The exercise you’re not doing to add size to your shoulders: Poliquin raises

Forget lateral raises, lift more weight with the Poliquin raise for more gains

Man performing Poliquin raises in his home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking for a new strength exercise that will challenge your shoulders and build muscle? You should try Poliquin raises. It’s a variation of the lateral raise, but it allows you to lift more weight, which means more strength and size in your shoulders as a result. 

The exercise was created by the late muscle scientist, Charles Poliquin, who coached many Olympians and elite athletes. Just like a regular lateral raise, it’s performed with a pair of dumbbells and it targets the medial deltoids, as well as the rear deltoids. 

With a standard lateral raise, you're probably also aware of how easy it is to cheat the movement, by using momentum from your body to ‘swing’ the dumbbells upwards. But with the Poloquin raise this isn't the case. You also have to hold the dumbbells in two static positions throughout the exercise, placing your shoulders under more tension and making your muscles work harder. 

The secret sauce, however, is in the eccentric (the lowering portion of the exercise), as you’re forced to work against gravity and have to work hard to lower the dumbbells slowly and controlled, something Poliquin was a big fan of. Add them to the end of your heavier shoulder exercises, you won’t be disappointed.

How to do Poliquin raises

You can perform the Poliquin raise either standing or seated on a weight bench. The latter will isolate your shoulders more, whereas standing will rely on strength from your core too. We suggest opting for three to four sets of 6-8 reps, as the last bit of the exercise is going to burn. Also, if someone's bagged the pair of dumbbells you need, grab a pair of small weight plates instead.

Here's how to perform the Poliquin raise:

  • Start by holding a pair of dumbbells by your sides
  • Lift the dumbbells so that they're in front of you with your elbows at a 90-degree angle
  • Whilst maintaining this 90-degree angle, raise your arms into a lateral raise position
  • Next, extend your elbows so your arms are straight (like they would be in a lateral raise)
  • Then, lower your arms down, slowly and controlled, for three to four seconds
Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.