William Toro ‧ CPT & Nutritionist
William is a certified personal trainer from NASM, he has also been a rehab physiologist for sports persons. He has more than 15 years of experience training people. And has featured in multiple publications like FoxNews, CNBC, Bustle, and other.
If you want to build well-rounded and big shoulders, then the cable machine should be your go-to at the gym. It is such a versatile and advantageous machine for anyone who wants to work their shoulder muscles.
Cable machines are the best because they offer constant tension that specifically targets the shoulder muscles such as deltoids, rear delts, triceps, upper body, etc. They are the majority’s best choice for building shoulder muscles because they isolate them.
Best Cable Shoulder Workouts
All the cable machine shoulder exercises explained in this article are very effective in helping you get the most well-shaped and built shoulders. Make sure to follow the instructions properly so you do not strain your shoulder muscles.
Also, do not forget to follow the training tips, as they are very important in helping you perform rightly
Below are nine exercises that can be performed using a cable machine only.
This cable shoulder workout is best if you want to target your front deltoids. It is not a complex exercise and is perfect for completely isolating the front deltoids. Hence, if you are a beginner, you can efficiently perform it. Front raises are significant for building upper body strength and working on shoulder fronts.
Front deltoid muscles
- This exercise is simple and easy to learn.
- It is most effective when it comes to the isolation of the anterior deltoid head.
- It increases stability by strengthening the shoulder joint.
- It helps in making shoulder muscles stronger for other hard-core, heavy lifting exercises
- This exercise reduces the chances of shoulder injuries.
How To Do:
- Lower the position of the cable.
- Hold the cable by passing it between your legs while standing at a shoulder-width distance apart.
- Stand completely straight, and start moving your hands upwards.
- Extend the cable until shoulder height or until the arms are parallel to the floor.
- Return to the beginning position, and then repeat this exercise.
- We recommend you watch this video for proper formation and visual guidance.
- Inhale while moving your hands upwards, and exhale while lowering the cables.
- Make sure the arms are completely straight throughout the exercise.
Side Lateral Raise
Side lateral raises are crucial to perform if you want to isolate your side deltoids. Lateral raises help achieve that perfect roundness of shoulders and increase the shoulder width.
Although you can also perform this using a dumbbell, cables still provide more resistance and consistent tension.
Lateral deltoids, anterior deltoids, middle and lower trapezius
- Side lateral raises target multiple muscles at once.
- It helps in achieving perfectly shaped shoulders when paired with frontal raises.
- This exercise also increases the strength and stability of the shoulder muscles.
- Lateral raises also improve your shoulders’ internal and external rotations as well.
How To Do:
- Lower the position of the cable.
- Stand on the side of the machine such that the cable runs behind you.
- Now grasp the cable handle firmly, and extend your hand upwards till it is parallel to the floor.
- Lower your arm back to the starting position, and repeat this procedure.
- Do this exercise on the other shoulder as well.
- For much clearer visual instructions, watch this video.
To perform lateral raises correctly, do not use too much momentum while extending and lowering the cable. Let your muscles do the work.
Rear Delt Fly
The rear delt fly is the most effective exercise for isolating the posterior or rear delts. Training your rear delts is pretty essential. Otherwise, your shoulders will look small from the side. This exercise also makes your posture better and improves the shape of your shoulders.
Rear deltoids, shoulder, and upper body muscles
- This exercise improves the posture by targeting the upper back muscles.
- It also increases stability by making your shoulder and upper back muscles stronger.
- It improves the shape of your shoulders and upper back.
- The rear delt fly also reduces the risk of injuries from other strenuous exercises by strengthening the posterior deltoid muscles.
How To Do:
- Position the cables at the top of the pulleys.
- Stand at the center, facing the cable machine.
- Hold the right-side cable handle in your left hand and the left-side cable handle in your right hand.
- After setting your starting position, extend your hands upwards, and move them back slowly.
- Stop when the hands are parallel to the floor and squeeze the posterior muscles.
- Return to the starting position gradually, and repeat this exercise.
- Watch this instructional video to learn more about this exercise.
- Keep your feet fixed in one place.
- Keep your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your elbows slightly so that the muscles take most of the stress.
