Posterior Deltoid Exercises

Certified Trainer’s Top Exercises for Targeting the Back of Your Shoulders

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: November 10, 2022

The posterior deltoids are relatively small muscles. Yet they play a significant role in developing a solid and proportioned physique.

Unfortunately, this muscle group is hard to target because most exercises also involve the larger back and shoulder muscles. As a result, many people have disproportionately small and weak posterior delts.

That’s why I compiled a list of the 23 top posterior deltoid exercises for targeting and growing this underused muscle. Read on to learn how to increase the size and strength of your weakest shoulder muscle.

Posterior Deltoid Exercises

What Are Posterior Deltoids?

The meaning of posterior deltoid is in the name. Deltoid means three and refers to the fact that the shoulder is comprised of three muscles. While posterior means toward the back or rear.

The frontal (coronal) plane divides the three shoulder muscles front to back. So they are called the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) deltoid.

Therefore, the posterior deltoid is also called the rear delt because it’s located furthest toward the back.

Deltoid Anatomy

Benefits of Building Posterior Deltoid

It’s important to develop all three deltoid muscles to create proportioned shoulders and avoid injury caused by muscle imbalances. But focusing on the posterior deltoids in the process has several benefits.

First, the posterior delt gives your shoulders more depth and thickness when viewed from the side and rear. So if you want big shoulders from every angle, you must build that rear delt!

Second, well-developed posterior delts create a defined separation between the upper back, trap, and shoulder muscles. This split between the muscles makes them stand out and look more prominent.

And lastly, strong posterior deltoids increase your strength on compound pulling movements like the bent-over barbell row and power cleans.

  • Make your shoulders appear thicker.
  • Create separation between your shoulders and back.
  • Increase strength in other exercises.

How To Work Posterior Deltoids

The primary function of the posterior deltoids is pulling your shoulders back. In other words, they help move your arm back toward the rear of your body.

However, the functional overlap between the rear delts and other posterior muscle groups makes isolation challenging. And that’s why the posterior deltoid is a lagging muscle for many bodybuilders and athletes.

Therefore, specific pulling and fly exercises are the most effective way to train posterior deltoids. In addition, you must use proper form to avoid using the larger muscles of the upper back and traps.

This list of exercises gives you the best movements for targeting the posterior deltoids. And I explain how to use proper form to isolate the target muscle.

Posterior Deltoid Exercises

To make this list of posterior deltoid exercises easier to digest, I’ve divided it into sections based on the equipment used. There is a section for dumbbells, cables, barbells, machines, resistance bands, and “others.”

This segmentation also helps you find the exercises that work with your available gym equipment. So whether you work out at a fancy health club or in your backyard, there are at least a few exercises for the posterior delt that you can do.

Dumbbell Posterior Deltoid Exercises

You can do several exercises for posterior deltoids if you have light to medium-weight dumbbells. Here are some of the best options.

1. Bent Over Rear Delt Fly

The bent-over dumbbell fly is one of the most common posterior delt exercises. Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your feet shoulder-width or slightly narrower.

Next, lean forward at the waist and bend your knees until your torso is 15 to 45 degrees to the floor. Then let your arms hang straight down while keeping your shoulders back.

From here, pull your elbows back and up towards the ceiling while slightly bending your arms. Then, control the dumbbells as you lower them back down to the starting position.

With bent-over flies, it helps to externally rotate your hands as you move. Also, think about pulling through your upper arms instead of your hands.

2. Chest-Supported Rear Delt Fly

One drawback of standing exercises is that it’s easier to cheat by using body momentum. And the bent-over position can put some strain on your lower back.

But you can fix these issues by doing the dumbbell rear delt fly with your chest supported on an incline bench. First, set an adjustable bench to an angle of 15 to 45 degrees.

Then grab some dumbbells and lay face down with your chest at the top of the incline bench. Now perform the rear delt fly exercise as described above.

3. Seated Bent Over Rear Delt Raise

Another way to prevent cheating on the rear delt fly is to do them while seated on a bench. For this variation, start by grabbing some dumbbells, sitting on a bench, and leaning forward until your chest touches your knees.

In this position, the exercise is like a hybrid between the bent-over and chest-supported rear delt fly. The benefit is that it reduces momentum, and you don’t need an adjustable incline bench.

Rear Delt Raise Posterior Deltoid Exercises

4. Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

The dumbbell rear delt row is a compound movement similar to a dumbbell row for your back and lats. However, you want to keep your elbows out wide and pull the dumbbell higher up on your chest to target the posterior delts.

