Bent Over Lateral Raise: How To Do It Properly

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Bent Over Lateral Raise

The bent over lateral raise also referred to as the dumbbell reverse fly or rear lateral raise, is an effective exercise for targeting the rear deltoids and upper back.

In this article, I will discuss how to perform it properly, as well as different methods of executing the lift.

How to Perform The Bent-Over Lateral Raise

  1. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight, until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  3. Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip, with your arms extended straight below your shoulders.
  4. Slowly raise your arms out to the side, keeping your elbows slightly bent, until your hands are at shoulder level.
  5. Pause for a moment, then lower your arms back to the starting point.

Tips For Proper Form:

  • Keep your back straight
  • Bend at the waist, not your hips
  • Don’t raise your arms too high, go just high enough until you feel your rear delts are fully engaged
  • Pause for a moment before lowering your arms back to the starting position
  • Use light weights to start with until you get the hang of the movement
  • Don’t swing your arms as you raise them
  • Keep your abdominal muscles contracted throughout the exercise to support your lower back and maintain good posture.

The video below is how the rear lateral raises would look if you’re trying to target more of the traps and upper back.

With this version focus on squeezing your traps together at the top and bringing your upper arms higher up at the top of the movement.

The Benefits of The Bent Over Lateral Raise

The Bent Over Lateral Raise is a terrific exercise for improving upper body strength and size.

  • It helps to improve your posture.
  • It is a great exercise for increasing your shoulder mobility.
  • It can also help to improve your balance and coordination.
  • It is a superb exercise for strengthening your back and posterior deltoid muscles.

Different Methods of Executing The Lift

Neutral Grip Bent Over Rear Lateral Raises

If you feel a lot of side delt engagement using the overhand grip try giving the neutral grip version of the rear lateral raise a try.

The way you position your hands is mostly preference and just depends on which one works best for you.

  1. Assume a bent-over position holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip
  2. Raise the dumbbells out to the side until your arms are parallel to the ground
  3. Hold for a two count and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. Repeat for desired reps.

Note: Make sure to keep your back straight and avoid swinging the weights during the exercise.

Also, you can perform this exercise with a single arm if desired.

Chest Supported Rear Lateral Raises

  1. Position yourself on an incline bench, with your chest pressed firmly against the bench and your feet planted on the ground.
  2. Hold a weight in each hand with palms facing inwards or outwards, and let your arms hang straight downwards
  3. Lift your upper arms straight out, until they are parallel to the floor.
  4. Exhale as you raise the weights out to your sides until your rear delts are fully engaged.
  5. Inhale as you lower the weights back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Head-Supported Rear Lateral Raise

If you feel your lower back giving out during the free-standing variations this version may help you keep good posture with less back strain.

  1. Set a bench to an incline angle.
  2. Stand in front of the bench, with feet hip-width apart, and hold a weight in each hand with your preferred grip.
  3. Rest your forehead firmly on the headrest of the bench.
  4. Bend forward from your waist until your torso is almost parallel to the floor, keeping your back straight.
  5. Raise each arm out to the side until they’re in line with your shoulders, then slowly lower them back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for reps.

Muscles Targeted With Bent Over Lateral Raises

The muscle groups the bent-over lateral raise works include the side deltoids, rear deltoids, trapezius, and rhomboids.

Bent Over Lateral Raises are primarily used for targeting the rear delts and traps.

Rear Deltoids

The rear Deltoids, are the small muscles located at the back of your shoulder and are also referred to as the posterior deltoids.

This often lagging muscle is set aside in favor of more popular muscles like the traps and side delts.

Regardless, it’s just as important for overall shoulder health and appearance.

The rear deltoid is responsible for abduction (lifting your arm out to the side), and it also helps with horizontal extension (pushing your arm out to the side).

It’s a small muscle, but it can be a big help in keeping your shoulders healthy and looking good.

