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Building Your Rear Deltoids

When it comes to building a symmetrical physique and balanced upper torso, one of the areas in which many lifters commonly feel that they are lacking is the back of the top of their arm.
This, as you’ll have worked out, is due to a lack of exercises – particularly volume-building exercises that target this area. That may seem like it is stating the obvious, but chances are if you’re advancing as a weightlifter you’ll probably think that you have your shoulders and upper arms well covered with your array of favoured exercises and building regimen.


If you’ve not looked into deltoid workouts before, here’s a little info: your deltoid muscle is the rounded triangle-shaped muscle at the very top of your arm where it meets your shoulder. It is often referred to as the common shoulder muscle. Deltoids, or delts, are comprised of three bands of muscle fiber, which are the three major parts of your shoulder: the anterior (located on the front of your arm, leading to the chest), medial (the middle slither of muscle that is just off centre when looking at your shoulder in profile) and posterior deltoids (at the back of your arm).


Unbeknownst to the many, the front deltoid (anterior) gets a good workout in a myriad of other workouts – namely chest and shoulder presses. The rear deltoid (posterior) isn’t targeted as often during some of the more commonly favoured workouts. This is because people generally have a habit of exercising what they can see in front of them. Even on ‘back day’ you’re likely hammering your lats, maybe your traps, but perhaps not the rear delts, which can appear ‘deflated’ in comparison to the more rounded frontal deltoids.

Single joint exercises are not usually considered the best for serious muscle growth. This is because you can never go too heavy with single joint exercises. For these, you need to pick a weight you can do 8-10 reps of so that you’re not putting unnecessary pressure on the joint – after all, it’s the muscles you’re trying to work, not the joint. Worry not, as there are multi-joint exercises that you can make the most of to work the rear delts. Multi-joint exercises recruit a number of secondary, assistance muscles. And many rowing exercises do just that with the rear delts. For these, you can go heavy and opt for lower reps.


Here are some exercises that will focus on your rear deltoids:


Reverse pec deck machine.
Rear delt machine.
Standing cable reverse fly.
One-arm bent-over cable lateral raise.
Bent-over dumbbell lateral raise.
Incline bench bent-over dumbbell lateral raise.
Head-supported bent-over dumbbell lateral raise.
Seated bent-over lateral raise.

build your delts

A great tip to really cook your rear deltoids is to throw in a second go at the same exercise later in your workout – or better yet, a variation to the one you’ve performed earlier in your workout. This is a trick that you may apply to any specific muscle group.


The delt head that you work first will improve the fastest. You might consider a single-joint isolation exercise like a reverse cable fly before working your middle and front delts. By doing this, the rear delts get the priority among the single-joint movements after you do your presses. It’s important to bear muscle exhaustion into your workout – both in terms of the advantages of working to muscle failure and also so that it does not affect your ability to perform another exercise in the same session.


If you consider shoulders and back workouts separately and approach them on consecutive days, you rear delts may not be getting the rest they require to grow – stick a full rest in between, or maybe a chest day.

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