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Rear Delt Fly 101: How to Train Your Rear Deltoids

Today, on the Rear Delt fly day, don't be surprised if you see me struggling to get those shoulder muscles popping like a bag of popcorn. It’s a superstar, so read out!

Brandon George
Rear Delt Fly 101: How to Train Your Rear Deltoids
Table Of Contents

We've stumbled upon the "dumbbell rear delt fly" topic today. How exciting! Who doesn't love working on their rear delts? Am I right? It's not like we have anything better to do with our time than perfecting the symmetry of our shoulders, after all.

I can just picture it now - you, sweating profusely in the gym, clutching those dumbbells with all your might, trying to get those rear delts to pop like a bag of popcorn.

And for what? So you can impress your gym crush? So you can take an Instagram-worthy selfie and show your gains to your followers? Or because you love the pain and agony of pushing yourself to your physical limits.

But let's be honest; the dumbbell rear delt fly is not just about looks. It's about functional strength, balance, and injury prevention. You don't want to walk around with huge biceps and chests only to suffer from chronic shoulder pain due to muscle imbalance. And hey, who doesn't love a well-rounded physique?

So, let's dive into the world of the dumbbell rear delt fly and get those shoulders ready to take on the world (or at least the weight room).

What Is Rear Delt Fly 101?

The dumbbell rear delt fly, sometimes called the dumbbell reverse fly, is a resistance training exercise designed to enhance the definition and strength of the deltoid muscles.

By performing this exercise, individuals can effectively work and strengthen their back and shoulder muscles, leading to a more toned and defined physique. The dumbbell rear delt fly is a versatile exercise that can be performed using various weights, repetitions, and sets to achieve specific fitness goals.

To do it:

  • Take a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hinge at the waist until your back is nearly parallel to the yoga mat.
  • Bend your arms slightly and engage your rear deltoids to lift the adjustable dumbbells up and out to the sides of your body.
  • As you lift the weight, focus on lifting out and up to maximize muscle activation.
  • Your elbows should only reach about shoulder height. Refrain from retracting your shoulder blades.
  • Once you have completed the lift, slowly lower your arms to the starting position.
  • Throughout the exercise, maintain a tight core and repeat the movement to complete the desired repetitions.
  • Performing 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions is recommended.

As you become more proficient and comfortable with the exercise form, you may choose to modify your set and repetition ranges to increase the challenge and intensity of your workout

Muscles Worked by Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

The dumbbell rear delt fly is a popular exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoids, the muscles at the back of your shoulders. However, this exercise also involves several other primary and secondary muscle groups.

Primary Muscle Groups

Primary Muscle Groups

The dumbbell rear delt fly is an exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid muscles located in the shoulder region. The deltoid muscle comprises three different fibers, namely the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids, each of which plays a specific role in shoulder movement.

During this particular exercise, the posterior deltoids, responsible for pulling the upper arm bones toward the back of the body, are the primary muscle group being worked.

Secondary Muscle Groups

Secondary Muscle Groups

In addition to targeting the primary muscle group of the rear deltoids, the dumbbell rear delt fly is also an effective exercise for engaging several secondary muscle groups in the upper body.

One of these secondary muscle groups is the trapezius, a large muscle that spans the neck, shoulders, and upper back regions. By performing this exercise, individuals can effectively strengthen their trapezius muscles, essential in supporting the shoulders and maintaining proper posture.

In addition to the trapezius, the dumbbell rear delt fly also targets other upper back muscles, such as the rhomboids and erector spinae. The rhomboids, located between the shoulder blades, are responsible for pulling the shoulder blades towards the spine, while the erector spinae, which run along the length of the spine.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Benefits

If you're looking for a way to strengthen your shoulders and improve your overall physique, then the dumbbell rear delt fly is an exercise you want to consider. Not only does it target the often-neglected rear deltoids, but it can also improve your performance.

Improved Posture

Maintaining proper posture is essential for overall health and well-being, but it can be challenging for individuals who spend long hours sitting in chairs or have muscle weaknesses. Fortunately, the dumbbell rear delt fly is an exercise that can effectively improve posture and alleviate common issues such as rounded shoulders and hunching.

By targeting the upper back muscles, such as the rhomboids and erector spinae, the dumbbell rear delt fly can help individuals strengthen and tighten their upper back. This can improve posture and reduce pain or discomfort in the neck and shoulder region.

Additionally, engaging the core muscles during this exercise can help individuals to maintain a straight back and active core, which are critical components of proper posture.

Stronger Shoulders

Strong shoulders are a crucial aspect of overall physical fitness and are essential for various exercises and activities. The dumbbell rear delt fly is an exercise that specifically targets the posterior deltoids located in the back of the shoulder, which are responsible for pulling the upper arm bone towards the back of the body.

While the dumbbell rear delt fly is considered an accessory exercise, it can significantly benefit individuals looking to improve their overall shoulder strength and performance in compound exercises such as the overhead press, barbell bench press, and deadlift.

Individuals can effectively strengthen the shoulder muscles by targeting the rear deltoids, improving stability and power during these compound exercises. You can also add Pre-Workout Powder to your diet for better energy, strength, and power.

Moreover, incorporating the dumbbell rear delt fly into a regular workout routine can help individuals ensure that they are training their shoulders comprehensively, including all deltoid muscles. This can lead to improved shoulder aesthetics, as well as improved functional strength and mobility.

