Broad, well-defined shoulders are the hallmark of a commanding physique—but building them requires more than a frontal attack
If you want fully developed shoulders, it’s essential to make rear delt exercises a regular part of your training.
“The rear deltoids are the unsung heroes of the upper body,” says personal trainer Amanda Dale, MA, ACE-CPT.
They provide power in rowing movements, help with stability in pressing movements, and are largely responsible for the lean, toned appearance of the mid-to-upper back, he adds.
Unfortunately, Dale says, the rear delts are often the weakest of the three heads that comprise the deltoid.
This is largely the consequence of a sedentary lifestyle, which, not coincidentally, often counts poor posture among its casualties.
If you don’t address the muscular imbalance between the front and back of your shoulders, you could end up with poor shoulder mobility and mechanics—and potentially set yourself up for shoulder injury in the process.
To get you started, we’ve rounded up seven of the best rear delt exercises to incorporate into your routine.
1. Dumbbell reverse fly
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Push your hips back and forward at the waist until your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang straight down, palms facing each other.
- Keeping your back flat and abs engaged, maintain a slight bend in your elbows as you extend your arms out to the sides until your arms reach shoulder level. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
- Slowly reverse the move to return the weights to the starting position and repeat for reps.
2. Resistance band face tension
- Anchor a resistance band to a stable point a few inches above your head.
- Grasp the band with an overhand grip, with your hands about six inches apart, facing the anchor point.
- Step back from the anchor point with your arms extended in front of you until you feel a stretch in the band.
- Pull the band toward your face with your back straight and elbows high, stopping when the band is near your nose.
- Slowly reverse the step to return to the starting position and repeat for reps.
3. Inverted row
- Secure a bar to a rack at waist height and lie on the floor beneath it.
- Using an overhand grip, grab the bar with both hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and hang with your arms fully extended. Your shoulders should be directly under your hands and your feet should be hip-width apart. This position begins.
- Keeping your body straight from head to heels, pull your chest up to the bar and pause briefly at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended and repeat for repetition.
4. Dumbbell bent-over row
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Engage your core, push your hips back, and hinge at the waist until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang straight down, palms facing each other.
- Keeping your back flat, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the weights toward your sides.
- Pause, then lower the weight back to the starting position. Repeat for reps.
5. Raise the dumbbell YTI
- Lie face down on a stability ball or bench holding a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hang directly on the floor, palms facing each other.
- Keeping your head neutral, raise both arms to 45 degrees to form a “Y” shape. Pause briefly. Then, lower the weight back to the starting position.
- Lift the weight again, this time making a “T” shape straight out to your side, palms down. Pause briefly at the top of the movement before lowering the weight.
- Finally, lift the weight by straightening your back to form an “I” shape, palms facing each other. Hold briefly and lower the weight.
- Repeat the entire sequence for the desired number of reps.
6. Dumbbell Arnold Press
- Sit or stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keeping your back flat and core engaged, curl the weights up to shoulder level, palms facing you. This position begins.
- Keeping the weights at the same height, externally rotate your arms to the sides so that your palms are facing the front of the room and press the weights directly overhead.
- Reverse the move to return the weights to the starting position. Repeat for reps.
7. Bodyweight Cobras on the stability ball
- Lie face down on your stomach on a stability ball and extend your legs straight behind you. Flex your feet to support your weight on your toes.
- Keeping your gaze on the floor, extend both arms in front of you to form a “Y” shape. Your palms should face the floor.
- Sweep both arms out to the sides and bring them behind you as you lift your chest and bring your gaze forward. Finish with both arms behind you, thumbs pointing toward the ceiling.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position and repeat. Add weight to intensify the move.
Your rear delts are anatomically referred to as the posterior head of the deltoid, joining the anterior and lateral heads to form the entire deltoid muscle.
The three heads originate along the scapula (shoulder blade) and collarbone and attach midway down your humerus (upper arm).
The rear delts join the shoulders and back and are technically part of your posterior chain.
This means you can effectively hit your rear delts with both shoulder and back exercises.