cable lateral raise alternative
Exercise Alternative

12 Sizzling Cable Lateral Raise Alternatives

The cable side lateral raise is the single best exercise you can do to isolate the medial head of the deltoid muscle. But what if you don’t have access to a cable pulley machine? Here are 12 cable lateral raise variations that are nearly as good.

1. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The side lateral raise with dumbbells isolates the medial deltoids through their full range of motion, allowing you to bring your hands together in front of your body and to twist your wrists as you lift the dumbbells.

Muscles worked

Side deltoids

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a pair of dumbbells held in front of the body with your arms slightly bent and feet shoulder width apart.

2. From this starting position, bring your arms out to the sides to shoulder muscle level.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Tips 

Do not bring your arms higher than shoulder height. Use a relatively light dumbbell.

2. Band Side Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The resistance bands side lateral raise allows you to get a great shoulder workout at home. The unique resistance of bands also provides increasing tension as you progress through the exercise.

Muscles worked

Side deltoids

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a resistance exercise band looped under your right foot and held in your left hand in front of your groin. Keep your feet hip-width apart. 

2. Without bending your elbow, lift your left arm out to the side until it is at shoulder height.

3. Lower and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Equipment used 

Band set

Tips 

Adjust at the start so that the band is taut. Move through the entire range of motion.

3. One Arm Side Lateral

Why it’s a great alternative

The one-arm side lateral allows for unilateral training, which will allow you to lift heavier and concentrate more on each side of the lateral deltoid head.

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Muscles worked

Lateral deltoid muscle

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a single dumbbell in hand, held in your right hand in front of your torso at arm’s length. Hold onto upright support with your other hand.

2. Bring your right arms out to shoulder level without bending the elbow.

3. Lower slowly and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Equipment used 

One dumbbell

Tips 

Do not swing your body or otherwise use momentum.

4. Lateral Raise Hold

Why it’s a great alternative

By holding the top position of the raise you are increasing time under tension and placing isometric tension on the working muscle.

Muscles worked

Medial deltoid

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Perform a normal side lateral raise with both hands.

2. Hold the top position for a 3-second count.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Tips 

Move slowly to eliminate all momentum; do not come up higher than shoulder level.

5. Landmine Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

This version of the raise does a great job of working the side delts while also hitting the core and strengthening your forearm and grip strength.

Muscles worked

Side deltoid head

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand side onto a landmine bar, grabbing the end of the bar in your closest hand and holding it at chest level.

2. Extend your arm out at a 45-degree angle to full extension.

3. Reverse to return to the start position.

4. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Equipment used 

Landmine bar.

Tips 

Do not bend your knees to generate momentum. 

6. 3 Way Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The 3-way lateral raise allows you to work your side deltoids through a range of angles to stimulate all muscle fibers.

Muscles worked

Side delts

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with dumbbells in hand in front of your groin.

2. Bring the dumbbells up and out to shoulder level. 

3. Lower the weights so that they are touching in the bottom position.

4. On the next rep, bring the weights down to finish alongside your thighs.

5. On the next rep, lower the weights behind your body.

6. Do 3 sets of 10-15 rep. 

7. Dead Stop Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The dead stop raise is a very strict form of the exercise that prevents momentum by coming to a complete stop at the bottom of every rep; the stricter the exercise, the more muscle you will build.

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Muscles worked

Side delts

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Perform a dumbbell side lateral raise as normal.

2. At the bottom of the rep comes to a complete stop, pausing for a 2-second count.

3. Start your next rep.

4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Equipment used 

Pair of dumbbells

Tips 

You may have to use a lighter weight as the strictness of the exercise makes it harder.

8. Y Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The Y raise does a great job of activating your middle delts, along with the smaller stabilizer muscles that surround it. 

Muscles worked

Medial delts

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Lie face down on a 45-degree incline bench with a light pair of dumbbells in your hands. Hang your arms down to the floor.

2. Without bending your elbows, bring your arms up and out to form a ‘Y’ shape with your body.

3. Lower and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Equipment used 

45-degree bench, dumbbells

Tips 

Be sure to lower the weights under control and to move through a full range of motion.

9. W Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

This is another exercise that moves your shoulders through a range of angles to hit all angles and heads.

Muscles worked

Deltoids

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a pair of dumbbells held at should level with your elbows bent and tucked in at your sides.

2. Press the dumbbells up and out at a 45-degree angle to full arm extension.

3. Return to the start position and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Equipment used 

Light pair of dumbbells

Tips 

Cut all momentum out of the movement.

10. Lean Away Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

When you lean away while doing the lateral raise, you increase the range of motion. That will increase the tension on the muscle for greater growth potential. 

Muscles worked

Side deltoids

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand side on to upright support and grab onto it with your closest hand. Hold a dumbbell in the other hand at your side. Lean out so that your body is at about a 30-degree angle. 

2. From this starting position, bring the dumbbell up to shoulder level.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

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4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Equipment used 

Dumbbell, upright support

Tips 

Do not swing to get the weight up; maintain control throughout the entire movement. 

11. Kneeling Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The kneeling version of the lateral raise helps to eliminate any body swing. That makes the exercise much stricter. 

Muscles worked

Side deltoids

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Kneel on the floor with a pair of dumbbells held in front of your body.

2. Pivot from the shoulder joint to lift the weights up and out to the side to shoulder height.

3. Lower and repeat. 

4. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps. 

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Tips 

Do not swing; only come up as high as your shoulder level. Focus on proper form rather than weight. 

12. 1.5 Rep Lateral Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The 1.5 rep side lateral raise will increase your time under tension while also making the exercise a lot more intense and eliminating momentum.

Muscles worked

Side deltoids

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Perform a standard side lateral raise to the top position.

2. Lower the dumbbells half way and then bring them back to thee top position, so they are in line with the shoulders.

3. Lower and repeat. 

4. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps. 

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Tips 

Do not swing; only come up as high as your shoulder level.

Conclusion

To develop massive shoulders, you must isolate and develop the lateral part of the muscle. You now have 13 cable lateral raise variation exercises that allow you to do exactly that. Work through the moves in this article to find the ones that work best for you and include them in your shoulder workout routine. Be sure to also include exercises for the front and rear delts to achieve complete shoulder development. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the dumbbell front raise dangerous?

No, the dumbbell front raise is not dangerous. So long as you don’t bring your arms up higher than shoulder level you will not impair the rotator cuff. 

What are the best exercises for the front and rear shoulder muscles?

The best exercise to isolate the front deltoid is the seated front cable press. To isolate the rear deltoids, you should do the rear delt flye on a cable machine or with dumbbells. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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