Cable Exercises For Stronger Shoulders

Besides creating a more powerful presence, strong shoulders can help give you a boost in exercises like the bench press or pull-ups. Working on your shoulders can even help prevent injuries associated with lifting. Start beefing up yours with these cable exercises.

Instructions:
For a complete shoulders-and-arms workout, beginners should do 1 or 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps of one trapezius exercise (such as the upright row or cable shrug), one shoulder-isolation movement (lateral raise), one external rotation, one triceps pushdown
(try exercise 4A here), and a biceps curl.

Intermediate and advanced guys should do the same exercises, adding a triceps extension and reverse-grip or neutral-grip curl. Do 2 or 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per exercise. Advanced lifters using heavier weights can cut down the reps to 6 to 10.

Upright Row: Beginner Level

Start: Attach an EZ-curl bar to the low cable. (A straight bar is okay, although it’s not as easy on your wrists). Stand facing the weight stack, about a foot in front of it. Grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip, and hold it at arm’s length, in front of your thighs.
Finish: Pull the bar up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor (no higher). Pause, then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
Variation: Stand-Back Upright Row
For more shoulder comfort, stand about 1m away from the stack. This shifts some of the work to your rear delts and traps. Your elbows come back as well as up, and your forearms are almost parallel to the floor at the top position.



Cable Shrug: Beginner Level

Start: Attach a straight bar to the low pulley. Grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip, stand facing the weight stack, and hold the bar at arm’s length in front of your thighs.
Finish: Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, keeping your arms and neck straight. (Don’t bend your elbows, in other words, or flex your neck forward.) Pause, then return to the starting position.


Lateral Raise: Beginner Level

Start: Attach a stirrup handle to the low pulley. Grab the handle with your non-dominant hand and stand sideways to the cable column so your dominant side is toward the weight stack. Hold the handle near your stack-side hip, with your elbow slightly bent, as if you were about to pull a sword from a scabbard.
Finish: Raise the handle up and across your body until your arm is parallel to the floor and the cable is right against your body. (You’ll figure out the best position by trial and error—you may get a better feel for the exercise by standing closer to or farther from the weight stack, or by raising your arm at a higher angle.) Pause, then return to the starting position. Finish the set with that arm, then switch and repeat with your other arm.
Beginner Variation: Bilateral Lateral Raise
Attach the stirrup handles to both low cables of the crossover machine. Grab the handles with a crossover grip and stand between the towers. Lean forward slightly and execute the move the same way you would with one arm.

Intermediate Variation: Lean-Away Lateral Raise
Position your feet very close to the low cable attachment, hold on to the station rack with your free hand, and lean away from the apparatus until your non-working arm is completely straight. (If you let go, you’d fall sideways.) The angle increases the load on your delts as you execute the raise.


Next:
Front Raise
Kneeling External Rotation
Kneeling Internal Rotation


 

Front Raise: Beginner Level

Start: Attach the straight bar to the low pulley and grab it with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Stand facing away from the cable station so that you’re straddling the cable and holding the bar at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Lean forward a bit (chest over toes), and bend your knees slightly.
Finish: Raise the bar out in front of you until it’s level with your shoulders. Pause, then return to the starting position. The cable travels between your legs, so be careful.
Variation: Unilateral Front Raise
Attach a stirrup handle to the low pulley and stand with your back to it and slightly to the side of it so your working arm lines up directly in front of the cable. Start with the handle at arm’s length at your side, and keep your arm straight as you lift the handle out in front of you until it’s at shoulder level.



Kneeling External Rotation: Beginner Level

Start: You’ll need a rolled-up workout towel for this one. Attach a stirrup handle to the low pulley, grab the handle with your non-dominant hand, and kneel sideways to the cable column so your dominant side is toward the weight stack. Bend your non-dominant arm 90 degrees so the elbow braces the towel against your hip. Your forearm should be parallel to the floor, in front of your abdomen.
Finish: Pull the handle out and away from your torso, keeping the towel pinned against your hip with your elbow, as if you were opening a door. Pause when your forearm is as far to the side as it will go, then return to the starting position. Finish the set with that arm, then switch and repeat with your other arm.


Kneeling Internal Rotation: Beginner Level

Start: You’ll need a rolled-up workout towel for this one. Attach a stirrup handle to the low pulley. Grab the handle and kneel sideways to the weight stack with your working side closest to it, about 1m away. Bend your arm 90 degrees so your elbow braces the towel against your rib cage. The knuckles of your working hand should point toward the weight stack, and your forearm should be perpendicular to your torso.
Finish: Pull the handle across your torso until your forearm touches your abs. Pause, then return to the starting position. Finish your set with that arm, then repeat with your other arm.

Next:
Standing External Rotation
Standing Sideways External Rotation
Seated Shoulder Press

 

Standing External Rotation: Intermediate Level

Start: Attach a stirrup handle to the low pulley. Grab the handle with your non-dominant hand and stand facing the weight stack, about a foot away. Lift your working arm into the finishing position of an upright row: upper arm parallel to the floor and forearm pointing straight down.
Finish: Without allowing your upper arm to move up or down, rotate it so your forearm points toward the ceiling. Pause, then return to the starting position. Finish your set with that arm, then repeat with your other arm.
 


Standing Sideways External Rotation: Advanced Level

Start: Attach a stirrup handle to the low pulley. Grab the handle with your non-dominant hand and stand sideways to the weight stack so your dominant side is closest to it. Bend your working elbow not quite 90 degrees, with the inside of that forearm facing the side of your torso.
Finish: Pull the handle out and up so your hand is just above your head. You should look like you’re about to throw a pitch, or like you’ve just hit a tennis backhand. Pause, then return to the starting position. Finish your set with that arm, then repeat with your other arm.


Seated Shoulder Press: Advanced Level

Start: Set a bench between the columns of a crossover machine and put a pair of dumbbells on the floor next to it. Put ankle straps on your wrists and attach them to the low pulleys. Straddle the bench and pick up the dumbbells. Hold them at jaw level with an overhand grip.
Finish: Press the weights straight up over your shoulders. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
Variation: Unilateral Seated Shoulder Press
Same setup, but lift with the arm closest to the weight stack, and grab the side of the bench with your opposite hand for balance.



 

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