5 Rear Deltoid Stretches (Improve Your Shoulder Effectively)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: April 1, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Christiana Mikesch, CPT
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The rear deltoid muscle is a critical part of many different exercises, and you’ll have to fully engage it in many upper-body workout sessions.

But, as a personal fitness coach, I often see people at the gym make mistakes when stretching their shoulder muscles.

A simple mistake in wrongly aligning your arms can make an anterior deltoid stretch less effective.

So, our team decided to ask a physiotherapist to help out with a wide range of stretches, and for this post, we’ll show you exactly how to work on your rear deltoids.

Quick Summary

  • Everyone should do a targeted shoulder stretch for the rear deltoids on upper body workout days, and the simplest way is with the crossover arm stretch.
  • It’s important to get the timing right for a rear deltoid stretch, and many people can benefit from a quick mid-workout stretch as well.
  • According to Current Sports Medicine Reports, static stretches warm up muscles and can boost your workout performance.
  • From my experience, consistently practicing rear deltoid stretches has been a game-changer for enhancing upper body flexibility and reducing injury risk.

How To Stretch Your Deltoid Muscle Effectively

A woman performing a rear deltoids stretch

I’m going to show you the simplest and most effective way to do a rear deltoid stretch, but I recommend that you pay close attention to some notes on each step.

Here’s how I recommend you do the arm-cross-body stretch:

  • Step 1: Stretch out one arm across your chest and aim to keep the elbow straight and the opposite arm beside your body.
  • Step 2: Place the hand of the opposite arm on the upper arm bone. Ideally, place it close to your elbow but on the triceps muscle.
  • Step 3: Pull the entire arm towards your chest with the opposite hand and gradually build up the stretch in the left shoulder. It’s important to hold the stretch as you don’t want to force this into a kind of dynamic stretch as it could strain your shoulder joint, as shown by Home for Special Surgery [1].
  • Step 4: Hold the stretch for about 15 seconds, then slowly release the opposite hand from your arm and allow your arm to release and hang beside.
  • Step 5: Now, it’s time to work on the opposite shoulder using the same rear deltoid stretch process. Bring your right arm in front of your body and use the hand on the opposite arm to pull it towards your chest.

Incorporating deep, rhythmic breathing into stretches enhances relaxation and stress relief, improving oxygen flow and reducing muscle and mental tension.

What Muscles Are Targeted?

A woman targets her rear deltoids with stretching

The rear deltoid stretch will target two parts of the shoulder muscle group called the deltoid posterior and lateral.

My physiotherapist provided me with some interesting details about the rear deltoids that you’ll be targeting in this way.

1. Deltoid Posterior

This muscle makes up the back part of the shoulder and attaches directly to the upper back.

Its primary function is to move the arms back, which is why a rear deltoid stretch needs to move in the opposite direction. 

2. Deltoid Lateral

This part of the deltoid connects the arm with the upper shoulder and is mainly responsible for moving the arm up and down.

A rear deltoid stretch will also target this muscle, and you should feel the stretch gradually increase from the center of your shoulder to the back.

As we age, shoulder flexibility diminishes. For older adults, modifying stretches with gentle movements and avoiding overextension is key to preserving shoulder health and mobility.

How Often To Stretch The Rear Delts?

A woman stretching her rear deltoid

Incorporate a rear deltoid stretch into every arm-involved weightlifting session.

Research in Current Sports Medicine Reports shows that such static stretches warm up muscles, boosting performance. [2].

Integrating these stretches into yoga or Pilates enhances shoulder health, flexibility, and balance.

As a fitness trainer, I've seen daily back/shoulder stretches maintain muscle and joint mobility in athletes.

Regularly stretching the rear deltoids also improves posture and ergonomics, which is crucial for those often seated or using computers, reducing posture-related problems.

“Not only can stretching help increase your flexibility, which is an important factor of fitness, but it can also improve your posture, reduce stress and body aches, and more.”

- Daniel Bubnis, M.S.

Related Articles:

When Should You Stretch Your Them?

You should do your rear deltoid stretch immediately before you start your warm-up routine. According to research by Frontiers of Physiology, it’s a great way to activate muscles and ultimately prevent shoulder injuries [3].

And because the rear deltoid stretch only takes about 30 seconds, it’s a good idea to do an extra one just before your shoulder exercise.

FAQs

Why Are My Rear Delts So Tight?

Your rear delts can become tight because of continuous overuse. Athletes who perform the same movement a lot of the time can find that it tightens these muscles, and one of the best options is a regular rear deltoid stretch.

How Do You Loosen Tight Muscles Between Your Shoulder Blades?

You can loosen tight muscles between your shoulder blades by reaching both arms across your chest in a hugging motion. Alternatively, you could also do a static rear deltoid stretch with an added shoulder turn.


References:

  1. https://www.hss.edu/article_static_dynamic_stretching.asp
  2. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/fulltext/2014/05000/the_effects_of_stretching_on_performance.12.aspx
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/physiology/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.01468/full
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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