T Nation

Rear Delt Work


I'm wondering what you guys do for your rear delts?


Standing Cable X's (grabbing opposite cable ends and crossing them)

Seated/bent over/laying on an incline bench DB laterals

Reverse Pec Dec

2 or 3 movements, pounding reps out for however many i can with as much weight as i can (try and treat rear delts like calves) and bam.


(Pic included to coincide with my opinion on rear delt training)

I only do one direct rear delt exercise, and that is a seated rear delt DB row. Very similar to what this guy is doing:

I do feel that things like pullups and wide-grip barbell rows contribute to my rear delt development, but this exercise seems to be responsible for most of the progress I've made there this past year. I took only a short break from it a few months ago, and tried a single-arm standing version of essentially the same thing, but the seated version is superior for me.

The key to having a better mind-muscle connection with the rear delts is to avoid arching the back as you normally would during exercise. Instead, hunch it over slightly, shove your chin into your chest (to avoid trap involvement), and always keep your elbow in line with or above your shoulder level when working with free weights.

I am a firm believer in getting the biggest stretch you can during every rep of an exercise, but I think the rear delts (similar to the traps and abdominals) are one of those muscles that benefit greatly from a hard contraction. Functioning mostly as a stabilizer muscle, getting a big stretch or large arcing range of motion doesn't seem to work as well as getting a nice peak contraction at the top of each rep. For this reason I've found a row to be superior to a reverse fly.

Although it seems to be stated frequently, it bears repeating: neglecting the rear delt is a mistake! Don't be one of "those" guys that only does them as an afterthought (if at all)


I've neglected them in the past. At one point I was dedicating a whole day to my shoulders and doing no rear-delt work. I've recently started re-assessing my exercise selection mainly because I have got some good progress in the lift side of things as well as actual muscle development on my anterior deltoids.

I've added in power cleans as I have to clean the barbell to my starting position for all of my anterior delt work and I'm getting to a point where I'm finding it harder to do that than the actual pressing.

Like I said I was dedicating a day to shoulders as they're one of those bodyparts that just make me go wow! When I see good developed ones. I was typically doing about 20 sets for that bodypart which consisted of overhead presses, seated neutral db presses and lateral raises.

Thanks for the info, also how do you split up the amount of sets for anterior/rear-delt work?



Don't know if you were asking me or Akuma, but I'll respond with some advice.

Shoulders are pretty simple. You don't want to try to take the long way around with this bodypart. I realize that some people recommend power cleaning the barbell during shoulder workouts, and this was something oldschool bodybuilders did when equipment was minimal, but you will consistently find in bodybuilding that the guys with the best bodyparts always built them with the basic stuff.

The best chests are always built with barbell benching (Arnold, Ronnie, Branch, Franco), the best backs are always built with barbell rowing (Dorian, Ronnie, Haney), and similarly the best shoulders are always built with seated barbell presses and DB laterals (Ronnie, Branch, Levrone, Wheeler, Dorian, Ruhl... catch my drift?)

My entire shoulder routine consists of 4 sets of seated barbell presses (one heavy set 4-8, then one moderate set 8-12), 3 sets of DB side raises 10-15 reps (using the technique I've talked about on here before), and 3 sets of seated rear delt rows 12-15 reps. That's it. This routine is done twice each week.

Remember that there are no special exercises or training systems that work in place of balls-to-the-wall effort. If your shoulders lack size overall, just stick to the basics until you get good at them. Traditional exercises done with a full range of motion, frequently and with lots of repetition, is how 99% of guys built an impressive foundation of muscle mass.


I'll agree that the majority of my own rear delt development came from doing so much rowing work for back over the years, but as far as direct work, maintaining a thumbs-down position and limited midrange ROM when doing bent laterals, prone on an incline bench has made mine seriously pop out when I'm in contest shape.



My equipment is also pretty minimal. I would ideally rather do seated ones doing them off of pins like seen in some of the videos that CT has on here. Unfortunately I can't do that.

I'm obviously not near the development you have attained. Would you do anything differently if you was 5'6 165lbs with limited equipment.

If so could you help me out with some kind of good basis to build my delts up? Clearly the 20 or so sets I was doing is drastically different to what you do. So I feel maybe I'm doing something wrong?


