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The posterior deltoids or rear delts don’t get enough love in most people’s workout routines. We’re here to change that with the 12 best rear delt dumbbell exercises to put on size and gain strength.
Using dumbbells to work the rear delts allows you to really target the muscle in various body positions and hand positions that would be impossible to do with a barbell. Read on if you want to increase your shoulder strength, improve your posture, reduce your risk of shoulder injury, and look better all around.
Table of Contents:
The posterior deltoids A.K.A the rear deltoids are the rear muscle of the three-headed deltoid muscle. The deltoid muscle is triangular shaped, getting its name from the location posterior or back and the Greek letter delta, as it’s shaped like a triangle.
It lies over the glenohumeral joint creating the rounded curve of the shoulder. The origin of the rear delt is at the inferior border of the scapula and it inserts on your upper arm bone.
Before we get into the dumbbell exercises for the rear delts we should cover the shoulder muscles. The shoulder is comprised of three main muscles:
The main function of the rear delt is the action of moving the shoulder in horizontal abduction where the shoulder is internally rotated or shoulder extension when extending the arms behind the hips.
It is also responsible for external rotation of the shoulder. The rear delts are involved in many pulling exercises and it acts as a stabilizer during pressing movements like the overhead press.
The best way to target the rear delts with dumbbells frequently include exercises where you will be hinging forward at the hips if standing or bending over if sitting.
Other body positions that will target the rear delts with dumbbells can be lying on your side while externally rotating at the shoulder or lying face down then externally rotating the shoulder or bringing your arms up and away from your body. You will see these body positions displayed in the 12 exercises below.
The key to doing these dumbbell rear delt exercises is to really focus on contracting the muscle and squeezing the shoulder blades together. The following dumbbell rear deltoid exercises will isolate the muscle so there’s no need to use very heavy weights.
You should work with a weight that you will exhaust the muscle but not compromise form where you can injure yourself. You should lift the weights slowly and with purpose!
Let’s get into the 12 best rear delt dumbbell exercises.
When performing all exercises, but shoulder movements, in particular, form is everything, so start with a lighter dumbbell. Also, if you're working out at home and don't have a bench, get creative! Push two chairs together, for example, and you're good to go.
How to do the Side Lying Dumbbell Raise:
If you're a fan of the Y raise, you may also like the standing IYT raise, as seen in these dumbbell arm exercises, filled with isolation moves not only for the shoulders but also biceps and triceps. You've got to love fully defined arm muscles to complement your rear delts!
How to do the Dumbbell Incline Y Raise:
We can't forget the other portion of the IYT raise. Prepare to feel the backs of your shoulders burn!
How to do the Dumbbell Incline T Raise:
Slow and steady movements are crucial for the seated dumbbell rear fly. Also, keep in mind, that for many of these exercises, this one included, lifting too heavy places you at high risk of injury.
How to do the Seated Dumbbell Rear Fly:
Any head support will work, but make sure it's not an overly hard surface (ouch!) and that it enables you to keep your spine neutral when performing this exercise.
How to do the Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise With Head Support:
Wrist rotation in the incline dumbbell reverse fly enables you to activate your rear belts. And as an added bonus, you're also going to work your lateral shoulders during this movement. Since your lateral delts play a huge role in bolder shoulders, this is one effective exercise!
How to do the Incline Dumbbell Reverse Fly With Wrist Rotation:
Focus on mind-muscle connection with this exercise to ensure your rear dents are activated and working hard throughout the pulling motion.
How to do Dumbbell Rear Delt Pulls:
You can use a heavier weight with this exercise for those eager to lift heavy. Just make sure to use a mirror to ensure you aren’t rotating your torso during the movement.
How to do Dumbbell Single Arm Bent Over Rows:
When performing the rear delt fly, focus on keeping your spine neutral and your torso parallel to the floor. Move slowly through this exercise so that the rest of your back doesn't start to take over.
How to do the Dumbbell Bent Over Rear Delt Fly:
Looking to make a hard move even harder? Turn it into a unilateral exercise, performing the rear delt fly movement one side at a time.
How to do the Dumbbell Bent Over Alternating Rear Delt Fly:
Any support will work here, but just make sure it's sturdy and won't topple over on you. Performing unilateral exercises ensures your rear delt is doing all the work, great for muscle hypertrophy.
How to do the Single Arm Dumbbell Reverse Fly With Support:
When performing exercises like this one, as you retract your shoulder blades, imagine pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades to really help you focus on the movement. Small adjustments like shoulder retraction can make all the difference in your lifts!
How to do the Dumbbell Seated Bent Over Rear Delt Row:
You can also target your rear delts at home with bodyweight exercises or using items found in every household like a towel. You will want to keep in mind the function of the rear delts so that you can target them without equipment.
Take a look below for three bodyweight posterior shoulder exercises.
