Cable Y Raise Benefits & Muscles Worked (With Pictures)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
November 17, 2022

In the pursuit of training and rehabilitation of the deltoids muscle group, a multitude of exercises have been brought into common usage, some of which make use of specialized exercise equipment such as the cable machine so as to provide a constant time under tension as well as a modified form of training resistance. 

One among these deltoid focused exercises is the cable Y raise, a unilateral exercise that activates all three of the deltoid muscle group’s heads through the use of both isometric and dynamic muscular contraction, thereby inducing muscular hypertrophy and neurological strength adaptation.

The cable Y raise is considered a staple auxiliary or assistance exercise in many bodybuilding training programs and physical rehabilitation routines, especially due to the fact that it acts as a highly variable isolation exercise suitable for a variety of individuals and purposes.

What is the Cable Y Raise?

In a more technical definition, the cable Y raise is considered an assistance isolation exercise of the open kinetic chain movement variety, wherein the deltoids are the only muscle group activated to any significant extent due to the form and angle of resistance used in the exercise.

cable y raise

The cable Y raise is usually performed on deltoid-specific days or on “pull” days of a workout routine so as to maximize the training stimuli that may be imparted to these specific muscle groups by also performing other exercises that target the deltoids as well.

How is the Cable Y Raise Performed?

The cable Y raise is performed by the exerciser first attaching a pair of single hand handles to two different pulley carabiners, gripping one in each hand and standing erect with their back straight and their feet planted approximately shoulder width apart.

The exerciser will then raise their hands upwards until the wrists are extended approximately perpendicular to the shoulders, with the elbows bent and the wrists remaining loosely contracted so as to prevent strain and injury.

cable y raise movement

Stopping at the midpoint of the repetition, the exerciser will then lower their hands once more in a controlled manner, allowing their deltoids to be placed under the tension of the resistance imparted through the cables prior to stopping at the starting position.

This completes a single repetition of the cable Y raise, with subsequent repetitions to be performed depending on the requirements of the workout program or physical rehabilitation prescription.

What are the Benefits of the Cable Y Raise?

When combined with other healthy habits like a proper diet and adequate sleep, the cable Y raise is capable of imparting quite a host of positive effects to any exerciser that performs them on a regular basis with correct form and reasonable levels of resistance.

As such, individuals wishing to find an exercise that induces the following benefits may find that the cable Y raise is a perfectly suitable addition to their workout routine.

Highly Specific Muscle Activation

As is the nature of most isolation exercises, the cable Y raise is capable of highly specific muscular activation targeted towards the deltoid muscle group heads, in particular the medial deltoids located between the anterior and posterior deltoid heads.

This may be of some use to highly advanced bodybuilders or similar athletes that require such a specific level of targeted training stimuli be imparted during their workout routine, whether to even out the appearance of their deltoids, to overcome a muscular imbalance or to improve a specific function of the targeted muscle.

Reduced Chance of Injury

Due to the variable level of resistance and method of imparting said resistance when using the cable machine, the exerciser is at a lower chance of injury, a benefit that makes the cable Y raise an excellent addition to the workout routine of beginner or newbie gym goers wishing to train their deltoids through the use of isolation exercises.

This particular benefit may also be further reinforced through the regular practice of other methods of reducing injury during exercise, such as the usage of a warm up routine alongside a comprehensive stretching routine as well.

Improved Connective Tissue Function

With the shoulders being among one of the most used joints in the human body, it should be by no stretch of logic that reinforcing and repairing said connective tissue is of utmost importance for the continued healthy function of an individual.

The highly targeted nature of the cable Y raise induces such an effect, not only towards the muscle tissue known as the deltoids, but also to the connective tissue that makes up the shoulder joint and other joints involved during the performance of the cable Y raise, with higher levels of resistance inducing better connective tissue improvement.

Improved Posture

Rounded shoulders are a common postural problem that is treated through the reinforcement of muscle fibers that either draw the shoulders back or forwards, depending on which direction the patient’s shoulders are rounded towards.

