The cable shoulder raise is an overlooked bodybuilding exercise that can strengthen your deltoids and add mass, resulting in a rounder, more capped appearance of the muscle.
And shoulder side raises with a cable provide more flexibility, as you have more variation in controlling the weight. You can also create more angles than you can with dumbbells, and that variation is key full muscle activation.
However, there are a few things to remember to get more out of the exercise and stay safe.
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What Are Cable Shoulder Raises?
The cable shoulder raise is an isolation bodybuilding exercise that primarily targets the middle portion of the shoulder muscle. To perform it, trainees must attach a handle to a low cable pulley, stand with one shoulder facing the machine, and grab the handle with their outside hand.
Once in position, trainees must stand tall and repeatedly raise their outside arm away from the midline of their body, using only their deltoid muscle.
While simple, the exercise is incredibly effective at activating and developing the shoulders, leading to upper body aesthetics and greater stability in the shoulder joint.
A unique benefit of performing the exercise with a cable instead of a free weight (e.g., a dumbbell) is constant tension. Instead of mostly feeling muscle tension from the halfway point to the top, the cable keeps your shoulder muscle engaged from start to finish.
In addition to potentially providing a stronger stimulus, this can help you establish a better mind-muscle connection.
Primary Muscles Worked 💪
- Lateral Deltoid (side shoulder muscle)
- Anterior Deltoid (front shoulder muscle)
Secondary Muscles Worked 💪
- Serratus Anterior (fan-shaped muscle upper rib cage)
How to Perform Cable Shoulder Raises (Step-By-Step)
Things to keep in mind:
- Do slow and controlled reps.
- Raise your arm to shoulder level; no higher.
- Engage your core at the start.
- Slowly lower the cable on the negative.
Performing Cable Shoulder Raises
- Set a cable pulley to the lowest position, attach a handle, and select the appropriate weight. Always err on the side of caution and select a lower weight than you intend, and you can always increase the weight later.
- Stand with your right shoulder facing the machine, and grab the handle with your left hand (as shown below).
- Stand up and take a step away from the machine to lift the weight off its stack. Your left arm should be straight and to your side.
- Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and engage your abs.
- Slowly raise your left arm to the side in one fluid motion until your left arm is slightly higher than parallel to the floor.
- Pause briefly at the top position, and lower your arm back to the starting position as you exhale. This is one rep.
- Once finished training one side, rotate 180 degrees, grab the handle with your right hand, and repeat for the same number of reps.
Tweaks and Variations of the Cable Shoulder Raise
A simple tweak you could make to the standard cable shoulder raise is to lean your body at an angle away from the machine. To do that, hold onto the machine and tilt at an angle while keeping your body straight (don’t just bend laterally at the hips).
Doing so can lengthen the range of motion slightly and make each repetition more challenging off the bottom position. (1)
A variation of the cable shoulder raise is using two weight pulleys simultaneously. To do that, you must stand in the middle of a double cable machine. Hold the handle to your left with your right hand and vice-versa. The advantage is that you would train both shoulders simultaneously.
Safety Tips and Final Considerations
Second, select a light weight you can move comfortably through the full range of motion without resorting to momentum. The goal is to do reps slowly and with great control. Other muscles can easily take over, making the exercise less beneficial.
Additionally, don’t raise your arms above shoulder level, as doing so doesn’t offer any benefits and could even lead to joint pain. Stop roughly when your elbow and wrist are at shoulder level.
Check these other cable exercises and cable workouts:
- Cable Hammer Curls
- Cable Chest Workout
- Cable Triceps Workout
- Cable Ab Workout
- Cable Machine Back Workout
- Cable Shoulder Press
Click to see more cable workouts, and also our video library of cable exercises and cable workouts.
- Range of motion. Physiopedia. (n.d.-a).
- Elizabeth Quinn, M. S. (2020, March 13). Prevent injuries. Verywell Fit.