How to Train Your Rear Delts: 8 Best Rear Delt Exercises

by Evelyn Valdez

Building shoulders like boulders are at the top of a lot of lifters' goals list, but not many know how to approach doing so. Mindlessly working your shoulders may get you some results, but actually figuring out what muscles to target and what exercises to do will help get you the best results.

So, how does one build shoulders like boulders?

By working the deltoid muscles! The deltoids are a muscle group that consists of three muscles in your shoulders. They connect your arm to the trunk of your body and help move your arms in different directions. So, not only is building this muscle ideal for aesthetic reasons, but it also helps protect and stabilize the shoulder joint. There are the anterior (front) deltoids, lateral (side) deltoids, and posterior (rear) deltoids. Many place a greater focus on the front and lateral delts with pushing and overhead exercises leaving the rear delts behind – don't make this mistake!

The rear delts are just as important as the front and lateral delts, neglecting to train them will lead to a muscle imbalance and it won't give you the full shoulder boulder look you may want! Knowing when and how to train this small muscle can be confusing, but don't worry, we've got your back! Keep on reading to learn everything there is to know about training your rear delts – Plus, get a list of the best exercises for rear delts at the end to incorporate into your workout plan!

Are rear delts part of your shoulder or back workout?

As mentioned earlier, the deltoids are a part of the shoulders, but the rear delts are found at the back of your shoulders... this means popular pushing exercises that are typically done to build your shoulders may not be hitting your rear delts. Exercises that do hit the rear delts are actually pulling and rowing exercises which are more common during back workouts!

A lot of popular compound back exercises are already hitting the rear delts so it's best to add two more isolation rear delt exercises at the end of your back workout to finish the job. But if you want to ensure you're working your rear delts at least 2x a week for maximum growth then you can also incorporate a few rear delt focused exercises on shoulder day. However, you want to pay attention to your training split! Although the rear delts are being targeted on back day, you don't want to overuse your deltoid muscles by working your back and shoulders back-to-back. So, avoid working out your shoulders a day after your back and vice-versa!

What are the best exercises for rear deltoids?

When it comes to the best rear deltoid exercises, just like with any muscle group, you want to have a combination of compound and isolation exercises. A good rule to follow is to spend 80% of your time and energy on compound exercises and the remaining 20% on isolation exercises.

Fortunately, there are various compound exercises that target your rear delts along with other big muscles and isolation exercises as well! We've put together a list of the best rear delt exercises (compound and isolation) using various types of equipment, so you target your muscles entirely and always have a variety of exercises to rotate throughout the weeks!

Barbell row

The barbell row is an excellent compound exercise that everyone should be doing on back day! It targets your entire back, including the rear delts, making it a good exercise to start your back workout with.

How to do it:

  1. Set the barbell on the floor in front of you and load it with the appropriate amount of weight for your fitness level.
  2. Bend knees slightly and bend over the bar with back straight to grab it using a wide underhand grip, palms facing down.
  3. Make sure that your shoulder blades are tucked back and down (so chest up, or a "proud chest"), back straight, and head in a neutral position (focus on a spot a few feet in front of you).
  4. Begin to lift the bar off the floor by pulling your elbows toward the ceiling until the bar comes in contact with the bottom of your rib cage or belly button. Squeeze your shoulders and back muscles as you row the bar up, and remember to keep your back flat and in a neutral position. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades and hold for a second or two.
  5. Return until arms are extended, and shoulders are stretched downward.

Tip: Going heavy will help activate even more muscle fibers, so as you make progress, use a pair of lifting straps to help you get a better grip of the heavier barbell!

Dumbbell upright rows

This is another compound exercise you can start your workout with that targets to the traps and your entire deltoid muscles. If you want to take it up a notch try it with a barbell!

How to do it:

  1. Grasp dumbbells and stand with palms facing the front of thighs.
  2. Pull dumbbells to the front of the shoulder with elbows leading out to the sides. Allow wrists to flex as dumbbells rise upward.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Seated cable rows with wide grip

Seated cable rows are already a great exercise for your back, but a minor tweak fo adjusting to a wider grip helps target the traps, rhomboid, and rear delts more. Try this variation instead to help work your rear delts.

How to do it:

  1. Sit facing the cable row machine and place your feet on the footrest.
  2. Grasp the long bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip and slide your bottom backward until your knees are almost straight. Your torso should be leaning forward and your arms should be fully extended.
  3. Exhale as you slowly lean backward. Straighten your back, and pull the bar to your abdomen. Pull your shoulders back and stick out your chest at the top of the movement.
  4. Inhale as you slowly lean forward and return the bar to the starting position.

Bent over dumbbell flyes

Compound exercises are great, but isolation exercises will help target your rear delts even further. When it comes to isolating them – bent over dumbbell flyes should be your go to!

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hinge from the hips until your body is almost parallel to the floor.
  2. Allow the arms to hang straight down from the shoulders with a neutral grip. Take a deep breath and pull the dumbbells towards the ceiling using the rear deltoids.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position under control.

Cable reverse flyes

This is a variation of the bent-over dumbbell flyes that targets your entire deltoids instead of only the rear delts. Plus, it utilizes a cable machine which helps target your muscles in a different way than free weights!

How to do it:

  1. Grab the handles attached to two high pulleys (left-side handle in right hand, right-side handle in left hand), and stand upright and centrally with pulleys in front of you.
  2. Pull your hands backward (and slightly down by creating a circle) arms lower than parallel.
  3. Return the handles back to the start position where your right hand is directly in front of the left shoulder and your left hand in front of the right shoulder.

Incline dumbbell Y raises

This exercise targets your entire upper back, but also the shoulders, hitting every deltoid muscle!

How to do it:

  1. Adjust a bench to be at a 30-45 angles and grab a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Lie chest down on the bench, and let your arms hang down at arm's length with palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
  3. Raise your arms straight out in front of your body at a 30-degree angle so they form a Y with your body. Pause, then lower back down to starting position.

Incline rear delt dumbbell rows

This is an excellent barbell or dumbbell row variation to try because it helps effectively hit the rear delts in a different position.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust a bench to be at a 30-45 angles and grab a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Lie chest down on the bench, and let your arms hang down with palms facing away from you.
  3. Keeping upper arm perpendicular to torso and dumbbells just below elbows, pull dumbbells up until elbows are just above shoulders.
  4. Return and repeat.

Rope face pulls

Face pulls are another great rear delt exercise because it isolates them and also makes them work through constant tension from the cable machine.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a rope handle to the middle pulley of a cable station (make sure its roughly at chest height) and grasp an end in each hand with palms and thumbs turned downwards.
  2. Stand away from the machine to put tension on the cable and begin to row the handle to your upper back, flaring your elbows out and hold for a second.
  3. Return to the starting position.

Grow your shoulders by working your delts

Now you know exactly when and how to train your rear delts that way you can start making the gains you deserve! As an added tip, train your rear delts with 10-20 sets per week to maximize growth. This will help ensure that your front and lateral deltoids aren't the only ones getting all the love!

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