Men and women might tend to focus on prioritizing different body parts, but the shoulders are one that everyone covets.
The rear delts are one of the most neglected parts of the shoulder, yet they account for the roundness that so many people are looking for.
Many of the best rear delt exercises also
- are essential for building and maintaining proper posture
- help prevent shoulder injuries (which are common)
- build symmetry with the shoulder, preventing a “forward sloping” look
- help improve shoulder function
Parts of the shoulder:
- anterior (front)
- posterior (back)
- lateral (side)
All three need to be properly worked and developed in order to create epic shoulders.
Check out these shoulder workouts:
Building strong, round shoulders helps to build impressive arms. Building nicely shaped arms is lost effort if your shoulders look weak.
Much of that roundness comes from building up all parts of the delt. The rear delt is a trouble spot because it is behind you, it tends to be an afterthought and neglected.
Another factor is not targeting your rear delts correctly. The best rear delt exercises will help, but you need to know how to properly feel the muscle working and engage it.
If you do not know how to engage the small posterior deltoid muscle properly, your back muscles such as the rhomboids and traps can easily take over, leaving your rear delts lacking.
Overhead presses are extremely valuable shoulder exercises but they fail to engage the rear delts enough.
The best rear delt exercises help you to hone in on the small muscles of the rear delt, using a full range of motion, which will explode the growth of your shoulder muscles.
Try the best rear delt exercises when designing your next rear delt workout!
Table of Contents
Top Tips For The Best Rear Delt Exercises
Top tips for performing the best rear delt exercises:
- choose 3-5 of the best rear delt exercises to add to your workout
- warm up with mobility work
- use the full range of motion
- err on the side of using lower weights but full range of motion rather than higher weights with partial reps
- time under tension is key: don’t rush
- never push to complete exhaustion, leave a couple of reps “in the tank”
- stop if you experience any pain
Rear Delt Rows
There are several types of rear delt rows using a variety of gym equipment, home workouts, and body weight.
Bent over barbell rear delt row
This exercise targets more of the mid back than the rear delts, but it is an excellent compound exercise that uses the rear delts along with the surrounding musculature to build functional strength.
- Stand facing the barbell on the floor, with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart, keeping a slight bend in your knees.
- Hinge forward at your waist to almost parallel and grip the barbell overhand.
- Maintain a straight back, head, and neck.
- Keep your torso stationary and exhale, lifting the barbell towards you.
- Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body.
- Hold for a count of one, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
- Return to the start position while inhaling.
Bent over dumbbell rear delt row
This is another exercise that primarly works your back in tandem with your rear delts.
A fantastic double-duty exercise if you are doing back and shoulders on the same day as part of an upper-body split or full-body workout.
- Stand tall, bracing your core with a neutral spine, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides with an overhand grip.
- Bending slightly at the knees, hinge your hips back while keeping your chest upright and neck in line with your spine. Your upper body should be about parallel to the floor.
- Bending your elbows at a 60-degree angle, lift the dumbbells up until parallel to the floor.
- Contract the muscle, holding for a count, then slowly return the dumbbells to the starting position.
T-Bar rear delt row
- Set up a barbell with weight plates on one end. This is the end you’ll be lifting. Some gyms and racks have a landmine base, otherwise a corner may work best.
- Stand with the bar between your legs, knees slightly bent.
- Hinge forward with your hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
- Grip the bar near the weight plates with both hands, staggered.
- With a neutral spine and neck, pull the bar straight up until the plates tap your chest.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a count.
- Return to the start position slowly and with control while exhaling.
Single arm dumbbell rear delt row
- Place dumbbells on either side of a flat bench.
- Place your right knee on the the bench and your left foot extended behind you on the floor.
- Hinge your hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the bench for support.
- Grasp the dumbbell with your left hand with an overhand grip, your palm facing towards you.
- With a neutral spine, use your back and rear delt muscles to pull the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest, inhaling and keeping your elbow tucked to your side.
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your back muscles together for a count of one.
- Return to the start position while inhaling. Repeat.
- Complete all repetitions for one side and then switch sides.
Rear delt band bent over row
- Step on to a resistance band with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly out.
- Bend your knees slightly, and hinge forward at the hips. Keep your core braced and spine in neutral.
- Elbows first, pull the resistance band back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold this contraction for a count of one, and then slowly return to start.
