Master the Behind-the-Back Cable Lateral Raise

January 24, 2012

By Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS

The Start

Step 1: Stand sideways next to a low pulley with a D-handle attached. Grasp the handle with your outside hand and take half a step forward and away to ensure tension in the cable.

Step 2: Make sure the cable is running behind your legs, which will automatically draw your hand behind you a few inches. Your palm should be facing the cable stack.

Step 3: Keep your chest up, abs tight and head neutral, with your eyes focused straight ahead. For balance, your non-working hand can rest on your hip or on the post of the cable machine.

Step 4: Lock a very slight bend in your elbow.



Step 1: Flex your working delt to raise the handle up and away from your body.

Step 2: Make sure you hold the locked elbow position to ensure it doesn’t open or close up to maintain tension on the middle delt.

Step 3: Stop the movement when your hand reaches somewhere between 90 (parallel to floor) and 130 degrees (about 40 degrees above parallel).

Step 4: Pause and squeeze your delt hard for a second before lowering the handle to the start. Because the cable runs behind you, your arm will automatically trail a few inches behind your hip. Stop the downward motion before the plates touch.


In Your Routine

>> The cable lateral raise is an excellent way to carve detail into your shoulders. Because your hand is behind you, this version of the lateral helps best target the middle head.

>> You can incorporate the cable lateral as a way to pre-exhaust your shoulders prior to multijoint, compound moves like the overhead press and Arnold press. You can also save the movement for last in your routine and use it more as a way to flush and pump your delts.

>> As a pre-exhaust exercise, use a weight that allows you to fail between 6–12 repetitions. As a flushing method, lower the weight and shoot for reps 10–12 reps but don’t be afraid to go as high as 20.


Biggest Training Errors

1. Extending your elbow. A common but critical mistake, visible when there’s a big bend in your elbow in the bottom position but your arm is completely straight at the top, meaning your triceps has undergone extension.

2. Stopping at parallel. Another common mistake is to stop when your arm reaches the horizontal plane; however, your middle delts are actively engaged as high as 130 degrees. Therefore, continue raising the D-handle well overhead for maximum delt stimulation.

3. Doing only the cable-in-front version. While this technically isn’t an error, by slightly changing the angle of pull, in this instance allowing the cable to run behind your back, you work the middle delt in a slightly different manner, meaning better overall stimulation. Do both moves.


Best Alternative: Lying Incline Dumbbell Lateral

Because the cable lateral provides such unique tension throughout the range of motion, a close counterpart would be the lying dumbbell lateral. If you lie on your side on an incline bench with a dumbbell at your side, just to lift the dumbbell off your hip takes an incredible amount of middle delt activation. Lower the weight to just a few inches from your hip to keep constant tension on the middle delts.