6 Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises To Build Huge Shoulders

rear delt dumbbell exercises

The often-neglected posterior deltoids, commonly known as rear delts, are a crucial part of a well-rounded workout routine.  

In this article we’re going to highlight their importance by introducing the best rear delt dumbbell exercises to maximize muscular development and increase their strength.  

By using dumbbells in these exercises offers versatility, allowing precise targeting of the rear deltoids through a range of body and hand positions, something not always feasible with a barbell.  

If you’re looking to enhance shoulder strength, improve your posture, minimize your risk of shoulder injuries, and achieve an overall improved appearance, read on for a comprehensive guide to maximizing your rear delt workouts.

What Do Rear Deltoids Do?

Your rear deltoids are responsible for the following actions:

  • Shoulder horizontal abduction.  This is the action of bringing your arm straight out to the side from the front of your body.  
  • Shoulder external rotation.  This involves rotating your forearm and hand outward and away from the body.  
  • Shoulder abduction. This is the action of lifting your arm away from the midline of your body.  It works with the other heads of the shoulder to do this. 

The rear delts also contribute to shoulder stability and posture. 

It’s a small muscle which is located at the back of your shoulders and forms part of the shoulder muscle group.  

It’s one of three heads, the other two being the anterior deltoid (located to the front of the shoulder) and the lateral deltoids (located to the side of the shoulder).   

Why Should You Train Rear Delts

Strengthening your rear delts is essential for well-rounded shoulder development, overall upper body strength, and reduce the risk of injury.

Exercises targeting the rear delts are important for maintaining balance in the shoulder muscles and promoting functional movement.

The rear delts are only small muscles and people often don’t train them properly or not at all.  

Improper training of the rear delts will lead to a muscle imbalances which can affect the overall functionality of the shoulder heads. 

What’s more, if you have well developed front and side delts, this will result in an asymmetrical appearance causing the back of your shoulders to look flat.  

However, with the right exercises you can address this problem and fix any imbalances.  

The Best Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises For Capped Delts

Understanding the significance of focusing on the muscles at the back of the shoulder, let’s now explore the best rear delt exercises achievable with a pair of dumbbells.  

These exercises are failproof and the best way of developing the rear delts.  

We always recommend starting with a lighter weight so you can concentrate on proper form.  

As you get strong you can then progress to more reps / sets or heavier weights.  

The full range of motion with this exercise should be kept quite short, this will help to prevent your traps from recruiting and taking away from your rear delts.

Aside from engaging the back of your shoulders, this exercise will also work your rhomboids.  

How To Do The Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly:

  1. Set the back of a bench to anywhere between 30 and 45 degrees.  
  2. Position yourself on the bench so that your chest is resting on the back pad.  
  3. You want to be holding a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip.  
  4. Keep your arms extended down towards the floor but with a slight bend to your elbows.  This is the starting position. 
  5. From here, squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring both arms out to your sides but only going a few inches.  
  6. Lower your hands back together and repeat.  

This exercise follows a similar movement path to the rear delt fly but you’ll be doing it without the support of a bench and to a greater range of motion.  

How To Do The Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, from a standing position place your feet shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Keep a slight bend to your knees and your spine neutral.  
  3. Bend over until your upper body is just above parallel to the ground. 
  4. Once in this position, bring the dumbbells forward and hold them in front of you.  They should roughly be in line with your head and palms facing inwards. 
  5. With your shoulder blades pinched together simply bring your arms straight up and out to your sides. 
  6. Use control to lower the dumbbells back to the start.  

Doing this exercise from a seated position helps to remove any momentum from your lower body.  

This helps to create more tension on the rear delt muscle which, in time, can lead to greater muscle growth.  

To do this movement properly, you need to keep your upper body in a fixed position.  

Seated Bent Over Reverse Fly

If you find this hard to do, you may be lifting too heavy.  In which case, use lighter dumbbells. 

