Aditya Sahu ‧ CPT & Head Coach
Aditya is an ACSM certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist with more than 7 years training various people and transforming people's lives. He has written various publications for various sports and fitness magazines.
The rear delts, also known as posterior deltoids, are often skipped during a workout session by most people. Strong shoulders can help you lift, pull, push and support yourself throughout the day. Whether you are at the gym, at home, at your job, or doing regular chores, strong shoulders can help make you look buff and fit and make strenuous tasks more manageable.
However, you will need to build body strength through regular exercise to enjoy the benefits of strong rear delts. The front of the shoulders or anterior delts are regularly used in most exercises and daily activities. They are the least ignored of the two deltoids in your shoulder.
Therefore, adding a set of exercises to your daily regime is necessary to get your rear delts properly pumping!
If you don't already have a rear delt exercise incorporated into your daily workout, or if you are looking for others to strengthen your rear delts, then look no further. This guide shall look at top bodyweight rear delt exercises, their benefits, and the exact steps you can follow.
We promise that incorporating some of our favorite rear delt exercises into your workout regime will help you gain shoulder strength, help with better posture, and boost body confidence. Let's get straight to it!
What Is The Rear Delt?
The rear delts or posterior deltoids are the rear deltoids in your shoulder. It is one out of three present in the area.
Deltoid muscles are triangular, hence the word delt/deltoid. It is derived from the Greek word Delta. Posterior and anterior simply mark the location and position of each muscle in your shoulder and upper body.
The rear delts cover the glenohumeral shoulder joints to form the shoulder curve. Rear delts start at the base of the scapula and spine. They insert into the deltoid tuberosity of the lateral humerus on both sides.
Our shoulders are made up of three muscles:
Anatomy Of The Shoulder
Anterior Deltoid or Front Delt
The anterior deltoid is located at the front of the shoulder. It's responsible for helping the upper arm and shoulder rotate inwards.
Front raises, pushups, bench pressing, and pushing actions are all aided by the front deltoid.
Medial/Lateral Deltoid or Side Delt
The lateral deltoid is present on the side of the upper arms. Just as the name suggests, this muscle helps aid rear lateral raises, pulling your arm backward or tugging a cord behind you.
Posterior Deltoid or Rear Delt
Rear delts are present at the back of the shoulder. They are responsible for helping the shoulder perform lateral rotations and extend the arms.
Strong rear delts help maintain good posture, help perform exercises like reverse flys, and aid in arm plus body coordination.
Top 7 Rear Delt Exercises
Now that you know what the rear delts are and why it's essential to work these muscles out during your daily workout regime, it is time to look at a few shoulder exercises.
We shall go into an in-depth description for each so that you can easily incorporate these into your workouts.
This section shall follow with another one that explains how the best rear delt exercises can benefit you. Stick till the end to find out!
Single-Arm Bent-Over Row
The single-arm bent-over row is one of the simplest snd best rear delt exercises for upper body and shoulder strength. This exercise goes well with other back and shoulder exercises. The single-arm bent-over row is a shoulder joint exercise that helps build rear delt strength.
- Transverse Abdominals
- Rear Deltoids
- Back Muscles
- Lift and place your left hand and knee on the bench to achieve a bent-over position.
- Grab a dumbbell in your right hand but ensure you are not gripping it too tight or too lightly.
- Ensure your elbow is straight.
- Extend the right leg at a very slight angle. Make sure your foot is grounded.
- It is essential to keep your torso and back straight. Your back and spine should be flat and neutral.
- The right hand holding the dumbbell should hang downwards towards the floor.
- Start exercising by bending your elbow to pull and lift the dumbbell. The upper arm should align with the lower part of your chest.
- Ensure that you squeeze your shoulder blades to hit rear delts together during each pull.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell, and do not be abrupt.
- Repeat on each side or shoulder for 10 to 12 reps.
- A good workout should have at least 2 to 3 sets.
Ensure your torso and back are neutral and stable to avoid injury and strain. Never rotate or align your torso in weird positions.
You can reduce the weight of your dumbbells, take breaks or reduce the number of sets if you cannot keep your back straight or are wearing out.
- Increased strength in rear deltoids.
- Improved upper body posture.
- Helps build upper back strength.
- Defines back muscles.
- Raises core stability.
- Better muscular balance and control.
Watch a step-by-step video below.
Standing Bent-Over Lateral Raise
An arm lateral movement exercise should always be started with smaller weights and slowly built up. As muscle growth increases, you can add heavier weights. This will prevent muscle tears, injury and strain.
- Dumbbells that are light to medium weight.
- Middle trapezius
- Posterior deltoid
- Middle deltoid
- Get a pair of dumbbells and hold one in each arm. Make sure you keep your back straight with palms facing each other while you do this.
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start with hips and knees slightly bent forward to achieve a bent-over position.
- Keep your elbows slightly bent but neutral, and ensure you are not grabbing onto the dumbbells too tightly.
- Position your hands such that the dumbbells align with your lower torso.
- Raise your arms upwards and outwards until they are parallel with the floor.
- Bring and hit rear delts together in the parallel hand position.
- Slowly lower your hands and weights back to the starting point and repeat.
