When it comes to shoulder workouts and shoulder exercises, the lateral raise has been shown time and time again to generally be the most effective side delts exercise to develop this area and give you wide delts. And in fact, most of you watching likely already do some form of a lateral raise in your routines. But the reason why you ‘can’t grow shoulders’ has to do with your execution of this seemingly simple movement. Aside from using too much momentum and swinging front back and side to side during the movement, one of the lesser known culprits that we don’t even realize is taking over is the upper traps. So, in this video, I’m going to show you how to get big shoulders by minimizing upper traps involvement when executing exercises for middle delts.

How does the upper traps take over though? Well, it can be traced back to the fact that many of us already have overactive upper traps from being in this hunched over position most of the day. Also, the upper traps function to elevate the shoulder. Whereas the side delts function to raise the arm out to the side. So what a lot of us will do during the lateral raise, especially during that initial and very last part of the rep, is we’ll shrug our traps up to assist the weaker side delts with raising that weight up. And the problem is that many of us now just do this subconsciously and overtime have developed this pattern of automatically firing the upper traps whenever we raise our arms out to the side. So, how can we minimize the involvement of the upper traps during the exercise?


The first step toward wide delts is to use a mindful exercise that’ll help teach your body to get out of the habit of recruiting the upper traps whenever you raise your arms to the side. To perform it, take a seat and hold a 5lb dumbbell in one hand or even just use no weight at all to start out. Place your other hand on your upper trap. All I want you to do now is very slowly raise the weight up at about a 45-degree angle in front of you. But as you do so, feel your upper traps to make sure they remain soft and relaxed and don’t tense up. As soon as they start to tense up, get back to the starting position and try again. So as you raise, think about actively pushing your shoulder down and depressing your traps as you raise the weight up. The main goal of this exercise is to be able to do a full rep up to parallel successfully without tensing up the upper traps.

Now, in addition to this, there are other lateral raise variations that you can experiment with that manipulate your body position to help minimize the involvement of the traps. In turn, eliminating the issue that you can’t grow shoulders. The first one is something I’ve showed in past videos and is an inclined lateral raise, where you lay on an incline bench and raise your arms up at about a 45 degree angle. The bench helps provide you with a little more stability and the resulting body position you’re in puts the upper traps in a less favorable position, which both result in more side delts involvement and less upper traps. The second exercise you can try out is the lying cable lateral raise. By performing this lateral raise lying down with cables, we’re able to favour the side delts a little more while providing a constant resistance through the whole range of motion of the side delts.

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To sum this all up into an action plan for you, what I’d suggest is start with the first mindful exercise that we did and replace your lateral raises in your routine with that drill for the time being. Master that while increasing the load very gradually overtime, and then once you’re ready you can transition to the standard lateral raise given that you’re able to successfully perform your reps with minimal compensation of the upper traps. Then from here, you can experiment with some of the other exercises for middle delts I mentioned and take a look at some of my other delts videos to implement some more variation and volume for your delts once you’re ready to do so.

And that’s it–you know how to get big shoulders. But all in all, you need to realize that if you’re struggling to grow certain muscle groups, then odds are it’s a result of the various compensations that you’re unknowingly making whenever you attempt to train that muscle. And for a step-by-step program that addresses this by using science to not only show you what to workout week after week, but then shows you exactly how to perform each and every exercise for maximal activation and growth while pairing this with a nutrition plan to support your recovery, then simply take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:

Filmed by: Bruno Martin Del Campo


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49 thoughts on “Why Your Delts Aren’t Growing (ONE FIX!)”
  1. Hope you enjoyed this one! What other exercises or muscle groups are you struggling with? Comment below and I’ll start catering some of my content towards that. Cheers!

    1. Federico Gränel Fausto keep it up with 5kg, don’t listen to Mr Coach wannabe. After you are comfortable with 5kg with good form and could do up to 10-12 reps.

      Then you could consider heavier weight. I suggest to increase it by 2.5kg. I start with 5kg, now I could raise 10kg.

  2. If one’s side deltoids are lagging, there is a good chance that the rear deltoids are lagging as well. For full, cannonball deltoids, please don’t neglect the rear deltoids!!!

    1. @Triton827 He has a video literally explaining how important the rear delts are for achieving the cannonball shoulders.

      Also, how did you come to your conclusion based on OP’s comment that you’re replying to?

    1. @MrUseless247 I mean, I don’t treat his word as absolute fact. Just saying a tip that works for me and I wanted to credit where I got it from. I agree his credibility has taken a hit since the fake weights thing but that doesn’t render all of his info invalid. He’s saved me from a lot of potential injuries

    2. @Justin Time They’re always gonna be activated a little bit. Shoulder abduction and shoulder elevation are similar movements so it’s hard to activate the side delts and completely turn off the traps. You just want to minimize that as much as possible

  3. I think Jeremy mentioned this briefly, but thinking about raising the dumbbells OUTWARD instead of only upward has really helped me focus on my side delts better while minimizing trapz use. Try it while doing Step 1 in this video! I’m interested to see if it helped others or not.

    1. Also think of it as raising your elbows up, that then pushing the dumbbells outward make me feel the side delts being activated the most, practice it with no weight first then 10lbs then progress.

  4. I started addressing correcting my side lateral raises being assisted by my traps about six months ago. I realized very quickly once I was able to remove my traps from assisting that my side delts were far weaker than I thought. It’s pretty humbling when you start training the correct way and find that the ideal weight for a 10-12 rep range is only around 7.5 lbs.

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