The dumbbell lateral raise is one of the most popular shoulder exercises for those looking to develop the width of the shoulder due to being able to isolate the lateral head of the deltoid. The lateral raise can also be performed at a cable station, or with resistance bands.
The use of dumbbells for the lateral raise has the benefit of ensuring unilateral recruitment, thus providing equal resistance for both sides of the body. The exercise can be performed with both arms at the same time, or in an alternating fashion.
The lateral raise has been around for decades and is an effective method for targeting the side (lateral) head of the deltoids. The cable variation described here is sometimes preferred by some athletes due to the constant tension provided by the cable, as well as the smooth action.
The side of the shoulders (lateral deltoid head) are isolated with the cable lateral raise due to the abduction of the shoulder. Bodybuilders often use the lateral raise as a way of developing the width of the shoulders, improving their v-taper.
The cable can either go in front of the body during the exercise, or behind. Allowing the cable to go behind the body can provide a greater stretch on the deltoid during the initial portion of the exercise which some argue provides greater recruitment. We cannot locate any evidence for this, and any advantage will likely be negligible, so we recommend performing the way in which you find most comfortable.