Single Arm Cable Laterals

Single Arm Cable Laterals


Execution Cues:

- Setup a pulley/cable between the floor and your upper thigh. Use a wrist cuff or a D handle. Both of these parameters can be adjusted depending on goals for the movement. 

- Stand sideways relative to the cable with the working arm further away. Use your off arm to hold onto the post or another stable object. 

- Either grab the handle or wrap the cuff on your wrist then take a small step out from the cable to create initial tension. The weight stack should now be elevated and the delts should be bearing the load. 

- Keep the elbow slightly bent. Scapula of the working arm should be depressed. Begin the concentric with abduction of the shoulder in the scapular plane (angling slightly away from the body). Maintain a subtle internal rotation of shoulder to ensure the "elbow pit" does not point up.

- The end of the concentric should be defined as the point in which you can no longer abduct any higher without deviating into shrugging. At some point, there will also be a "jamming" of bony structures occurs between the humerus, scapula and clavicle. End the concentric at the first of these two indicators. 

- Once reaching this terminal point, slowly reverse the motion through the eccentric back to the start



- Shoulder Pain

- Poor Shoulder Mobility



- Single Arm Sideways DB Laterals

- Single Arm Band Laterals

- Seated Alternating DB Laterals

- Standing DB Laterals

- Machine Laterals



- Single Arm Cable Y Raises

- Standing Cable Y Raises

- Lying Cable Laterals

- Single Arm Leaning DB Laterals


Volume Parameters:

- Up to 25 sets per week

- Up to 5 sets per session

- 8-20 rep range


Applicable Intensity Techniques:

- Mechanical Drop Sets

- Load Drop Sets

- Supersets (A common version of this is to superset cable laterals with DB laterals to take advantage of resistance curve differences)

- Partials (These can be done when the resistance curve is setup in a way to fatigue the shortened portion of the ROM first and then continue with partials from the bottom in the stronger range)

- Cluster sets


Programming Considerations:

I'm not sure that anyone is going to claim that the Single Arm Cable Lateral is the most interesting movement in our arsenal or the most responsible for catalyzing growth. 

At its base, it is just a variation off of a very simple pattern (the lateral raise) that attempts to offer some optimization by leveraging a few unique characteristics of the joint and muscles in which it is targeting. 


Let's start with a brief overview of the delts and the shoulder joint to find some common ground from which to expand the case: 

As I have discussed previously in our forays into delt training, the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that allows for the most breadth of movement variability of any joint in the human body. This necessitates that the controlling group of muscles be pliable and durable to handle the vast demands; the most important of which is the Deltoid complex. 

The delts are a marvel of physiological architecture. With their ability to manipulate and facilitate nearly every movement around the shoulder and their massive threshold for work load, this complex is a favorite of trainees and the bane of existence for programmers. This dichotomy stems from the same generality: adaptation requires a lot of variation and a lot of volume. 

There isn't another muscle in the body (outside of maybe the plantarflexors) capable of handling the combination of high volume and intensity, especially when directed towards single joint movements. This essentially means that if we want to grow our delts, we have to throw the metaphorical kitchen sink at them. 


Bringing this back to the subject of today, the Single Arm Cable Laterals, what makes this variation stand out above any of the other infinite ways we can perform shoulder abduction?


We have a few primary differentiators to highlight: 



By performing the movement one arm at a time, we can more easily focus and direct tension into the desired muscle. This is especially important when aiming to isolate very specific and smaller muscles as they tend to be able to handle much less total load and are quickly compensated for when approaching failure. An additional benefit comes from "evening the playing field" with volume and intensity; monotonous, daily tasks are disproportionately carried out by our dominant side which can quickly lead to asymmetries that need to be addressed. 



The typical modality of choice for any type of lateral raise is dumbbells. This makes sense as they are easy to setup and perform, plus can be done anywhere. The downside of using DBs is that they are confined to a relatively unfavorable resistance curve. Our delts are weakest in their most shortened stages (which would be the top of the raise) but this is exactly where the DBs would be exerting the greatest amount of opposing force. If you don't believe me, try pausing a DB lateral raise in contraction (hint: it’s not very easy!)...This issue can be somewhat alleviated by changing angles and execution with the DBs, but cables offer up a much simpler solution due to the design of the pulley system. With this, we can actually dictate where in the ROM our delts are exposed to the greatest amount of forces by changing the height of the cable's starting point, the angle of our torso relative to this point, and/or our distance from the cable.

Scapular Plane

If you're not familiar with the scapular plane, don't worry because this generally isn't taught in Anatomy 101. The scapular plane is a slight anterior deviation off the frontal plane in which the scapula can move freely while remaining in its most stable orientation against the rib cage. This gibberish just means that our upper arm will move in such a way to optimize stability at the junction of the shoulder joint and scap. We can visualize this easily with something like a Seated DB OHP. Flaring our elbows and attempting to press strictly in the frontal plane is a disaster, not just for the health of our joints but also for strength expression. A much better alternative is to press with the elbows angled just a bit forward which we can now classify as working in the scapular plane. This conundrum applies to lateral raise variations just as it does with presses. Trying to abduct the shoulder strictly in the frontal plane as if you're modeling for a demo vid is a quick way to develop shoulder impingements and scapular dysfunction. Instead, aim for a ~30º angle on the raise and you'll be shocked with how natural it feels and how much more ROM you can get, comparatively. And no, this won't shift the tension from your side delts to the front delts...


Where does this now leave us?

As with most variations of the lateral raise, we have another tool in our toolbox. Though I firmly believe that cables and machine laterals are superior in hypertrophic potential to free weights, DBs shouldn't be abandoned completely as they have their own benefits not afforded by the challengers. A well-designed program should effectively implement multiple modalities. Allow them play off each other and intertwine their pros while covering for the cons. If you want a set of delts to inspire envy, master every iteration of the lateral raise.

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