Rear delt exercises for fuller shoulders

Your rear delts aren’t usually the muscle group that are talked about as much as your glutes, leg and core. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t as important.

Rear delts are responsible for pushing and pulling movements, which means rear delt exercises are important to help ensure your upper body is as strong as possible for everyday activities and maintaining good posture. 

What are rear delts responsible for?

Rear delts help with posture, pulling movements and used when lifting objects over your head.

Your shoulders are made up of three muscles:

  • Anterior (front)
  • Lateral (middle)
  • Posterior (rear)

It’s important to remember because they are often neglected since you don’t see them like your front and middle.

What are the best rear delt exercises

rear delt exercises like one arm dumbbell row
woman doing single are rows for rear delt exercises

Single arm dumbbell rows

  1. Hold a dumbbell with your left hand with a neutral grip
  2. Stand to the side of a bench then place your right knee on the bench under your hips bracing yourself with your right hand under your shoulder
  3. Keeping a neutral spine and core engaged. Start with the dumbbell towards the floor
  4. Pull the weight up, bending your elbow until the weight reaches your side
  5. Slowly lower to starting position
  6. Switch sides
inverted row exercise to improve rear delts

Wide grip inverted row

  1. Rack a barbell at about, or slightly below, your waist height. A Smith machine works well.
  2. Begin by lying face-up with the barbell directly above your chest with your legs extended.
  3. Grab the barbell wide enough so that there’s a 90-degree angle at your elbow at the end phase of the movement.
  4. Keeping your elbows at shoulder level, pull yourself up until your chest almost touches the bar. Aim to keep a straight line from head to ankles.
  5. Drop slowly until your elbows are fully extended.
  6. Repeat

Bent over rear cable fly

  1. Grab the handles attached to two low pulleys (left-side handle in right hand, right-side handle in left hand), stand in the middle, then bend forward at the waist with back straight and parallel to the floor.
  2. Raise your hands upward in an arc to shoulder level, such that the cables cross over.
  3. Lower the handles back down to the start position, your right hand directly in front of the left ankle and your left hand in front of the right ankle.
  4. Keep your arms straight as you extend them 

Tip: Use a low-weight. Lower weight allow you to focus on the weight and your form.

Seated cable row

  1. Sit down and place your feet on the foot rest while maintaining slightly bent knees.
  2. Lean forward and grab the handle, then lean back with your arms stretched in front of you.
  3. Straighten your back and pull the cable toward your stomach.
  4. Once your hands touch your torso, reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
rear delt exercises improve appearance and strength
rear delt exercises including face pulls strengthen muscle

Rope cable face fulls

  1. Set pulley at chest height or higher and attach ropes.
  2. Step back until your arms are fully extended.
  3. Pull the weight directly towards your forehead, using your shoulders and separating your shoulders as you pull the weights back.
  4. Keep your palms facing in as your elbows flare out.
  5. Hold for a second and return to the starting position.

Barbell row

  1. Position your feet under a loaded barbell about shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward. 
  2. Bend over and grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and with your palms facing toward you. 
  3. Straighten your back and raise your hips until your back is parallel to the floor.
  4. Pull the barbell to your upper body, touching it anywhere between your lower chest and belly button. 
  5. Once the bar touches your body, reverse the movement and return to the starting position. 

Seated bent-over dumbbell raise

  1. Sit on the end of a bench with your feet hip-width on the ground in front of you.
  2. Hold dumbbells with a neutral grip and lean forward keeping your back flat.
  3. Lower weights down towards the ground, keeping your elbows slightly bent, lift up and out to the side until your elbows are aligned with your shoulders.
  4. Slowly lower to starting position.

TRX rear delt row

  1. Stand facing the suspension straps, brace your lower back and tighten your core.
  2. Lean back, letting the straps hold your weight. Your arms should be straight.
  3. Pull yourself up with your back, maintaining a tight core.
  4. Squeeze the back muscles and slowly lower yourself.
  5. Repeat.

Your grip

Always pay close attention to your grip when training. This, along with other factors, will determine how effectively you can load an exercise, recruit muscle, and transmit force.

When it comes to the rear delts, a recent study conducted by Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., and colleagues found that a neutral grip (palms facing each other) significantly increased rear deltoid activity during a machine Reverse Fly, over a pronated (palms facing down) grip. 

Benefits of rear delt exercises

Improves posture

Many of us sit in front of a computer all day forcing us into a hunched position. Working your rear delts helps pull your shoulders back and reverse that hunch.

Reduce injury

Your front and middle delts are typically more dominant which crates and imbalance. By strength training your rear delts, you round out working the muscles of your shoulders (delts)

Appearance 

Training the rear delts can have positive effects on the overall look of your upper body. Filling out your shirt and straightening your upper back and posture can create a look of confidence.

Wrap up

Choose two or three rear delt exercises to weave into a program for eight weeks. Add one-two of them into your shoulder workout, and then add one or two to your back workout. 

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