How To Do The Rear Delt Fly For Strong and Sculpted Shoulders

Mahrukh Lodhi

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Did you know that broad, strong, and sculpted shoulders are not just a sign of strength and power in men but are also one of the most attractive features? 

Imagine standing in a gym and lifting dumbbells and heavy barbells to build stronger arms but ending up with a dislocated shoulder or shoulder pain just because you have neglected your rear deltoids.

I would not want to be one of these people, and I am sure you wouldn’t either.

But, hey! Here’s some good news. Rear Delt Fly is one of the most amazing workouts for training your shoulder muscles and building functional strength. 

Also known as reverse dumbbell fly, this workout trains your rear deltoids so you can walk around with a well-developed and well-defined physique that will surely be a show stopper. 

This article discusses how to perform rear delt fly with perfection, its benefits, variations, and a few alternatives to add to your everyday workout routine.

 So let’s get started!

What Is A Rear Delt Fly?

A rear delt fly, or dumbbell reverse fly, is a resistance training workout that helps you build strong shoulder muscles or deltoids.

Rear delt fly not only targets the shoulders but also works multiple upper body muscles, which allows you to enhance your gym performance and everyday functionality.

While many people tend to ignore these muscles, I hope you’re not one of them.

Muscles Worked By The Rear Delt Fly

Even though the name of the exercise focuses on your rear deltoids, it also targets various other muscles.

Primary Muscles 

As the name suggests, the primary muscle focused on in this strength training exercise is the rear delt. But here is a twist: while the deltoid is technically a single muscle, there are three different sets of muscles that make up your deltoid muscles: the posterior/rear deltoid, the lateral/side deltoid, and the anterior/front deltoid.

The anterior and lateral deltoid heads are responsible for moving the hands to the front and the sides; the rear deltoid or posterior deltoids are responsible for moving the arms outwards and backward.

This is why when you lift your arms towards the ceiling in a bent-down position, you activate and primarily target your rear or posterior deltoids. Strengthening these muscles using an exercise like the rear delt fly helps enhance your body’s athletic and functional abilities.

Secondary Muscles  

When you perform the rear delt fly, you indirectly strengthen your trapezius, which helps you pull your shoulders at the back and stabilize your neck to perform everyday tasks.

It targets your rhomboids, and strengthening them helps improve your posture and prevent upper back pain.

Lastly, it solidifies your erector spinae, which protects and stabilizes your spine.

Benefits Of The Rear Delt Fly

Even though you know the deltoid muscles and where they lie in your body, you must still wonder why you should train them. Are these tiny muscles so crucial that there is an entirely separate exercise to train them?

These benefits will surely get you to grab those weights and start your training immediately.

  1. Improves Posture 

With the evolving times, the increased use of computers has gotten individuals to constantly sit for longer hours at work, which has caused people problems like hunched backs, curved shoulders, and back aches. All these issues have one core problem you must resolve, i.e., poor posture.

Fortunately, incorporating strength training exercises like rear delt fly in your workout routines can help you solve these issues quickly. A rear delt fly is one of the most effective workouts, as it tightens the upper back muscles by strengthening the rear deltoids and indirectly training the rhomboids and erector spinae, which leads to improved posture and reduced back aches.

Moreover, the rear delt fly engages the core muscles during the workout, which allows you to ensure a straight back and an active core, which are essential for proper posture.

  1. Elevates Shoulder Strength 

Regarding your shoulders, they are a prominent feature of your body and play a crucial role in your physical fitness. However, having broad and robust shoulders is an attractive feature in men and essential when performing various other exercises and everyday activities.

While many consider the rear delt fly exercise an accessory workout, it significantly impacts other compound workouts such as the barbell bench press, deadlifts, and overhead press.

Moreover, when you add the rear delt fly exercise to your everyday routine, you ensure you train all the deltoid muscles together. This will ensure you develop symmetrically pleasing and sculpted shoulders with enhanced functional strength.

  1. Enhances Overall Aesthetics 

Even though having strong, powerful shoulders is excellent for performing compound workouts and everyday activities, it is also one of the most attractive features in men. A symmetrical and beautifully sculpted physique is considered the trademark of physical fitness.

Many people, especially bodybuilders, focus on building bigger biceps and arms but must remember their shoulders. This negligence leads to disproportionate body development and an unpleasing appearance as well.

Moreover, building a symmetrical body by training every muscle adds to the aesthetics. It promotes safety when lifting heavy weights, reducing the chances of injury and promoting ideal health and fitness.

Related Article: 5 Best Upper Body Exercises For Women With Dumbbells

How To Do Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly?

Rear delt fly is one of the workouts that can be performed in many variations, such as with dumbbells, cable machines, or pec dec machines, along with varying reps, sets, and weights depending on your fitness goals, all of which we will be discussing in the article ahead. 

But here’s how to perform a basic version of the rear delt fly using simple dumbbells.

  • Select the desired dumbbells and stand back with your feet opened shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend over with your hips hinged back and your body almost parallel to the floor.
  • Allow your arms to hang straight downwards from the shoulders while holding dumbbells with a neutral grip.
  • Now, inhale deeply and lift the dumbbells towards the ceiling while extending them to your sides and preventing your elbows from caving.
  • Slowly start exhaling while you lower your arms back down in a controlled manner to the starting position.
  • Repeat the workouts for the desired number of reps and sets.

Rear Delt Fly Mistakes That You Must Avoid

While the workout is relatively simple, there are still a few tips you must consider because these are the mistakes many people make when performing the rear delt fly.

Not Keeping A Neutral Back

One of the biggest mistakes people make when performing a rear delt fly is curving or arching their spines. This poor posture leads to a lot of strain on the spine and results in lower back pain.

