The 8 Best Rear Delt Exercises for Bigger Shoulders

To create strong, thick shoulders, you must train your rear deltoid muscles. They will make your back look complete as well as your shoulders.

So we have put together our choice of the 8 best rear deltoid exercises that will help you strengthen and grow your rear delts.

 

Deltoid Muscles Anatomy

Before we can start talking about the best weird deltoid exercises, you need to know what your deltoids look like and what sections they consist of.

So, technically speaking, your deltoid muscles consist of three different sections or heads.

These are known as the anterior deltoids, the lateral deltoids, and the posterior deltoids. All three of these sections work in harmony to allow your shoulder to function properly. Let's take a closer look at each section.

 

Rear Deltoids AKA Posterior Deltoids

The main part of the deltoid muscles that we are here to talk about today are the rear delts, also known as the posterior deltoids.

The posterior deltoids are located on the rear of your shoulder, and they're important for both external rotation and shoulder extension. They are also important for preventing shoulder injuries from occurring.

 

Side Deltoids AKA Lateral Deltoids

We then have your side deltoids, also known as your lateral deltoids, and these are the muscles that you can see on the top side of your shoulder, those muscles that form those big round boulders.

This is an important muscle for abduction, which is when you move your arm away from your body. It's also important for both inward and medial rotation of the shoulder.

Related Post: Target Your Side Delts With These Exercises

 

Front Deltoids AKA Anterior Deltoids

Finally, we have the front deltoids, also known as the anterior deltoids, and these are located on the front of your shoulder.

The anterior deltoids are responsible for a variety of functions, including medial rotation, horizontal adduction, and the flexion of the shoulder joint.

 

The Importance of Having Strong Rear Deltoids

 

If you're wondering why having strong rear deltoids is important, this is the case for several reasons. 

First and foremost, having strong rear deltoids, and stronger shoulders in general, helps to keep your shoulders pulled down and back, therefore promoting better posture, and preventing back injuries from occurring.

At the same time, any kind of movement that requires stability in your shoulders, such as an overhead press, requires your rear deltoids. Being able to lift up anything over your head involves the use of your rear deltoid muscles. 

Overall, if you want to look balanced, you need to work out your rear deltoids along with the other sections of your shoulders.

 

The 8 Best Rear Deltoid Exercises

Now that you know what your deltoid muscles look like and why it's important to have them be big and strong, let's take a closer look at the 8 best rear deltoid exercises out there. 

1. Rear Deltoid Fly Machine

Rear Deltoid Machine

If you're just starting out at the gym, and you want something simple that's going to exercise your rear deltoids without too much effort or knowledge, then the rear deltoid machine is your best bet. 

It's a great way to safely isolate your rear deltoid muscles, because the machine is on a single track, so there's no chance for you to engage in the wrong form. The only tip we have for you here is to keep your chest pressed solid against the pad and make sure that you don't arch your back.

Instructions

  1. Start by sitting down on the machine with you facing the pad. You should adjust the seat so that the handles are about shoulder level.
  2. Hold the handles so that your palms are facing downwards, and then press your arms back, keeping them slightly bent or totally straight.
  3. Move your arms backwards until your shoulder blades are squeezed together, until you can't move your arms backwards anymore. Really squeeze and hold this position for up to two seconds.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position, and aim to do up to 12 reps for up to four sets.

 

2. Standing Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Standing Bent-Over Lateral Raise

If you're looking for a really simple exercise that will work out your rear deltoids, and all you're looking to use is a bench and a dumbbell, then the standing bent-over lateral raise is a great exercise for you. 

Now, this is known as a long-arm lateral movement, so you will want to start relatively light, with no more than 20 lbs. You don't want to start heavy, because you might end up injuring yourself. 

While doing this exercise, a great tip is to keep your head in line with the rest of your body, as this will help prevent neck injuries from occurring.

Instructions

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip, which means that your palms are facing each other.
  2. Stand so that your feet are roughly shoulder width apart, with your knees slightly bent, and a slight bend at your hips. Although you should be bent at the hips, your back should remain straight. Your elbows should also remain soft, which means that they're not locked out or bent too far.
  3. Your starting position should also involve the weights being together and below your chest.
  4. To start the motion, raise your arms outwards and upwards, like you are a bird spreading your wings, until your arms are parallel with the ground.
  5. At the top of the movement, make sure to really squeeze your shoulder blades, and then hold this position for a few seconds for the best effect.
  6. In a slow and controlled manner, lower the weights back down to their starting position, and aim to do up to 15 reps for up to four sets.

 

3. Assisted Pull-Up

Assisted Pull-Up

Pull-ups work a range of muscles and your rear deltoids are one of them, along with your lats, traps, and even your biceps too.

It's a great compound upper body workout that exercises many different muscles at once.

All you need is an assisted pull-up machine. A good tip here is to start with a light weight that allows you to easily pull yourself up, with just a bit of a challenge.

Keep in mind however if you are able to do pull-ups without any assistance, you might just want to do them that way, as you'll end up working out your rear deltoids much better.

Instructions

  1. Adjust the weight deck of the assisted pull-up machine so that it provides you with enough assistance so that you can pull yourself up with just a bit of a challenge.
  2. Climb up on the machine and place your knee on the pads until it's down far enough so that you can easily put both your knees on it, with your knees being roughly hip width.
  3. Hold the handles and then extend your arms and lower yourself down so that your arms are fully extended. This is your starting position.
  4. Slowly pull yourself upwards with the focus being on your shoulders, until your chin is at the same level as the handles.
  5. Hold this position for one or two seconds, and then lower yourself back down to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner. All the while, make sure that your shoulder blades stay engaged.
  6. Attempt to do up to 8 reps, and if possible 12 reps, for up to three sets.