The deltoid muscle is made up of three heads including the rear delt (posterior deltoids), side delt (lateral deltoid), and front deltoids (anterior deltoids).

When you’re working out your rear delts, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, focus on quality over quantity.

It’s better to do a few reps with good form than to try and max out your reps and risk injury.

Second, use a lightweight.

This muscle doesn’t need to be overloaded in order to grow, so don’t go too heavy.

Finally, make sure you’re using a full range of motion.

Don’t cheat your reps by not going all the way up or down.

Trapezius Muscle

The Trapezius muscle (traps) is a large, triangular muscle that spans the back and neck.

It attaches to the base of the skull, the collarbone, and the shoulder blade.

The Trapezius muscle is responsible for elevating and rotating the shoulders, as well as stabilizing the neck.

The trapezius muscle is divided into three sections: the upper, middle, and lower trapezius.

The upper trapezius is the most active of the three sections and is responsible for elevating and rotating the shoulders.

The middle trapezius is responsible for stabilizing the neck, while the lower trapezius assists in elevating the shoulders.


The rhomboids consist of two muscles – the rhomboid major and the rhomboid minor.

The rhomboid major is the larger of the two muscles and is located between the spine and the inner border of the shoulder.

The rhomboid minor is located below the rhomboid major and attaches to a small bone in the high back called the scapula.

Rhomboid muscles work together with the trapezius muscle to move the shoulder blades.

The rhomboids are responsible for drawing the shoulder blades towards the spine, while the trapezius muscle pulls the shoulders up and down.

Side Deltoids

The side deltoids, also known as the medial deltoid or lateral deltoid, are a muscle group located on the lateral or outer side of the shoulder.

They are responsible for abduction (lifting away from the body) and medial rotation (turning inward) of the arm.

The side deltoids are also an important muscle group for aesthetic purposes.

Developing the side deltoids can give the shoulders a broader, more muscular appearance.

Sample Workout With The Bent Over Lateral Raise

Sample Workout:

  • 3 sets x 10 reps – Bent Over Lateral Raises with Dumbbells
  • 4 sets x 8-10 reps – Cable Side Lateral Raise
  • 3 sets x 12 reps – Seated Arnold Press
  • 2 sets x 20 reps – Cable Upright Row

Alternative Shoulder Exercises

Reverse Pec Deck Fly

  1. Start by positioning the machine so that the handles are in a tight position behind the seat.
  2. Adjust the seat to a comfortable height and sit down with your chest tight against the backrest pad.
  3. Grip the handles of the machine and keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  4. With your shoulder blades retracted and chest held high, slowly move the handles outwards and back, maintaining tension on the posterior deltoids throughout the entire range of motion.
  5. Pause briefly at the contracted position before returning to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Cable Rear Delt Fly

  1. Setup the cable pulleys slightly above shoulder level
  2. Attach a handle to each side or grab onto the cables without any attachment connected.
  3. Facing the machine, grab the left side with your right hand and the right side with your left hand.
  4. Step backward so that there is tension on both cables and hold your arms straight out in front of you with a slight bend in your elbows.
  5. Keeping each arm straight, pull them away from each other and back until your lateral deltoids are fully contracted.
  6. Slowly return to the starting point and repeat for the preferred number of reps.

Try Out Bent Over Lateral Raises!

Bent over lateral raises are a fantastic exercise for the posterior chain of the upper body, including your shoulders and back muscles.

The bent-over dumbbell lateral raise is a relatively simple exercise to perform but it can be challenging if you use too much weight.

Be sure to start with a light weight and gradually increase the amount of weight you use as you get stronger.

The main benefits of bent-over lateral raises are that they:

  • Help with increasing muscle mass in the posterior chain
  • Improve posture and shoulder stability

If you’re looking for an exercise to help build strength and definition in your back and shoulders, bent-over lateral raises are a great choice.

Add them to your workout routine and see how you feel!

Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at!