It’s not a secret that people spend most of their time training chest and biceps while neglecting the other muscle groups.
This is a huge mistake!
Your shoulders are important for many reasons. For one, they help with your posture- this will make you appear taller and stronger.
They also stabilize your arm movement- this will give you better control over heavy weights in exercises like the bench press or shoulder presses.
On top of all that, they’re responsible for about 20% of the work done during any exercise routine.
If those aren’t enough reasons to put some effort into improving your deltoids and upper traps then I don’t know what is!
In this article, we’ll cover the 11 best exercises for rear delt training to make yours pop from any angle.
11 Best Rear Delt Exercises for Shoulder Growth
1) Inverted Barbell Rows
The inverted barbell row is one of the best rear deltoid exercises, helping stimulate the muscles of the upper body and back as well.
It’s essentially a reverse barbell row, which makes it a very challenging movement. To do this exercise, you’ll need a barbell rack, barbell, and optional weightlifting straps.
To perform, firstly place the barbell on a pin in the rack chest level high. Then step underneath the bar, and grab it with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width.
Next, pull your torso up towards the bar at upper chest level, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement to protect your back.
This exercise can be performed using a variety of grip widths and to an extent, different bar heights. It’s also one of the few true bodyweight rear delt exercises on the planet.
Aim to perform no less than 15 reps per set, for up to 4 working sets. This exercise also doubles as an intense back workout so be prepared! This exercise is also sometimes referred to as the wide grip inverted row.
2) Single Arm Bent Over Dumbbell Row
The single-arm bent over dumbbell row is a great exercise for targeting the rear shoulders, lats, and upper back. It’s also a great way to improve your grip strength.
To perform this exercise, you’ll need a weightlifting bench, one weightlifting strap (optional), and a dumbbell.
To begin, place one knee on the weightlifting bench and hold a dumbbell in the other hand, with your arm extended.
Next, brace yourself by gripping the side of the bench with the non-working arm- this will help protect your rear deltoid muscle as you do this exercise.
Then, pull through with your rear shoulder and lats so that it moves towards the ceiling until the dumbbell reaches around chest level; pause for a count, then slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
To prevent wrist strain, make sure your palm is facing towards you as you do this exercise.
Don’t let the weight rest on its own at any point- always brace yourself against something solid with your free hand for support.
Aim to perform no less than 12 reps per set, for up to four working sets.
3) Dumbbell Rear Delt Flye
The dumbbell posterior deltoids flye is a great exercise for isolating the rear shoulders and upper back. It’s also a relatively easy movement to perform- making it perfect for beginners.
To do this exercise, you’ll need two dumbbells and a weight bench.
To begin, lie down on your stomach on the weight bench and allow the dumbbells to dangle freely towards the floor.
Next, slowly raise the dumbbells out to the side until your arms are parallel with your shoulders- pause for a count, then slowly lower them back to the starting position.
However, if this is not possible it is important to consider anatomical limitations- the last thing you want is an injury for hyperextension.
For this reason, it is important to use very light resistance.
Make sure you keep your rear deltoid muscles pulled together as you do this exercise to get the most out of it.
Aim to perform no less than 12 reps per set for up to four working sets.
4) Face Pulls
The face pull is a great exercise for targeting the rear shoulders, upper back, and traps. It’s also an easy and convenient movement to perform- making it perfect for trainees of all experience levels.
To do this exercise, you’ll need a cable machine with pulleys set at shoulder height, or better yet- resistance bands that can be easily mounted on door frames.
You will use a neutral grip for this movement with feet shoulder-width apart.
To begin, set your pulleys up at shoulder height.
Then attach a rope to the highest setting and grasp it with an overhand grip, hands equal distance apart just slightly wider than shoulders.
Next, pull through with rear shoulders so that you are pulling the ends of the rope towards your face- ideally until they are touching right beside your nose.
If using resistance bands, replicate the movement using the supplied handle grips and make sure to keep your elbows slightly bent and tucked to your side and pointed towards the rear as you do this exercise.
For best results, aim for 12-15 reps per set for up to four working sets.
5) Upright Row
The upright row is a great way to target the entire deltoid region and traps. It’s also a convenient movement to perform and subject to ease of increasing resistance.
To do this exercise, you’ll need an adjustable barbell or EZ curl bar with weight plates of your choice on either end.
To begin, set the desired amount of weight onto one side of the barbell/EZ curl bar- then stand upright holding it in front of your thighs using an overhand narrow grip (palms facing you).
Next, pull through rear shoulders so that they raise the weighted ends towards your chin as far as possible without moving them out from parallel with your torso- pause for a moment at full contraction before slowly lowering back down again.
At the top position, your elbows will naturally flare outwards.
Palms should be less than shoulder-distance apart in the start position, and keep knees slightly bent throughout the motion.
6) Rear Delt Seated Machine Flye
In terms of posterior deltoid exercises, there aren’t many better shoulder exercises than the good old reverse machine flye.
To begin, sit down on the seat and place your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Then lean slightly forward so that your chest is resting comfortably against the backrest.
Next, adjust the height of both flye handles so that it is about shoulder level before grasping each one with an overhand grip (hands should be equal distance apart and facing each other).
From here, slowly contract your delts and move the handles outwards and backwards until they are parallel with your shoulders- pause for a moment before returning the resistance back to their original starting position.