As such, performing the cable Y raise reinforces the general function of the musculature that makes up the shoulders themselves, both allowing the muscles to naturally rest in a healthier position as well as giving them the strength to maintain proper posture if muscular weakness is the primary cause.

Aesthetic Benefits

A commonly sought after appearance for the majority of gym goers is otherwise referred to as the “V-taper”, a bodily aesthetic that is primarily achieved by the individual possessing an upper torso that is wider than their waist.

This visual effect is achieved – apart from the basis of lucky genetics – through the muscular hypertrophy of muscle groups that present a wider appearance on the individual’s body, with the deltoids being among one of the most important muscle groups in this particular aspect.

With the fact that the cable Y raise targets the medial head of the deltoid, it can be surmised that performing such an exercise for the purposes of achieving a wider-looking frame is yet another benefit that is native to the cable Y raise and exercises similar to it.

What Muscles are Worked by the Cable Y Raise?

Being an isolation auxiliary exercise, the cable Y raise primarily activates the deltoids muscle group, of which is otherwise known as the shoulders, a trio of muscle heads responsible for the abduction and adduction of the arms as well as the partial stabilization of the neck and head.

By addition, the cable Y raise also utilizes such muscle groups like the trapezius, serratus anterior and levator scapulae in order to stabilize the movement and reduce chance of injury by ensuring the arms do not overextend or move in such a way that the soft tissues are damaged.

Who Should Perform the Cable Y Raise?

The cable Y raise is perfectly suitable for a variety of individuals wishing to induce some level of training stimuli in their shoulder muscles, or physical rehabilitation patients that have been advised to perform the exercise so as to aid in the recovery of their body.

However, performing the cable Y raise may not be entirely advisable for individuals of very young or elderly age, those with certain soft tissue or neurological disorders, or individuals with a history of ACL tears and rotator cuff injuries due to the nature and angle of the resistance used in the cable Y raise.

If one is part of the aforementioned groups of individuals, it is far more advisable to first consult a physician or other certified medical professional prior to incorporating the cable Y raise into their exercise routine.

Are there Variations of the Cable Y Raise?

In the event that the cable Y raise requires some level of change be imparted to the function of the exercise, a few different variations of the deltoid isolation exercise exist that may accommodate whatever circumstance necessitates the alteration of the cable Y raise.

Seated Cable Y Raises

For individuals with lower body disabilities or those that simply do not wish to perform the exercise while standing, the usage of a bench or similar low seat while performing the cable Y raise should provide a more stable platform on which the exerciser may train their deltoids.

Ideally, the exerciser can instead place a yoga mat or similar padding on the floor so as to maximize the range of motion of the cable Y raise without risking any sort of wrist or shoulder joint impingement injury, though this may not be possible for certain individuals.

Single Arm Cable Y Raise

Simply the unilateral version of the cable Y raise, the single arm cable raise is performed in much the same manner as its bilateral counterpart, save for the fact that only one side of the deltoids is trained at a time.

This may have the added benefit of allowing better mind-body connectedness by allowing the exerciser to better focus on only one part of the muscle group at a time, possibly inducing better and more effective training stimuli at the cost of time and effort.

Resistance Band Cable Y Raise

If a cable machine is not available for use or the exerciser simply wishes to make a small change in their workout routine, the usage of a resistance band as a variation of the cable Y raise should present little to no difference in terms of training stimuli and positive effects accrued.

This is due to the fact that the usage of a resistance band is quite similar to the usage of a cable machine in terms of constant time under tension, variability in resistance level and nature of the training stimuli itself.


1. Tyler Read, BSC, CPT. (January 7 2021) “Cable Lateral Raise: A Complete Guide” healthline Magazine

2. Franke Rde A, Botton CE, Rodrigues R, Pinto RS, Lima CS. Analysis of anterior, middle and posterior deltoid activation during single and multijoint exercises. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Jul-Aug;55(7-8):714-21. Epub 2014 Jun 20. PMID: 24947920.

3. Lorenzetti S, Dayer R, Plüss M, List R. Pulling Exercises for Strength Training and Rehabilitation: Movements and Loading Conditions. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology. 2017; 2(3):33.

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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