Exercise Spotlight: Bentover Cable Chop

Find the missing link to your shoulder development, by tapping into uncharted territory

The rear deltoids are a pesky muscle group when it comes to hypertrophy and bodybuilding training. I think beyond any muscle group, there’s a ton of content out there aimed at their development, because of how hard they are to truly isolate and train well; they can be compensated for by other back muscles, or (more commonly) the mid and front delts themselves.

Personally, I’ve noticed something where training the rear delts is concerned, however. Most of their training that’s been made popular has only involved part of their range of motion. Whether it’s a wide grip row or a reverse fly, the exercises deal with arm abduction that starts at the mid point of the range. To make matters worse, often times they also ask for no rotary component to the exercise by using a fixed hand position – but that’s for another article. This one’s focusing on that neglected range of motion, and that makes this movement special.

Enter the Bentover Cable Chop

If you really want to optimize the length-tension relationship for the rear deltoids at the shoulder joint, then it’s worthwhile to go into full adduction. That means bringing the arm across the body entirely, so it basically covers the chest. When you take the time to think about it, this is a joint angle that’s literally never used when training this muscle group, but the bentover chop capitalizes on it.

Placing the muscle in this position while internally rotated gives the body no choice but to use the rear deltoids, at what’s likely its weakest position on the force curve also. In the video below, you can clearly see my rear deltoids going crazy – but make no mistake: This is a very specific exercise in its execution. I also like doing them bent over and not chest supported, so that postural muscles are required to do their job to hold the torso in the same spot. To some, that may mean less isolation, but I find it creates a better brace and also allows for a bit of necessary rotation without being blocked by the bench.

Bentover Cable Chop – Coaching Cues

  • Set a cable on a high pulley with no handle, and keep the weight light. Stand sideways to the pulley.
  • With the outside arm (the arm furthest away), hold the cable with an internally rotated hand and arm position. Bend over to your deadlift start position with a flat back.
  • Allow the pulley to pull your working arm toward the top position. The arm should cross your body as you pull your rear deltoids into a stretch. The elbow can bend, but not much.
  • Once you reach a full stretch, drive the cable down, aiming for the outside of your shoe on the same leg. Remember: Keep the elbow fixed, and pull straight down, not outward. This will help keep the triceps out of the lift.
  • Gun for sets of 15-20 reps per arm. It doesn’t take much weight, so focus on high reps.

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