Rear Delt Fly: Muscles Worked, Benefits, Variations

The rear delt fly is an exercise that increases deltoid muscle definition and strength. Rear delt fly exercise targets your upper back muscles and shoulder muscles, particularly the posterior deltoids, or rear deltoids, on the backside of your shoulders.

Rear shoulder exercises help you to hone in on the small muscles of the rear delt by using a full range of motion that will explore the growth of your shoulder muscles.

To effectively train rear deltoid muscles, first, we understand the anatomy and functions of Deltoid, and then we explore the best rear delt fly variations along with the best execution technique and Pro-tips.

Benefits of Rear Delt Fly

Rear delt fly exercises also help to:

  • Maintain proper posture
  • Boost shoulder stability
  • Prevent shoulder injuries
  • Build symmetry with the shoulder, preventing a “forward sloping” look
  • Improve shoulder function

Here you’ll find the Best Rear delt fly exercises for maximum posterior deltoid growth. Plus, you’ll find training execution technique and tips to exploit posterior delt growth.

Try the best rear delt fly exercises when designing your next rear delt workout.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Exercise Guide

The bent over rear delt fly, also known as the bent over reverse dumbbell delt fly, is a great exercise to assist you in building a complete set of shoulders.

Many lifters utilize the rear delt fly to target the rear delts, an often lagging muscle for many lifters alike.

Strengthening the rear delts by using the bent over rear delt fly can lead to improved posture and a greater level of strength on other lifts.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Muscles Worked During Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Primary Muscles Worked: Posterior deltoid

Secondary Muscles Worked: Lateral deltoid, trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, teres minor, teres major.

Execution Technique
  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips and knees until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  2. The back should be straight and your arms should be hanging in front of you, with your palms facing inwards (neutral grip).
  3. Keeping your elbows slightly bent, raise both arms out to the sides until the dumbbells are level with the height of your shoulders
  4. Hold for a count of two and then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Tips
  • Do not swing the dumbbells upward. Keep your back straight and your body still.
  • Your arms should be parallel to your shoulders.
  • Keep strict form to isolate the rear delts.
Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps of the dumbbell rear delt fly. Of course, as you get more comfortable with the form, feel free to change up your set and rep ranges to challenge yourself.

Best Variations of Rear Delt Fly

1. Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Bent Over raises are an excellent exercise to isolate and work specifically on rear deltoid muscles. For complete shoulder muscle development, bent over raises are a must-do.

Thus, exercise hit specifically the rear shoulder head by isolating it better than any other shoulder exercise. This exercise can be performed in both a standing and a seated position. Prefer the seated version as it calls for strict movement.

Lateral Bent over row
Execution Technique
  1. Sit at the end of a bench with a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Bend forward and let the dumbbells hang on your sides.
  3. Lift the dumbbells raising them on your sides to a level slightly upper than your shoulders.
  4. Now lower the dumbbells back to your sides.
Tips
  • Your arms should be parallel to your shoulders.
  • Keep strict form to isolate the rear delts.

2. Machine Rear Delt Fly

Machine Rear Delt Fly is an excellent exercise for the rear deltoid. The rear deltoid fly machine provides a uniform resistance throughout the range of motion.

This machine also offers several technical adjustments to grip. Trajectory and range of motion to help isolate the posterior deltoid.

reverse pec deck fly
Execution Technique
  1. Sit facing the rear deltoid machine with your chest against the backrest, and grasp the handles directly in front with arms outstretched at shoulder level.
  2. Pull the handles back in an arc as far as possible, keeping your elbows high and arms parallel to the floor.
  3. Return the handles to the start position directly in front.
Tips
  • Try not to move anything but your shoulders.
  • Remember to exhale while you exert.

3. Cable Rear Delt Fly

A rear delt cable fly is an excellent exercise to train and isolate the rear deltoid muscle. It provides constant tension on the muscle. Unlike dumbbell raises where the resistance varies during the lift, the cable pulley affords a uniform resistance throughout the motion.

There are, however, many bent-over cable lateral raise variations that you can try out that may require different types of bent-over cable lateral raise equipment.

Bent over Cable Raise
Execution Technique
  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.
Tips
  • Pull slowly so that you are in control of the weight at all times.
  • Remember to exhale while you exert.

