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7 Best Rear Delt Exercises (Grow Posterior Deltoids Fast)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 10, 2022

The rear deltoid muscles are possibly one of the most underloved muscles in the back and shoulder. As a personal trainer, I know that most people think that their regular compound exercises will do the trick on their rear delts.

But if you're trying to carefully sculpt your body, you should add one or two isolation exercises that hit rear delts in a meaningful way.

To help you better plan your next back day, I've put together some information I've gained through years of experience and research.

Quick Summary

  • There are seven highly effective rear deltoid exercises that allow you to bring on the burn and make you feel muscles in places you didn't know existed.
  • The rear delts play a key role in controlling your lateral arm movement but also have a surprising impact on your posture.
  • Training your posterior deltoids is important to achieve an even shoulder muscle appearance.

What Is The Rear Delt?

The rear delt is the furthest back of the 3-headed deltoid. These upper back muscles play a crucial role in arm movements and rotating the position of the shoulder [2].

It's that rounded-out muscle that sits at the top of the upper arm bone and covers the entire shoulder joint. It's why they are also often called the rotator cuff muscles.

"Like most other muscles in your body, the deltoids are skeletal muscles. Tendons attach them to bones. Skeletal muscles are voluntary muscles, meaning you choose to move them." - ClevelandClinic.org.

But these shoulder muscles don't just play a role in moving your arm because they extend quite far back towards your spine.

Let's take a closer look.

What Do The Rear Delts Do?

man showing back muscles

The rear delts assist predominantly in moving your arm up and down in a lateral way. If you slowly lift one arm to the side and feel the delt with your other hand, then you'll notice the tension increase.

And when you rotate your stretched-out arm, you should be able to feel the different heads of this muscle engage.

But the posterior deltoid muscle also plays a role in controlling your upper body posture by keeping your upper spine and shoulders straight [3]. It essentially stops that hunched-over posture with rounded shoulders.

How Often Should You Exercise The Rear Delts?

I generally recommend that you should do targeted rear delt exercises on every back and shoulder training day. That doesn't mean you should do all the above rear delt exercises.

Instead, pick 1 or 2 of them to go along with your typical routine.

Now, if you have some significant posture problems that may be due to weakened rear delts, then you could consider adding a few more sets, but for most people, there's probably no need to do more than nine sets for your rear delts a week.

How Do You Isolate The Rear Delt Muscle?

man working out with dumbbells and a woman doing planks

Here are the seven best rear delt exercises that I recommend you should add to your back and shoulder days. Pick 1 or 2 of them at a time and keep mixing them around.

1. Dumbbell Incline Raises (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

You'll need an adjustable bench for this, and you want to set it up at about 45 degrees:

  1. Sit on the bench facing the backrest and grip onto a dumbbell in each hand to get into the starting position.
  2. Now lean forward so that your upper body leans against the backrest.
  3. Keep the elbows slightly bent to avoid overextending them and reducing injury risks that are common [1].
  4. Now slowly raise the dumbbells up and forward so that you end up in a superman posture.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down.

2. Seated Dumbbell Rear Fly (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

Man doing Seated Dumbbell Rear Fly

Another option on a bench, especially if you don't have an adjustable one, is seated rear deltoid flys:

  1. Sit at the end of the bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Tilt your body forward to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Slowly lift the dumbbells in a wing-like motion and lift them up to shoulder height.
  4. Then lower them down to the starting point and feel the tension on the rear deltoids.

Related Article: Reverse Pec Deck Fly

3. Dumbbell Rear Delt Pulls (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

This is one of the rear deltoid exercises where you might want to consider picking up some heavier dumbbells than normal:

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Pull up your shoulders as you would in shrugs, but also bring your hands about halfway up your chest.
  3. Slowly lower your hands down again.
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4. One-Arm Bent Over Rows (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

Man doing one arm bent over rows

I suggest using a bench or chair to lean on and help you keep your balance:

  1. Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in your left hand.
  2. Place your right knee and hand on the bench to get your back in a straight and horizontal starting position.
  3. Let the dumbbell hang down beside the bench and start the rear delt row in a slow movement.
  4. Pull the dumbbell to your chest and then lower it back down again.

5. Bent Over Alternating Flys (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

This is a nice variation of the regular back flys that I like to use to target the rear deltoids:

  1. Stand with your knees slightly bent and a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Get into a bent-over position where your back is close to horizontal.
  3. Lift the left dumbbell up perpendicular to the side up to shoulder height.
  4. Lower it down again and switch to the right arm.

6. Side-Lying Raises (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

woman in a side lying raises

This rear delt exercise will take a lot of practice to get the balance right:

  1. Lay down on your right side, ideally on a workout bench.
  2. With your left hand, grab onto a dumbbell and let it hang down in front of your chest.
  3. Use your right arm to stabilize your body by placing it on the ground in front of the bench.
  4. Raise the dumbbell straight up above your body.
  5. Slowly lower it back down again.

7. Modified Planks (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

The final one of our recommendations is to do some bodyweight rear delt exercises:

  1. The starting position is in a plank position on your elbows.
  2. Now round out your shoulder and neck by pushing your upper spine up high.
  3. Then lower your spine down between your shoulder blades and lift your head up.
  4. Make this a slow movement and concentrate on engaging the delts.

FAQs

Can You Work Your Rear Deltoids without Weights?

Yes, you can work your rear deltoids without weights by doing modified planks. By using your own body weight to create tension on your delts, you’ll strengthen them with a compound type movement.

Are Rear Delt Injuries Common?

Rear delt injuries are quite common, especially with repetitive straining movements [4].

That's why it's important to mix up your posterior deltoid exercises regularly to avoid always causing the same strain.

Are You Going To Introduce A Rear Delt Exercise?

Many people ignore the rear delts when building upper body strength, but extra muscle mass in this muscle could significantly improve your arm strength and posture.

All it should take is isolating the posterior deltoid with 1 or 2 workouts, and you could be making a significant difference.

Try out some of the best rear delt exercises listed above and see how much of a difference it will make over the coming weeks.


References:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/elbow-pain-when-lifting
  2. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Deltoid
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21875-deltoid-muscles
  4. https://www.medicinenet.com/why_does_my_deltoid_muscle_hurt/article.htm

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