The Best Exercises To Train The Rear Delts

The human body is a complex machine, with each muscle playing a key role in our overall physical health and performance. One such muscle, the posterior deltoid, has a crucial role in our ability to move our arms and maintain good posture. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the posterior deltoid, its anatomy, its functions, and how to effectively train it.

Posterior Deltoid Anatomy and Functions

The posterior deltoid, often referred to as the "back shoulder," is part of the deltoid complex, a group of three muscle bundles. This muscle bundle originates from the spine of the scapula, hence the alternate name "spinal," and attaches to the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus along with the other two bundles.

Anatomy of the posterior deltoid

The primary role of the posterior deltoid is to facilitate specific humerus movements. More specifically, it extends, extra rotates, and abducts the shoulder in the transverse plane. It's noteworthy that most of the posterior deltoid's functions are antagonistic to those of the anterior deltoid, meaning they perform opposite movements.

Training the Posterior Deltoid: Strategies and Techniques

Like all muscles, the posterior deltoid responds to training. Resistance training, which involves working against resistance, is particularly effective for conditioning this muscle. This can be achieved through calisthenics, training with overloads or elastic bands, or a combination of these methods.

To specifically target the posterior deltoid, training with free weights and isotonic machines is recommended. The primary goals should be to improve strength and resistant strength, both of which contribute to an increase in the myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic mass of the contractile tissue, leading to muscle hypertrophy.

When training the posterior deltoid, it's important to consider the density of oxidative motor units, often referred to as red fibers. Some suggest that due to this density, the shoulders should be trained mainly at high repetitions. While this isn't entirely accurate, it does lead us down the right path.

To increase strength and myofibrillar mass, muscles need to be trained with high levels of muscular tension, which typically means low repetitions. However, the isolation movement of the posterior deltoid doesn't lend itself to the use of high overloads. This is best achieved with multi-joint pulling movements, which can be adjusted to give more emphasis to the shoulders.

To stimulate the growth of all cytoplasmic components, training should involve the exhaustion of phosphagen reserves, the breakdown of glycogen, and the production of lactic acid. This requires more repetitions until you approach muscle failure. There are numerous exercises designed specifically for this purpose, which we will explore further in the next section.

Effective Exercises for the Posterior Deltoid

Exercises for the posterior deltoid can be divided into two main categories: multi-joint exercises and single-joint isolation exercises.

Multi-Joint Exercises

  • Wide-Grip Barbell or Dumbbell Rows: This exercise is pivotal for posterior deltoid development. By adopting a wide, pronated grip and focusing on lifting the elbows high during the movement, you simulate the rowing action. This can be performed in various positions: standing, inclined on a 30° bench, or lying prone on the bench, each offering slightly different engagement of the muscle fibers.
  • Rowing Machines with Wide Grip: Utilizing rowing machines with a wide grip helps to specifically target the posterior deltoids. By maintaining a wide grip and positioning the arms such that the upper arm bone (humerus) is abducted and drawn towards the upper back, you ensure effective muscle engagement.
  • Horizontal Pulley Pulls with Trap Bar: Employing a trap bar for horizontal pulley pulls adds a unique variation to your workout, engaging the posterior deltoids through the pulling motion while offering a comfortable grip and stance.

Isolation Exercises

  • Standing 90° Reverse Crossovers: Also known as prone or "fly" lateral raises, this exercise can be performed with dumbbells or low cables. It isolates the posterior deltoids by extending the arms at a 90-degree angle and performing a reverse crossover motion.
  • Standing High Cable Extensions: This exercise involves pulling cables from a high pulley towards your hip, with arms slightly bent, focusing on the contraction of the posterior deltoids.
  • Transverse Abductions in Quadruped Position: Using a low cable, perform one-arm transverse abductions while in a quadruped position. This isolates the posterior deltoid and enhances core stability.
  • Peck-Back Machine: While typically used for chest exercises, the peck-back machine can be adjusted to target the posterior deltoids by reversing the movement and focusing on squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Bodyweight Exercises

In addition to weighted exercises, bodyweight training plays a crucial role in posterior deltoid development. Exercises such as pull-ups, muscle-ups, and front levers engage the posterior deltoids significantly, offering a functional approach to muscle strengthening and conditioning.


Understanding the anatomy and functions of the posterior deltoid is crucial for effective training. With the right exercises and training techniques, you can strengthen and condition this important muscle, improving your overall physical health and performance. Remember, it's always advisable to seek professional guidance when starting a new training regime to ensure you're performing exercises correctly and safely.

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