The starting position is the same as the rear delt fly. But then you bend your elbows more when you pull your elbows up and back.

As with the fly, you can do rear delt rows in the standing, chest-supported, or seated positions.

5. Chest-Supported Rear Delt Row

The chest-supported variation of posterior deltoid exercises helps you reduce body momentum and isolate the target muscle. And the same concept applies to the rear delt row.

Again, set an incline bench at 15-45 degrees. Then lean forward and perform the rear delt row movement as described above.

6. Dumbbell Upright Row

The upright row is a popular exercise for targeting the posterior delts and traps. For this variation, stand with a dumbbell in each hand on the front of your thighs. Then pull the dumbbells straight up the front of your body to about neck level.

7. Side Lying Rear Delt Raise

The side-lying rear delt raise is an ultra-isolation movement for the posterior delts. This exercise involves lying on your side, usually on a bench, to allow for a greater range of motion.

Next, hold a dumbbell in your top hand and start with your arm extended across your body towards the floor. Then raise the dumbbell toward the ceiling while keeping your arm relatively straight.

Dumbbell Posterior Deltoid Exercises

Cable Posterior Deltoid Exercises

Next up are the cable exercises for posterior deltoids. You will need a cable apparatus and a few different handle attachments for these variations.

8. Single Cable Rear Delt Fly

The cable machine is a great way to perform a standing rear delt fly with one arm at a time. Start by setting the pulley at about shoulder height. Then grab the cable or single-hand attachment by reaching across your body.

Now pull your arm back across your body while keeping your elbow relatively straight. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps.

9. Dual Cable Rear Delt Fly

Another way to do the cable rear delt fly involves two cables. First, set the pulleys at just above head level. Reach across your body to grab the cable on the opposite side of each hand.

Next, perform the rear delt fly movement by pulling the cables down and back at about a 45-degree angle to target the posterior delts.

10. Cable Rear Delt Row

Cable rear delt rows are a good exercise option for hitting your posterior deltoids. Unlike the dumbbell version, you can do the cable rear delt row while standing or seated.

Start by placing the pulley between waist and shoulder level. Then grab the cable using a single hand or wide bar attachment. Next, perform the row movement by pulling the cable towards your body at chest level.

11. Cable Upright Row

The cable upright row is another solid rear delt exercise. You can use a bar, dual handle, or rope attachment for this variation.

One benefit of doing upright rows with the cable is taking a step or two back from the low pulley. This makes the exercise sort of a hybrid between an upright row and a face pull.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

12. Face Pulls

The face pull is essentially the same movement as the upright row, except the pulley is about head level. With the higher pulling angle, your shoulders rotate externally, incorporating the posterior delt.

Barbell Posterior Deltoid Exercises

Now let’s jump back to free weights and look at barbell exercises for posterior deltoid.

13. Barbell Rear Delt Row

Start by grabbing the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Then lean forward and pull the bar up and back towards your chest while keeping your back flat.

You can also perform the barbell rear delt row using an incline bench to support your chest as well.

14. Barbell Upright Row

The barbell upright row is the most common variation of the movement. And you can pull some more significant weight to overload your rear delts on this exercise.

However, remember to keep the bar close to your body to avoid shoulder injury. Also, think about pulling your elbows straight up to the ceiling.

Machine Posterior Deltoid Exercises

You probably have access to a few machines if you’re working out at a fitness club. So let’s look at some machine posterior deltoid exercises.

15. Machine Rear Delt Fly

Most gyms have a fly machine called a pec deck, which you can use for chest and back exercises. For the rear delt fly, adjust the handles, so they are all the way behind the seat.

Then, sit on the machine with your chest facing the back pad and grab the handles. If the handles have horizontal grips, grab those with your palms facing the floor. Otherwise, use the vertical grips with palms facing out.

Next, perform the rear delt fly in a slow controlled fashion as described above and shown in the video below.

16. Machine Lateral Raise for Posterior Delts

The machine lateral raise is normally used to target the lateral deltoid. And it’s a great exercise because the seated position and fixed movement path make cheating difficult.

But you can also use the machine lateral raise to target your posterior delts by sitting farther back on the seat and leaning forward to the chest pad. Alternatively, you can sit facing away from the pad and push up using the back of your arms.

17. Smith Machine Upright Row

The Smith machine upright row is a way to simulate the barbell exercise. With this variation, the bar travels on rails that dictate the movement path.