- Practice with 10 to 12 reps.
- An ideal workout should contain 2 to 3 sets.
Keep your head and upper back in line to avoid muscle strains through pulling movements. Keep your legs shoulder-width apart. A good posture will help promote muscle growth.
- Helps build larger posterior deltoid muscles.
- Shoulder muscles gain strength to push and pull better.
- Increased shoulder stability.
Watch a demo here.
Cable Machine High Pull With Ropes
This rear deltoid workout is one of our favorite cable rear delt exercises. It is a great way to train your shoulder muscles using a cable pulley.
It allows you to change the angles for shoulder muscle training to build strength and mass and promote rear delt development.
- A cable machine with a double-handled rope attachment.
- Middle deltoids
- Rear delts
- Get in a standing position and keep your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your face towards the cable machine. Ensure the cable attachment is at chest level. Once set, attach your rope attachment handle.
- Start exercising by keeping your feet hip-width apart. Make sure you leave enough room in front of you to extend your arms forwards.
- Start pulling at the ropes, making sure to pull inwards and apart.
- Keep your elbows at a higher position so that the rear delts are targeted correctly.
- Once you have reached maximum width, start slowly going back to the starting position. Make sure you do this steadily and are not abrupt.
- Repeat the workout for 10 to 12 reps and at least 2 to 3 sets.
Keep your spine and back straight at all times. It's good to keep your elbows slightly bent between 45 to 90 degrees as you pull the ropes apart.
This will prevent stiffness, pain, or injury. You can experiment to see what angle works best for you. Make sure your head is straight and that you are looking forwards.
You can also use a resistance band to perform the same exercise if you do not have a cable pulley nearby.
- It helps strengthen the latissimus dorsi muscle, one of the main back muscles.
- Helps build the spine and strengthen the rear delts.
- Helps strengthen chest muscles.
- It improves shoulder stability and helps perform daily tasks such as closing blinds more efficiently.
If you are still confused, you can follow this video.
Rear Deltoid Machine
The rear deltoid fly machine is also called the reverse fly machine. It is a piece of gym equipment that has been specially built to help build rear deltoid strength and perform seated rear lateral raise.
The rear delt machine helps activate rear delts safely and is an excellent addition to your shoulder routine.
The machine helps provide uniform resistance, proper grip, trajectory, and a good range of motion to target the rear deltoids. Most people believe it's an excellent alternative to the ordinary rear lateral raise as it provides tension in a circular motion.
Using this machine, you can work with heavier weights without putting strain on your torso.
Watch a video explaining the use of a rear deltoid workout machine here.
- Rear deltoid fly machine.
- Rear deltoid
- Latissimus dorsi
- Teres major and minor
- Middle deltoid
- Anterior deltoid
- Pectoral muscles
- Sit down on the seating pad with your face towards the rear delt fly machine.
- Ensure both feet are grounded and placed firmly on the floor.
- Press your chest against the chest pad while keeping your back straight.
- Hold the horizontal handles with both hands. Do this with both palms facing downwards towards the ground.
- Keep your arms slightly bent and neutral.
- Contract and squeeze your shoulder muscles and rear delts to align the handles with your shoulders.
- Squeeze both shoulder blades to work the rear delts before steadily returning to the starting position.
- Repeat for at least 10 to 12 reps.
One-Arm Machine Rear Deltoid Fly
This exercise is similar to the machine reverse fly, except that it's performed with one arm at a time—you alternate shoulders in between.
Watch a video.
Rear Delt Fly Alternating Hold
This is one of the best rear delt exercises. Alternate holding helps build stability and upper body strength. Start by contracting the right rear delt muscle to pull the handle backward.
Keep the handle in place while repeating the same motion using your left arm. At the same time, keep the left arm in position, bringing your right hand back to the starting position before repeating with the same handle.
Alternate and complete 10 to 12 reps per hand. A good workout should have 2 to 3 sets.
A demo on this link might help understand this exercise better.
Pause between each pull to give time for your rear delts to contract. Always adjust the height of your seat so that your shoulders align with the handles easily.
Elbows should be matched up with shoulders while pulling apart, and arms must have a slight bend. Your face, chest, and back should be straight throughout.
Do not switch positions abruptly, and do not let your muscles relax in between reps.
- Helps build more muscular shoulders and rear delts.
- Using a machine reduces the risk of muscle stress, strain, and injury.
- Helps strengthen the back and improve posture.
Side-Lying External Rotation
The side-lying external rotation emphasizes the circular motion of the posterior deltoid muscles to strengthen them.
This rear deltoid exercise is excellent for building strength in rotator cuff muscles, known as the infraspinatus and teres minor.
- Middle trapezius
- Rear delts
- Rotator cuff
- Lie down on one of your sides.
- Before lying down, make sure you have a dumbbell and towel nearby.
- Hold the dumbbell in the area that is not in contact with the floor in a neutral manner.
- Place the free arm on your torso or Side while bending your elbow at 90 degrees.
- If you feel that you cannot position your hand correctly, you can roll up a towel and place it between your upper arm and torso for stability. You might have to use a towel if you have broad shoulders.
