If you look into a bodybuilder's gym bag, you'll find several items that help them get the most out of their workouts, like chalk, straps, a belt, and headphones. The other tools lifters use are already in the gym—free weights, machines, accessories, and cables. You can do a lot of work for any muscle group or work your entire body in a cable station. If you're not using cables for shoulder work, you're leaving a lot of potential on the weight room floor.

This workout only includes cable movements. Try it for a few weeks to give your shoulder joints a break from free weights while still challenging your muscles and forcing them to grow.

The Ultimate Cable Shoulder Workout
Rest 45-60 sec. between sets.
Standing face pull
4 sets, 15, 10, 10, 8 reps
+ 4 more exercises


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Technique Tips

Standing Face Pull

This has become a very popular move for hitting those rear delts, and for good reason—it's effective. The rear delts are often neglected and so become a weakness. If you start with them when your energy is highest, you can commit to making the back of your shoulder work hard.

Don't simply pull the rope ends apart when you pull back. Raise your hands so they are above your ears by the time you have it in pulled completely. This will really help you feel those rear delts while not feeling your traps, which is an issue with many rear delt exercises.

One more tip: Don't speed through these. Momentum on cable work helps no one. Slow and steady wins the rear delt race.

Single-Arm Cable Lateral Raise

Want to make those side delts look wide and round? This is your movement. You can use a single-handle attachment or a short rope attachment if your gym has one. Either way, you should focus on lifting your elbow up and back to maximize the contraction at the top. Hold the weight at the top of the exercise for a count of two before slowly lowering it back to the starting position.

An advanced version of this exercise is to stand so the cable is behind you when you lift. This can keep your shoulders from rounding forward and also activate the rear delts. If you have shoulder issues or are coming back from an injury, opt for keeping the cable in front of you.

Single-Arm Cable Lateral Raise

Cable Straight-Bar Front Raise

The front delts get a lot of work in pressing movements, so they're joining your pressing party on chest day. Because of that, it's no issue for this one to be the third exercise here.

Use a straight-handle attachment. Straddle the pulley so your back is to the stack. Lift the handle up until your arms are parallel to the floor. Keep a slight bend in your elbows. If you lock them out, the triceps will want to assist. When you lower the handle, stop just short of your thighs before lifting up again. This constant tension will maximize the front-delt effort.

Cable Shrug

These are a great option for training your traps from the top to the middle. Using a single-handle attachment on the bottom pulleys on both sides, take one in each hand and take one small step forward.

Shrug your shoulders to activate your traps and hold that position for a count of two. Lower your shoulders and hold that stretch for a count of two. Repeat for the listed number of reps. This angle will force you to work the traps differently from moving straight up and down, as you would with dumbbells or a barbell. If you find your grip is going to give out before the end of the set, use straps. You can always work on your grip with other movements.

Ready to take your shoulder training to the next level? Check out 30-Day Shoulders with Abel Albonetti in BodyFit by Bodybuilding.com!

About the Author

Roger Lockridge

Roger Lockridge

Bodybuilding is the reason I am who I am today. I am more confident in myself, actually looking for the next challenge, and inspiring others.

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