7 Intense Middle Delt Exercises | Dumbbell, Bodyweight, & More!

By
Mike Kenler
November 10, 2020

What Are Your Middle Delts?

The deltoid muscle in your shoulder is separated into three main fibers: the anterior (front), lateral (middle) and posterior (rear) deltoids. 

All three heads of the deltoid work together to stabilize the shoulder joint and move the arms in many directions.

However, the middle delts, also known as the medial delts, specifically activate to move your arms away from the body. 

Benefits of Middle Delt Exercises

Exercises that specifically target the middle delts are extremely valuable. Training the middle delts should be prioritized for the following reasons:

1. Reduced Risk of Injury 

Because your shoulders can move freely in different directions, they are more prone to injury than other more stable joints. 

As a result, you must build up strength in your deltoids to compensate for this lack of stability.

Middle delt exercises can provide major stability to your shoulders, which can help prevent future injury.

2. Stronger Shoulders 

These middle delt exercises are designed to tear the muscle fibers in your shoulders and increase lateral delt hypertrophy.

As a result, you will build stronger shoulders, which will boost your performance in compound exercises such as the overhead press and the barbell bench press. 

Your middle delts play a role in a variety of exercises — you should train them accordingly.

3. Improved Aesthetics 

If you are exercising to improve your physical appearance, you should aim to prioritize your shoulders. Many people tend to overtrain their chest, leaving them with proportionally smaller deltoids.

Increasing the size and definition of your middle delts will help you develop broader shoulders.

Not only are broad shoulders aesthetically pleasing, but it is generally safer to promote balanced muscle development in your torso. 

With that being said, let’s learn some middle delt exercises!

9 Intense Middle Delt Exercises

1. 1-Arm Cable Side Raise

This middle delt exercise is a fantastic unilateral variation of the standard side raise. You can use it to help even out muscle imbalances between your shoulders.

Setup:

a) Set up a pulley system with your handle attachment roughly line with your knees.

b) Assume a standing position to the side of the pulley system with your feet shoulder width apart. 

c) Grasp the handle with your palm facing the machine. Engage your core.

Action:

a) Contract your side delt to bring your arm straight out to the side until it is roughly parallel with the floor.

b) Squeeze your middle delt hard in this position and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

2. Circle Pulls

No weights? No problem! This bodyweight middle delt exercise can be just as intense as weighted shoulder exercises. 

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart.

b) Grasp your fingers together and raise your arms so that they are in line with your shoulders.

Action:

a) Pull your fingers apart as hard as you can. 

b) Rock your shoulders in a circular motion. Note—be sure to keep your shoulders up for maximum results. 

c) Keep pulling apart and complete this motion for your desired number of reps or length of time. 

3. Bent Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The bent arm lateral raise heavily targets your middle delts. All you need is a pair of dumbbells!

Setup:

a) Assume a sturdy standing position. 

b) Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing each other.

c) Bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle and tuck your elbows into your sides. 

Action:

a) Keeping the 90 degree angle, contract your deltoids to raise your bent arms out to the sides until your dumbbells reach the height of your shoulders. 

b) Slowly return the weights to the starting position.

c) Maintain tightness in your deltoids and repeat!


4. Barbell Overhead Press

The overhead press is a classic shoulder exercise that targets both your front and middle delts. 

Setup:

a) Grab the barbell with a double overhand grip and your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

b) Carefully lift the barbell up and let it rest on your front delts. Engage your core.

Action:

a) Keeping your lower body still, contract your deltoids to press upwards until your arms are locked and the barbell is above your shoulders.

b) Slowly return the barbell to the starting position.

c) Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

5. Push Side Raise

Without weights, you can still add resistance with your bodyweight to perform middle delt exercises like the push side raise.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. 

b) Keep your left arm by your side and place your right hand on your left arm.

Action:

a) Push as hard as you can on your left arm.

b) Contract your left middle deltoid to raise your left arm up to your shoulder.

c) Slowly return to the starting position.

d) Repeat this motion and feel free to switch arms!

6. Resistance Band Side Fronts

These banded side fronts will test the endurance and strength of both your front and middle delts.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position on a resistance band with your feet shoulder width apart. 

b) Grab the handles of the resistance band with your palms facing towards you.

Action:

a) With your arms straight, contract your front delts to raise the handles up to your shoulders. 

b) Keeping your arms elevated, bring the handles out to your sides.

c) Pause for a moment, then bring the handles down to your sides.

d) Contract your middle delts to raise the handles up to your shoulders.

e) Keeping your arms elevated, bring the handles to the front.

f) Pause for a moment and bring the handles back to the starting position.

g) Maintain tightness in your delts and repeat!

7. Switch Side Pulses

This middle delt exercise relies on time under tension to break down the muscle fibers in your lateral delts.

Setup:

a) Assume a sturdy standing position. 

b) Raise your arms straight out to your sides with your palms facing down.

Action:

a) Contract your middle delts to pulse your arms above your shoulders and then below your shoulders.

b) Then, complete this same pulsing motion with your palms facing up.

c) Keep alternating the position of your palms and repeat for your desired number of reps or length of time.

Looking for a Complete Shoulder Workout?

Follow along to this intense 5 minute dumbbell shoulder workout!

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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