6 Best Exercises to Train Your Rear Delts

Did you know that one of the most forgotten muscle groups is actually super important to work out? It’s the rear delts!

These muscles are found on the back of your shoulders and are key for a safe and effective strength training routine.

Rear delts help with shoulder movement and keeping them stable.

Plus, working on your rear delts doesn’t just protect your shoulders, but it also boosts your performance in other upper body exercises like Bent Over Rows and T-Bar Rows.

So, it’s smart to add exercises that target your rear delts into your workout plan. 

If you need some ideas for rear delt exercises, read on!

Rear Delt Muscle Anatomy

Rear Delt Muscle Anatomy

Your rear deltoids, situated at the back of your shoulder, are vital components of your shoulder muscles. They form one-third of the deltoid muscles, working alongside the front and middle sections, and are crucial for upper body strength and movement.

These muscles originate from the spine of the shoulder blade and attach to the upper arm bone (humerus). They partially cover the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles of the rotator cuff, playing a pivotal role in the intricate mechanics of your shoulder.

Functionally, the rear delts serve several purposes:

  • Arm Extension: They are primarily involved in extending the arm backward. This movement is crucial for various daily activities and sports that require pushing or throwing actions.
  • External Rotation of the Shoulder: The rear deltoids assist in externally rotating the shoulder. This function is important for movements where the arms need to rotate away from the center of the body.
  • Stabilization of the Shoulder Joint: These muscles play a critical role in stabilizing the shoulder joint. This is particularly important when carrying heavy loads, as it helps prevent the dislocation of the humeral head.
  • Synergistic Muscle Action: The rear deltoids work in conjunction with other muscles like the latissimus dorsi and the rotator cuff muscles (infraspinatus and teres minor) in various pulling movements.

Overall, the rear deltoids are crucial for comprehensive shoulder function, contributing to both movement and stability.

6 Rear Delt Exercises

The rear delts are a part of the shoulder muscles, specifically located at the back of the shoulders. They play a significant role in the overall health, strength, and appearance of the shoulders.

Strengthening them can help prevent injuries by ensuring the shoulder joint is supported during various movements, especially those involving lifting and pulling.

The rear delts are often under-stimulated in many common exercises that focus on larger muscle groups like the lats or the front and side deltoids.

To effectively engage these muscles, consider adding these exercises to your workout routine:

1. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Lat pulldowns are primarily targeting latissimus dorsi, but they also involve the rear deltoids. When you do this exercise, your rear delts help you pull and extend your shoulders. A wider grip emphasizes the rear delts more than a narrower grip because it requires more transverse abduction (movement of the arms away from the body in the horizontal plane), which the rear delts facilitate.

How to perform:

  1. Sit down at a lat pulldown machine and adjust the knee pad to fit snugly against your legs to prevent your body from being raised by the resistance attached to the bar.
  2. Grasp the bar with a pronated (palms facing forward) grip. Your hands should be spaced wider than shoulder width for a wide grip.
  3. With both arms extended in front of you holding the bar, lean your torso back around 30 degrees while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out. This is your starting position.
  4. As you exhale, bring the bar down until it lightly touches your upper chest. Draw the shoulders and the upper arms down and back, focusing on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. The upper torso should remain stationary, and only the arms should move. Avoid pulling the bar using the forearms.
  5. After a second at the contracted position, slowly raise the bar back to the starting position when your arms are fully extended and the lats are fully stretched, inhaling during this portion of the movement.
  6. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions.

2. Pendlay/Barbell Row

The Pendlay row, a variation of the traditional barbell row, involves lifting the barbell from the floor in each rep, which starts with the torso nearly parallel to the ground. This exercise targets the upper back muscles, including the rear delts. The rear delts are engaged to stabilize the shoulder as well as to retract and extend the shoulder blades during the rowing motion. 

How to perform:

  1. Begin with a barbell on the floor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with the bar over your shoelaces.
  2. Bend at the hips and knees to lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Make sure your back is flat, and your shoulders are slightly over the barbell. Your arms should be straight, and your shins vertical.
  4. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and retract your shoulder blades. Explosively row the barbell towards your lower chest or upper abdomen, keeping your elbows close to your body. The bar should start and return to the floor for each rep, maintaining a flat back throughout the movement.
  5. Lower the barbell back to the floor under control, fully extending your arms and returning to your starting position.
  6. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions, ensuring each rep starts from a dead stop on the floor.