4. Incline Bench Rear Delt Dumbbell fly

The incline Bench Rear delt dumbbell fly is an upper-body exercise that targets the posterior or rear deltoids and the postural muscles of the upper back.

This exercise targets such small muscles, that’s why it is usually performed with lightweight for high reps, such as 10-15 reps per set or more.

Incline Bench Rear delt dumbbell fly has many other benefits, such as it adds size and strength to the posterior deltoids.

The incline bench takes away the potential of using momentum and makes the movement more challenging. Rear delt exercise develops bigger, more balanced, and healthier shoulders.

Incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise
Execution Technique
  1. Sit in the reverse direction on an incline bench ( 45 degrees) while holding dumbbells with neutral grips.
  2. Hold the dumbbells so that they hang straight down from your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lift the dumbbells up and out to the sides of your body, pulling through the rear delts and middle traps.
  4. Pause for a moment at the top of the motion before slowly lowering the weights back down to the starting position.
Tips
  • Do not lift backward or forward.
  • Set a bench at about 30-45 degrees inclined.
  • Keep form strict to isolate the rear delts.

5. Side-Lying Rear Delt Dumbbell Fly

The side-lying rear delt dumbbell fly is a shoulder exercise used to target the rear delts. It is a great unilateral exercise used to target a smaller and often lagging muscle group. Instead of lying on the floor, you can lie on a bench.

The side-lying reverse dumbbell fly is also known as the side-lying dumbbell rear delt raise.

Side-Lying Rear Delt Fly
Execution Technique
  1. Lie on the floor on your right side, and grasp the dumbbell with your left hand using a neutral grip (palm facing downward).
  2. Keeping your elbow fixed and your body still, exhale as you raise the dumbbell from the floor until it is almost vertical. Hold for a count of two.
  3. Inhale as you reverse the movement and lower the dumbbell towards the starting position, stopping before the dumbbell touches the floor.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Repeat the exercise on your opposite side with your right arm.
Tips
  • Do not allow the dumbbell to touch the floor.
  • Keep the abs braced, and don’t arch the back at the top of the movement.
  • Allow the arms to move freely, but don’t lock out the elbows.

6. Lying Reverse Cable Fly (Supine Cable Reverse Fly)

The lying reverse fly is the perfect exercise to hit the rear delts. Completing this exercise in a supine position on your back allows you to purely focus on contracting your rear delts in order to pull the cables down to the sides.

It’s important to keep your arms perpendicular to your trunk so that you reduce the chances of your lats helping to complete the exercise.

Lying Reverse Fly (Supine Cable Reverse Fly)
Execution Technique
  1. Position a flat bench between two high pulleys.
  2. Lie supine (on your back) holding the pulleys’ handles. The handle from the right pulley should be in your left hand, and the handle from the left pulley should be in your right hand. The cables should be crossed and pulled tightly.
  3. Keeping your arms perpendicular to your torso and your elbows slightly bent, exhale as you pull your arms open and out to the sides.
  4. Hold for a count of two. Inhale as you slowly return to starting position. Repeat for desired reps.
Tips
  • When you lie down, make sure that your shoulders are lined up with the pulleys. This will ensure optimal mechanical leverage.
  • Keep the movement slow and deliberate.

7. One-Arm Rear Delt Cable Fly

You can do this exercise using one arm at a time, allowing you to alter the range of motion by adjusting the start or finish position.

This unilateral version makes it possible to raise your hand higher and get a longer stretch at the bottom, thereby generating more work for the posterior deltoid. Stabilize your torso by resting your free hand on the thigh.

One Arm Bent Over Cable Raise
Execution Technique
  1. Lean forward at the hips, place your right hand on your thigh and hold a dumbbell in your left hand with your arm extended straight down.
  2. Raise the weight straight out to the side until your arm is parallel with the floor.
  3. Pause for a moment at the top of the motion before slowly lowering the weight back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat with the right arm.
Tips
  • Pull slowly so that you are in control of the weight at all times.
  • Remember to exhale while you exert.

8. Standing Reverse Fly with Resistance Bands

This is a movement that can be done on shoulder day, as it targets the rear delts. However, we like to also hit it on a back day as the rear delts often need to double the work each week.