If you find this exercise hard to do, you may need to work on your shoulder mobility first.
Not only of your shoulders get a workout, but so does your core.
Your shoulders will feel the burn with this bodyweight exercise. The best part? You can pretty much do it anywhere where you have enough space to lie down.
Performing rear delt exercises with dumbbells has a number of benefits such as gaining strength and muscle mass and improving bone density in the shoulder.
Here's a look at a few other benefits of doing posterior shoulder exercises:
Just as the above exercises are crucial, it’s also important to stretch your deltoids to reduce risk of injury and to lower the chances of experiencing shoulder pain or rear delt pain. Stretching your muscles will help to improve blood flow and circulation to the muscle tissue keeping them loose and flexible
You should stretch all your deltoids evenly but for this article’s sake here are a few stretches for the rear delts.
Looking for a few great stretches for your posterior shoulder muscle? You've come to the right place!
Stand up straight then relax your shoulders. Reach one arm across your chest and hold it at the upper arm with your other hand. Gently pull across your chest as far as comfortable. Hold this for 30 seconds. Switch Sides. Repeat 2-3 times
Lie down on your side and with your lower arm bent at the elbow at 90 degrees with your forearm perpendicular to your body. Using your other arm gently push your arm down as far as comfortable. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Switch Sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
Lie down face first on a bench or bed with one arm hanging off to the side. Begin with your arm hanging straight down then raise it to the side until reaching eye level. Switch sides. Repeat 2-3 sets of 10 reps.
Trigger point therapy or myofascial release can help to alleviate pain or tightness in the posterior shoulder muscle. All you need is a massage ball or another type of semi-hard ball to massage out the trigger points causing your pain. By targeting the trigger points, you can release some tension and pain stored in the muscle.
Note: This self-massage can also be performed lying down on the floor in the same manner.
Looking for more information on alleviating stress in the neck and shoulders? Check out our article: How to Release Neck and Shoulder Tension!
The most common cause of rear delt pain is overuse, muscle strain, accident or tendons issues. People lifting heavy items or athletes where there are repetitive movements of the shoulder.
Symptoms of posterior shoulder muscle pain can present in a number of ways but usually is felt when lifting the arm. This pain or tenderness can be the result of muscle strain or tears. Muscle strain severity is on a scale with three grades. Deltoid pain can be categorized in the following ways:
Any remaining questions regarding exercises for your rear belts? Let's answer them here!
Yes, dumbbell rows are a great exercise to strengthen the rear delts. Dumbbell rows are great because you can focus on lifting with one arm at a time while keeping your body supported with your other arm.
The fastest way to build your rear delts is to do isolation exercises that specially target them. While it’s true that pulling exercises like lat pull downs and seated rows hit the rear delts, it has been proven with EMG data that more isolated movements like reverse fly on the pec deck recruit and activate the rear delts at a much greater rate.
Yes, strong muscular rear delts will make you look bigger. Having large, wide shoulders can make your upper frame bigger. Large rear delts will add to the coveted inverted triangle look that many people are after when weight training. Built rear delts will also improve the symmetry to your upper body providing the balance between your chest and upper back.
Although the rear delts are located on the posterior or backside of your body they are considered a shoulder muscle. The rear delts make up one third of the deltoids, the triangular shaped muscle that covers the shoulder. In many pulling movements the rear delts are engaged so when you do back exercises like pull-ups or lat pulldowns your rear delts will be worked.
You can use bodyweight exercises or household items, like a towel, to target your rear delts.
Yes, the posterior deltoid is extremely important to keep your shoulders healthy and in good working condition. Rear delts have become increasingly important as society spends more and more time hunched over in front of a computer or looking down at phones. This hunching can lead to serious posture problems, shoulder and back issues and increases risk of injury. Strengthening the rear delts can help to counterbalance these problems.
Pushups are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do but unfortunately they don’t work the rear delts. The anterior deltoid or front delts get worked the most while doing pushups.
Yes, pull-ups hit the rear delts along with a number of other muscles in your back, arms and shoulders. Many of the major muscle groups in the upper body are recruited to perform pull-ups properly. If you want to increase the load on the rear delts and work them more while doing pull-ups then you should opt for wide grip pull-ups. Wide grip pull-ups put more emphasis on the deltoids in general compared with regular grip.
Isolating your posterior delts with dumbbells is one of the best ways to build your rear delts fast. Try to focus on incorporating some rear delt specific exercises into your training routine.
The benefits of training the rear delts can't be overstated, so go grab yourself a few dumbbells and get to work. We promise, your shoulders will appreciate it!
Now that you know the best posterior delt exercises, make sure you are also hitting your front and lateral delts with the Best Front Delt Exercises and Best Side Delt Exercises. Looking for a killer shoulder workout? Check out The Ultimate Dumbbell Shoulder Workout.
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