How To Do The Seated Bent Over Reverse Fly:

  1. ​Take a seat on a bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Keep your head and upper chest but lean forwards until your stomach can rest on your thighs.  
  3. With your palms facing inwards, raise your arms up and out until at shoulder height. 
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down and stop just before you lose tension on your muscles, going straight into the next rep. 

The single arm reverse fly is a unilateral exercise meaning that you’ll be working one arm at a time.  

This makes it a great way of addressing any imbalances.  

It’s important to keep your shoulder rolled forward when doing this exercise to limit any trap involvement.  

How To Do The Single Arm Reverse Fly:

  1. ​While seated on a bench, lean forwards until your stomach is pressed against your thighs. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell in one hand with a neutral grip and rest your free arm on top of your leg. 
  3. Press the shoulder down of your working arm. 
  4. Keeping your shoulder rolled forward, raise the arm up and out. 
  5. You should the back muscles at the back of your shoulder contract.  If it feels like your traps are contracting too much, then try and reduce the range of motion.  

Face pulls are often done on a cable machine but doing the dumbbell variation is still a great exercise for developing the back of your shoulders.  

Avoid curling the weight up as this will only work your biceps.  

Concentrate on bringing your elbows up towards the ceiling.  

face pulls

How To Do Dumbbell Face Pulls:

  1. ​Lie face down on an incline bench so that your chest is fully supported, and legs extended out behind you. 
  2. Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand and hold them in an overhead position. 
  3. With your shoulders rolled forward, drive your elbows up and out until they’re in line with your shoulders. 
  4. Lower back to the start and repeat.  

The dumbbell rear delt row is a great way of putting more emphasis onto your rear delts.  

The standard dumbbell row typically works your lats, rhomboids, and middle traps but the different angle adopted when doing this variation will work more of your rear shoulders.  

How To Do The Dumbbell Rear Delt Row:

  1. Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. With your knees slightly bent, flex your hips to lean forward. 
  3. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.  
  4. Allow your arms to hang down naturally in front of you.  
  5. Your wrists should be pronated and elbows pointing to the sides. 
  6. Start the movement by flexing your elbows and rowing the dumbbells towards your torso. 
  7. Stop when your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.  
  8. Squeeze your shoulder blades together throughout the movement. 
  9. Return to the start and repeat. 

Tips When Doing Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises

  • Maintain Correct Form.  When performing dumbbell exercises, it can be common to lose form.  Be sure to concentrate on doing each rep properly to avoid stressing your joints.
  • Don’t Go Too Heavy.  When working small muscles, you don’t need to lift heavy weight.  Lifting dumbbells that are too heavy for your rear delts can stress your rotator cuff or shoulder joint and may cause injury.   Stick to lighter dumbbells and a high rep range for best results. 
  • Try Different Angles.  Dumbbells give you more freedom of movement when compared to working out with a barbell.  This means you can alter the movement allowing you to activate your rear delts in different ways.  
  • Focus On Mind-Muscle Connection.  Not only can this improve your exercise technique, but it can help to isolate and work your rear delts more effectively and limit the recruitment of other upper back muscles.  
  • Progress When You Get Stronger.  To avoid hitting a plateau make sure you progress when your shoulders have become stronger.  You can do this by increasing the reps or sets, opting for a heavier pair of dumbbells (do this gradually), or by incorporating resistance bands.  

Final Thoughts

The dumbbell exercises discussed – such as bent-over lateral raises, reverse flyes, and seated bent-over rows – are simple yet highly effective movements that specifically target your rear delts. 

By integrating these exercises with proper form and a gradual increase in resistance, you can enhance the strength and aesthetic appeal to the backs of your shoulders.

Remember, consistency and mindful execution are key for best results during your rear deltoid workout.

If you’re interested in broadening your knowledge on shoulder workouts, consider reading our article on “Lateral Shoulder Exercises.”

It’ll provide insights into exercises that focus on your middle deltoid, contributing to a well-proportioned and sculpted shoulder appearance.

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