I made the big mistake of neglecting them totally for ages so I hit rear delts twice a week.On back day and on shoulder day.I do two movements on each day.seated thumbs down db laterals and standing thumbs down db laterals.Im keeping the weight light and going for 15-20 reps each set because my mmc with laterals sucks and I tend to cheat and use my traps as the weight creeps up.


Do you not belong to a gym? If so, why not?

Obviously there are some very cheap home-made barbell racks and benches if that is your only option (I was stuck in my parents garage with a barbell and a bench for over a year when I first started), but it's much better in the long-run to just belong to a gym.

I'm assuming you at least have a barbell and some dumbbells? If I were 165lbs again I wouldn't really do anything differently from what I'm doing now. Barbell presses, side raises, and rear delt raises/rows. You've just got to work hard. You can't compensate for a lack of intensity by doing a more complicated routine, it just doesn't work.

If you can't completely kill your front delts with barbell presses, kill your side delts with lateral raises, and exhaust your rear delts with reverse raises, then the problem is YOU. Not your routine.

I must also say that if you aren't eating at least 250 grams of protein EVERY single day for months on end, and gaining a few pounds every month, then don't even bother to wonder why you're making zero progress. There are some very simple and cheap bodybuilding diet options you can adhere to. If you aren't doing so, you've got no excuse when the results don't show up.


I do some form of rear delt work every single day in the gym. Neglecting them for years and a shoulder surgery will do that though. I do some variation of face pulls, rear flyes, cable reverse flyes, rows, and scap retraction and depression everyday as an upper body warmup or direct work on back and shoulder days.


Face Pull- above and nehind the head....Immortal Pull


4:40+, has anyone tried this variation? I would like some feedback.


eh,... just looked like sloppy bent laterals to me -lol. I don't real understand the benefit of the way he was laying on the bench. He still swung the weights up with a bunch of momentum (and couldn't even hold them there under muscular tension for a half a second). Probably got nice upper back/trap pump though.



for rear delt's i do bent over lat raises ( standing ) and wide grip barbell rows ( chest supported).what do you guys feel is better for delts , low rep's or high rep's ?. i feel it more with high reps ( 8/10)on side n bent over lat raises . on military press's i feel more with low reps ( 4/6).
not hijacking the thread just thought i'd throw this out about the reps.


My rear delts always get sore the day after a back session - even if I didn't train them specifically. I now train them on back day with 3 sets of bent laterals. But I've just discovered a great finisher that really burns the hell out of the rear delts: Straight-Arm DB Kickbacks. But I do them while keeping my lats spread (do not pull scapulae together). Keeping the lats flared throughout the movement forces my rear delts to take all the work. I pull my arms back as far as they'll go. hold for a second, and slowly descend.


DB Kickbacks absolutely kill my triceps for some reason in the sense of it feeling like a band is about to snap...


I find that barbell and db rows did nothing for my upper back development but did a deed for my ego. I find controlled movements worked much better for my rear delts. This includes pullup/pulldown variation with a moderately wide grip. db rear delt flys and some inverted rows or wide grip cable rows to finish. good luck.


No offense Mr. popular, but I wouldn't say your rear delts are a "strong point" (nor are mine or most people's). If someone wants to build some really impressive ones, I would, and have, started doing much MORE rear delt work than the simple 1 exercise for 2 or 3 casual sets. Volume, frequency, intensity, etc can all be manipulated and most people with strong shoulder development (which is usually in the front and medial heads) could probably drop a regular delt exercise if needed and add more stuff for rears.

Just a thought. I REALLY would love to have some freaky-ass rear delts.


Most effective rear delt exercises that I've used.

Bent over Dead stop rear raises (standing)
Reverse Pec Dec

Standing cable x's
1 arm stiff arm pulldowns to 45 degree angle to body

I do one of the first 2 for 4x8-12 followed by one of the second 2 for 4x12-15 after pull-ups, bar rows, pulldowns and wide grip seated rows. I feel 2 exercises is the way to go for this often neglected muscle to really make them stand out.


Compound rows - either of the Hammer Strength rowing machines.