Cable Front Raise: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 31, 2022

The cable front raise is a cable or pulley machine assisted deltoid exercise with a particular focus on the anterior deltoid head, of which is otherwise known as the front of the shoulder muscles, though the other heads of the deltoid muscle group are also activated to an extent.

This particular exercise is quite commonly utilized in workout programs as a “finisher” exercise wherein the final bit of training stimuli is induced into the muscle group after the performance of other, more intense exercises has already fatigued said muscle group.

The cable front raise is an excellent exercise both for individuals wishing to improve the strength and function of their shoulder muscles as well as physical rehabilitation patients that have been prescribed or cleared for the usage of this particular exercise in the capacity of recovery.

What is the Cable Front Raise?

The cable front raise is classified as an upper body isolation exercise with the anterior head of the deltoid muscle group being the main focus of the exercise’s resistance.

Due to the fact that the distal point of the exerciser’s body remains firmly in place during the entirety of the repetition, the cable front raise is also classified as a open kinetic chain movement, allowing individuals with weak or unstable stabilizer muscles to perform the exercise without much worry of injury.

cable front raise movement

Though the cable front raise is usually performed with a handle meant to be held with both of the exerciser’s hands, it may also be considered a unilateral exercise in the event that said exerciser has instead chosen to only work one side of their deltoids at a time through the use of a smaller cable handle attachment.

Otherwise, the cable front raise is considered a bilateral exercise due to the fact that it trains both sides of the shoulder muscles simultaneously.

Why is the Cable Front Raise Performed?

The cable front raise is primarily performed by athletes and regular gym goers that wish to induce a light to moderate level of training stimuli to their deltoid muscle group, either for the purposes of improved size and strength in said muscle group or for improving the function of the deltoid heads in athletic situations.

The cable front raise and similar exercises may also be added into a physical rehabilitation program for the purposes of inducing repair in soft tissue injuries, improving range of motion in cases of shoulder joint disorders or reinforcing tissue that has already been healed in the area.

What Muscles do the Cable Front Raise Work?

Being a bilateral isolation exercise with a rather specific form, the cable front raise primarily works the deltoid muscles group, of which makes up the shoulders and is divided into three heads, namely the posterior in the back, the medial in the center and the anterior located at the front.

Acting primarily as a stabilizer in the concentric portion of the exercise is the serratus anterior, a multitude of muscles located on the sides of the rib cage, of which are responsible for the forward movement of the arms and the extension of the scapulae.

Are Cable Front Raises Good?

The cable front raise is excellent for the particular functions that it is normally used for – namely inducing muscular hypertrophy and neuromuscular strength adaptations in the deltoids muscle group.

However, due to its isolation exercise nature and the fact that using rather high levels of intensity or resistance while performing this exercise is inadvisable, the cable front raise will not make a good primary exercise for the deltoids in normal workout routines.

As such, the cable front raise is best combined with other, more intense, exercises such as the barbell overhead press, Arnold press or the barbell push press.

This may best be facilitated through the use of light to moderate resistance, of which will be entirely subjective depending on the exerciser’s particular strength level and experience in performing such exercises.

What are the Benefits of Performing the Cable Front Raise?

The cable front raise is performed so as to induce its variety of positive effects into the exerciser or physical rehabilitation patient, especially the sort of benefits that are reserved solely for the cable front raise itself and are not found in the majority of resistance exercises.

These are primarily that of improved neuromuscular control and shoulder function – as may be useful in athletes, the improvement of the exerciser’s outline and bodily frame by way of muscular hypertrophy in the shoulders, improvements in posture as well as a highly specific method of activating the deltoids during resistance training.

Athletic Benefits

First and foremost among the benefits that may be accrued from repeatedly performing the cable front raise over a period of time is that of its athletic benefits, of which primarily take the form of muscular hypertrophy, improved muscular endurance and an enhanced neuromuscular control connection.

All of these effects directly translate to an improved function in athletic endeavors, whether through the capacity of improved power output, faster reaction speeds, the ability to retain full function under strain for a longer period of time or even simply more careful mind body neuromuscular control.

Aesthetic Benefits

Though usually secondary a goal for the majority of gym goers and physical rehabilitation patients, the fact that the cable front raise improves the general size and curvature of the deltoid muscle group when combined with adequate protein and proper rest.

This – by most measures of superficial physical aesthetics, will result in an improved appearance due to the creation of a wider frame and the coveted “V-shape” of the torso, wherein the shoulders appear to be wider than the waist and as such produce a more traditionally masculine shape.

This is not to say that women will begin to look more masculine or less feminine by performing the cable front raise, however, as the significant presence of androgenic hormones in the male body are what is primarily responsible for such a dramatic change in size of the deltoid muscle groups, something that the female body would be quite hard-pressed to achieve under normal circumstances.

Improved Posture

A common problem among individuals with untrained or weakened upper body musculature is that of rounded shoulders, either forward or simply slumped downwards as the deltoids, scapula, trapezius and various other upper body muscle groups are all incapable of fully supporting the formation of proper posture.