The benefit is that you don’t have to stabilize the bar, which can help you focus on contracting your posterior delts.

Resistance Band Posterior Deltoid Exercises

Recently, we all discovered what it’s like to have our gyms closed. And if you’re like me, you scrambled to set up a decent home gym.

Luckily, you can train your posterior deltoids pretty well with nothing more than a set of resistance bands and exercises like the rear delt fly and face pull. But here are a couple of unique posterior delt exercises you can do with bands.

18. Resistance Band External Rotation

It’s good to warm up your deltoids with an external rotation because it strengthens the rotator cuff and the stabilizer muscles of the shoulder.

Start by looping the band around a sturdy object. Then grasp the end of the band in one hand and step out so the band crosses in front of you.

With your arm bent 90 degrees, rotate your hand and forearm outward away from your body while keeping your elbow locked at your side. Then switch sides and perform the exercise with your other arm.

19. Resistance Band Pull Apart

This variation is similar to rear delt flyes. Simply grab one end of the band in each hand and pull it apart while keeping your arms relatively straight.

With this exercise, your hands are in the pronated position, which activates more posterior delt.

Other Posterior Delt Exercises

Fear not if you’ve read this far and still haven’t found an exercise you like. Here are a few more posterior delt exercises using different equipment or just your body!

20. Rear Delt Around The Worlds

The around-the-world exercise is often done while lying on your back to target your chest and anterior delts. However, you can also perform this exercise face down to target your rear delts.

Usually, you do this exercise with light dumbbells. But I included it in this section because you can also use small weight plates or other light resistance.

21. Inverted Row

An inverted row is essentially a horizontal pull-up that you perform while hanging from a barbell on a rack or a Smith machine bar. To target your posterior delts, think about doing this exercise like a rear delt row.

In other words, pull the bar towards your chest while keeping your elbows out. And use an overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width.

22. Behind The Head Lat Pulldown

The wide-grip lat pulldown is one of the best lat exercises there is. So you might not associate it with working your rear delts. But the behind-the-head variation actually involves a lot of posterior delt due to the external rotation of your arms.

Now you might hear people say this variation is terrible for your shoulders. However, it’s perfectly safe if you maintain a neutral spine and neck position by scooting forward on the seat or sitting backward, so the pulley is behind your head.

23. Side Plank

The side plank is a popular core strengthening movement but not usually in a shoulder workout. Nevertheless, your rear delt does a lot of work during the side plank to keep your arm stabilized. And it’s a burn unlike any other exercise on the list!

workouts mobile

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

Get a personalized meal plan built to fit your body and lifestyle. Including a custom workout routine designed around your fitness goals.

With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $24.99!

Click here to choose your plan.

Posterior Deltoid Workout

Now you have twenty-three great exercises for posterior delts. But you might have analysis paralysis from all those options.

So I’m going to give you an example posterior delt workout. In addition, I’ll explain how to program these exercises in terms of frequency and sets/reps.

Posterior Deltoid Workout Frequency

The first thing to establish is how often you will train shoulders. The answer to that depends on your experience and your goals.

For beginners or people who can only work out a few days a week, a total body 3-day split works well. That means you would do a couple of shoulder exercises each workout three times per week.

More advanced lifters might work single muscle groups in each workout. This routine is called the bro split workout, which works excellent for growth (despite the name).

In that case, you would work your shoulders for an entire workout once or twice a week. And you want to include a few posterior deltoid exercises in those workouts.

Bro Split Posterior Deltoid Exercises

Posterior Deltoid Workout Sets & Reps

To grow your shoulders, it’s best to use a hypertrophy training program. That means using weights you can handle for 6-12 reps.

Also, you should aim for 4-6 sets per exercise. And each workout should include from 5 to 8 exercises. So that’s around 24-32 sets per workout.

Posterior Deltoid Workout Example

A posterior delt-focused workout starts to take shape with all this in mind. So here is an example using some of the exercises and tips you just learned.

Posterior Deltoid Workout

More Shoulder Exercises

In this article, you learned how to make your shoulders bigger and stronger with posterior delt exercises. But if you want balanced and proportioned shoulders, you can’t neglect your anterior and lateral delts!

So check out these other shoulder exercise articles:

Anterior Deltoid Exercises

Lateral Deltoid Exercises

Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises

Compound Shoulder Exercises

Cable Shoulder Exercises

With this information, you’re well on your way to building massive shoulders. And if you found this article helpful, take a look at some of my other great content below!

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

By |November 10, 2022|Workouts|0 Comments
Go to Top