Remember that the range of motion is not as deep with rear delt flyes compared to other movements such as the machine chest flye- so make sure you point your elbows outward for maximum range of motion that can be achieved.
7) Military Press
The military press is a great exercise for targeting the entire deltoid region, as well as the triceps and upper chest.
It’s also an excellent compound movement that can be easily overloaded to make it more challenging for almost any trainee.
To do this exercise, you’ll need an adjustable barbell or EZ curl bar with weight plates of your choice on either end.
To begin, set the desired amount of weight onto one side of the barbell/EZ curl bar- then stand upright holding it in front of your thighs using an overhand grip (palms facing you).
Next, press the weight upwards until both arms are extended overhead before slowly lowering them back down again to their original starting position.
One of the major advantages of the military press over other rear deltoid specific movements is that it allows for greater overload and subsequently hypertrophy potential of all the upper back muscles.
8) Lying Delt Circles
This exercise is extremely challenging, yet sorely underestimated.
It targets the entire deltoid region as well as the rotator cuff muscles.
Rotator cuff injuries are some of the most common shoulder injuries and causes of shoulder pain that athletes need to watch out for.
To perform, start by lying on a bench, face down.
Grasp a pair of very light dumbbells, and initiate moving them laterally, from your side to over your head. Take your time and focus on the movement.
This is not an exercise for speed, but instead, one to isolate and work deep into your shoulder muscles with control.
Start slow; attempt to complete ten repetitions towards the end of your workout. Gradually work up to multiple sets to really strengthen the rear delt complex.
9) Reverse Barbell Delt Raise
An uncommon exercise, but one that is very effective at hitting the rear delts hard. It’s not surprising that most people have never tried or even heard of it for that matter.
However, it’s extremely simple to perform.
Start by Grasping a barbell behind your back. Lean forward, which will naturally cause the barbell to move upwards.
Gently attempt to lift it higher, while keeping your elbows straight.
The working range of motion for this exercise is very limited, so it’s best, to begin with a very light weight.
This exercise is not so much about weight as it is about maintaining proper form and stability.
10) Rear Shoulder Cable Crossover
A cable crossover motion is a great way to target both the rear and front head of your shoulder.
To begin, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and bend forward at the waist until you feel some tension in your core.
Next, grasp either side of a standard weight stack machine’s high pulley rack using an overhand grip (hands facing away from each other).
Cross your palms and cables at the start position, and pull the cables towards the direction of your back.
Slowly return to start position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions and a total of 2-3 working sets.
If you don’t have access to a cable machine, resistance bands can be used as a suitable replacement.
Not only are they affordable, but they are convenient and easy to carry around so that you can get workouts in at the gym or even when you’re on the go.
The key to this exercise is slow and controlled form throughout, not the speed of movement.
Only go as fast as you can while maintaining proper form throughout each repetition.
This will ensure that your muscles are worked through a full range of motion rather than just a partial one.
This movement is a great way to isolate the rear delts for growth and definition, while also stretching out your shoulder muscles at the full range of motion to prevent future injuries.
11) Pull Ups
Pull-ups are a monster exercise that recruits muscles from several parts of the body. The rear delts are no exception, as the deltoids play important roles in stabilization throughout the movement.
To perform a pull-up, you will need to find a sturdy overhead bar that you can hang from.
Grasp the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from your body), and ensure that your shoulder blades are retracted (pushed down towards your spine).
From here, simply lift your body upward by pulling on the bar, and maintaining a tight core.
Keep your body straight with your chin just tapping the bar at the top of the movement; hold for a moment to maximize muscle activation before returning back down slowly.
Repeat this motion for 12-15 repetitions per set (for 2-3 sets)towards the end of your workout when you have built up enough endurance to handle it.
Alternatively, machine-assisted pull-ups can be used if you are unable to perform a traditional pull-up just yet.
These machines will help you to lift your body weight by providing some assistance, which in turn will make the exercise easier and allow you to complete more repetitions.
Machine lateral pulldowns are also possible options if you cannot do pull-ups or cannot do them for one reason or another.
Lateral pulldowns are also safer to do and can gradually allow significant strength accrual for transition to pull-ups later on.
Putting It Together
The rear deltoids are the smallest and most neglected muscles in the shoulder. As a result, they are often one of the last muscles to grow and take on definition.
To make sure you are achieving full growth in your rear delts, be sure to perform the exercises above regularly.
When it comes to shoulder workouts, make sure that they are balanced on both sides of the body for maximum results.
A great way to mix things up would be to complete your rear shoulder workouts before the other parts, as this simple change could help strengthen these muscles that are normally relegated to last place.
There are also many other exercises that should be included as part of a comprehensive shoulder workout such as the lateral dumbbell raise, incline bench presses, and seated rear lateral raise.
You also do not need to emphasize training this group for more than 6 sets, as it also gets residual stimulation from a variety of other movements, and be sure to not sacrifice safety for the sake of moving heavier weight.
The rear shoulder muscles are often an afterthought, but they play a significant role in both the appearance and function of the shoulder joint.
By using exercises that specifically target these muscles, you can ensure that they receive the attention they need and grow to their fullest potential.
Be sure to add at least one of these exercises into your next shoulder workout to start transforming them.
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