7 Best Rear Delt Exercises for Strong Shoulders

7 Best Rear Delt Exercises for Strong Shoulders - welzo

The rear deltoids, or posterior deltoids, are crucial muscles located at the back of the shoulders. They play a vital role in the rotation and stabilisation of the shoulder joint. According to Dr. Emily Splichal, a renowned podiatrist and human movement specialist, "Strengthening the rear deltoids contributes significantly to a balanced shoulder musculature, which is essential for preventing injuries and maintaining optimal shoulder function." Furthermore, strong rear deltoids contribute to an upright posture, reducing the risk of developing postural issues such as rounded shoulders.

The health of the rear deltoids is imperative not only for functional movements but also for aesthetic balance. A study in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine highlights that well-developed rear deltoids contribute to the visual symmetry of the upper body, which is often a neglected aspect in typical training routines focusing predominantly on front and lateral shoulder muscles. Dr. Alan Rudd, a specialist in sports medicine, advises, "Integrating exercises that specifically target the rear deltoids can lead to improved shoulder mechanics and a more proportionate physique."

The 7 Best Rear Delt Exercises

The best rear delt exercises include face pulls, bent-over dumbbell reverse flies, seated cable rows with a wide grip, single-arm bent over rows, reverse pec deck fly, incline bench dumbbell rows, and standing barbell or dumbbell reverse flies.These exercises are designed to strengthen and develop the rear deltoids, enhance shoulder stability, and improve overall posture. Incorporating these targeted movements into your workout routine can help correct muscular imbalances and contribute to a well-rounded, aesthetically pleasing upper body physique. Following proper form and technique is crucial to maximise effectiveness and prevent injury.

1. Face Pulls

Face pulls are a resistance exercise primarily targeting the rear deltoids. They also engage the muscles of the upper back and the external rotators of the shoulders.

Benefits for the Rear Deltoids

This exercise is essential for counteracting the common muscle imbalances caused by prolonged sitting and forward-leaning activities. As noted by Dr. Sandra Larkin, a physical therapist, "Face pulls are an effective exercise for strengthening the posterior shoulder muscles, thereby aiding in the correction of shoulder imbalances."

Step-by-step Instructions

  • Attach a rope to a high pulley of a cable station.
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, facing the pulley, and grasp the ends of the rope with palms facing each other.
  • Pull the rope towards the face, separating the hands as they come closer, and simultaneously retract the shoulder blades.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Dr. Larkin also warns against common errors such as pulling the rope too close to the neck or using excessive weight, which can lead to compromised form. She suggests focusing on controlled movements and ensuring proper scapular retraction.

2. Bent-over Dumbbell Reverse Flies

Bent-over dumbbell reverse flies target the rear deltoids by isolating them through abduction movement while in a bent-over position.

How It Targets the Rear Delts

This exercise specifically challenges the rear deltoids due to the gravity-induced resistance encountered during the fly movement. As Dr. James Carter, an expert in biomechanics, explains, "The rear deltoids are optimally engaged and isolated during the horizontal abduction of the arms in this exercise."

Detailed Execution Steps

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend forward at the hips, maintaining a straight back.
  • Extend the arms beneath the chest, palms facing each other.
  • Lift the arms to the sides, keeping a slight bend in the elbows, until they are in line with the body.
  • Lower the weights slowly back to the starting position and repeat.

Tips for Maintaining Proper Form

It is crucial to avoid swinging the weights or using momentum. Dr. Carter suggests, "Focus on slow, controlled movements to maximise engagement of the rear deltoids and minimise the risk of injury."

3. Seated Cable Rows with a Wide Grip

Seated cable rows with a wide grip are an effective compound exercise that targets the rear deltoids along with the muscles of the back and biceps.

Benefits Specifically for the Rear Deltoids

This variation of the seated row specifically targets the posterior deltoids due to the wide grip position, which alters the angle of pull and engagement of the shoulder muscles. Dr. Helen Torres, a physiotherapist, notes, "The wide grip seated row is excellent for strengthening the rear deltoids and improving overall shoulder health."

