If you want the best rear delt dumbbell exercises to beef up your shoulders and give you that 3-dimensional look, keep reading.
When it comes to growth and development, the rear Deltoids (aka posterior Deltoids) are near the top of the list for being one of the most undersized and undertrained muscle groups.
Of course, there are much sexier muscle groups to train such as Chest; after all, there is an international training day for this muscle group.
Hi, I’m Psymon H, your online training partner, and creator of the best home muscle-building program, The BIG-UP Training System. In my 40+ years of natural body-building, the one thing I've learned is that from the side and the back, the Rear Deltoids can make or break any physique.
Side-on, it’s what gives the upper physique depth and flow into the arm area. From the rearview, it can balance out and introduce an equally developed long Tricep Head, and the upper Back muscles. If developed properly, the rear delt is one of the best ways to avoid shoulder injury and rotator cuff impingements which can disrupt and put pay to any upper body training session.
In this article, we’re going to take an expert look at what I consider to be 5 of the very best Rear Delt dumbbell exercises. Similar to Biceps and Triceps with dumbbells, I'm going to include exercise cues, descriptions, and pictures so you can be up and running with implementing any of these movements into either a dumbbell full-body workout, upper-lower body split, or a designated shoulder workout.
The Rear Deltoid has three roles…
1: As it originates from the back-side of the body unlike the side Delts, it will extend the shoulder backward and hyperextend the shoulder, pulling it behind your Back.
2: When the arm is in an abducted position, it will pull it back in what is called transverse abduction
3: Since it wraps around the arm and inserts on the lateral aspect, when it pulls, it will externally rotate the shoulder.
With the anatomy and motion of the rear Deltoid, you have to get your arm and elbow up and behind the line of your back to get full contraction of the muscle. Now we know the motion and importance of developing the rear delt, let’s go ahead and raise some dumbbells.
This is a great exercise for crushing the Rear Deltoids and instigating growth. Like with most exercise movements, the better the execution, the more room for stimulation. I call this Rear Delt db Fly a Rear Delt Sweep simply because when you concentrate on sweeping the dumbbells in a bigger semi-circle motion rather than just raising the dumbbells, you seem to create better tension in the rear delts rather than just the upper Back muscles.
Items Needed: Incline bench & a pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Lean over an incline bench set at between a 45 and 60-degree angle. Make sure to walk your feet right under your shoulders to add more stability to the movement.
Cue 2: With dumbbells in hand, palms facing each other, and arms remaining almost straight, raise the dumbbells out to the side in a sweep motion, until your elbows are slightly higher than the line of your Shoulders.
Cue 3: Hold for a brief second before lowering the dumbbells to the start position, trying to maintain as full a motion as possible.
Rear Delt Sweeps Version 2.
In version two you assume the same setup but instead of sweeping the dumbbells out to the side, instead, you sweep the dumbbells up at a 45-degree angle so they finish just in front of you. Try both movements and alternate between the two of them for overall development.
Use this Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly master class to grow 3D Deltoids - 6 huge variations to add to your exercise arsenal
As we know, the rear delts extend and hyperextend the shoulder backward, pulling it behind your Back. The Incline Dumbbell Rocket takes full advantage of this motion and put serious stress on the Rear Deltoids. The art of this movement is to practice pulling back with the muscle instead of aimlessly swinging the dumbbells behind you, thus creating momentum.
Items Needed: Incline bench and one pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Lay face forward over an incline bench set at between a 45 and 60-degree angle. Grab a pair of dumbbells with either a palm back or with palms facing each other.
Cue 2: With arms hanging straight down, raise the dumbbells up and behind you so they pass the line of your hips before returning them to the start of the exercise.
Everything You Need To Know About Grow Your Rear Deltoids With the Bent Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly
While we know that to get the best contraction of the rear delt, we have to get our arm and elbow up and behind the line of our back, the Single-Arm Dumbbell Side Row helps us to do exactly that with precision. This movement should make every lifter's list of best rear delt dumbbell exercises.
Items Needed: One Dumbbell and something to lean on like the back of an upright bench.
Cue 1: Stand beside or straddle an upright bench with a dumbbell at your side and your palm facing in towards you.
Cue 2: Keeping your hand close to your side, row the dumbbell up as high as you can under the armpit, and try to lead with your elbow.
Cue 3: Briefly hold at the top of the movement before slowly lowering the dumbbell to the start position.
Extras: To take things up a notch, you can practice rotating your palms so it faces away from you as you pull the dumbbell to the top position, and then rotate your palm back so it's facing in towards you as you return to the start position.
The Seated Butterfly Dumbbell Raise Position 3
Ever wondered why most top-level swimmers, especially those who participate in the Butterfly stroke often have well-developed shoulders? It's the hard hours they put into working that stroke day in and day out. We're going to take a leaf from their training manual to develop the rear delts and upper Back muscles. For safety, it’s advised you start light until you get used to the movement.
