How to Build Capped Shoulders with Proper Technique

Optimal training for the side delts explained.

Learn how to build capped shoulders with proper technique for the lateral raise.

“The lateral raise is one of the – if not the – most important isolation exercise out there from a physique development perspective,” says natural pro bodybuilder and YouTuber Jeff Nippard.

The lateral raise is very effective at targeting the lateral deltoid, and bigger lateral deltoids create a wide shoulder, narrow waist appearance.

How to build capped shoulders: perform the lateral raise

Dumbbell lateral raises are a basic and accessible exercise to grow the side deltoids. They are a single-joint isolation movement, meaning that using lighter weights and a rep range between 10-20 reps is recommended.

Muscles worked

You will train shoulder adduction when performing lateral raises, targeting primarily the lateral delts, and there will be some degree of shoulder flexion, targeting the anterior deltoids, unless you do lateral raises entirely off to the sides.

Additionally, you’ll work your upper traps secondarily.

Rep ranges and weights

Instead of trying to increase the weight as you progress with this exercise, focus instead on progressively overloading by improving your technique and mind-muscle connection.


Try to reduce momentum as much as possible. If you struggle to do this, try lateral raises seated but be aware of the bench getting in the way.

Otherwise try keeping your glutes flexed throughout the exercise to prevent excessive movement of the hips, recommends Nippard.

Try to grab the dumbbells on one end, with your pinkie finger closer to the middle, as this will “force the side delts to work harder by increasing the internal rotation moment at the top,” says Nippard.

Additionally, lift the dumbbells up at an angle rather than straight up to the sides. If you were looking at the exercise from above, the arms should be at 15 to 30 degrees to the front of your shoulder.


Jeff Nippard’s favourite variation is the Egyptian Cable Lateral Raise.

You can also use resistance bands or kettlebells.

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Going too heavy on the lateral raise is the biggest mistake people make when looking to build capped shoulders. Loading up too heavily for this exercise doesn’t mean you’ll get bigger shoulders but that other muscles will start assisting during the exercise.

Turning the lateral raise into a front raise will defeat the whole purpose of the exercise. You want to lift on the scapular plane to build capped shoulders, so lifting the dumbbells too far forward will target the front delts, which are already targeted through bench pressing.

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