- Place two dumbbells or kettlebells on the floor about shoulder width apart.
- Start in a push up position on your knees and place each hand on the dumbbell handle.
- Lift your knees and place your feet slightly wider than hip width apart.
- Place your weight through one side while rowing the opposite arm upwards, bending your elbow close to your side.
- Squeeze and hold for a count of one.
- Return the weight back to the floor and repeat on the other side, slow and controlled, breathing steadily.
- One rep is both sides.
- Repeat for reps.
Dumbbell incline bench rows
- Straddle an incline bench, facing the back and leaning into it.
- With a neutral grip, hold dumbbells, palms facing in.
- Pull your shoulder blades back and together, pulling the dumbbells up by your sides, elbows tucked in.
- Hold and squeeze your shoulder and back muscles at the top for a count.
- Slowly return to the start position.
- Repeat for reps.
- Rack the bar at waist height.
- Grasp the bar from underneath it with heels pressing into the floor.
- With your body in a straight line or knees slightly bent, pull yourself up towards the bar to get your chest as close to the bar as you can.
- Squeeze your rear delt and back muscles at the top for a count.
- Lower yourself to the starting position slow and controlled.
- Repeat for reps.
Cable rear delt row
Convenient and easy to set up suspension trainers like the TRX are perfect for using your body weight at home for rear delt exercises.
The TRX rear delt row is more or less challenging, depending on where you plant your feet. Stand straighter for less of a challenge and lean back for a greater challenge.
TRX rear delt row
These TRX rear delt rows target the rear delts more specifically than other types of rows on this list.
- Secure a pair of suspension straps. Stand facing the straps, brace your lower back, and tighten your core.
- Lean back, letting the straps hold your weight. Your arms should be straight.
- Pull yourself up with your back, maintaining a tight core.
- Squeeze the back muscles and slowly lower yourself. Repeat.
Standing cross cable rear delt row
- Stand between two shoulder-high cable pulleys.
- Hold the right handle with left hand and left handle with right hand. Step back.
- Cross your elbows at chest-height, one over the other.
- Pull the cables simultaneously, moving elbows back and down to your sides.
- Return and repeat.
Rear Delt Flyes and Raises
Rear delt flys and raises are some of the best rear delt exercises if you can properly engage your rear delts. Be sure not to use your mid-back muscles.
Do not rely on your traps or mid-back to perform this exercise. Go lighter on weights and really focus on the muscle.
Here are some cues for performing rear delt reverse flys and raises:
- DO NOT fly back, fly OUT
- concentrate on separating the dumbbells
- stay forward to use the delts, not the traps or rhomboids
TRX rear delt fly
- Hold one end of a TRX strap with each hand, feet together. Brace your core and stand straight.
- Extend your arms out in front of you and slowly lean back with your heels pressed into the ground.
- Separate your arms out the sides, using your rear delts, traps, and upper back muscles to pull you to standing.
- Keeping braced and straight, slowly bring your arms back in front of you while leaning back.
- Repeat for reps.
Seated bent over rear delt raises
- Hold two dumbbells at your sides while sitting on a flat bench.
- Maintain a neutral spine and neck and brace your core, hinge forward at the hips.
- Maintain this position with a slight bend in your elbows.
- Extend your arms out to each side and raise the dumbbells upwards until your arms are parallel to the floor.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a count. Return to start.
- Repeat for reps.
Dumbbell bent over rear delt raise (also called bent over rear delt fly)
The bent over rear delt raise is one of the best rear delt exercises for attacking the very specific rear delt musculature. This is a movement that requires more reps with less weight than other exercises.
- Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides. Slightly bend your knees and hinge at the hips. Maintain a flat back and brace your core.
- With a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells up and out to the side. Focus on the rear delts contracting.
- Hold for a count before slowly returning to start.
- Repeat for reps.
Side lying rear delt raise
Lying rear delt raises aren’t one of the more common rear delt exercises but they are a great exericise to add to your arsenal when building rounded delts.
By lying on your side, you can really focus on the small muscle of the posterior deltoid. This exercise can be done on the floor or on a bench.
Try adding side lying rear delt raises to your next rear delt workout.
- Lie on your side, legs stacked or slightly separated to brace you.
- Hold one dumbbell in front of your chest, palm down, arm extended forward with a slight bend in your elbow.
