The Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly 101 | How to Train Your Rear Deltoids!

By
Mike Kenler
October 8, 2020

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly 

The dumbbell rear delt fly, also known as the dumbbell reverse fly, is an exercise that increases deltoid muscle definition and strength. Although this exercise works several upper body muscles, it focuses on your rear (posterior) deltoids.

Learning the dumbbell rear delt fly will greatly improve your shoulder workout routine!

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly 

Primary Muscle Groups:

As you may have guessed, the dumbbell rear delt fly primarily works your rear delts. The deltoid is separated into three main fibers: the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids. Your posterior deltoids receive the most tension during this exercise.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The dumbbell rear delt fly is also an effective trapezius strengthening exercise. In addition, this motion works upper back muscles such as the rhomboids and the erector spinae. Your core muscles activate as well to stabilize your body during the dumbbell reverse fly. 

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Benefits

1. Improved Posture

Hours of sitting in chairs and muscle weaknesses can wreak havoc on your posture. Thankfully, the dumbbell rear delt fly is one of the best exercises to improve it! If you tend to round your shoulders and hunch over, the dumbbell rear delt fly can tighten your upper back to correct this problem.

In addition, the added core muscle engagement from this exercise will help you maintain a straight back and active core for proper posture. 

2. Stronger Shoulders

The dumbbell rear delt fly strengthens your shoulder muscles by developing your posterior deltoids. While this is an accessory exercise, the dumbbell rear delt fly can boost your performance in compound exercises such as the overhead press, barbell bench press, and the deadlift.

Truth be told, stronger shoulders are important in every area of training. Your rear delts play a role in a variety of exercises — you should train them accordingly!

3. Improved Aesthetics 

If you are exercising to improve your physical appearance, you should aim to prioritize your shoulders. Many lifters and body builders tend to overtrain their chest and arms, leaving them with disproportionately smaller shoulders.

Building muscle symmetrically is important not only for the aesthetic benefits, but it is generally safer to promote balance in your body. 

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How to Do the Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly 

Equipment:

For this exercise, you will need a pair of dumbbells.

Setup:

1. Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. 

2. Hinge at the waist until your back is nearly parallel to the floor. Inhale.

Action:

1. With your arms slightly bent, contract your rear deltoids to bring the weight up and out to your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the rep. Exhale.

2. Slowly bring your arms back down to the starting position.

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps of the dumbbell rear delt fly. Of course, as you get more comfortable with the form, feel free to change up your set and rep ranges to challenge yourself.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Mistakes

1. Bringing Your Arms Backwards

Rather than bringing your arms up on a lateral plane, many lifters bring the dumbbells back on a diagonal plane towards their buttocks. This movement activates muscles in your back instead of your rear delts.

To correct this mistake, keep the dumbbells moving outward on a lateral plane to work your shoulders.

2. Completing Partial Reps

When doing the dumbbell rear delt fly, it can be tempting to grab a pair of heavy dumbbells. However, the rear delts are not the strongest muscles in the body. If you use too much weight, you will end up completing partial reps.

Using too much weight compromises the benefits of the exercise and can even risk injury. Instead, use lighter weight and complete full repetitions to maximize your deltoid contration on each rep.

3. Bending Your Arms Too Much 

While we do want to maintain a slight bend in our arms during the dumbbell rear delt fly, bending your arms too much can turn the rear delt fly into a dumbbell row. While muscles in the upper back will activate to stabilize the motion, we want to target the shoulders in this exercise.

For that reason, try to keep your arms relatively straight during each rep.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Variations

1. 1-Arm Rear Delt Fly 

You can also perform the rear delt fly unilaterally. Instead of using two weights, grab a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand and train one shoulder at a time. The 1-arm rear delt fly is a great way to improve muscle imbalances in your shoulders!

2. Chest Supported Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly 

If the traditional dumbbell rear delt fly causes strain on your lower back, try using an incline bench. Instead of relying on your core to stabilize your body, you can rest your weight on the bench, which will help to better isolate your rear deltoids.

3. Bent Over Cable Rear Delt Fly

You can also perform the  rear delt fly with cables. Set the pulleys at a low position, hinge at the waist so that your back is parallel to the ground, and retract your rear delts to bring the weight upwards.

You should feel a similar pinch in your shoulder blades at the top of each rep. Repeat!

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Alternatives

If you enjoyed the dumbbell rear delt fly, check out these shoulder exercises to improve your upper body training:

1. Standing Rope Face Pull

Set the pulley at face level and hold onto the end of the rope with your thumbs down. Keep your arms elevated and drive the elbows back pulling the handles to both sides of your face. You should feel a strong pinch in your shoulder blades. 

2. Bent Arm Lateral Raise

Assume a sturdy standing position. Bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle and maintain this positioning throughout the movement. Now with your elbows tucked into your sides and your palms facing inwards, contract your deltoids to raise your bent arms out to the sides.

Once your dumbbells reach the height of your shoulders, slowly return the weight to the starting position. Repeat! While this exercise focuses on the lateral deltoids, it is a great way to improve your mind-muscle connection for your rear delts as you maintain tightness in them throughout the motion.

3. Bent-Over Face Pull

Hinge at the waist and bend over so that your back is nearly parallel to the floor. Retract your rear delts as you drive your elbows up and slightly back, bringing the dumbbell or kettlebell right beneath your face.

Make sure to keep your elbows above your wrists and you should feel a pinch in your shoulder blades at the top of each rep! Repeat! 


Looking for More Shoulder Workouts?

Check out this intense 5 minute shoulder workout using only dumbbells!


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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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