Single Arm Cable Lateral Raise: The Deltoid Mass Builder

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If you’re tired of looking like a T-Rex with tiny arms and even tinier shoulders, fear not, my friends, for the single-arm cable lateral raise is here to save the day.


This exercise may seem like a simple cable pull, but don’t let that fool you. It’s a serious side deltoid mass builder that will leave you feeling like a buff and balanced superhero. Say goodbye to those days of uneven delts and hello to a robust and symmetrical upper body.


And hey, it’s not just bro-science either – studies have shown that the single-arm cable lateral raise effectively activates the side deltoid muscles, making it a must-have in your shoulder workout routine.


So get ready, as this article will focus on how to pack muscle size and strength to your shoulders and run through all the essential information you need to know on how the one-arm cable lateral raise can help you get an envious set of deltoids!


Shoulder Anatomy 101

Your shoulders are a complex bit of kit!


They are the “Swiss Army Knife” of the upper body – they can rotate, lift, and move the arm away from the body, making it a critical part of our daily lives.- Without them, you wouldn’t be able to do most of the everyday things we all take for granted.


The deltoids are the fancy-looking muscles that cover the shoulder and have three parts: the front (anterior), middle (medial), and rear (posterior). These three muscles work together to lift your arm forward, backward and to the sides.


The rotator cuff muscles are the ones you’ve probably never heard of, but they’re just as critical. Think of them as the unsung heroes of the shoulder – they keep the joint stable and moving smoothly. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to lift objects or touch your back.


And finally, we have scapular stabilizers. These muscles are like the personal trainers of the shoulder – they keep everything in check and ensure your shoulders are adequately aligned during movement.


Together, these muscles provide a strong, robust, stable, yet mobile shoulder joint!


Shoulder Anatomy 101_

What is the single-arm cable lateral raise?

Let’s get serious!


This muscle-building exercise targets the deltoids’ side (medial) head.


Using a cable machine, you apply constant tension to the muscle throughout the rep range, causing the muscle to break down and grow back bigger and stronger.


Recommended Read: >>> Lat Pushdowns: The Secret to a Strong and Defined Back <<<

What muscles do cable lateral raises work?

The one-arm cable lateral raise exercise works the medial head of the delts, giving that “capped” and “wide” look to the physique.


Any movement that forces your body to raise your arm out to the side will train the side (and front) delt, so using cables and dumbbells is an excellent way to train them.


How To Do Single Arm Cable Lateral Raise

Mastering the lateral cable raise is critical if you want to get the most from this exercise.


I’ve put together the following steps for you, which will describe how to perform the movement:


  1. Get the cable machine attached with the correct side lateral handle and select the right weight for your current strength level. Select a weight that will enable you to perform ten strict reps.

  2. Stand with your side to the cable pulley machine and grab the handle

  3. Ensure feet shoulder-width apart, and if needed, use your other free arm to grab the pulley machine

  4. Tighten your core and keep a slight bend in your elbow

  5. Lift the handle to the side and visualise your shoulders doing the work. Lock the handle to the side until it’s parallel to the ground.

  6. At the top of the movement, pause for 2 seconds and lower back to the starting position.

  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps and then repeat on the other side

  8. You have now completed one set for both sides


Recommended Read: >>> The 17 Ultimate Cable Chest Exercises (Complete Guide) <<<

What are the benefits of the single-arm cable lateral raise?

This shoulder exercise has many benefits and is often overlooked in shoulder workouts.


Let’s examine the three core benefits of adding this side lateral raise in your shoulder training.


Constant Muscle Tension: The lateral cable raise provides constant tension throughout the movement, which places maximum muscular stress. This breaks down the muscle quicker, forcing the body to rebuild and become bigger and stronger.


Higher Intensity: Using the cable machine enables you to perform supersets and dropsets quicker, thereby increasing the intensity of the exercise.


One Side At A Time: Using the cable machine, you can brace and focus on the movement, increasing the mind-muscle link.


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Recommended Read: >>> 9 Best Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises to Grow Your Delts <<<

How to add one arm cable lateral raise to your workouts?

Your current workout should have exercises that work the three heads of the deltoids, so adding the single arm lateral raise should be an easy enough task (assuming you have a cable machine)


I now want to share three workouts you can adopt which will pack serious muscle mass and strength into your deltoids.


Three Cable Lateral Raise Workouts

single arm cable lateral raise workouts

Lateral raise volume, sets and reps


1. Aim to limit the total number of sets for shoulders to 12 per week


2. Perform no more than three working sets per exercise, and always pick a weight that enables you to get ten reps about


3. Always use ten reps as the upper rep range. Once you hit ten reps, add weight and repeat.


Modifying cable lateral raise to suit your individual needs

The lateral cable raise can be easily modified to suit your needs and fitness level. Here are a few ways you can modify the exercise:


Adjust the weight: If you hit your target rep range too quickly, feel free to increase the weight. But never compromise form.


Change the angle: Experiment with different angles to target different parts of your shoulder muscles.


