How to Perform the Cable Lateral Raise

For today’s lesson, we will look at a relatively simple exercise. The cable lateral raise is one of the best ways to target the muscles of the shoulders. While this is not an isolation exercise, it does focus on one particular part of the body. Some people also refer to this exercise as a cable shoulder raise.

As with any exercise technique, cable lateral raises must be performed properly in order to avoid injury and obtain the desired results. Before we get started, it should be noted that this lifting technique will require the use of a weight machine.

What Is The Purpose Of This Exercise:

As we already mentioned, this is an exercise that targets the shoulders. The muscles of your shoulders are called deltoids, and these muscles are divided into several sections.

Traditionally, the most popular way to focus on these muscles would have been the dumbbell lateral raises. These are the go-to exercise for deltoid development, and free-weight lateral raises are still the best option for those without access to a weight machine. That being said, the old way does present some problems.

Free-weight dumbbell raises are affected by the action of gravity, causing the resistance to be greatly reduced during the lower half of the motion. The cable lateral raise gives us a way to remove this problem. Due to the constant tension of the cable, resistance is uniform throughout the entire motion.

Research tells us a little bit about this one. During the first part of the lift, you are mostly working the muscles of the rotator cuff (supraspinatus), which isn’t your target area. During the second part of the lift, you are mostly working the lateral deltoids.

How To Do It Properly:

You couldn’t ask for a much simpler exercise than this. Start by preparing the lower pulley of the weight machine. Make sure that any clips or D-rings are firmly attached and free from rust. These exercises are sometimes referred to as “cable side raises,” and you will soon see why this is the case. Let’s look at the correct way to perform this exercise.

All you really do is turn yourself to the side as you take the pulley in hand. The line between your two feet should run parallel to the cable. There is no set rule on what you must do with your free hand. Some people rest it on their side while others just let it hang. It doesn’t seem to matter either way.

The position of your feet does matter. Your feet should be about shoulder-width, and your toes should be pointing straight ahead. Keep your back straight and your neck aligned as you look straight forward. This might make someone think that you are staring at them, but this is no reason to do things incorrectly.

Pull on the cable and raise your arm laterally without bending the elbow more than a tiny bit. Your palm should turn as you do this so that you end with the palm facing down. Exhale as you pull the cable as far upward as you can. Hold this position for a few seconds. Try not to shrug your shoulder, as the distance between your neck and shoulder needs to stay more or less the same.

Now, inhale as you let your arm fall back to the starting position. Make sure that you do not lazily drop the arm, as this is cheating. One of the only downsides of the cable raise is the fact that it will tempt you to cheat.

On the second half of the motion (when you lower the pulley), the pulling action of the cable will do the work for you. However, you must maintain tension and resistance as you lower the arm. Otherwise, you are losing at least half of the effectiveness of this exercise. This latter half of the lift is an eccentric motion, and it is just as important as the first half, and maybe more so.


There are several variations that you can try. The standard version of this exercise involves lifting with the cable in front of your body. However, you can also stand with the cable behind your back. This is a good variation because it works a different part of the deltoids. Mixing these two techniques should help you to create a well-rounded set of shoulders.

If you have access to two weight pulleys in close proximity, you might be able to lift with both arms at the same time. Some people also like to lean their body a little bit as they lift. This creates an extra degree of difficulty but may increase your risk of injury. If you choose to do this, hang onto a pole with your free hand for stability.

How Many Reps?

This is entirely dependent on your fitness level and the amount of weight used. However, most people find that 15-20 reps make for a good set. However many reps you choose to do, just make sure that you work both arms evenly so that you don’t end up looking like a disproportionate freak.

Common Mistakes:

Here are a few common mistakes that should be avoided when performing this exercise:

  • Using the pull of the cable to cheat on the latter half
  • Failing to keep your back straight
  • Bending the arms too much
  • Leading with the hands instead of the elbows
  • Not extending the arm to its fullest
  • Shrugging your shoulders as you reach the top of the extension
  • Locking the arms, which limits the range of motion and increases risk of injury
  • Focusing too much on one arm


As a final note for those who cannot afford a weight machine, we should mention that a similar effect can be achieved through the use of a resistance band, although it isn’t quite the same. For those of you that are able to use this technique, it offers a chance to create the shredded shoulders that every bodybuilder wants. We hope that you will follow us on Facebook for more interesting workout tutorials like this one.

The post How to Perform the Cable Lateral Raise appeared first on Gaspari Nutrition.

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