Rear Delt Fly Exercise Guide

Learn Proper Form & 3 Variations for 3D Rear Delts

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: December 29, 2021

In order to build aesthetic round shoulders, you need to hit them from the front, side, and rear. But people often forget the rear delts because they’re out of sight and hard to train.

To build the rear delts, you need an exercise that isolates this specific muscle. And that exercise is the rear delt fly. So I’m going to show you 3 rear delt fly variations that will make your shoulders stand out!

Rear Delt Fly

Rear Delt Fly Muscles Worked

First, it’s important to know that your shoulder is actually made up of 3 muscles. The anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) deltoid. As the name implies, rear delt flyes work the muscle on the back of your shoulder.

Rear delts are the critical 3rd dimension that gives your shoulders a balanced and proportioned look. When developed, they make your shoulders more impressive from the side and back.

Rear Delt Fly Muscles Worked

How To Do A Rear Delt Fly

There are a few different ways to perform the rear delt fly using a machine, cables, or free weights. I’ll get into each variation in more detail below.

Depending on the variation, your body will either be upright or bent over. But from there, the movement is pretty much the same.

  • To start, hold the weight at arm’s length in front of you
  • Keeping your arms relatively straight, pull the weight back until your elbows are in line with your shoulders
  • At the top of the movement, squeeze your rear delts for about 1 second 
  • Lower the weight back to the starting point.

When trying to isolate your rear delts, it’s best to start with a lighter weight and focus on the mind-muscle connection. Once you get that down you can increase the weight.

Rear Delt Fly Variations

Rear Delt Fly Machine

Most gyms have a fly machine, also called a pec deck, which can be used for your chest and back. For rear delt flyes, 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 motion in a slow controlled fashion as described above and shown in the video.

Pros: Doesn’t require experience or coordination, even resistance through the full range of motion, reduces momentum
Cons: Requires a machine, limited amount of angles

Cable Rear Delt Fly

This variation uses a cable apparatus to provide resistance. You can perform this variation standing or bent over with one or two cables at a time.

For standing cable rear delt flyes, stand with one cable to each side at about chest high. Grab the cable to your right with your left hand. And the cable on your left with your right hand so that your arms are crossed in front of you.

Now perform the movement in a slow controlled fashion as described above.

Alternatively, you can perform this exercise bent over with the cables adjusted close to the floor. Or one arm at a time in order to better concentrate.

Pros: Fairly even resistance through the full range of motion, multiple angles are possible
Cons: Requires a cable apparatus, requires more experience/coordination

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Dumbbell rear delt flyes are typically performed in a standing, bent-over position. To start the exercise. bend over so your torso is 5-45o to the floor with the weight at arm’s length.

Hold the dumbbells such that your thumbs point down toward the floor. Like you’re pouring out a pitcher of water.

Then perform the movement in a slow, controlled fashion as described above.

You can perform this variation standing or seated. When seated, some of the strain is taken off your lower back and body momentum is reduced.

Pros: No gym or special machines required, multiple positions/angles are possible
Cons: Requires more experience/coordination, harder to isolate rear delt, possible to use momentum


The rear delt fly is a versatile exercise for targeting your posterior shoulder muscles. Whether you’re working out at the gym or at home, this is an exercise you can include in your routine.

And doing so will help you build strong, round shoulders of which your peers will be envious! Check out my other exercise articles below for more workout tips.

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By |December 29, 2020|Workouts|0 Comments
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