The Rear Delt Fly Machine 101 | Form, Benefits, & Alternatives!

By
Mike Kenler
November 2, 2020

Rear Delt Fly Machine 

The rear delt fly machine, also known as the reverse fly machine, is a gym machine exercise that builds strength in your rear deltoids. 

This machine can teach novice weightlifters how to activate their rear delts in the safest way possible.

Simply put, learning the rear delt fly machine will greatly improve your shoulder workout routine!

Muscles Worked by the Rear Delt Fly Machine 

Primary Muscle Groups:

As you may have guessed, the rear delt fly machine 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 rear delt fly machine secondarily engages your traps, rhomboids, and other small muscles in your upper back.

Rear Delt Fly Machine Benefits

1. Stronger Shoulders

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

Strong shoulders play an integral role in a variety of exercises — you should train them accordingly!

2. Reduced Risk of Injury

Compared to free weight exercises such as the bent over reverse fly, the rear delt fly machine provides far more stability. 

There is little strain placed on your lower back and your core does not need to work as hard to stabilize your torso. You also don’t need to worry about the path of your hands, as the machine restricts your range of motion.

As a result, you can focus on training your rear delts without the increased risk of injury. This option is perfect for beginners or people with a prior history of shoulder issues.

3. Improved Posture

Hours of sitting in chairs and muscle weaknesses can cause you to hunch over and round your shoulders over time. Thankfully, the rear delt fly machine is one of the best exercises to improve it! 

If you deal with back pain and constantly find yourself slouched over, the rear delt fly machine can tighten your rear delts to correct this problem.

How to Do the Rear Delt Fly Machine 

Equipment:

For this exercise, all you need is the rear delt fly machine. 

Setup:

a) Sit on the pad facing the rear delt machine and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Your chest should be pressed up against the chest pad and your back should be straight.

b) Grab the inside horizontal handles with your palms facing down. Your arms should be slightly bent.

Action:

1. Contract your rear deltoids to bring the handles back until they are roughly in line with your shoulders. 

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

3. Repeat!

Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps of the rear delt fly machine. You shouldn’t aim to lift a very heavy weight on this exercise. Instead, perform each rep mindfully at lower weight to maximize your gains. 

Rear Delt Fly Machine Mistakes

1. Gripping The Handles Too Tightly

Many weightlifters are taught to always keep a firm grip while exercising. Although this is often true, it can sometimes be counterproductive.

In the case of the rear delt fly machine, gripping the handles tightly causes some people to rely on their traps to bring the handles back. 

Instead, grip the handles very lightly and try to only use your rear delts to complete the exercise motion.

2. Shrugging Upwards 

Another common rear delt fly machine mistake is shrugging your shoulders upwards. This mistake most often happens when people try to load on more weight than they can handle.

Then, they are forced to shrug up and use their traps to bring the handles back. While there is nothing wrong with exercising your traps, this is a rear delt exercise! 

To maximize your rear delts, lower the weight and focus on keeping your shoulders down and back during the exercise motion.

3. Rushing The Motion

Lastly, far too many people rush through the rear delt fly machine. While an explosive movement may be beneficial for some exercises, the rear delt fly machine should be performed in a slow, controlled fashion.

Rushing through the motion only reduces the tension on your rear deltoids and minimizes your gains!

Rear Delt Fly Machine Variations

1. 1-Arm Rear Delt Fly Machine

You can also perform the rear delt fly machine unilaterally. Instead of using both handles, grab one handle 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. Rear Delt Fly Alternating Hold 

The alternating hold variation of the rear delt fly machine will help build stability and strength in your posterior deltoids. 

Begin by contracting your right rear delt to bring the handle back. Hold the handle in this position and perform the same motion on the left side.

Then, hold your left handle in place, allow the right handle to return to the starting position and bring the right handle back again. Keep alternating this rear delt fly hold pattern! 

Rear Delt Fly Machine Alternatives

If you enjoyed the rear delt fly machine, check out these alternative rear delt 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. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat!

2. Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Hinge at the waist until your back is nearly parallel to the floor. 

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. 

Slowly bring your arms back down to the starting position. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

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 dumbbell shoulder workout!

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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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