Combine with other exercises: The cable machine can perform front shoulder raises, side shoulder laterals and rear delt flys. Feel free to add these movements straight after to increase the intensity.


Adjust the tempo: Aim to perform the reps in a 2-2-3 tempo. That means 2 seconds up, 2 seconds pause a the top and then 4 seconds to lower it down. This will provide a long time under tension and work the medial delts.


Recommended Read: >>> The Ultimate Shoulder Circuit for Explosive Strength and Definition <<<

Avoid these common mistakes when doing one-arm cable lateral raise

I want you to get the most out of this exercise, but I also want you to avoid the following mistakes that I’ve made and seen others make as well:


  1. Using too much weight: Form is king. Using too much weight will compromise form and make the movement ineffective, not to mention the increased risk of injury.

  2. Lifting with your traps or biceps: Make sure to keep your form strict and focus on lifting with your shoulders, not with other muscles.

  3. Swinging your body: Using momentum to lift the weight can make the exercise more manageable, but it also reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Keep your body still and focus on using your shoulder muscles to lift the weight.

  4. Lifting too high: Perform the movement so that your arm does not go higher than parallel. Performing the movement any higher can increase the risk of injury to the shoulder joint and rotator cuff.


By avoiding these common mistakes, you can get the most out of the single-arm cable lateral raise and achieve your shoulder workout goals while reducing the risk of injury.


Recommended Read: >>> 13 Best Cable Arm Exercises For Muscle Growth Workouts! <<<

7 Tips to maximise single arm cable lateral raises

  1. Proper form: Never sacrifice form when training the body with exercises. Ensure that you execute the side lateral from the bottom to the top, holding it at the top of the movement for a count of 3 and then lowering slowly.

  2. Core Flexed: Keep your core engaged and your lower back arched. This ensures that the movement has the correct support as it’s executed.

  3. Elbows bent: Ensure that your elbows are slightly bent throughout the movement, as this will remove the risk of injury from the elbow joint.

  4. Slow and steady: Take 3 seconds to raise the cable and then 4 seconds to lower it – that is one rep.

  5. Feel the deltoid: As you perform the exercise, lift from the side deltoids and feel the muscle work.

  6. Correct weight: The shoulders are delicate muscles, so they don’t need to be super heavy. Keep the rep range to 10 reps and ensure the weight you use enables you to perform 12 strict reps.

  7. Sets and reps: Limit this exercise to 4 sets of 10 reps, and as soon as you get to 10 reps comfortably in all four sets, increase the weight

2 of the best one-arm cable lateral raise alternatives

We sometimes can’t get on to the cable machine to perform our desired exercises, so it’s always good knowing that there are alternatives.

Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

This deltoid exercise targets the same muscles as the cable version but doesn’t offer the constant tension that cables do.


However, it does stress the delts and will help build muscle mass and shoulder strength when performed with strict form.


To perform the exercise, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Let the dumbbells rest against your upper thighs at the starting position. Slowly raise both arms to the sides, keeping them straight until they are parallel to the ground. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower back down to starting position. That is one rep completed. Now repeat for your target ten reps.


Recommended Read: >>> Bent Over Cable RowHow To Do Them Properly! <<<

Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises

The seated version of this exercise is similar to the above (dumbbell and cable). 


The only difference i that when seated there is less opportunity to cheat and so this version does make the exercise harder and therefore works the deltoid muscles that bit harder. 


Are lateral raises better with cables?

Lateral raises with cables will provide the muscle with continuous tension throughout the positive and negative phases of the movement. This enables the muscle fibres to be broken down quicker and, therefore, the opportunity to recover bigger and stronger.

What do single-arm cable raises work?

The single-arm cable raise works the medial head of the deltoids and is responsible for the shoulders’ broadness and overall physique.

Are single-arm lateral raises good?

Single arms lateral raises are a good choice for training the medial head of the shoulders. They place most of the stress on this muscle, thus training it fully.

Why is the lateral cable raises so hard?

The lateral cable raise is challenging as it allows for continuous tension on the muscle throughout the movement. There will be no easier phases as you perform the exercise so the muscle will get fatigued quicker.

Should lateral raises be heavy or light?

Lateral raises should always be started with warm-ups and light weights. The shoulders are fragile muscles that need to be treated with respect, so pyramiding up with strict form is essential.

Do lateral raises give you bigger shoulders?

Lateral raises are responsible for building the side shoulder muscles, and using both dumbbells and cables provides the deltoids with ample stimulation for growth.

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Recommended Read: >>> 5 Shoulder Workout Supersets For Massive Delts! <<<

Closing thoughts on Shoulder Training

The single-arm cable lateral raise is an excellent exercise for building your deltoids, especially if you want to look more powerful and broad.


Add this exercise to your shoulder routine, aim to add one rep or more weight each workout (with strict form), and watch your shoulders grow!


(oh, and do keep in touch and check in with us regularly for more fantastic content. For a complete list of our previous blog posts, please go here)


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