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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.
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
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