The rear delt fly with bands will work your rhomboids, rear delts, and traps. It’s a great upper back exercise.

Standing Reverse Fly with Resistance Bands
Execution Technique
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping a slight bend in the knees. Place a band around a stationery post, such as a squat rack.
  2. Hold the exercise band in front of you with your hands slightly lower than your shoulders. Keep your elbows slightly soft to avoid hyperextending the joint.
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and open the arms out to either side, pulling the band apart and squeezing your shoulder blades.
  4. Return to start and repeat, keeping tension on the band the entire time. Repeat the desired number of reps.
Tips
  • Focus on really contracting your upper back muscles. Squeeze and hold once you reach the peak contraction, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Keep your core engaged throughout each set.
  • Try to keep your elbows up so you can target your upper back muscles correctly.

9. Lying Reverse Dumbbell fly

Lying Dumbbell Reverse Fly is a strength exercise that works your traps and deltoids. If the traditional dumbbell rear delt fly causes strain on your lower back, try using an incline bench.

Instead of relying on your core to stabilize your body, you can rest your weight on the bench, which will help to better isolate your rear deltoids.

Lying rear delt fly is a great basic move. When done correctly, it can effectively target your neck, shoulders, upper back and upper body.

Lying Dumbbell Reverse Fly
Execution Technique
  1. Place two dumbbells on the floor, one on each side of a flat bench.Lie prone (on your front) on the bench and grasp a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Spread your legs on the floor for support.
  3. Keeping your elbows slightly bent, raise both arms out to the sides until the dumbbells are level with the height of your shoulders
  4. Hold for a count of two and then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
Tips
  • Practice good form with a light weight.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades and pause for a moment at the top of the movement.
  • Do not let the dumbbells “hang” at the bottom of the movement, but keep the tension in your arms.

10. Head Supported Reverse Dumbbell Fly

The head-supported rear delt dumbbell fly is also known as the head-supported bent-over dumbbell reverse fly.

To target your posterior deltoids during the head-supported reverse dumbbell fly, keep your torso horizontal.

The more upright your torso is, the more emphasis you will place on your lateral deltoids instead of on your posterior deltoids.

Head-supported reverse dumbbell fly
Execution Technique
  1. Raise a bench to hip height and, hold a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips and and rest your forehead on the edge of the bench.
  2. The back should be straight and your arms should be hanging in front of you, with your palms facing inwards (neutral grip).
  3. Keeping your elbows slightly bent, raise both arms out to the sides until the dumbbells are level with the height of your shoulders
  4. Hold for a count of two and then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Tips
  • Do not swing the dumbbells upward. Keep your back straight and your body still.
  • Keep your body still. Only your arms should move.

Best Alternate of Rear Delt fly

1. Face Pull

Face pull is a cable machine exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid and to a lesser degree also targets the biceps, triceps, and traps. Use a cable pulley machine to pull the weight straight toward your forehead.

Face Pull
2. Lying Dumbbell  Rear Delt Row

Dumbbell Lying Rear Delt Row is a strength exercise that works your deltoids and side deltoids.

The muscles used for dumbbell lying rear delt row may change slightly based on your trained range of motion and technique, but in the most general case, rear deltoid trained the most.

Lying Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

How Should I Integrate Rear Delt Fly Into The Rest Of My Workout?

The most natural place to include rear delt fly is with your other shoulder exercises.

Being an isolation exercise, beginners should probably perform them after any compound shoulder movements (such as shoulder press, etc.) have been completed.

More advanced trainers might want to try a pre-exhaustion routine. For example, where a set of rear delt flyes is immediately followed by a compound movement that also involves the rear delts (e.g., behind the neck press). 

This enables the already fatigued rear deltoids to be driven into an even deeper state of exhaustion by the (relatively) fresh triceps and anterior/lateral deltoids.

Takeaways

Now that you know a few variations for your rear delts fly, hit the gym and try each one to get the full effect. Don’t limit yourself to variations on this exercise, either.

Seek out new and interesting ways to perform all your staple movements so that you never get stuck waiting at the gym, never grow bored, and always keep growing.

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Video illustration of How-To | Rear Delt Fly for Beginners

Video illustration of How-To | Rear Delt Fly for Beginners

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