Items Needed: Pair of dumbbells and a bench.
Cue 1: Sit on a bench or crate with dumbbells hanging by your side and a thumb-up grip. Set your Scapula by retracting your Shoulder-Blades. (Image 1).
Cue 2: With elbows almost pinching the Lat muscles and slightly behind the line of your body, lift the dumbbells out to each side by leading the move with your thumbs up. As the dumbbells reach a level with your shoulders, rotate the palms so that they are facing down as if you're pouring water from a cup. Bring the dumbbells out in front of you at a 45-degree angle. (Image 2).
Cue 3: As the dumbbells travel in front of you to the start position, initiate additional mid and lower Trap involvement by protracting your shoulders. Once the dumbbells are back in the start position, reset yourself by retracting your shoulder blades and pulling your elbow back behind the line of your body before setting off for the next repetition. (Image 3).
This makes my list of best rear delt dumbbell exercises because it targets the rear delts with force as well as all the upper back muscles. The major difference between this and a normal Chest Supported Dumbbell Row is where you pull the dumbbells and the position of your Elbows at the top of the movement.
Items Needed: Incline bench & one pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Lay face forward over an incline bench set at between a 45 and 60-degree angle. Hold the dumbbells in line with your shoulders with palms facing in.
Cue 2: Set your Scapula by pulling your Shoulder-Blades back and row the dumbbells up in line with your shoulders. At the top of the movement, your elbows should be out to the side and high rather than back and towards your hips. This will throw more tension on the rear delts.
Extras: You could also set up the same as above, but instead of having your palms facing back, you have them facing each other throughout the movement. Start with dumbbells close together at the bottom and as wide apart at the top of the exercise. Try to keep your Elbows out to the side and as high as you can at the top position to better activate the rear delts. Click for another reverse fly variation.
If you train your full body multiple times per week, you could use one exercise per session over a four week cycle. Here's an example of a full-body workout.
Workout 1: Rear Delt Sweeps aka -Rear Delt flies
Workout 2: Incline Dumbbell Rockets
Workout 3: Single-Arm Dumbbell Side Row
Workout 4: Butterfly
Workout 5: Incline Flared Dumbbell Row
I would use week five as a Deload week to relieve fatigue accumulation and to give the Tendon and Ligaments time to heal. Any exercises I didn't get to use on the first four-week training block would get cycled in on the following four-week block.
Train an upper body/lower body split? If you're training upper body twice per week and rear delts are a priority and focus of your upper body sessions, meaning that you train them first or near the beginning of your workout, split the exercises up over your upper body sessions making sure to use a slightly different rep range on each workout.
Reps, Sets, and Reps in Reserve:
For reps and reps in reserve (RIR), you could use anything from 5 – 20 repetitions per set, aiming to leave 2 repetitions in reserve on all working sets. This will ensure that you are achieving maximum motor unit recruitment. Your sets will depend on your training structure, recovery, fatigue, and training age, but 3 – 4 sets per exercise should be a good start for this home dumbbell deltoid workout.
Of course, there are a few good intensity techniques you could use to exploit this list of the best rear delt dumbbell exercises such as supersets, forced sets, and drop sets to allow you to go beyond the common failure point in a workout to push the muscle harder.
Here’s a suggestion; you could do Rep Targeting for your rear delts, but this is only for intermediate and advanced lifters.
For this muscle-building technique, you simply choose one of the above movements, set a rep target, and obtain that repetition goal no matter how many sets it takes to achieve. Here’s an example of what it could look like using Rep Targeting.
• Our target is 50 repetitions with a weight that may allow you 15 reps to failure (of course, you could use 30 -40 reps but no lower than 30 repetitions. Say on set one, you achieved 15 reps.
• Rest up to 30 seconds
• You perform 10 more reps to failure
• Rest up to 30 seconds
• Achieve 8 reps to failure
• Rest up to 30 seconds
• Complete 7 reps to failure
• Rest up 30 seconds
• Perform 5 repetitions to failure
• Rest 30 seconds
• Perform 5 reps to failure
Or you could try - The Time Subtraction Rep Targeting.
A significant variation of the above rep targeting method is to do "Time Subtraction Rep Targeting." Your rest time between sets is the number of reps you have left to reach your target.
Here’s an example using a target of 50 reps with a weight that allows you about 15 repetitions to failure.
• You complete 15 reps on set one to failure
• Rest 35 seconds
• Set 2 you complete 10 repetitions to failure
• Rest 25 seconds
• Set 3; you complete 8 reps to failure
• Rest 17 seconds
• Set 4 you perform 6 repetitions to failure
• Rest 11 seconds
• Set 5 you complete 5 reps to failure
• Rest 6 seconds
• Set 6 you perform 4 reps to failure
• Rest 2 seconds
• Set 7 you complete 2 reps
If your rear delts are in need of the extra work, give these 5 best rear delt dumbbell exercises a try and watch the results.