Improved Aesthetics

A well-rounded physique with symmetrical proportions is often considered the hallmark of physical fitness and is a goal for many individuals who exercise for aesthetic reasons. When achieving a balanced and aesthetically pleasing appearance, it is essential to prioritize the shoulders as part of a comprehensive training program.

Many individuals, particularly lifters and bodybuilders, focus heavily on training the chest and arms, often neglecting the shoulders. This can lead to disproportionate muscle development and an overall unbalanced appearance.

Additionally, focusing on symmetry and proportionality in muscle development has aesthetic benefits and can help promote overall safety and reduce the risk of injury. By training all muscle groups equally and promoting balance in the body, individuals can achieve a well-rounded and aesthetically pleasing physique while promoting optimal health and fitness.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Mistakes

Are you frustrated with not seeing progress in your rear deltoid muscles despite performing the dumbbell rear delt fly? You may be making some common mistakes that are sabotaging your efforts.

Bringing Arms Backwards

A common mistake some lifters make when performing the dumbbell rear delt fly exercise is to bring their arms backward on a diagonal plane towards their buttocks rather than to lift them on a lateral plane.

This improper movement can activate muscles in your back instead of your targeted rear deltoids, which can limit the effectiveness of the exercise.

To ensure that you are targeting your rear delts properly and maximizing the benefits of the exercise, it is essential to maintain proper form by keeping the dumbbells moving outward on a lateral plane.

By lifting the weights up and out to the sides of your body, you can effectively engage your rear deltoids and promote optimal muscle activation for improved strength, definition, and aesthetics.

Bending Arms Too Much

During the dumbbell rear delt fly exercise, it is vital to maintain a slight bend in the arms to engage the rear deltoid muscles properly. However, bending the arms too much can cause the exercise to become more of a dumbbell row, primarily targeting the upper back muscles rather than the shoulders.

While the upper back muscles will still activate to stabilize the motion, the exercise should focus on targeting the shoulders. Keeping the arms relatively straight during each dumbbell rear delt fly repetition is recommended.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly Variations

While the traditional rear delt fly is an excellent exercise for building shoulder strength and improving posture, adding variations can help challenge your muscles in new ways and prevent plateauing.

Single Arm Rear Delt Fly

Single Arm Rear Delt Fly

The single arm variation of the rear delt fly is an effective exercise to target your rear delts unilaterally. This exercise is beneficial in correcting muscle imbalances between your left and right shoulders, improving overall shoulder strength and symmetry. To do it:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand.
  • Keep your core tight and your back straight.
  • With your arm extended in front of you, hinge at the hips and slightly bend your knees to lower the weight towards the floor.
  • With a slight bend in your elbow, raise the weight to your side, keeping your arm parallel to the floor.
  • Hold at the top of the movement for a second.
  • Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  • Complete the desired number of repetitions on one side before switching to the other side.
  • Ensure proper form throughout the exercise, keeping your core tight and your back straight.

Chest Supported Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Chest Supported Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

If you are experiencing lower back strain while performing the regular dumbbell rear delt fly, you can modify the exercise using an incline bench. This variation, known as the chest-supported dumbbell rear delt fly, allows you to rest your body weight on the bench instead of relying on your core for stability.

This change in form can help better isolate and target your rear deltoids while minimizing the risk of lower back injury. Set up an incline bench at a roughly 45-degree angle. To do it:

  • Lie chest-down on the bench with your feet on the ground, and your arms extended straight down towards the floor, each holding a dumbbell.
  • Keep your neck in a moderate position and your shoulder blades squeezed together.
  • With a slight arch in your elbows, lift the dumbbells up and out to the side, using your rear deltoids to lift the weights.
  • Hold for a moment.
  • Gradually lower the dumbbells back down to the beginning position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.

Bent Over Cable Rear Delt Fly

Bent Over Cable Rear Delt Fly

To target your rear deltoids, you can also exercise with cables. Begin by setting the pulleys low and hinge at your waist to bring your back parallel to the ground. From here, retract your rear delts to lift the weight upward, keeping a slight bend in your arms.

You should feel the muscles contracting in your shoulder blades as you lift the weight. Continue with the same movement for several repetitions. To do it:

  • Adjust the pulleys on the cable machine to a low position.
  • Stand facing the machine and grab the handles with an overhand grip.
  • Hinge at the waist, keeping your back straight and parallel to the ground.
  • Begin with your arms extended in front of you, perpendicular to your torso.
  • Engage your rear deltoids and pull the handles out and back in a wide arc, keeping your arms straight.
  • Slowly lower the handles back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.


The dumbbell rear delt fly is a highly effective exercise for improving posture, strengthening shoulder muscles, and enhancing the overall aesthetics of your physique. Proper form and technique are crucial for maximizing the benefits of this exercise and preventing injury.

By incorporating variations such as the 1-arm rear delt fly or the bent-over rear cable delt fly, you can add variety to your workout routine and target your muscles differently. With consistent effort and dedication, the dumbbell rear delt fly can help you achieve your fitness goals and develop a well-rounded, balanced physique.

Article Sources

  • Campos, Yuri A. C., et al. "Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals'. Journal of Human Kinetics, vol. 75, Oct. 2020, pp. 5-14. PubMed Central,

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Brandon George

Brandon George Wendy is a freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. He covers a spectrum of topics — including mental and physical health and wellness. Having over 5 years of experience as a lifestyle reporter covering health & wellness and meditation topics.

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