7 Intense Rear Delt Exercises | Dumbbells, Bodyweight and More!

By
Mike Kenler
November 16, 2020

What Are Your Rear Delts?

The deltoid muscle in your shoulder is separated into three main fibers: the anterior (front), lateral (side) and posterior (rear) deltoids. 

All three heads of the deltoid work together to stabilize the shoulder joint and move the arms in many directions. However, the rear delts specifically activate to move your arms backwards and outwards. 

While the rear delts are a crucial portion of the deltoids, they are often underdeveloped. But why should you train your rear delts anyways?

Benefits Of Rear Delt Exercises

Exercises that specifically target the rear delts are extremely valuable. Training the rear delts should be prioritized for the following reasons:

1. Improved Posture

Hours of sitting in chairs and muscle weaknesses can wreak havoc on your posture. Thankfully, these rear delt exercises can help correct your posture. If you tend to round your shoulders and hunch over, strong rear delts can tighten your upper back to correct this problem.

In addition, the added bonus core muscle engagement from these rear delt exercises will help you maintain a straight back and active core for proper posture. 

2. Stronger Shoulders 

These rear delt exercises are designed to tear the muscle fibers in your shoulders and increase rear delt hypertrophy. As a result, you will build stronger shoulders, which will boost your performance in compound exercises such as the bent over barbell row and the seated cable row. 

Your rear delts play a role in a variety of exercises — you should train them accordingly.

Not only that, but exercising the rear delts also helps to stabilize your shoulders. This added stability can help prevent future shoulder injury.

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. 

Even if they do train their shoulders, most people favor their front delts over their rear delts.

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

With that being said, let’s learn some rear delt exercises!

9 Intense Rear Delt Exercises

‍1. Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Also known as the dumbbell reverse fly, the rear delt fly is an incredibly effective rear delt exercise.

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. 

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. 

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

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!


2. Plank-Ups

No weights? No problem! The plank-up is a fantastic bodyweight rear delt exercise that also provides some core training too.

Setup:

1. Assume a plank position with your forearms on the ground and your legs straight out behind you. Your forearms should make a 90 degree angle with your upper arms. 

2. Engage your core and make sure your back is completely straight.

Action:

1. Pinch your shoulder blades together as you lower downwards until you nearly touch the ground.

2. Contract your rear delts to explode back up to the starting position. 

3. Maintain tightness in your delts and repeat!

3. Standing Rope Face Pull

The rope face pull is guaranteed to target your rear delts as well as your rhomboids and traps. 

Setup:

1. Set the rope attachment at face level and assume a comfortable standing position in front of the pulley machine.

2. Grab onto the end of the rope with your thumbs facing down.

Action:

1. Keeping your arms elevated, drive your elbows back and pull the handles to both sides of your face. You should feel a strong pinch in your shoulder blades.

2. Pause for a moment and return to the starting position. 

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

4. 1-Arm Reverse Fly Machine

If you’d prefer to use the machines at a gym, the reverse fly machine is still a high quality rear delt exercise for people of all fitness levels.

Setup:

1. Set the resistance to a relatively light weight and sit on the pad facing the machine with your back straight and your core engaged.

2. Grab the innermost handle with one hand and your palm facing downwards.

Action:

1. Contract your rear delt to bring the handle back until your hand is slightly behind your shoulder.

2. Squeeze your rear delt in this position and slowly return to the starting position.

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

5. Bent-Over Kettlebell Face Pull

The bent-over face pull variation is a perfect rear delt exercise for at home workouts.

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 and engage your core.

Action:

1. Retract your rear delts as you drive your elbows up and slightly back, bringing the kettlebell right beneath your face. You should feel a pinch in your shoulder blades.

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

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

6. 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!

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. 

Action:

1. With your arm slightly bent, contract your rear deltoid to bring the weight up and out to your side. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the rep. 

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

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

7. Air Divers 

The air diver is a standing bodyweight rear delt exercise. By heightening your mind-muscle connection to your rear delts and completing many reps, you can fatigue your rear delts and compensate for the lack of weighted resistance.

Setup:

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

2. With your core engaged and your back straight, bring your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing down. 

Action:

1. Contract your rear delts to bend your arms and bring your elbows as far back as possible.

2. Squeeze your rear delts hard in this position and return to the starting position.

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!


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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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