Shoulder Cable Pull to Work Your Delts With New Angles

Shoulder Cable Pull

The shoulder cable pull is a unique movement that comes in many forms and can target the middle and rear portions of the deltoid.

Read on to learn what makes this activity unique, how to perform one of the most popular variations, and what benefits it provides.

Table of Contents

Main Takeaways

  • Shoulder cable pulls are a great way to target your rear and lateral delts.

  • Adjusting the cable height and your position allows you to target different shoulder heads.

  • Using cables instead of dumbbells allows you to keep a constant stretch along the range of motion which results in better gains.

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Rear Delts
  • Lateral Delts

Secondary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Front Delts
  • Trapezius

What is the Shoulder Cable Pull?

As mentioned, the shoulder cable pull is not a single exercise but a group of movements that target the deltoids.

Depending on the direction of the pull and your body’s position relative to the cable pulley, you can primarily work the rear, middle, or even the front deltoids.

For example, face pulls, a popular example of a shoulder cable pull, primarily target your rear deltoids and upper back.

To perform the variation, position the pulley at head height (or slightly higher) and pull the rope attachment toward your face with your elbows flared to the sides.

In contrast to that, we have the more complex lying reverse curl. To do it, you must position a flat gym bench in the middle of a double cable machine with the pulleys in a high position.

Attach a handle to each pulley, and grab the handle to your left with your right hand and the one to your right with your left hand.

From there, lie down and pull both handles down and to your sides to target the middle and read delts.

Shoulder Cable Pulls

How to Perform Shoulder Cable Pulls (Step-By-Step)

Things to keep in mind:

  • Engage your core
  • Keep your shoulders retracted
  • Stagger your stance (one foot slightly forward, the other slightly behind for balance)

How to (cable rope face pull):

  1. Set the pulley at head height or slightly higher.
  2. Attach a rope to the pulley and select the appropriate load.
  3. Grab both ends of the rope with a neutral grip (thumbs facing down).
  4. Take a couple of steps back to lift the weight off its stack and stagger your stance.
  5. Bring your chest out, inhale, and flex your abs.
  6. Slowly pull the rope toward your face and split it, bringing your elbows out.
  7. Pause briefly and extend your arms as you exhale.

Shoulder Cable Pull Benefits

Shoulder cable pulls are highly beneficial because they allow you to target and (mostly) isolate different portions of the deltoids. For instance, face pulls are excellent for developing the rear deltoids.

Also, by using a cable, you provide constant tension, which is excellent for improving muscle activation and working on your mind-muscle connection. So, if you struggle to engage your shoulders with free weights (e.g., dumbbells), try cables. (1)

Additionally, the overloading potential is excellent because you can simply add more weight as you get stronger. Plus, you can adjust the pulley’s height to tweak the exact angle to see what works best.

Tweaks and Variations of the Shoulder Cable Pull

1. Front Raise

With this variation, you must place the pulley in a low position, face away from it, hold it between your legs, and raise it forward. Pulling in this direction shifts the emphasis to your front deltoids.

Cable Front Raise

2. Lateral Raise

Here, the goal is to have one side facing the cable machine. Grab the handle (in a low position) with your outside hand and pull laterally to target the middle portion of your shoulder.

Two Cable Shoulder Raises

3. Cable Y Raise

Here, you will need a double cable machine where the two pulleys are a couple of feet apart. Set both in the low position and attach handles.

Grab the pulley to your left with your right hand and the one to your right with your left hand. Step back and raise both arms back and up, forming the letter Y.

This variation targets all portions of the shoulders and works the upper back.

Y Raise

Variation is the Spice of Life

The great thing about cable exercises is that you have a lot of variation in adjusting the weight (resistance). Most cable machines have small incremental weight increases and decreases, so this means you can really fine-tune the resistance according to your needs. As your delts fatigue, you can progress through sets and adjust the weight accordingly.

Another great thing about this exercise is that it targets the rear muscles of your delts. Many shoulder exercises target the front and lateral delts, but the pull motion targets the rear delt of each shoulder.

This is one of the best shoulder workouts and shoulder exercises that you can perform, so definitely keep part of your weekly workouts.

And just make sure your cable machine is solid and safe. Delt work can be dangerous if you happen to be on a shaky machine. In most modern gyms today you will not have that concern, but if you’re on an old machine you have to be careful. Any breakdown in the machine can result in injury.

Safety Tips and Final Considerations

As with all exercises, especially those primarily targeting the shoulder joint, a good warm-up is crucial for minimizing the injury risk. (2)

Start with some dynamic stretching in the form of arm swings, wrist twists, and elbow rotations. Then, do some warm-up sets for the first movement of your workout.

For instance, if you plan on starting your workout with shoulder cable pulls, do two or three sets with a lighter weight for more reps. Maintain a slow tempo, and don’t push yourself to your limits.

Powering Through a Plateau

If you’re pouring in the hard work and not getting the results you are looking for, then you might consider adding creatine powder or protein powder to your fitness regimen. The creatine can supercharge your workouts, and the protein powder can maximize your muscle growth. So both have a place if you’re looking to power through a plateau.

Looking for more shoulder cable exercises? Check our cable shoulder press to target the front delts and cable shoulder raise to target the lateral delts.

Don’t have a cable but want to start growing your shoulders? Check our bodyweight shoulder workouts to learn more.

Check out some of our cable workouts to target other parts of your body.

Click to return to cable workouts.

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David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach and working out, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

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  1. Calatayud J;Vinstrup J;Jakobsen MD;Sundstrup E;Brandt M;Jay K;Colado JC;Andersen LL; (n.d.). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European journal of applied physiology.
  2. Elizabeth Quinn, M. S. (2020, March 13). Prevent injuries. Verywell Fit. 

Click to see our medical disclosure.