Instructions for Proper Setup and Movement

  • Attach a wide bar to the low pulley of a seated row machine.
  • Sit with knees slightly bent and grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder-width.
  • Lean slightly forward from the hips, maintaining a straight back.
  • Pull the bar towards the lower abdomen, drawing the shoulder blades together.
  • Return to the starting position with controlled movement and repeat.

Advice for Maximizing Effectiveness

Dr. Torres advises keeping the torso stationary throughout the exercise to ensure the rear deltoids are effectively engaged and to prevent lower back strain.

4. Reverse Pec Deck Fly

The Reverse Pec Deck Fly is an isolation exercise performed on a machine, specifically designed to target the rear deltoids. According to Dr. Gregory Hughes, a specialist in orthopaedic surgery, "This exercise is essential for individuals aiming to strengthen their posterior deltoid muscles, as it allows for focused engagement and controlled movement."

Detailed Breakdown on Targeting the Rear Delts

In this exercise, the rear deltoids are engaged through horizontal abduction of the arms. Dr. Hughes explains, "The movement pattern of the reverse pec deck fly specifically isolates the rear deltoids by moving the arms away from the midline of the body against resistance, which is crucial for their development."

Comprehensive Instructions

  • Adjust the seat of the pec deck machine so that the handles are at shoulder height.
  • Sit facing the machine, gripping the handles with your arms parallel to the floor.
  • Without changing the bend in your elbows, push the handles back until your arms are extended to the sides.
  • Return to the starting position with a controlled motion and repeat.

Common Errors and How to Rectify Them

A frequent mistake is using excessive weight, leading to momentum use and reduced muscle engagement. Dr. Hughes advises, "Select a weight that allows for full movement control, ensuring that the rear deltoids, rather than the back or arms, are performing the work."

5. Incline Bench Dumbbell Rows

Incline Bench Dumbbell Rows are performed with the chest against an incline bench, effectively isolating the upper back and rear deltoids. The incline position decreases lower back strain, making it a safer option for individuals with lower back issues.

Benefits for the Rear Deltoids and Upper Back

This exercise is beneficial for strengthening the rear deltoids along with the rhomboids and traps. "The incline bench position ensures a greater focus on the upper back and rear deltoids, enhancing postural support and shoulder stability," states Dr. Fiona Barry, a chiropractor with a focus on sports injuries.

Instructions from Start to Finish

  • Set an incline bench to about 45 degrees.
  • Lie face down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended towards the floor.
  • Row the weights upwards by bending the elbows and squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  • Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.

Tips for Enhancing Rear Delt Development

To maximise rear deltoid development, Dr. Barry recommends maintaining a focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement and ensuring a full range of motion.

6. Standing Barbell or Dumbbell Reverse Flies

Standing Barbell or Dumbbell Reverse Flies are crucial for isolating the rear deltoids. Performed with either barbells or dumbbells, this exercise involves lifting weights outward from the body in a reverse fly motion.

How It Isolates and Works the Rear Delts

Dr. Lisa Morton, a physiotherapist specializing in upper body rehabilitation, states, "This exercise primarily targets the rear deltoids by engaging them through the horizontal abduction motion, critical for balanced shoulder development."

Detailed Instructions for Performing the Exercise Correctly

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding weights in front of your thighs.
  • Bend slightly at the hips and knees, leaning forward with a straight back.
  • Lift the weights to the sides, maintaining a slight bend in the elbows, until they reach shoulder level.
  • Lower the weights with control and repeat.

Pointers for Avoiding Common Mistakes

Dr. Morton advises against rounding the back or lifting the weights too high, as this can lead to strain. She suggests, "Keep the back straight and focus on moving the weights through the strength of the rear deltoids."

