One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise


One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise

Cable side deltoid raise is a great weight-training exercise that works the deltoids as well as the trapezius (upper back and neck) and rhomboid (between the spine and shoulder blades) muscles. Cable allows you to keep the resistance constant/uniform (if your technique is good). The movement is similar to the dumbbell lateral raise for the deltoid. It is recommended for the side portion of the deltoid. As this is an isolation movement, form is much more important that weight. Learn how to do one-arm cable lateral raise using correct technique for maximum results.

Exercise Instructions

Perfect technique has to be maintained while performing this side deltoid exercise for it to be effective. Doing cable lateral raises incorrectly may lead to injury or lack of achievement of your bodybuilding goal. It is therefore crucial that one performs this exercise using the proper form in order to achieve the best from this great exercise.

INITIAL (STARTING) POSITION: Stand sideways in front of a low pulley with a D-handle on the cable. Your right shoulder should be closest to the machine. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly, keeping your back straight. Grip the handle with your left hand, with your arms hanging down and your palms facing your body. The cable is running diagonally in front of your thighs. Place your nonworking hand on your hip or the machine to stabilize yourself.

One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise

One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Raise the left hand in a wide arc straight out to the side until your elbow comes
up to the same level as your hand and shoulder. Don’t jerk the weight at the start of the movement. Keep your left elbow pointed outward, keeping the cable close to your body. Hold for a second, then slowly return to the starting position. Finish the set, then turn around and switch arms.

Exercise Tips / Common Mistakes

Some helpful hints (key elements to consider) on how to perform one-arm cable lateral raise safely and effectively.

  • Common mistakes: rocking the body; raising the hand but not the elbow, or vice versa; too short or too long a movement with too much weight and tugging sharply with your arm to jerk the weight upward.
  • Keep your elbow fairly straight; the elbow joint should not bend during the movement.
  • The lateral (medial) deltoid is targeted best when the hand is raised directly out to the side. Performing the raise in front of the plane of your body activates the front deltoid, whereas raising your hand from the rear activates the rear (posterior) deltoid.
  • Terminating the upward phase at shoulder height keeps tension on the lateral deltoid. If the handle is raised higher, the trapezius takes over the work.
  • You will figure out the best position by trial and error – you may get a better feel for the exercise by standing closer to or farther from the weight stack, or by raising your arm to a higher angle.
  • Don’t jerk the weight at the start of the movement.

Exercise Variations

  • Two-Arm Cable Side Raises. Train both sides simultaneously by standing in the middle of two pulleys. Hold the right-side handle in your left hand and vice versa. The cables will cross in front of you diagonally.
  • Behind-the-Back One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise. Do the exercise in exactly the same way, but with the cable behind your body.

Muscles Engaged in One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise

This exercise effectively isolates and stimulates the lateral head of the deltoid to impart that highly sought-after appearance of width.

  • Main muscles: deltoid (middle), supraspinatus;
  • Secondary muscles: deltoid (front and rear), trapezius and serratus anterior (especially from 90 to 150º), biceps (long head), subscapularis;
  • Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major (lower), teres major and minor, triceps (long head), biceps;

Replacement Exercises

Main Advantages of Using Pulleys Over Dumbbells

(1) The direction of resistance corresponds more closely to the deltoid’s work: Pulleys were invented to guide resistance in a more appropriate manner for certain muscles such as the deltoids. With a dumbbell, the resistance pushes blindly downward. To work the side of the shoulder more effectively, the resistance should come from the side rather than from below.

The ideal scenario is to have a pulley where you can adjust the height. In this case, put the pulley a little above your knee so that the resistance provided by the cable comes well within the shoulder’s pulling axis.
When the pulley is close to the ground, the resistance does not come from the side, which reduces the work of the deltoid. As a result, the improvement over dumbbells is not overwhelming.

(2) The supraspinatus is recruited less: Because the resistance is coming from the side, the supraspinatus works less than it does with dumbbells. This means that the supraspinatus will not get as big, and this reduces the risk of rubbing (and tearing).

(3) The range of motion is increased: Because a pulley placed at mid-level height provides the proper direction for resistance, your right arm can go very far to the left and vice versa. You gain almost 45 degrees in your range of motion compared to when using dumbbells. This prestretch accentuates the recruitment of the most posterior part of the lateral deltoid.

(4) Resistance varies in a positive way: The end of the movement is much easier because the cable moves but the weight barely moves at all. This is better than resistance that increases as the muscle contracts, which is the type you get with dumbbells.

Closing Thoughts

We strongly advise you to use pulleys in order to perform lateral raises. Pulleys have many advantages over dumbbells.


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