Egyptian Lateral Raise (Bodybuilder guide to Egyptian lateral raises)

Egyptian lateral raises

The Egyptian Lateral Raise

The Egyptian lateral raise is one of the most underused exercises in the gym. Many bodybuilders opt to go for the same, traditional lateral raise with every workout instead of hitting the lateral delts from a different angle with an Egyptian lateral raise, and they are missing out on serious gains!

In this guide, we will focus on the Egyptian lateral raise. What is it, how to do it, the advantages of using it and alternative exercises. 

What is the Egyptian Lateral Raise?

The Egyptian lateral raise is an isolation exercise that targets the lateral deltoids in the shoulder. It is similar to a traditional lateral raise but is performed with the body leaning to the side. This activates the lateral delts from a different angle and promotes hypertrophy in the muscle.

Egyptian lateral raises can be performed with a cable pulley machine or a dumbbell. As long as you have a support to hold on to (such as a cable pulley machine frame) you are good to go. 

The simplicity of the movement and the limited equipment required makes it a great movement to perform in your home gym

Below we will take a look at the two main variations of Egyptian lateral raises. 

The Egyptian Lateral Raise with Dumbbells

The Egyptian lateral raise can be performed with either dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or on a cable pulley machine. The dumbbells are a great option for a home gym workout and allow you to really connect with the lateral deltoids. 

How do I do an Egyptian lateral raise with Dumbells?

  1. Select your weight. Go for relatively light weight to start off with so that you can use perfect form. You can pyramid up to heavier weights as you progress.
  2. Holding the dumbbell at your side, stand next to your support and grab it with your other hand.
  3. Keeping your feet up against the support, lean to the side so that your gripping arm takes the weight of your body. The dumbbell will now be hanging away from your side. This is your starting position. 
  4. Take a deep breath, and upon exhaling, slowly raise the dumbbell up to the side in line with your head. Keep a slightly bent but rigid arm throughout the movement.
  5. At the top of the raise, hold the position for two seconds before slowly lowering the dumbbell over a count of 3. 
  6. Repeat this movement for the required amount of reps, change arms and then repeat the process. This is classed as one set. Aim for another 2-3 sets. 

Egyptian lateral dumbbell raise

The Egyptian Lateral Raise with Cables

Cables are a great option for this movement as they provide a smooth motion and constant tension throughout the movement There is also the convenience of quick weight selection making it a great choice for drop sets or pyramid sets. 

  1. Set the cable pulley at a low pin and select your weight from the stack. 
  2. Attach a stirrup handle, grab it with one hand and use the other hand to hold on to the machine frame for support.
  3. With your feet together up against the machine frame base, lean to the side so that your supporting arm takes the weight of your body. 
  4. Take a deep breath in, and upon exhale, raise the cable stirrup out to the side until it is level with your head. 
  5. Make sure that your arm is rigid. It can be slightly bent but must stay rigid so that the lateral delt is doing the lifting.
  6. At the top of the movement, hold for two seconds before slowly lowering the cable over a count of three. 
  7. Repeat for the required number of reps and then change arms. This is classed as one set. Aim for 3-4 sets in total. 

The Egyptian Lateral Raise with Cables

Muscles Worked by the Egyptian Lateral Raise

The target muscle with an Egyptian lateral raise is the lateral deltoid. This is the middle of the three muscles in the shoulder and is responsible for moving the arms out to the side. 

The lateral delts are activated with rowing and pressing movements but only to a small degree as the anterior and posterior delts are carrying the majority of the load. This is why it is important to isolate the lateral head with exercises like the Egyptian lateral raise so that you get a rounder, fuller shoulder. 

The traps, anterior (front) delts and posterior (rear) delts are activated with lateral delts as secondary assisters but if performed correctly, the lateral delt will be the muscle that is taking the majority of the strain. 

Muscles Worked by the Egyptian Lateral Raise

Mixing lateral delt raises with the shoulder press, upright rows, traditional lateral raises, front raises, and rear delt raises will give you the best results if you are looking to develop your shoulders for hypertrophy in bodybuilding

Strength trainers can also benefit from adding this movement to their programs as an accessory exercise to assist with pressing movements

Egyptian Lateral Raise vs Standard Lateral Raise

Egyptian lateral raises and traditional lateral raises are effectively the same movements targetting the same muscles. There is no obvious benefit to either of the two exercises and it is advisable to mix both of them into your training. 

Using a combination of Egyptian lateral raises and standard lateral raises will hit the lateral delts from different angles with the load being applied to different areas of the muscle. 

If you are standing straight (or sitting), there is not a lot of tension at the beginning of the movement but a lot at the top of it. If you are leaning out, the muscle is loaded with tension immediately but not as much at the top of the movement. 

If you only have room for one movement in your split and do not want to digress, opt for the Egyptian lateral raise as the tension is spread more evenly throughout the movement, especially when using cables. 

Alternatives to the Egyptian lateral raise

If you're looking for an alternative to the Egyptian lateral raise, you can try the seated cable lateral raise. This exercise targets the same muscles as the Egyptian lateral raise but is performed seated on a bench. This can also be performed with dumbbells or kettlebells. 

Upright rows are a good way to hit the lateral delts wth a barbell or straight bar attachment on a cable machine. They bring the traps and rear delts in to play more than a lateral raise would but are still good for overall shoulder development. Especially if you have been going heavy on the presses. 

The best exercise for adding mass to the whole shoulder is the shoulder press. You can perform the shoulder press with dumbbells, a barbell or on a shoulder press machine. Military presses and Arnold presses are a good variation of the shoulder press for lateral delt development. 


If you're looking to add some more muscle definition and width to your shoulders, then you should definitely try out the Egyptian lateral raise. There is no better way of isolating the lateral delts and really connecting with the muscle. 

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