7. Single-Arm Bent Over Rows

Single-Arm Bent Over Rows are a unilateral exercise, meaning they work one side of the body at a time. This exercise is designed to strengthen the upper back, including the rear deltoids, as well as improve muscular balance and core stability. By focusing on one arm at a time, it helps identify and correct imbalances between the left and right sides of the body.

Specifics on How It Helps Rear Delts

Single-Arm Bent Over Rows target the rear deltoids by engaging them during the pulling motion. This engagement is crucial as the rear deltoids play a key role in retracting and elevating the scapula. Dr. Sandra Larkin, a physical therapist, notes, "The unilateral nature of the exercise allows for concentrated focus on the posterior shoulder muscles, enhancing activation and strength development in the rear deltoids."

Step-by-step Guide to Performing the Exercise

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand.
  • Hinge forward at the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor, maintaining a slight bend in the knees.
  • Let the arm holding the dumbbell extend towards the floor, palm facing in.
  • Keeping your back straight, row the dumbbell upwards by bending your elbow and pulling it towards your ribcage.
  • Lower the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching arms.

Safety Tips and Technique Correction

To prevent injury and ensure the effectiveness of the Single-Arm Bent Over Rows, Dr. Larkin advises:

  • Keep the back straight and avoid rounding the spine; this maintains proper alignment and reduces the risk of lower back injury.
  • Do not twist the torso while rowing; maintain a stable core to ensure the movement is driven by the rear delt and upper back.
  • Avoid lifting the dumbbell too high or using excessive weight, which can lead to overextension and shoulder strain.
  • Focus on a slow and controlled movement, ensuring that the rear deltoids, rather than momentum, are performing the work.

rear delt exercise

People Also Ask

What is the best rear delt exercise?

The best rear delt exercise can vary depending on individual fitness levels, preferences, and goals. However, many fitness experts and physiotherapists, such as Dr. Gregory Hughes, recommend the Reverse Pec Deck Fly for its ability to isolate and target the rear deltoids effectively. This exercise allows for focused engagement of the rear deltoids, minimizing involvement from other muscle groups, thus making it highly efficient for strengthening this specific area.

How do I target my rear delts?

To target your rear delts effectively, incorporate exercises that involve the horizontal abduction of the arms and require the movement of the arms away from the body against resistance. Exercises such as Bent-over Dumbbell Reverse Flies, Face Pulls, and Seated Cable Rows with a Wide Grip are particularly beneficial. According to Dr. Lisa Morton, ensuring proper form—such as maintaining a straight back during bent-over movements and focusing on squeezing the shoulder blades together—can significantly enhance the engagement of the rear deltoids.

Are rear delts hard to train?

Rear delts can be challenging to train due to their position and the fact that they are often overshadowed by the more dominant front and middle deltoid muscles during compound exercises. Additionally, as Dr. Fiona Barry points out, many people may neglect specific rear delt exercises in their workout routines, leading to weaker rear deltoids compared to other shoulder muscles. However, with proper exercise selection and technique, it is possible to effectively train and strengthen the rear delts.

Do I need to isolate rear delts?

Isolating the rear delts can be beneficial, especially for individuals looking to improve shoulder balance, posture, and overall shoulder health. Dr. Alan Rudd suggests that isolating the rear delts is crucial for addressing muscle imbalances and preventing injuries associated with overdeveloped anterior shoulder muscles. Isolation exercises specifically targeting the rear deltoids can help achieve a more balanced and symmetrical shoulder development, contributing to better functional movement and aesthetic appearance.



In conclusion, incorporating these exercises into a workout regime can significantly strengthen the rear deltoids, improving shoulder health, function, and aesthetics. As Dr. Hughes summarises, "A balanced approach to shoulder training, emphasising the rear deltoids, is essential for overall shoulder integrity and aesthetics." Following the guidance provided by health professionals and ensuring proper form and technique will maximise the benefits of these exercises while minimising the risk of injury.

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