Bent-Over Rear Delt Flys
This exercise is one step ahead of the simple rear delts. This one effectively defines your shoulders and makes them look chiseled and well-rounded from every angle. This exercise requires you to stand in a bent-over position with your knees slightly bent.
This is one of the many shoulder exercises that improve moving abilities like rotation, abduction, adduction, pulling, and pushing. This exercise also improves overall shoulder health by working on the shoulder joint.
Rear deltoids, trapezius, and rhomboids
- This one is much easier to perform and learn.
- This exercise strengthens the rear deltoid muscles.
- It also improves the roundness and shape of the shoulders.
- This one trains the back muscles and improves the posture as well.
- This workout helps lower the risk of a shoulder injury by increasing stability and mobility.
How To Do:
- Position the cables to the lowest of the machine.
- Stand at the center of the cable machine, facing towards it.
- Grasp the cable handles firmly from the opposite hand such that it forms an x.
- Bend over, and raise your arm till they are parallel to the ground.
- Now lower your hand back to the starting position, and repeat this movement.
- Further, check your formation from here.
- Keep your elbows firm and slightly bent to isolate the muscles.
- Always use an overhand grip.
Bent-Over Cable Single Arm Rear Delt Flys
This is one of the best versions of rear delts exercises. It is a great isolation exercise for the shoulder muscles. This one directly targets the rear delts and stresses the muscles to build maximum mass.
Performing this exercise separately for each hand makes sure that equal work is being done on each shoulder. This exercise also allows you to extend your arm more because the other hand is not limiting its range of motion.
- This exercise helps significantly in building shoulder and back muscles and trapezius.
- It also helps prevent improper muscular balance.
- This workout is also very beneficial in improving the shape of the shoulders.
- Lower the position of the cables to the bottom of the machine.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing the cable machine.
- Squat slightly and bend your back such that it is parallel to the floor.
- Rest the hand closer to the machine, either on your thigh or hold the cable machine. Keep your arm straight throughout. This is what your starting position should look like.
- Now, grab the cable handle and stretch your arm outwards from the other hand.
- Repeat the same for the other shoulder as well.
- Watch this video to check your formation.
- Keep your arms completely straight if you choose to hold the cable machine while exercising.
- Stand at a distance from the cable machine to extend your arms more. This helps in increasing muscle stamina and length.
- Do not stretch your arms upwards; instead, extend them outwards so that your shoulder muscles are targeted instead of the back muscles.
Single Arm Front Raise
The single-arm front raise is an effective workout for the shoulder muscles and anterior deltoids. As discussed previously, exercising separately on each shoulder allows you to concentrate more and train the muscles better.
This exercise is a favorite at the gym to train shoulders. It is easy to learn and great for beginners as well.
Anterior deltoids, medial deltoids, and shoulder muscles
- The single-arm front raise strengthens the shoulder muscles and anterior deltoids.
- It reduces the risk of a shoulder injury, making your shoulder muscles stronger.
- This exercise is effective as it induces constant tension in the shoulder muscles.
- Position the cables to the lowest on the cable machine.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and face away from the cable machine. This is what your starting position should look like.
- Keep your palms down, back straight, and hold the cable handle in one hand.
- Slowly extend your arms upwards till they are slightly above your shoulders.
- Return to the beginning position while exhaling.
- Repeat from the other hand as well.
- To verify your formation for a single-arm front raise, watch this video.
- Roll your shoulders back.
- Keep your palms facing down.
- Do not swing your upper arms or bend your back.
Face pull is one of the essential exercises for shoulder training. It is yet another effective exercise targeting the rear delts to train shoulders.
It also helps in improving posture by working on the back muscles. It also helps make the shoulders stronger by training the rotator cuff.
Rear deltoids and upper back muscles
- The face pull improves the shoulders' health by providing the muscles with strength and stability.
- It also helps in correcting poor posture.
- This exercise also increases your overall stamina and strength, making you train harder and get better results.
How To Do:
- Position the cable to the highest point on the cable machine.
- Stand in front of the cable machine, and hold both of the cable handles in each of your hands. Use an overhand grip.
- Now take some steps back, and straighten your arms slightly above your shoulder height to induce tension in the cables. This is your starting position.
