Dumbbell versus cable lateral raises What makes the difference?

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With lateral raises (or side raises) you train the sides of your shoulders (side delts). They are an indispensable exercise for those who want broad shoulders (and who doesn’t?). You can perform laleral raises with both dumbbells and cables; the difference between the two lies in the resistance curve.


With dumbbell lateral raises you are fighting gravity. It is largest at the top of the movement:


With cable lateral raises, the most resistance is in the lower part of the movement, provided you attach the cable at wrist height:


Our advice is to include both dumbbell and cable lateral raises in your training schedule, because both exercises stimulate your side delts slightly differently. Lateral raises are the only exercise with which you can really train your side delts in a targeted manner, so doing two variants is certainly not a superfluous luxury.

An average bodybuilder needs 10 to 15 sets per week for optimal growth of his side delts. Suppose you do twelve, then you divide them between six sets of dumbbell lateral raises and six sets of cable lateral raises, with a training frequency of at least twice a week.


Some coaches preach constant tension, which means keeping a muscle under as much tension as possible throughout the set. In the case of the lateral raise you would then only do the lower or the upper part of the move (the red part in the video clips above).

In our opinion constant tension is a way of training, but not a must. With non-constant tension you give the muscle more breathing room, but you can use more weight. On balance, we think the stimulus is about the same. The most important thing is that you make a clear choice and stick to it, in order to apply progressive overload.


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