Cable lateral raise Why and how

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Cable lateral raises are a basic exercise for your shoulders, especially the sides of your shoulders (the site delts), using a pulley machine. But how exactly do you do cable lateral raises and what is the difference with dumbbell lateral raises?


Besides lateral raises, there are actually no other exercises that mainly train your side delts. Lateral raises are therefore indispensable for broad shoulders.


The big advantage of cable lateral raises compared to the dumbbell version: there is a constant tension throughout the entire range of motion, with the most resistance at the bottom of the movement. With dumbbell lateral raises you battle gravity. It is greatest at the top of the movement. This exercise provides less tension throughout the entire range of motion.

The dumbbell version on the one hand and the cable version on the other hand each provide a slightly different growth stimulus. That is why we recommend including both exercises in your training program. For example, both exercises twice a week.


You do the cable lateral raise as follows.

  1. On a cable machine, set the pulley to the lowest setting and attach a handle;
  2. Place your feet together or shoulder-width apart, parallel to the handle. Stand slightly forward with your knees slightly bent;
  3. Grab the handle with your left hand;
  4. While keeping your back straight and your core tight with a neutral grip (thumbs pointing forward), push your elbow out and up. Keep your wrist a little limp;
  5. Don’t immediately raise your arm to the side; make sure your arm is rotated slightly inward (15 to 30 degrees forward). This way you activate the side delts the most. As soon as you start to rotate your arm too much, the stimulus will be more on the front of your shoulders. That’s what you don’t want with this exercise;
  6. Continue raising the handle until your upper arm is parallel to the floor;
  7. Return to the starting position by lowering your arm in a controlled manner.


  • Experiment with raising your arms straight out to the side or slightly more forward, but don’t go more than 45 degrees forward as this puts less emphasis on your side delts;
  • If your legs hinder movement, adjusting your foot position can help. For example, you can place the foot closest to the machine slightly back and the foot further away slightly forward, creating an opening for the cable to pass through. So there are actually two ways to do the cable lateral raise, as demonstrated in the video below.


Do you want to increase the range of motion (ROM) at the top without your traps taking over? Then do this variation where you lean slightly to the side. In the starting position, your arm hangs perpendicularly down, slightly away from your body, so you automatically skip the least effective part of the ROM.

How far you lean away from the machine depends on your personal preference, shoulder mobility, comfort and so on.


The (leaning) cable side raise is an extremely effective exercise for the side of your shoulders. Do this in addition to the dumbbell side raise and make sure you do a total of 10 to 15 sets for your side delts every week.

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