip-width distance apart. Taking into considering your current fitness level, hold an appropriately weighted dumbbell in each hand and relax your arms by your sides. While keeping your core engaged, your shoulders back and down and your neck relaxed, exhale as you lift the dumbbells straight up and out to the sides. Keep your palms down and stop when you reach shoulder height. Inhale as you slowly lower the weights back to your starting position.
Bend for a Break
Naturally, if the standard lateral raise feels too difficult to perform with proper form, you can always use lighter weights. Another option, however, is to tweak your form by bending your elbows. You can slightly bend your elbows or you can bend them as much as 90 degrees. Bending your elbows makes the exercise easier because you do not have to extend your arms as far away from your body. Try lateral raises with bent arms when you are working up to a heavier weight selection or when you are in the middle of a standard set and feel that you cannot maintain good form.
Another way to make lateral raises easier is to alternate sides. To perform alternating lateral raises, firmly plant your position by bending your knees and engaging your core. Using either the standard straight-arm option or the bent-arm variation, lift one dumbbell up and out by your side as you exhale. Inhale as you lower the weight back to your starting position. Repeat these steps using the other arm. Regardless of the type of lateral raise you perform, be sure that your wrist, elbow and shoulder are all level at the top of your movement.
Increase Your Load
When you have advanced past the alternating lateral raise, exceeded the bent-arm variation and feel that the standard lateral raise is like feather-lifting in the park, it may be time to increase your weight load. Try a set of standard lateral raises using dumbbells that are five pounds heavier. Remember, as you work to increase your weight load, the bent-arm lateral raise is always an option as you work to get stronger.