The rear deltoids are muscles located directly behind the shoulders that connect the shoulder blades to the upper arm. When the rear delts are toned, it can give the arms a strong, balanced appearance, plus having strong rear delts can stabilize the arm when throwing, rowing or pressing. Strong deltoids also help keep the shoulders from hunching forward, which can cause excess shoulder and back stress. Here, we talked with two fitness pros about how to best train the rear delts.
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What is the best rear delt exercise?
Both Lucy Sexton, fitness expert and Co-Founder of Bonded by the Burn, an online fitness platform, and David McHugh, CEO and Founder of My Mixify agree that rowing movements are the best rear delt exercises.
"The best rear delt exercise is really any type of row movement," McHugh tells Lively. "Rows are simple exercises where you start with an extended arm, and then pull weight towards your chest. They not only work your rear delts, but also will target muscles in your back, such as the lats." He suggests the one-arm dumbbell row because it requires the least amount of equipment (just one dumbbell), and is the one of the simplest to master. It can also be done with a resistance band if weights are not available.
How do I train my rear delts?
If you're working out at home or without the help of a trainer or gym equipment, you may be wondering how to work your rear delts. "Exercises that extend the arms back will hit your rear deltoids," Sexton says. "Rows that retract the shoulder blades, rear lateral raises and chest opener exercises where you press your arms back are a great way to strengthen the backside of your shoulders." For working the rear delts, Sexton specifically recommends doing split squat lunges with a row or chest openers with weights.
Do push-ups work rear delts?
Both Sexton and McHugh are in agreement that while push-ups can't hurt, they're not the most effective exercise for toning the rear delts. "While you may get some minor rear delt activation from push-ups, the majority of the load will be on your chest and front delts," McHugh says. He adds that the row is a more focused movement that activates the rear delts much more effectively. You could also try pull-ups, which work the back body as a whole, including your rear delts. "If pull-ups are too difficult, try to do dead hangs from a pull-up bar for 1-2 minutes," McHugh says.
Sexton adds that finding balanced movements is key when working the rear delts. "Balance is key and gaining shoulder strength requires working many different muscles from different angles. The front of your shoulders tend to be more dominant in many exercises including the standard push-up."
Rear Delt Workout
Below, you'll find a rear delt workout, as suggested by McHugh, that you can do at home or at the gym. Repeat for two to three rounds depending on experience level.
- One arm dumbbell / resistance band rows (8-12 reps per arm)
- Upright rows with barbell or resistance band (8-12 reps)
- Pull-ups (6-8 reps) or pull-up bar dead hangs (1-2 minutes)