6 best rear delt exercises – dumbbell, cable and bodyweight
Your rear delts, or posterior deltoids, are one of the most important muscles in the upper body. However, many people tend to neglect and forget about these crucial muscles.
Found on the rear side of your shoulders, training your rear delts is particularly vital for those who sit over a computer at a desk for eight hours a day. Strengthening this area can drastically improve your posture, stops your upper back from developing a hunch, and helps prevent shoulder imbalances that might lead to injury.
So, next time you’re exercising your upper body, try not to just focus on your chest, front delts, abs and back. Remember that the bits you can’t see in the mirror are just as important.
Keep reading for our top six most powerful rear delt exercises, and say goodbye to underdeveloped back and shoulder muscles forever.
These dumbbell exercises fit in best at the start of your workout, when your energy levels are high and you’re able to give it your all. All you need is one pair of dumbbells and a bench.
Chest supported rear delt dumbbell fly
This fantastic exercise is suitable for people who are rehabilitating their shoulders, are unable to perform overhead presses, or are totally new to strength training.
How to do it:
Set up an incline bench at a 45-to-60-degree angle, or prop a flat bench up on a block so that it is at an angle.
Grab two dumbbells and lay on the bench with your chin just over the top of it. Make sure that your spine and neck are in a neutral position.
Brace your core, squeeze your glutes, pull your arms backwards until they are parallel to the ground and think about trying to pull your shoulder blades together. Imagine you are squeezing a pencil between them and keep a slight bend in your elbows.
Pause for a moment at the top, then lower with control and repeat.
Intermediate lifters might perform two to four sets of 6 to 12 reps like this, with beginners doing slightly less. Advanced lifters can increase the intensity of the move by lowering more slowly, increasing their weights, or adding a band for extra resistance.
Check out the video demonstration from our body transformation coach, Charlie below.
Single arm bent-over rows
This useful move hits a whole range of muscle groups at once. As well as building up your rear deltoid strength, it also works your biceps, back and transverse abdominals. You can do it on a bench, or on the floor if you don’t have one available.
How to do it:
Place your left knee and left hand on the bench and extend your other leg out slightly behind you for support.
Start holding a heavy dumbbell in your right hand, with your arm extended toward the floor.
Pull the weight up toward your ribcage and squeeze your shoulder blade towards the middle of your back. Make sure you are using the back of your shoulder to pull up the majority of the weight, not your arm.
Lower the weight back down to the floor with control, then repeat between 10 to 20 times.
Switch to do the same with the other arm, aiming to do three sets with each side.
Intense rear delt cable exercises
Most exercises that are done with free weights, can be done just as well using a cable machine.
Although this high-tech bit of equipment might look a bit complicated and intimidating, it’s actually a really versatile and accessible. The two moves below are simple but deadly, and they’ll really get your rear delts firing.
Seated cable rear delt fly
Another all-encompassing back and shoulder move, the seated cable rear delt fly works the rear delts, lats, lumbar extensor, biceps and forearm flexors.
How to do it:
Take hold of the two cable handles and place your feet on the block in front of you.
Let your arms extend all the way forward feeling a stretch in the lats, and face your palms towards each other.
Keeping your arms straight (except for a slight bend in the elbow), pull the cables straight back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Again, remember not to use your arms and let you rear delts do the majority of the work.
Slowly release your arms back to the starting position repeat. Remember to sit up straight and not lean back throughout the entire move.
Aim to complete three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Take a look at the demonstration from Charlie below.
Standing rope face pull
This nifty exercise lets you hit your rear delts in a slightly different way to when you’re using dumbbells. Your rhomboids, rotator cuffs and traps will also feel the burn, too.
How to do it:
Fix the rope attachment to the cable machine and position it level with your face.
Firmly place your feet on the floor, hold the ends of the two ropes with your thumbs at the bottom and step back so you can extend your arms out in front of you.
Keeping your arms raised, tense your core and pull your elbows back and apart so the handles come either side of your face. Pinch your shoulder blades together and maintain a high position with your elbows.
Pause for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position with control. The weight should be light enough for you to do 10 to 12 reps, two or three times.
At-home bodyweight rear delt exercises
Whether you’re working out at home or in a hotel room, you can still give your rear delts a proper workout using no equipment at all.
Want to fit in some core training whilst exhausting your rear delts? Try this trusty full-body plank move...
How to do it:
Set up in a forearm plank position with your arms at a 90-degree angle, your heels pushing back behind you and your shoulder blades spread far apart.
Engage your core, make sure that your back is totally straight and tense your glutes.
Slowly lower your body until you almost touch the ground, squeezing your shoulder blades together in the process.
Contract your delts use them to push back up to your starting position.
Again, aim to do three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps.
This standing rear delt exercise really helps to improve your mind-muscle connection.
How to do it:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Stand up straight, engage your core and hold your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing down.
Contract your rear delts to bring your elbows as far back as possible in a bent position. Squeeze them as hard as possible before releasing back to the starting position.
Do 10 to 20 reps at a time, until your rear delts start to tire.
For more tailored advice about strengthening your rear shoulder muscles, contact the team at Embody Fitness.
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