Curated By Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
The secret to strong, well-rounded (and healthy!) shoulders isn’t the hallowed overhead press or the lateral raise. Instead, it’s a focus on an often-undertrained muscle group, your rear delts. Your rear delts lie on the backs of your shoulders and while they finish out your physique, they do more than that, too.
Strong rear delts prevent your shoulders from rounding forward, which will improve your posture. By pulling your shoulders back, they’ll also let your chest gains show more, and prevent shoulder injuries and other issues, too.
They’re a small muscle group, though, which is why they’re often undertrained. But they’re also a muscle group that benefits from extra work. So whether you’re chasing aesthetics or general fitness, throw a little rear delt work in at the end of your workout 3-4 times a week. Not sure where to start? Just choose one of the exercises below each time.
1. Elbows-Flared Incline Row
Every row variation activates your rear delts a bit, because the rear delts help pull your upper arm behind your torso – but most rows don’t focus on the rear delts.
The elbows-flared incline row does. It takes your lats (which drive many rows) out of play, and also eliminates excessive lower back involvement.
Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps, and try to pause for a split second at the top of each rep. This is your best chance to hit your rear delts with heavy weight.
2. Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly
You’ll need to go light on these, but they’re once again getting your elbows away from your torso to promote a strong rear delt squeeze.
Focus on keeping your torso as steady as possible; tighten your abs as you do this.
You won’t be able to go heavy, but you’ll still blast your rear delts. Do 3 sets of 12-15.
3. Incline Bench External Rotation
This is the most scaleable of rear delt exercises. You can make it easier by raising the incline on the bench, harder by lowering it.
Aim to start with your shoulder blades squeezed, and your elbows just an inch below your shoulders.
Then focus on rotating your forearms upward so they’re in line with your torso. Don’t be afraid to go super-light; work up to 3 sets of 10-12 quality reps.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes.
His current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga.
Ebenezer has had multiple prestigious positions including serving as a sports and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.