- Next, pull the cables towards your face by bending your elbows.
- When your hands get close to the face, extend them outwards to align your elbows with your shoulders.
- Now, repeat this movement as many times as you like.
- From this video, you can check if you are doing it right or not.
- Keep your back straight and extend your elbows up to a comfortable height.
- Squeeze your shoulder muscles while pulling the ropes.
- Do not bend your elbows more than just a slight bend.
- To make it easier to pull the cable, use an overhand grip.
90 Degree External Rotation
The 90-degree external rotation is an excellent shoulder exercise that targets the infraspinatus muscle. This muscle helps provide stability and strength to the rotator cuff and the shoulder joint.
This 90-degree rotation helps induce resistance to injuries in the shoulders, primarily the joint, by making the muscles stronger. This exercise also improves shoulder movements.
- The 90-degree external rotation strengthens and stabilizes the rotator cuff and the shoulder joint.
- It helps lower the risk of injuries in the shoulders by making the shoulder muscles stronger.
- This exercise also fastens the process of healing an injured or torn infraspinatus muscle.
How To Do:
- Set the position of the rope attachment to the lowest point of the cable machine.
- Stand in front of the cable machine with your feet at least shoulder-width apart.
- Now, lift your right elbow and align it with your shoulder, bending it at an angle of 90-degree.
- The next step involves rotation of your shoulder by extending the cable upwards. However, your elbow should be fixed and stable in its position.
- Gradually lower your arm again to the starting position.
- Switch your hand and repeat this movement for the other shoulder as well.
- Correct your formation by taking a look at this video below.
- Start from lighter weights and work your way up.
- Make sure that your palms are facing down.
- Keep your arms straight and vertical.
- Make sure there is not even a slight bend in your elbows.
- Do not lower the weight too early.
- Use an overhand grip.
Single Arm Shoulder Press
This is the cable machine version of the dumbbell shoulder press. One of the most impressive cable machine exercises that helps increase the size of your shoulders. Shoulder presses provide them with much more strength and stability.
You can perform this exercise with both hands simultaneously. However, doing this exercise separately can help correct the muscular balance in both shoulders.
Anterior deltoids, side deltoids, and triceps
- This shoulder workout trains and strengthens the shoulder muscles, shoulder blades, and upper chest effectively and makes you ready for other heavy-weight exercises
- It also helps improve the movements of shoulder blades, wrists, and elbows.
- Lower the cable or rope attachment to the bottom of the machine.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight.
- Face away from the cable machine, and clench your chest muscles while keeping your arms straight.
- With a slight bend in your elbow, hold the cable handle in one hand. Your clenched hand should be facing the cable machine.
- Slowly extend your arm upwards and then lower it.
- Switch hands and repeat this exercise.
- Correct your posture by watching a sample shoulder workout for shoulder presses.
- Keep your back straight.
- Inhale and exhale while extending and lowering your arm.
Bonus Video: Cable Shoulder Over Heard
The Cable Machine And Its Advantages
Now that you know all about different shoulder workouts and their benefits let us tell you more about the cable machine itself.
For those who do not enjoy free weights that much, cable exercises are your solution. Almost all the free weight exercises can be replicated on the cable machines. These exercises become much safer as well while performing on the cable machines.
Cable exercises are especially good for the upper body days, targeting the upper back, shoulder muscles, and the core. They are also great if you are working out to heal an injury or are a beginner. Now, let's discuss the significant reasons cable machines are a favorite at the gym.
You have a much lesser chance of getting injured when using a cable machine than by dumbbells. This offers you the liberty of working out more and safely letting go of the cables whenever you sense a muscle failure. However, if you train harder and drop the dumbbells, you can get pretty injured.
With cable machines, you can build much more muscle because of higher freedom, stability, and mobility. While using free weights limits your range of motion, slowing the muscle growth process.
In short, cable machines are great equipment for shoulder exercises at the gym. Due to so many benefits, using cables is better than exercising with dumbbells alone. However, we still recommend pairing free weights and cable machines to achieve the most well-built shoulders. If you are a beginner, we highly recommend trying these cable exercises under the guidance of a professional trainer. We hope you accomplish all of your fitness goals. Best of luck!