3. Bent Over Dumbbell Flyes

Bent over dumbbell flyes are a highly effective exercise for targeting the rear deltoid muscles. This exercise specifically isolates the rear delts due to the movement pattern and body position, which aligns with the muscle fibers of the rear deltoids, allowing for optimal engagement and development.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  3. Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward at the hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor.
  4. Let the dumbbells hang directly below your chest with your arms slightly bent at the elbows.
  5. Contract your rear deltoids to raise the dumbbells outward and upward in an arc motion to the side.
  6. Keep your back flat and neck in line with your spine throughout the movement.
  7. Continue lifting until your arms are parallel to the floor.
  8. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
  9. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  10. Maintain the slight bend in your elbows throughout the descent.
  11. Perform your desired number of repetitions, typically 8-12 for muscle growth.

4. 1-Arm Dumbbell Row

The 1-arm dumbbell row, while primarily known as a back exercise targeting the latissimus dorsi, can also significantly engage the rear deltoids when performed with certain modifications. The rear delts act as stabilizers and assist in the pulling motion, especially when the elbow is flared out to the side rather than kept close to the body. This variation alters the exercise’s focus from the lats to the upper back and rear deltoids.

How to perform:

  1. Place your left knee and left hand on a bench for support, keeping your back flat and parallel to the floor.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip, arm extended towards the floor.
  3. Engage your core and retract your right shoulder blade as you row the dumbbell upwards towards your hip.
  4. Keep your elbow close to your body and pull until your upper arm is just beyond horizontal.
  5. Focus on using your back muscles rather than your arm to lift the weight.
  6. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position, fully extending your arm and maintaining control.
  7. Complete your desired number of reps on one side before switching to the other arm.

5. Reverse Pec Deck Fly

The Reverse Pec Deck Fly specifically targets the rear deltoids by isolating them through a movement known as scapular adduction (pulling the shoulder blades together). This exercise is performed on a machine, which provides a stable environment that helps focus the effort on the rear delts without significant involvement from other muscle groups.

How to perform:

  1. Approach the reverse pec deck machine and adjust the seat so that when you sit, the handles are at shoulder level.
  2. Sit facing the weight stack, ensuring your chest is firmly against the pad.
  3. Select the appropriate weight.
  4. Grasp the handles with your palms facing inwards. If the machine has no handles, position your arms so that your elbows are bent and you can grasp the bars or levers.
  5. Begin by pulling your arms back in a smooth, controlled motion, focusing on moving the handles apart by using your rear deltoids and upper back muscles.
  6. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you reach the peak of the movement, ensuring you’re performing scapular adduction (retraction).
  7. Hold the contraction briefly at the end of the movement for maximum muscle engagement.
  8. Slowly return to the starting position, allowing your arms to move forward without losing the tension in your rear delts and back muscles.
  9. Perform your desired number of repetitions, typically 8-12 for muscle growth.

6. Face Pulls

Face Pulls are a versatile exercise that targets not only the rear deltoids but also the trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles. This exercise involves pulling a cable towards the face and externally rotating the shoulders, which activates the rear delts effectively. It can improve your upper back strength and shoulder health. 

How to perform:

  1. Attach a rope to a cable machine set to upper chest height.
  2. Stand a few feet away from the machine, grasping the rope with both hands, palms facing each other.
  3. Adopt a staggered stance for stability, or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart if you prefer.
  4. Grip the rope with both hands, ensuring your thumbs are pointing towards you (neutral grip).
  5. Begin by pulling the rope towards your face, separating your hands as you pull back. Your elbows should go out to the sides, not downwards.
  6. Focus on using your rear deltoids to perform the pull, ensuring your shoulder blades are retracted and squeezed together at the peak of the movement.
  7. Your hands should come close to your face, aiming for the area just in front of your ears or eyes, to maximize rear deltoid engagement.
  8. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position, maintaining tension in the rear delts and upper back muscles.
  9. Control the movement to prevent the weight from pulling you forward, which could compromise form and effectiveness.
  10. Perform your desired number of repetitions, typically 10-15 for muscle endurance and strength.

Final Words

To effectively build muscle and increase strength in your rear deltoids, prioritize compound exercises followed by supplementary movements targeting the horizontal abduction pattern. Top exercises for rear delt growth include reverse flyes, bent-over lateral raises, and prone incline lateral raises.

Keep your rep range moderate (8-12 reps) and select a weight that enables proper form throughout all repetitions. It’s not necessary to use heavy weights; instead, focus on lighter or moderate loads that you can lift with control from start to finish.

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