When bending forward, keep your back parallel to the floor. While this may seem like a daunting task, I have a straightforward trick at hand for you.

When you’re in a bent-forward position, keep your belly button sucked in towards the spine. This will ensure that you keep a straight back while keeping your core engaged and getting maximum benefit from a simple workout.

Bending Arms Too Much 

Even though it says that you need to bend your elbows when lifting weights, you need to ensure that you are not bending your elbows too much.

When you bend your arms too much and bring them closer to the chest, you are performing a dumbbell row and not a rear delt fly, which means you will be targeting your upper back muscles and not the rear deltoids.

Although you will work your upper body muscles even when you perform the rear delt fly to balance and stabilize yourself, it will still mainly target your rear deltoids. Therefore, you need to keep a very slight bent at the elbows when lifting the dumbbells, not too much.

Bringing Your Arms Backwards 

Another common mistake in performing the rear delt fly is bending your arms backward in a slanting position instead of keeping them lateral and aligned with your shoulders.

You must ensure you work your rear deltoids by lifting your arms up and down in a sideways motion. This posture will ensure you enjoy the maximum benefits from the workout and train your rear deltoids effectively to develop a curved and sculpted shoulder.

Lifting Too Heavy

The fourth most common mistake most people make is lifting too heavy weights. While this exercise is seemingly simple, you must ensure you are not starting with too much weight because this will only lead to compromising your posture.

Therefore, you must start the workout with light weights, and once you have perfected your form, gradually increase the weights. A gradual weight increase will allow you to challenge the muscles effectively and prevent injuries.

Variations And Alternatives For Rear Delt Fly 

Even though the rear delt fly is one of the best exercises for training your posterior deltoids, there are some variations and alternatives you can also try to enhance your overall upper body strength.

Single Arm Delt Fly

  • Start by standing straight, with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in your left hand.
  • Bend your knees and place your right elbow on your right thigh.
  • Once you’re in the position, start laterally lifting your left arm.
  • Breathe slowly at the top of the movement, then return slowly to the original position.
  • Repeat the workout for the desired number of reps and sets.

Chest Supported Rear Delt Fly


  • Set up an inclined bench and lay down with your face facing the floor.
  • Hold dumbbells in both hands and place them on each side of the bench.
  • Without raising your chest from the bench, raise your arms sideways while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Take a deep breath at the top of the movement without locking your arms.
  • Bring the arms down slowly to the starting position and repeat it for the desired reps.

Bent Over Cable Rear Delt Fly

  • Set the cables on the pulley machine at the bottom and stand in the middle.
  • Grab the opposing cables with an overhand grip and bend your torso parallel to the floor.
  • Pull the cables apart until your hands are fully extended at your sides.
  • Return slowly in a controlled manner  
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

Alternative For Rear Delt Fly

If you cannot perform the standing variations of the rear delt fly, try out these alternatives to help you avoid back pain while allowing you to train your rear deltoids.

Bent Over Reverse Fly With Resistance Bands

  • Bend at the hips, keeping back flat and arms extended in front.
  • Attach resistance band to a secure anchor point.
  • Exhale, raise arms out to sides, squeezing shoulder blades together.
  • Arms should reach shoulder level or slightly higher.
  • Hold briefly at the top, then inhale and lower arms.
  • Repeat all the steps for the desired number of reps.

Standing Rope Face Pull

  • Set the cables on the pulley machine at your face level.
  • Stand with your feet open, hip-width apart, and with a slight bend in the knees.
  • Grab onto the cables with your thumbs facing down.
  • Keeping the arm elevated, draw back your elbows, pulling the cables to the side of your face.
  • When you feel a strong pinch in the shoulder blades, slowly return to the original position.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

Bent Arm Lateral Raise

  • Stand with your feet joined at the ankles and grab onto the desired weight of dumbbells.
  • Hold the dumbbells vertically, and bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your elbows tucked at your sides and your palms facing each other.
  • Start raising your upper arms to your sides without opening up your elbows.
  • Once the dumbbells are at shoulder height, return them to their original position.
  • Repeat the workout for the desired number of reps.


  1. What is the difference between rear deltoids and posterior deltoids?

The rear and posterior deltoids are the same muscles at the back of your shoulders. These muscles stabilize your shoulders and play a crucial role in pulling movements.

  1. What is the difference between rear delt flies, and back delt flies?

The rear delt fly targets your rear deltoids at the back of your shoulders, whereas the back fly targets your upper back and lats.

  1. Which deltoid is most important?

The rear deltoids are the most critical in your upper body and are unfortunately neglected by many people.

  1. Should you go heavy on the rear delts?

Rear delts are small muscles, and you cannot lift as heavy weights as usual in your other workouts. If you still manage to go heavy on the consequences, you will target other parts, like your upper back muscles.


The rear delt fly is one of the most impressive exercises that you can do to target your rear delts. Since these muscles are tiny and at the back of the shoulders, they are usually neglected by bodybuilders, even though they play a significant role in your everyday activities.

Strong rear deltoids improve your posture, enhance your shoulder strength, and improve your overall athleticism.

Keep a neutral back when performing the rear delt fly, and do not bend your arms too much or lift too heavy weights. All of these mistakes will hinder your muscle-building progress, and you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits.

While there are many variations to the rear delt fly, like the single arm delt fly, chest support rear delt fly, etc., you may still be unable to perform the workout given the postures. That is why there are some alternatives that you can complete efficiently without suffering back issues, such as standing reverse fly with resistance bands, standing rope face pull, etc.

With consistent efforts and dedication, you can build beautifully sculpted shoulders to help you achieve your fitness and physique goals in no time.

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