Sizzling Cable Lateral Raise Alternatives for Wider, Sculpted Shoulders

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The deltoids are a complex muscle group. There are three deltoid heads, and while they often work together, they can also be isolated, so they function alone.

The three deltoid heads are:

  • Anterior (front)
  • Posterior (rear)
  • Medial (side)

Overhead presses work all three deltoid heads, but if you want to build wide, rounded shoulders, you need to target your medial deltoids, too. The best way to do this is with lateral raises.

Cable lateral raises are especially good for hitting your side delts, as they keep the target muscle under constant tension. Cable lateral raises are also great for hypertrophy-triggering drop sets.

However, as effective as cable lateral raises are, they’ll begin to lose their potency if you do them too often. And, it goes without saying, you need a cable machine to do this particular exercise.

So, whether cable lateral raises are losing their effect, or you just don’t have a cable machine available, you’ll be glad to hear that there are plenty of other ways to train your medial deltoids.

Here is our list of tried and tested cable lateral raise alternatives!

Top Cable Lateral Raise Alternatives

Don’t get stuck in a cable lateral raise rut. Instead, add some much-needed variety to your shoulder workouts with these tried and tested alternatives!

1. Dumbbell lateral raise

No cable machine? No problem! Side lateral raises with dumbbells can be every bit as effective. This exercise works best when done with light to moderate weights and for medium to high reps. Keep your rests between sets short, and go for the pump. Do them seated or standing as preferred. Use a slow, smooth tempo to keep your medial deltoids under tension for as long as possible.

Read more about dumbbell lateral raises here.

2. Resistance band lateral raise

A good set of resistance bands is like having a fully-equipped gym in a bag! You can work out with resistance bands anywhere and anytime, and they’re ideal for anyone who travels or likes to train at home.

As an added benefit, resistance band exercises are also very joint-friendly, as tension increases gradually and your joints aren’t shock-loaded.

Resistance band lateral raises are an especially effective exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on the center of your resistance band and hold one end in either hand. Your feet should be between shoulder and hip-width apart. Start with your arms by your sides, palms turned in toward your thighs.
  2. Keeping your elbows straight, raise your arms up and out to your sides until they’re parallel to the floor.
  3. Lower your arms and repeat.
  4. The wider your stance, the tighter the band will be, and the harder you’ll have to work to raise your arms. So, adjust your feet accordingly.

3. Victory dumbbell raise

The victory dumbbell raise is an unusual shoulder exercise in that it works all three deltoid heads pretty equally. It’s also a very joint-friendly exercise. Also known as the handcuff raise, this is an excellent move for anyone who’s short on time but still wants a comprehensive shoulder workout.

How to do it:

  1. Put a short resistance band (mini band) around your wrists and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your core.
  2. Keeping your elbows straight, raise your arms forward and out to form a V above your head.
  3. Lower your arms back down and repeat.

4. Lean-away dumbbell lateral raise

Lean-away lateral raises increase muscle tension at the top of each rep. This variation isn’t necessarily better than regular lateral raises. Still, it’s different enough that it could be just what you need to liven up your workouts and keep you out of any possible shoulder training ruts.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and stand next to a sturdy vertical pillar or post. Hold the pillar with your free hand and then lean away, so your body is at an angle. Let your arm hang straight down from your shoulder.
  2. Raise the dumbbell up and away to shoulder height, so your arm is parallel to the floor.
  3. Lower your arm and repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both sides.
  5. You can also do this exercise using a cable machine.

5. Incline dumbbell lateral raise

Where lean-away lateral raises increase the muscle tension at the end of your range of motion, incline dumbbell lateral raises increase the overload at the start of each rep. Again, this does not make this exercise better than regular lateral raises. Still, the variety could help you avoid any potential shoulder training ruts.

How to do it:

  1. Set the backrest on an adjustable incline bench to roughly 45 degrees. Sit sideways on the bench and lean against the backrest. Hold a dumbbell in your outermost hand.
  2. Keeping your arm straight, raise the weight out and up to shoulder height.
  3. Lower your arm back down and repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both sides.

6. Dead-stop lateral raise

Lateral raises are one of those exercises that it’s all too easy to do with sloppy form. Using “body English” could mean that you can lift more weight or do more reps, but it also takes work away from the target muscles, often making the exercise in question less effective and more dangerous. This variation is all but un-cheatable, making it ideal for anyone who has a tendency to use their legs or back during side lateral raises.

How to do it:

  1. Sit sideways on a flat exercise bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and, with your arms straight, rest the weights on the bench.
  2. Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your core.
  3. Raise your arms up to parallel and then lower the weights back to the bench. Pause for a second and then repeat.

Related: Dead-Stop Training – Why and How to Do It 

7. Cuban press

According to legend, the Cuban press was invented to strengthen and injury-proof the shoulders of Cuban Olympic lifers. Olympic weightlifting is notoriously hard on the shoulders. The Cuban press was then popularized by famous strength coach Charles Poliquin back in the early 2000s. It can be done using a barbell or dumbbells. 

You don’t need to be a weightlifter to enjoy the benefits of exercise; working all three deltoid heads as well as your lower and upper traps, it’s an excellent movement for bodybuilders too.

Learn how to do Cuban presses here.