- Raise dumbbell from floor until it is over your shoulder. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor.
- Repeat for reps.
Incline rear delt fly (aka reverse fly)
Reverse flys are one of the very best rear delt exercises for really targeting the small musculature of the posterior deltoid.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie face down on an incline bench.
- Raise your arms out in front of you. Keep your legs planted pushing into the balls of our feet and toes for stability.
- Move the weights away from each other in an arcing motion while keeping a slight bend in your elbows, exhaling.
- Raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for one count.
- Return to the starting position while inhaling.
- Repeat for desired reps.
TRX rear delt fly — Y Flyes
TRX rear delt Y flyes are unique in that, you are pulling your body weight from leaning to standing, creating a Y shape. Here’s how to perform them:
- Secure a firm grip on a the TRX straps. Keep your lower back straight and core tight. Lean back with your weight pressed into your heels.
- Extend your arms over head, keeping the tension in your shoulders, focusing on your rear delts. Pull yourself up until your feet are flat, maintaining straight arms.
- Reverse the movement, slowly lowering back into a leaning position with a tight core and flat back.
Lying rear delt raise
- Lay on a mat with your arms outstretched, palms down to form a T shape.
- Lift both of your arms off the ground at the same time, trying to bring your shoulder blades together (think of trying to pinch a coin between them).
- Slowly lower your arms back to the ground to complete one rep.
Lever lying rear lat raise
- Lie on lever lying rear lat raise machine with your chest on the padding.
- Position your arms between padded lever arms with your elbows below your shoulders.
- Pull your arms up until elbows are slightly behind the level of your back.
- Squeeze, return and repeat for reps.
Rear delt reverse barbell raise
A relatively unknown exercise that’s excellent for targeting the rear delts.
High cable rear delt fly
Cable rear delt fly
An alternative to the dumbbell rear delt fly, the cable rear delt fly is another excellent option for targeting the specific posterior delt muscle.
Cables are unique from dumbbells in that the tension is felt more at the very top of the movement. You’ll have to go pretty light with the weight and be sure to squeeze at the top.
Rear delt fly machine
- Sit on the rear delt fly machine so that your chest is against the padding and the handles are at shoulder level. Adjust it if necssary.
- Brace your core.
- Engage your rear delt muscles and pull the weight out.
- Squeeze and pause when the handles are at your sides before slowly returning to the starting position.
- Repeat movement without allowing the plates to touch.
Other Band and Cable Rear Delt Exercises
Cable rear delt rope pull (aka facepulls)
- Stand facing a cable pulley with a rope or double handles, placed slightly above your head height.
- Hold the handle with your palms facing you.
- Brace your core and pull the weight towards your face, arms parallel to the floor, elbows flared. Separate your hands as you pull towards you.
- Repeat for reps.
Rear delt band pull apart
The rear delt band pull apart is one of the best rear delt exercises for building stability in the shoulders. By using a supinated position, like the video below, you can provide some balance to the shoulders by working in external rotation.
This counteracts all the work that’s traditionally done in internal rotation.
Shoulder Mobility Exercises
Shoulder mobility is key for obtaining a full range of motion. Working on your full shoulder mobility will also help prevent injuries. Even the best rear delt exercises will be limited by your level of mobility.
Here are some exercises for improving your shoulder mobility and warming up the muscles:
- inch worms
- camel stretch
- broomstick stretch (also called shoulder dislocates)
- wall angles
- standing arm circles
Try performing this series of mobility work for 10 minutes prior to your workout. This can also be used a cool down sequence.
How to Design a Rear Delt Workout
Frequency: 2-4 times per week as part of a total shoulder workout, or full body workout
Reps range: all rep ranges will work (from 1-25 reps). However, it is optimal to stay within specific rep ranges for a few weeks. After 2-4 weeks, change up your rep ranges.
Example rep progression for rear delt exercises:
- week 1-4: 10-12 reps per set
- week 5-8: 12-15 reps per set
- week 8-12: 15-20 reps per set
With every rep range, choose a weight that challenges you. Keep in mind though, that with reverse flys, and other low weight movements included in this list of the best rear delt exercises, low rep ranges (under 8-10) are not ideal.
Choosing a lighter weight and sticking to a minimum of 8-10 reps is best. Performing lower reps than this requires too heavy of a weight range to work and heavier weights are near impossible to use with the rear delt exercises.