Build your body while saving your rotator cuff muscles here

Not all shoulder exercises are created equal, at least not if you value the health of your rotator cuff muscles. In this video, I show you a classic shoulder exercise and staple of most shoulder workouts, and how to perform it correctly if you want to avoid the hazards to your rotator cuff when doing it. The side lateral raise or dumbbell side raises are a great medial delt developer. The problem isn’t with the exercise, but how you perform this shoulder exercise.

The most common tip you hear when performing this in your shoulder workout is to tilt your pinkies up at the top of the movement as if you are “pouring a pitcher” of water. This is bad advice. No way around it. Especially considering the fact that you can still get the benefits of the exercise without doing this by making one simple tweak to your posture when performing this exercise.

To begin with, the combination of elevation and internal rotation at the shoulder is a biomechanically unsound position for your glenohumeral joint. Can your body do it? Of course, with the almost limitless range of motion provided by the ball and socket joint of your shoulder you can get in almost any position. This doesn’t mean that it is a good position however.

When you elevate your arm with an internally rotated shoulder you place the head of the humerus in a position where it can quickly impinge on the soft tissue structures in your glenohumeral joint. Most often, the supraspinatus tendon is one of the first structures to feel the brunt of this mistake. Now, the individual anatomy from shoulder to shoulder is going to vary, and the speed at which you start to experience troubles from this position may vary widely.

That said, over the course of time, even those who find the position to be non problematic (even for many years) start to experience breakdown after years of doing this. On the other hand, issues can arise much faster if you have a shoulder with a lower hanging acromion which tends to get pinched faster by the upward rising humerus.

The point is, the pouring the pitcher posture is quickly going to accentuate this improper biomechanics position at the shoulder and lead to accelerated degeneration in your shoulder. Not needed since the fix is to simply do the opposite at the shoulder joint when you perform the shoulder exercise – externally rotate your shoulder. By doing this, you provide all the room your shoulder needs to avoid the impingement while not compromising the work done by the medial deltoid. How you ask?

By simply leaning forward just a bit at the waist when doing this exercise to place the medial deltoid in a more direct line of force opposing gravity. This now allows you to make the exercise safe for your shoulders and allow you to use it to get the bigger shoulders you are doing it for in the first place. Watch as I demonstrate how to perform the side lateral raise the right way to build big shoulders and delts without suffering a shoulder injury in your workout.

For a complete workout program on how to build bigger delts while maintaining joint health, be sure to head to and get any one of our athlean-x training systems. Each was created by physical therapist Jeff Cavaliere and used by today’s top professional athletes to stay on the field and dominate. For a joint formula designed to help you overcome existing shoulder joint injuries, be sure to check out ATHLEAN-Rx MECHAN-X in the supplements section of our site.

For more shoulder exercises for your rotator cuffs and workouts to build big shoulders at home or at the gym, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at

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