8. Arnold press

The Arnold press, which is named after 7-time Mr. Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger, engages all three heads of the deltoids, making it an acceptable alternative to cable lateral raises. It’s an effective hypertrophy (bodybuilding) exercise as it allows you to use moderate to heavy weights.

How to do it:

  1. Seated or standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Curl the weights up to your shoulders, palms turned inward. This is your starting position.
  2. Open your arms and then press the weights up and overhead to arms’ length.
  3. Bend your elbows, lower the weights, and bring them back together in front of your chest.
  4. That’s one rep; keep going!

9. Bent press

Most shoulder pressing variations involve a vertical or overhead movement. Bent presses involve pressing a weight sideways, which increases medial deltoid engagement. While the bent press is a little unusual and can be tricky to master, it’s a legitimate alternative to lateral raises. As an added benefit, bent presses are also good for mobility, core strength, and balance.

Learn how to do bent presses here.

10. Bus drivers

The bus driver is a simple yet effective shoulder exercise that targets the anterior and medial deltoids. All you need for this one is a weight plate, so it’s ideal for even the most poorly equipped gym.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a weight plate with both hands and lift it forward and out to shoulder level. Brace your abs and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart for stability.
  2. Without lowering your arms, rotate your hands as though you were turning a steering wheel. Each turn to the left then right is one rep.
  3. Continue for the desired number of reps or until you cannot keep your arms up.

11. Upright row

Upright rows are a compound exercise that looks nothing like any of the previously mentioned lateral raise alternatives. But, if you ignore what’s happening at your elbow joint, you’ll see that the shoulder joints are abducting, which is a function of the medial deltoid.

As well as being an excellent medial delt exercise, upright rows also work your upper traps. On the downside, some exercisers find this move causes shoulder pain, so feel to skip this one if it bothers your joints.

Read all about upright rows here.

12. Landmine lateral raise

A landmine is a barbell with a fixed pivot point at one end. It can be used for a wide range of upper and lower body exercises. Landmine training is generally very functional and joint-friendly, making it a big hit with all types of athletes. It’s also an effective bodybuilding and strength-building tool. Landmine lateral raises are a valuable alternative to using a cable machine.

How to do it:

  1. Stand perpendicular to your landmine and hold the end with one hand. Your hand should be just in front of your opposite hip. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Keeping your arm straight, lift your arm forward and out to shoulder height. Let the landmine bar guide your movement.
  3. Return to the starting position and then repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both sides.

13. Lateral raise machine

If your gym has a lateral raise machine, you have everything you need to hammer your medial deltoids safely and effectively. If your gym doesn’t have one of these machines, you’ll just have to rely on the other alternatives outlined in this training guide! Machine lateral raises are especially good for drop sets.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the seat height so your shoulders are level with the machine’s pivot points. Grab the hands and place your forearms against the pads.
  2. Leading with your elbows, raise your arms out and up until they’re roughly parallel to the floor.
  3. Lower your arms back to your sides and, without touching the weights down, raise them again and continue for the desired number of reps, or until you reach failure.

14. Four-way shoulder complex

A complex is several exercises done back to back using the same piece of workout equipment. In this instance, it’s dumbbells. This complex hits your delts and traps from multiple angles, making it the ideal shoulder workout finisher and perfect for those times you want to work your shoulders but only have a few minutes to train. You don’t need heavy weights for this complex, but it will still challenge your muscles and make them burn.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs, palms facing your legs.
  2. Lift both arms forward and up to shoulder level, lower them and repeat. Do ten reps.
  3. Next, raise your arms up and out to the sides so your arms are parallel to the floor. Lower them back to your legs and repeat. Again, do ten reps.
  4. Then, raise the dumbbells up to shoulder level, palms facing forward. Press the weights up above your head and then lower them back to your shoulders. Do ten reps.
  5. Finally, do ten dumbbell upright rows, starting with the weights down in front of your thighs.

15. Manual resistance lateral raise  

This exercise uses variable resistance to take your deltoids to absolute muscular failure. If you want to get a deep pump in your medial delts, this is the exercise to use. All you need is a strong and willing training partner.

How to do it:

  1. Stand facing your partner with your arms by your sides. Ask your partner to place their hands just above or just below your elbows.
  2. Lift your arms against the resistance provided by your partner. They should push just hard enough to overload your muscles.
  3. As you start to tire, they should decrease the pressure to match your strength.
  4. Continue until you cannot raise your arms, even when your partner stops pushing your arms down.

More Alternative Exercises:

Wrapping Up

It’s all too easy to end up with over-developed anterior deltoids. They’re involved in all pressing exercises – both vertical AND horizontal. So, if you want rounded, balanced shoulders, you also need to work your posterior and medial deltoids.

As it’s the medial deltoids that give your shoulders their width and your upper body that pleasing V-taper, most bodybuilders need to emphasize this muscle, and that usually means lateral raises. And while cable lateral raises are an excellent exercise, you can have too much of a good thing. Do them too often, and they’ll start to lose their effectiveness.

Avoid workout ruts and keep your medial deltoids growing with these cable lateral raise alternatives. Each one is just as effective as cable lateral raises but different enough to trigger renewed muscle growth.


Post a Comment