Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise: Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

The dumbbell rear lateral raise is an isolated movement to increase hypertrophy and engagement of one of the smallest muscles in the shoulder, the rear deltoid. Increasing the health and muscular development of the posterior (rear) shoulder is critical in not only the overall aesthetics of the shoulder itself, but for pressing and pulling performance in sports like powerlifting, weightlifter, and functional fitness.

Therefore, in this article we are going to discuss the dumbbell rear deltoid raise, proper execution of this shoulder isolation movement, and how to program it into any training session to increase shoulder stabilization, strength, and performance in movements such as the bench press, snatch, and deadlift.

Muscles Worked

The dumbbell rear lateral raise is a variation of the lateral raise which has the lifter move the weights outwards (laterally) as the torso itself is forward to varying degrees (instead of being vertical). Below is a list of the specific muscles groups targeted by this shoulder raise variation.

  • Posterior Deltoid (Back)
  • Lateral Deltoid (Lateral)
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids

Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raises Exercise Demo

Below is a great video demo instructing us on how to properly setup and execute the bent over lateral raise.

Dumbbells vs Other Weights

As the name suggests, the dumbbell rear lateral raise entails a lifter to use, dumbbells. While this movement isn’t inherent to using dumbbells (see bent over lateral raises), I find that the dumbbell variation allows for the most precision and variations within a set to really maximize muscular hypertrophy and isolation. As the video describes, simply changing the angle of the dumbbell and/or the hand placement can impact the demands placed upon the muscle. When looking to maximize development we want to not only train the muscle in a specific way, but we want to hit if front different angles and stimulus, making the dumbbell a great tool.

Who Should Do Them

In the most general sense, increasing posterior shoulder development is key to building bigger, stronger shoulders, increasing symmetry, and improve joint health and motor mechanics. We typically see dumbbell rear lateral raises in most bodybuilding splits targeting shoulders, as well as in assistance programs for powerlifters, strongmen, and weightlifters. The necessity of posterior shoulder strength and health in strength, power, and fitness sports suggest most athletes should take some time to develop better rear deltoids.

Sets x Reps

When training dumbbell rear lateral raises, we are mostly concerned with increasing muscle engagement and hypertrophy, which is why using heavy weights and low reps is generally not needed (and is often a great way to injury these small muscles). Isolated training of these groups can be done with 3-5 sets of 12-20 repetitions with moderate loading. Focused repetitions should be performed to increase blood flow to the muscles and accumulate fatigue, often with a limited range of motion to make sure that the lats, rhomboids, and traps do not overpower the lifting of the movement (often seen if the lifter swings the weight up or lifts the dumbbell too high).

It’s Time to Build Better Shoulders

In earlier articles we discussed isolated shoulder training with a wide array of shoulder raise variations, each listed below. I have really come to find great benefit in performing these movements as part of my accessory training and/or of strictly bodybuilding days (as a weightlifter). Increasing the deltoid size and strength has play a significant role in shoulder stability, pressing strength, and even creating a buffer area for the barbell to sit while catching cleans and doing front squats. Take a look at these top shoulder raise guides below!

Featured Image: @jankabudimir on Instagram


Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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