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Cable Lateral Raise – Best Deltoid Exercise?

I’m going to show you a shoulder exercise you’ve NEVER seen before. That’s because, to the best of my knowledge, I created it.

Now, I’ve already talked about what is possibly the best single set (utilizing the pre-exhaust method) for stimulating growth in the shoulders.

If you want to make it even BETTER, read this post.

I won’t waste your time in this post talking about WHY this is optimal for igniting new gains in shoulder size because I’ve been through it in this post (remember it’s all about recruiting the maximum number of muscle fibers and then stimulating them to grow).

I’ll simply demo the exercise and talk you through the form.

Then I want you to DO IT!

It’s a Cable Lateral Raise (with a difference).

In my version I am using the attachment that is designed for leg abductions and placing it around the top of my forearm. I’ll explain all in a little bit, for now watch the demo. Unless someone out there can tell me that this already exists, I’ll Christen it the ‘McManus Lateral Raise‘, and it’s incredibly effective.

Note: Use the abduction/adduction attachment around the top of your forearm, NOT on the elbow joint itself. Keep a 90 degree bend at the elbow joint.

Since the function of the deltoids is to bring the arm away from the body, we get maximal fiber recruitment at the top of the rep i.e. the point of maximal contraction or Peak Contraction Point. This exercise provides AWESOME resistance in this most important of spots. You want to pause here for a second on each and every rep.

The cable also applies a much SMOOTHER resistance than that experienced with dumbbells.

Importantly, using a cable from a floor pulley allows for resistance on the deltoids at EVERY STAGE IN THE REP. Using dumbbells as in dumbbell lateral raises, provides almost no resistance on the shoulders for the first few inches of the movement. In fact, the work doesn’t really kick in until the mid-point. This obviously isn’t optimal for stimulating growth especially in the negative (or lowering) portion of the rep since it is widely believed that the negative contributes more to growth than the positive.

Furthermore, the shorter lever length i.e. the resistance is physically CLOSER to the prime mover muscle, means that the load is pressing more DIRECTLY upon the deltoid itself. With dumbbell raises the grip and forearm strength come into play and this may contribute to the premature termination of the set and/or mentally distract you from really focusing on contracting the shoulder.

I would also contend that the short lever length can also lead to a better level of positive failure. Using dumbbells means that you have to move the weight a greater distance to achieve same level of deltoid contraction. This means that you run the risk of not being able to complete an extra rep or 2 that you can with the McManus Lateral Raise.

The only downside is that you have to work the shoulders unilaterally i.e. one at a time. If you have access to a cable crossover machine you could perhaps find attachments that would enable you to work both shoulders simultaneously. You can then proceed immediately to overhead barbell presses as described in this post. If not, simply do 1-arm dumbbell overhead presses after reaching failure on this exercise (which is how I am doing it at the moment).

Stay Motivated!


Mark McManus
Mark McManus
Mark is now available for 1-on-1 consultations to help you take your results to the next level. Click here for more details.
Mark McManus is a trainer & author from Ireland. His work has been featured in major publications all over the world. He is the creator of the free growth-promoting workout Targeted Hypertrophy Training' (THT) and author of the NEW fat-torching system Total Six Pack Abs.
He has also created the BREAKTHROUGH arm and chest maximizer programs The Arms Blast' and 'Chest Blast' workouts.
And if you're a fan of delicious high-protein recipes to fuel your muscle growth, check out his cook book 'Buff Baking' here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • chris April 26, 2010, 4:41 pm

    Nice one. Not sure if I have that attachment at my gym tho. I’ll have to look around for one.

  • Rob April 26, 2010, 4:55 pm

    It says an error occurred when I try to play the video….

    You have a date set for the release of your new e-book?

  • Zipper April 26, 2010, 5:14 pm

    Wow, I dig that one….we have something similar to that movement that is machine based by Hammer Strength. It’s close and more like you are rolling up sandbags on both shoulders in a similar motion. However this looks like it’s going to hit the shoulder a hell of allot better with direct and complete resistance. If we don’t have the little leg attachments, I’ll just buy one to take with me as we do have a full cross-over cable machine.

    Awesome job mah man!

  • Scott April 26, 2010, 5:16 pm

    Mark, this looks great. Thanks for all your innovative exercises.

    As a side note, when the new THT book comes out will you be starting up another “Month of Mass” training program?

  • Rick April 26, 2010, 5:29 pm

    Bro, that exercise has been around for years. It is nothing more than taking the dumbbell out of the side raise and using a cable. I’ve seen guys doing that at gyms since at least the 80’s.