As such, regularly performing the cable front raise alongside other exercises that train the aforementioned muscle groups can all aid readily in the improvement of the exerciser’s posture, both in terms of their ability to maintain said proper posture as well as achieving the natural alignment of their spinal column’s curvature that is specific to the individual themselves.

Highly Targeted Muscle Activation

Being an isolation exercise with a rather efficient usage of neuromuscular fiber recruitment, the cable front raise is capable of a highly specific level of targeted muscle activation, of which may be rather difficult to replicate in other exercises.

As such, for individuals of advanced or elite training experience in the fields of bodybuilding or powerlifting, being able to isolate the deltoid muscle group in such a specific manner can be quite beneficial for their particular sport, either for the purposes of extracting the last drop of muscular hypertrophy they can or by improving their mind-body connection in relation to said muscle group.

How Is the Cable Front Raise Performed?

The cable front raise is first performed by the exerciser attaching a two handed handle bar to the carabiner of the pulley machine, additionally positioning the wheel of the cable at an appropriately low enough height that the cable itself does not uncomfortably run against the groin of the exerciser.

Once the machine has been set up, the exerciser can then choose an appropriate level of resistance from the cable machine. We advise using a rather low intensity for individuals of little training experience or those without proper professional supervision.

Machine set up and resistance level adjusted, the exerciser will then face away from the cable machine with the handle and cable placed between their legs or already held in both hands, of which must be evenly spaced apart at a comfortable distance.

With a pronated grip – palms facing downwards – the exerciser will then nearly lock out their elbows as they raise their arms upwards until the handle attachment and their hands are approximately parallel or higher than their shoulders, with the cable extending out between their legs as it is pulled upward as well.

It is important for the exerciser to maintain a straight back and an upright posture as the exercise is performed, as any cheating of the exerciser’s form such as in the case of the individual bending around the handle or leaning backwards may indicate that the resistance of the machine is too high and unsuitable for the exerciser’s strength level.

Once the handle bar has reached the zenith of what is comfortable for the exerciser, they will then allow it to fall into the eccentric or negative portion of the exercise as they lower it slowly in a controlled manner back towards their hips.

This completes a single repetition of the cable front raise exercise.

Are there Variations to the Cable Front Raise?

In the event that the local gymnasium’s cable machine is out of order or the exerciser wishes to simply utilize a different variation of the cable front raise, several alternatives do exist that either make use of different equipment that can create the same intended effect or that only activate one side of the body at a time.

It should be noted, however, that the following variations are not direct replacements of the cable front raise due to the fact that they present small differences in terms of angle, intensity, muscles activated or time under induced tension, potentially producing slightly different training stimuli.

Dumbbell Front Raises

The more common free weight alternative to the cable front raise, the dumbbell front raise is simply a cable front raise that makes use of evenly weighted dumbbells so as to induce a similar training stimuli to the latter exercise.

dumbbell front raise movement

The primary difference between the dumbbell front raise – and the reason why it is somewhat more common among experienced gym goers – is the fact that it also forces the deltoid muscle group to act as a stabilizing muscle, apart from also acting as the primary mover muscle of the exercise itself.

This may result in a higher level of muscular activation and a somewhat broader range of athletic benefits that can be imparted by the exercise.

Front Plate Raise

Quite similar to the dumbbell front raise except for the fact that the front plate raise instead uses a weight plate as the object of resistance, front plate raises generally induce a somewhat more neutrally focused training stimuli to the deltoid heads due to the semi-supinated grip that is used while gripping the weight plate.

This may be remedied by instead utilizing two equally weighted plates that may be gripped with only one hand, though many exercisers find this to be less efficient and somewhat uncomfortable as the deltoid muscle group struggles to balance the weight while also acting as a primary mover muscle.

Single Hand Cable Front Raise

Performed with either a supinated or pronated grip depending on the exerciser’s individual biomechanics, the single hand cable front raise is the unilateral substitute for the cable front raise, directly activating only one side of the shoulder muscles at a time so as to allow the exerciser better focus on said side of the muscle group.

In order to facilitate the performance of a single hand cable front raise, the exerciser will instead forego the long handle bar pulley attachment and instead use one meant for only a single hand – advisably with a rotating grip so as to help prevent the incidence of a wrist or shoulder impingement injury.

References

1. Bagchi, Amritashish & Raizada, Dr. (2016). Electromyographical investigation of anterior deltoid and trapezius muscles during three different variations of front raise.

2. Campos YAC, Vianna JM, Guimarães MP, Oliveira JLD, Hernández-Mosqueira C, da Silva SF, Marchetti PH. Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals. J Hum Kinet. 2020 Oct 31;75:5-14. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2020-0033. PMID: 33312291; PMCID: PMC7706677.

3. Cable Front Raise (Bilateral). Muscle & Strength. Published September 17, 2009. Accessed January 21, 2022. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/cable-front-raise.html

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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