 

4. Single-Arm Bent-Over Row

We then have the single-arm bent-over row, which makes for a great addition to any shoulder day.

It's a good exercise because not only does it work out your rear deltoids, but also many back muscles, your transverse abdominals, and your biceps too. 

All you need for this exercise is a dumbbell and a bench. While doing this movement, make sure to keep your torso completely stable and don't rotate it while doing the movement.

If your trunk doesn't stay stable during this exercise, you need to decrease the amount of weight you're trying to lift.

Instructions

  1. Place your right knee and right hand on the bench, while keeping your elbow straight.
  2. Extend your left leg so that it is slightly behind you, and make sure to keep your foot on the ground for good support. During this movement, your spine should stay neutral and your back flat.
  3. For this exercise, you can start with a medium-weight dumbbell, and hold it in your left hand, with your arm hanging down towards the ground.
  4. To perform this exercise, bend your left elbow and pull the dumbbell up and backward so that your arm ends up being in line with the lower portion of your chest.
  5. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together, hold the position for a second or two, and then lower the weight back down to the original position. Aim to do up to 12 repetitions for each side, and three sets.

 

5. Cable Machine High Pull

Next up we have a we have a cable exercise that is very similar to a face pull but with the pulley at a higher height to target the rear deltoids more.

Plus, it will also target your middle deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles.

When doing this exercise, make sure that you bend your elbows anywhere between a 45 and 90° angle away from your sides, and if you experience stiffness or pain with your elbows at a 90° angle from your sides, slightly lower them to a more comfortable position.

Also make sure that you keep your head up and you remain looking straight ahead, with your back straight.

Instructions

  1. Stand facing the cable machine with your feet at roughly hip width apart.
  2. Adjust the pulley on the cable machine so it is at chest height, and then attach a dual-handed rope accessory.
  3. Take a few steps back so that your arms are fully extended in front of you, and so that there is tension on the cable.
  4. Now, slowly pull the rope towards you, pulling it apart as you get closer to your body. Make sure that your elbows stay high at the 90° angle from your body, because this is how you will target your rear deltoids the best.
  5. With the motion coming mainly from your elbows, slowly extend your arms back to the starting position. Aim to do up to 12 reps, and up to four sets.

 

6. Side-Lying External Rotation

Side-Lying External Rotation

The side-lying external rotation focuses heavily on the external rotation of your rear deltoid. It's a great exercise because it also targets your rotator cuffs.

When doing this exercise, make sure that your arm stays resting on your body, so that it rotates like a door hinge.

You also want to ensure that your body stays stable, and your torso should not rotate backwards. Only use the range of motion that you have available in your shoulders instead of moving with your torso.

Instructions

  1. Put a yoga mat or exercise mat down, and choose a side to lay on.
  2. Choose a relatively light dumbbell, starting with five or ten lbs at the most.
  3. Hold the dumbbell in your upper arm, and put that arm on your side with your elbow bent at a 90° angle. If your shoulders are broad, you might want to put a rolled up towel between your torso and upper arm.
  4. Rotate your arm as far as you can go on your torso without moving your arm off of your body. Hold this position for up to two seconds, lower back down to the starting position, and repeat for up to 12 repetitions and three sets. 

 

7. Abduction Row

If you're looking to target your rear deltoids, then the abduction row is one of the best exercises of all.

It is similar to the single-arm dumbbell row we looked at earlier but has the arm at a slightly different angle to minimize the amount of work that your lats do and isolate the rear delts.

This can also be done as a landmine exercise to help keep your arm in the right position.

Remember that this is a unilateral exercise, so it's ideal for treating muscle imbalances, although if you're not careful, you may also create muscle imbalances.

Instructions

  1. Stand so that your feet are flat on the ground and roughly shoulder-width apart. Select a dumbbell of an appropriate weight for you.
  2. Bend forward at the hips at roughly a 30° angle, and use your left hand to prop yourself up using an incline bench. If necessary, you can also just balance, although this will make things harder.
  3. Using your right hand to hold the dumbbell in an overhand grip, let it hang down in front of you.
  4. To do this exercise, row the dumbbell upwards while also abducting away from your body until the dumbbell is roughly at shoulder level. You should end up with your upper arm being virtually parallel with the ground.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back down to its starting position, and aim to do up to 8 repetitions for up to three sets. 

 

8. Low-to-High Face Pulls

Next up we have another face pull variation that targets your rear delts and traps.

Plus, with a cable machine, you get constant tension, making it very effective at keeping the muscle under constant tension.

Instructions

  1. Stand facing the cable machine and adjust the pulley so that it is at its lowest position. Attach a rope accessory.
  2. Begin the exercise by holding the ropes in a neutral grip, which means that your palms are facing each other, with your knuckles together, and the rope roughly at hip height. Keep your feet roughly shoulder width apart.
  3. You are now going to slowly pull the rope upwards while spreading your hands apart until your hands are up beside your head, your palms are facing backwards, your elbows are bent at a 90° angle, and your upper arms are parallel with the ground.
  4. Make sure to really squeeze your shoulders at the peak of this movement, hold the position for a second or two, and then return back to the original position. Aim to do up to 10 repetitions and up to four sets.

Related Post: 4 Best Trap Exercises

 

Rounding Up

Best Rear Delt Exercises

As you can see, there are plenty of excellent rear deltoid exercises out there, and it is in your best interest to work as many of them into your workout routine as possible! Just remember to stay safe and to start slow.

Author's Photo

William Parrett

Will, co-founder of Home Gym Supply, launched the company in 2019 after 15-years in the fitness industry. His expertise stems not only from his professional background but also from his athletic pursuits. A former competitor in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) and a competitive rugby player, Will has always been dedicated to health and fitness.