- Start exercising by rotating your arm while using your torso as a base.
- Rotate as far as possible without removing your upper arm from your body.
- Hold your position for at least 2 seconds before you slowly lower your hands back to the starting position.
- Perform 10 to 12 reps and a total of 2 to 3 sets.
- Make sure to practice using both hands.
Your arm should rest firmly in your body or a towel. Use your elbow as a hinge to enable rotation. Try your best to use the shoulder strength for rotation instead of your torso.
- Provides stability to the shoulder muscle.
- Helps improve rotator cuff function.
- It helps increase the range of motion
- Helps build shoulder strength.
Watch a tutorial.
Chest Supported Incline Y-Raise
Y-raises are an easy rear deltoid exercise that helps increase shoulder stability and strengthen rotator cuff muscles and rear traps.
The chest-supported incline Y-raise is the most common form used as a rear delt exercise. Others include performing Y-raises while lying down, on a swiss ball, or standing.
- Teres minor
- Anterior deltoid
- Lower Trapezius
- Pectoralis Major
- Lie with your chest downwards on a low incline bench. Ensure the angle of your bench is between 30 and 35 degrees.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with both palms facing each other.
- Start exercising by raising your arms straight out and apart to create a Y or 30-degree angle.
- Pause when you reach the Y position before slowly lower your arms to their starting position.
- Practice with at least 20 reps.
Keep arms in line with shoulders at all times. Never use heavyweights as they can damage shoulder muscles. Never make abrupt movements.
- Helps build shoulder strength.
- Improves shoulder girdle stability.
- Increases shoulder mobility.
- Reduces the risk of stress, strain, and injury to the shoulders.
- Helps improve body posture.
Learn more by watching this tutorial.
Chest Supported Pronated Fly
The chest-supported pronated fly or incline dumbbell reverse fly has been designed to improve upper body strength and shoulder movement.
This rear delt workout emphasizes the rear delts and postural muscles in the upper back region. Since this exercise targets smaller muscles, it is best to use light to moderate weights while performing it.
- Trapezius muscles
- Lower back muscles
- Posterior deltoid.
- Adjust a low incline bench at an angle between 30 to 45 degrees.
- Hold s dumbbell in each hand while lying down on the bench with your chest downwards.
- Use your feet to stabilize yourself by grounding them on the floor.
- Make sure your shoulders align with your back.
- Hang your arms downwards towards the floor while holding the dumbbell. Ensure you do not use very heavy weights for this exercise and have a neutral grip.
- Start exercising by raising your arms straight in a semi-circular motion outwards. Make sure your arms are pointed outwards.
- Keep moving your arms apart until they become parallel to the door.
- Contract and squeeze your shoulders and hold for a couple of seconds before returning your arms to their starting position.
- Repeat the exercise. An ideal regime includes 10 to 15 reps per set.
Always use light to moderate weights to prevent straining. Your arms should hold the dumbbells in a neutral position without letting go of a certain amount of tension. Keep your back and head straight at all times.
- Helps increase strength and mass in the rear delts.
- Builds bigger deltoid muscle.
- Helps increase shoulder stability and health.
- It is an excellent calorie-burning workout.
- Exercises the rhomboids and lower and middle traps.
Check out this tutorial.
The Advantages Of Rear Delt Exercises
As promised, we have compiled a section that will discuss the benefits of performing dumbbell rear delt exercises and those that build upper body strength.
Keep reading to find out why you should start rear delt training straight away! Let's look at the main advantages below:
Shoulder or Rear Delt Strength
Adding rear deltoid exercises to your daily shoulder routine can help increase and build shoulder strength.
These exercises specifically target the rear deltoid muscle to help you add strength, build muscle mass and increase bone density.
You will be able to work out better, do daily chores more efficiently, and be less prone to shoulder injuries.
If you are someone who has bad posture or slumps while sitting, then a rear delt workout is a solution.
A rear deltoid workout helps straighten and strengthen the back and shoulder muscles which helps you improve your posture both while sitting and standing.
This one is obvious. You exercise to build strength, and rear deltoid exercises work similarly. Better shoulder strength makes arm movements more powerful and stable.
Performing posterior deltoid exercises will help you perform other exercises that depend on shoulder strength better.
These include the bench press, deadlift, dips, pull-ups, pushups, and overhead press.
Positive Body Image
Training the rear delts helps improve the look of your body. This also helps create a positive body image in your head, which boosts self-confidence.
You will feel more attractive and appealing when you dress up and more willing to participate in social interactions.
Decreased Risk Of Injuries
Strong muscles are less prone to injuries. Therefore, training the rear delts can help you reduce shoulder pain, stress, and stiffness. They also reduce the chances of injury to rotator cuffs.
We hope you found our guide on the best rear delt exercises helpful. Following most or all of the best rear deltoid exercises above will help you strengthen your shoulders and improve body posture and stability.
Follow the steps correctly and watch tutorials to clear out any confusion. You can also reach out to your gym trainer to follow a proper diet and ensure you follow your rear deltoids workout correctly.
Do not hesitate to ask your trainer about how you can incorporate any shoulder routine or other rear delt exercises into your daily regime. Good luck!