10 Ways to Build Your Rear Delts

Like a redheaded stepchild, the rear delts often ignored in favor of the more formidable anterior and medial parts of the deltoid muscle. The anterior and medial parts of the deltoid muscle are highly aesthetic as they are located on the front of the shoulder.

Usually, when people think about working shoulders, they immediately start on front-deltoid-specific exercises like the classic shoulder press. And while there is nothing wrong with shoulder pressing, if you fully formed, functioning shoulders, you must train not only the front but also the back of your shoulders.

What is the Rear Delts?

The rear, or “posterior,” deltoid muscle is one of three deltoid muscles that form a triangle-like shape making up a large part of the shoulder. Even the name “deltoid” comes from the Greek letter “delta” which is in the shape of a triangle. As mentioned, the “front” part of the shoulder is comprised of two muscles: the anterior deltoid, and the medial deltoid.

Tendons attach the front deltoid muscles at the collarbone and shoulder blade, while the rear delt and part of the medial delt attach at the upper arm bone, also known as the humerus.

Great Rear Delt Exercises

While front delt exercised may be the most visible, having well-developed rear delts are incredibly important for balanced looking shoulders that do not hang forward or look overdeveloped. Not only that, but strong rear delts also enable you to grow your front delts because they make you strong on several different front delt exercises like military press and others. So, enough neglecting your rear delts, here are ten great exercises to build your rear delts.


Facepulls are a great exercise that you can do either with a push-down rope attached to an exercise machine or using a rubber and elastic workout band. Either way, you want to have a point where your band or rope is attached to locate about a foot higher than the highest point on your head. From there, you get into an athletic squatting position with your knees back and pull the rope or band back, opening it up to from your face just above your ears. You should hold the rope in your hands the way an air-traffic controller would hold his flares.

Crouched Leaning Arm Raises

Crouched Leaning arm raises the most precise exercises when it comes to building your rear delt muscles. Try doing leaning arm raises for the first time, and you will quickly realize just how much you have been neglecting your rear delt muscles. Even some guys who have very large shoulder muscles find themselves initially unable to do more than 5lbs their first time doing leaning arm raises.

You perform the crouched leaning arm raise by setting a bench up at about a 45-degree angle, about the same angle you would if you were about to do dumbbell inclines. And then you grab some very light weights, to begin with (no more than 5lbs until you figure out what you are capable of. You don’t want to pull something), and position yourself crouched over slightly with your chest against the bench and most of your chest and head hanging over. From there, you place the dumbbells directly in front of you as if you were about to row. But instead of pulling back toward your chest, you do a straight arm raise and bring them back toward the ceiling almost like a back-fly. Trust me when I tell you, if you do this exercise right, you will feel the burn. Just remember, be careful. Although the rear delt is prominent, it is not a particularly large muscle, so when you do isolation exercises for it, you can not expect to do the same weight as you would, for example, during a front-press.

Seated Bent-Over Dumbbell Raises

For seated bent over dumbbells, again, you are going to want to start light. The key to seated bent-over dumbbell raises, as well as many rear delt exercises is to hold the squeeze at the top of the motion momentarily. Read delt exercises are much more about repetitions than they are about heavyweights.

Rear Delt Cable Crosses

Cable crosses are a great exercise for your entire deltoid muscle. And, again, when you hold the exercise at the furthest point of the motion is when you are particularly targeting the rear delt muscle.

Sometimes getting a rear delt machine at the gym can be a bit of a hassle because it often requires a very large and popular machine. But my suggestion is to wait. Just don’t try and super-set this exercise, be polite and knock one set out after the other all at once—just don’t hurt yourself by rushing.

Inverted Rows

The inverted row is an exercise you do on the smith machine. You have probably seen people do it in the gym. They lie on the floor, sometimes on a mat, and pull their body upward toward the bar. Almost like doing the opposite of bench.

Inverted rows are good not only for your rear delt but also for your back and somewhat also your biceps.

Rear Delt Reverse Flys

On the pec squeeze machine, you can train your rear delts by making a fly motion, but instead of facing outward and training your chest, you pull back and squeeze after the motion. This exercise is a great stretch for your back, arms, and deltoid. It is also a lightweight training exercise for your shoulders.

Snatch-Grip Shoulder Press

The snatch-grip shoulder press is a compound exercise that trains several muscles, one of which is the rear delts.

You want to do this exercise with either a straight curl bar or an Olympic barbell, like the one you would use if you were on the bench press. The main thing to remember when performing this exercise, though, is that it is about reps, not doing heavy weights. You can easily pull the muscles in your neck, back, or shoulders when performing this exercise, so it is not for beginners. If, however, you know what you are doing, and are wise enough to start light, you can and will see some great results by incorporating the snatch-grip shoulder press into your regular shoulder routine.

Lying Rear Delt Swims

You can think of lying rear delts as reverse dumbbell flys. Rather than lying with your eyes up at the ceiling and moving dumbbells in a pinching motion with your chest, you lay a towel down on the bench and position your face against it. Then you start a light pair of dumbbells up at your head and stroke slowly backward in a circular swimming motion. This exercise should be done light and only used sparingly. One a week is likely the ideal number of times to do lying rear delt swims.

Free-Weight Arm Raises

Free weight arm raises are a great exercise that trains your entire shoulder. Not only that, but they are also good for your forearms, biceps, and triceps. And while everyone in the gym is concerned with working their biceps and triceps, like the rear delt itself, lots of people make the mistake of ignoring their forearm muscles.

Forearm muscles are essential, not just to the development of the rear delt, but also to just about every other muscle in the arm. The reason being that, without a good grip, it can be incredibly hard to maintain proper form while doing isolation exercise for muscle on your arm. This is true whether we are talking about the rear delts, the biceps, triceps, or otherwise.

So, with that in mind, free weight arm raises are particularly effective because they train not only major muscle groups but also two notoriously ignored muscles—namely, the forearms and rear delts.


Schwarzenegger’s, also sometimes called “Arnold’s,” are the classic shoulder exercise. Popularized by the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Universe himself, the Governator, Mr. Schwarzenegger—Arnold’s, are an innovative take on a very old-fashion exercise. In a seated position on a bench, rather than rotating the dumbbells up from your shoulders in a curved motion and over your head, you bring them up and out so that to complete the motion, they two dumbbells will be touching each other. But instead of being above and parallel to your head, they will be above only slightly but also about a foot-and-a-half in front of your forehead. You will effectively be staring at your fingernails.

In terms of effectiveness, Schwarzenegger’s hold up. They are one of the best all-around deltoid exercises and, when done right, train not only your front delts but also your rear delts. What this exercise does for you in effectiveness over standard overhead dumbbell presses, it pays for in potential for injury. You want to begin doing Schwarzenegger’s at a very low dumbbell weight, significantly lower than the amount you do for standard or classic overhead dumbbell presses. Before doing the exercise, you may want to consider doing some arm and deltoid stretches.

What You Need to Do to Build Muscle

Regardless of which muscle or muscle group you are building. If you are trying to get into the best shape of your life, you need protein, lots of it. You can get some of that protein via supplementation.

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Also, to learn more about weightlifting, download one of my fitness guides here: https://thecodyallen.com/guides/