  • Mark McManus April 26, 2010, 6:06 pm

    @Rob. Let’s tentatively say Monday 10th May.
    @Zipper, thanks man. There used to be Nautilus machines as well that placed the resistance on the upper arms but it’s rare to see one at a gym.
    @Scott. Yes. I want update TSPA again after the new TA. Then I’ll have time for another Month of Mass.
    @Rick. It’s the position of the resistance that is important – using a cable as in regular cable lateral raises is what you’ve seen, right? If not, what attachment were these people using that you saw to shorten the lever length? In all my years I’ve never seen or heard of anyone doing this specific exercise.

  • Tommy April 26, 2010, 6:34 pm

    Does the new TA contain results from your first month of mass experiment?

  • mike April 26, 2010, 6:44 pm

    For the shoulder circuit you described in the other post, do you do 1 superset or 3 of those supersets?


  • Sean April 26, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Ah, sorry Mark – for last week’s shoulder workout I actually brainstormed these and tried them out, and they do work great – so it looks like you were a few days late on the patent :) Great exercise though, and thanks for the video, these are going to help a lot of people.

    Eagerly awaiting THT3!

  • Wouter April 26, 2010, 9:04 pm

    I’ve never seen it before either. We do have a machine at our gym that uses the same motion (something like this http://healthsystemsnortheast.co.uk/images/SHOULDER%20RAISE.jpg ) but with round pads, like Zipper described. But they also have the wrap attachments, so I can’t wait to see everyone staring at me when I try these out. Mechanically speaking they make a lot of sense, and since they’re based on the whole PCP-theory to me they’ll be called the “McManus lateral raise”.

    As always, great stuff. And one video closer to the new book!

  • JT... April 27, 2010, 2:38 am

    Yeah I noticed this machine(seated lat raise) at my gym a few months ago so decided to drop the dumbells and use it instead. It’s a great workout, my delts are growing in nicely.

  • Akshay April 27, 2010, 9:08 am

    Hey Mark, Nice Post!
    I have a couple of questions
    1.Do the lateral dumbell raise have the same effect?
    2.While doing any workout, is the aerobic part (i.e. the breathing) important?

  • rohit April 27, 2010, 11:06 am

    looks cool n effective surely gonna try it thnxxxxxxx marc

  • Mark McManus April 27, 2010, 11:10 am

    @Tommy. I wasn’t sure whether or not to include that but I think I will. I want to avoid the book coming across as an advert for A Month of Mass or even TSPA. People are cynical enough about free online books, I don’t want to help reinforce that cynicism.
    @Mike. Just 1
    @Sean. Dang it!
    @Wouter @JT. Those machines provide the same resistance as this cable movement with the same lever length. If you’ve access to one, use it.
    @Akshay. No, not quite – you need to read all the text below the video to see why.
    Yes breathing is important. While weight lifting is an anaerobic activity, we DO use all 3 energy systems – including our aerobic system.
    People have different opinions on breathing patterns but there’s no definitive data on what works best. My advice to people is simple – just keep breathing. The pattern isn’t as important as breathing itself. Because of the intensity that I work to I find myself using rapid breathing patterns. Perhaps on your last rep you’ll find it almost impossible not to hold your breath for a split second, that’s fine. Just keep oxygen coming into your body.
    @rohit. Thanks man.

  • Wuscle Man April 27, 2010, 1:21 pm

    Yup…http://www.fullfitness.net/sites/default/files/machine_lateral_raise.jpg This machine has been around for years. Isolates the delts more than the exercise Marc just demonstrated. Sorry Marc……you didn’t invent this movement. Dang huh :-)

  • Mark McManus April 27, 2010, 2:21 pm

    @Wuscle. They’ve been around for decades actually. As I stated above, I’ve seen these machines (I think Nautilus were the originators) but the exercise I created is a cable movement that replicates their effectiveness. As I say in comment 14, if you’ve access to one of those machines, use it.

  • Transformer April 27, 2010, 6:25 pm

    Here’s a great machine for both of your shoulder recommendations:


    I’ve used it and its good.

  • Louis April 27, 2010, 7:37 pm

    Thanks for the post bud. If you have the link to buy the attachment that would be great. Cheers!
    ps: i’m back to construction site now and we have here a pretty basic gym. I’m missing my usual gym’s pec deck machine… If you have good ideas on how to work arround that, i would be happy to get your thoughts.

  • Adam April 28, 2010, 12:18 pm

    Tried this variation for the first time yesterday – it kicks ass!

    If you haven’t tried it, you simply have to. Cabled delt raises (the McManus Method) have now replaced dumbell delt raises.

    I’m a convert!


    North Bay, ON, Canada

  • Michael April 28, 2010, 8:55 pm

    Great exercise Mark. What makes it so special is because the resistance is directly on the elbow and not on the forearms as with dumbbells.