You have been training your upper body every week in the gym. You think you have tried everything, but there is still something missing for the physique you want. The secret could be that you have been neglecting your rear delts.
The rear delt is a small muscle that makes a big difference in a defined shoulder. Rear delt exercises are the final puzzle piece to the full, defined back that you are working for.
Keep reading through this guide to building your rear deltoids and learn the secrets you need for your bodybuilding journey.
What Are Rear Delts?
The deltoid muscle is the primary muscle that makes up your shoulder and part of the upper back, made up of three different muscles: the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid.
The posterior or rear deltoid begins at your shoulder blade. It connects to the top of your humerus, with the primary function being to move your arm to the side (laterally) and away (adduction) from the body.
The rear delt helps us pick up objects and pull things closer. It keeps the shoulder in place when lifting your elbow to the side, causing the shoulder to perform internal rotation. The rear delt is also the muscle that allows the arm to move backward in hyperextension.
In our technologically advanced world, the posterior deltoid helps prevent shoulder impingements and create a healthy back. We tend to find ourselves sitting quite a bit during the day. It can be easy to have poor posture while using a computer or phone, so developing the back and the posterior deltoid can retrain your body to have better posture.
How to Develop the Rear Delt
The primary way to develop your rear delt is to do more exercises targeting the muscle. Still, we will continue to dive deeper into the specific ways to target and train the posterior deltoid.
Developing your rear delts are a combination of training the shoulders specifically during your training split, using hypertrophy training methods, and using various rear delt-specific shoulder exercises to create a routine that will build a well-defined shoulder.
Training Splits to Target the Shoulders
Training splits help focus on specific muscle groups for each session, so be sure your training split include two days of back or shoulder work. When you work the shoulders more within your training week, you will have more development of the shoulders.
Keep the training sessions to only two per week, though, because overtraining of the shoulder muscles group can cause just as much harm to the shoulder and rotator cuff as not training the muscles at all. It is a fine line to walk between undertraining and overtraining that takes time to develop.
Use Hypertrophy Repetition Schemes
Hypertrophy is the building of muscle to give it more size. There are rep schemes that specifically cause the worked muscles to grow. The commonly used rep scheme is to do 3 or 4 sets of 12 reps to 15 reps.
If you want more in-depth information about hypertrophy training, check out this article we wrote.
Exercises Specifically for the Rear Delt
Use these five different exercises in your workouts to target your rear delt.
To learn more about how you can use different exercises to develop your shoulders, also check out this article.
Rowing movements are the best way to develop your back. Bent over rows help to target the muscles of the entire back as you pull the weight towards your body. Upright rows target the whole shoulder muscle group, with the rear delt working to help keep the shoulder stable as the weight moves upwards.
For any row, your starting position should have your arms fully extended. Engage the back by rolling your shoulders down and back, away from the ears.
For bent-over rows or seated rows, pull the weight straight towards the center of your chest. For upright rows, pull the weight straight up the body, towards the upper chest with the wrists flat. To learn more about the proper form for the upright row, read this article from Well and Good.
Performing face pulls with a cable or band is very similar to rows because you use a pulling motion to bring the weight closer to your body. Face pulls do better at targeting just the rear delt and use less of the lat because of how the elbows are brought up higher, even with the shoulder itself; the rear delts are the primary muscle used when taking the upper arm away from the body.
When performing a face pull, start with the arms extended out in front of you and your feet in a staggered stance for balance. When gripping your cable or band handles, have your hands flipped over so your thumbs are towards the ground. Pull the weight towards your nose and flare the elbows out to the side.
While lateral raises also target the lateral delt, all three of the deltoids function to lift the weight. The rear delt stabilizes the shoulder joint as it moves the weight away from the body during the lateral raise.
One thing to remember with lateral raises is to use a light enough weight not to swing the weight up and use momentum. Lateral raises start with the weight down by your side and your palms facing towards your body. Lift the weight straight up to the side with a straight arm, and then control the weight as it comes back down.
Rear Delt Machine
A rear delt machine is a machine that explicitly trains the rear delt and mimics the movement of a rear delt fly. Sometimes referred to as the reverse pec deck, the rear delt machine helps keep the weight moving in a T-shaped motion to the body without allowing for the weight to deviate to a lower position that would begin to engage the lats to help carry the weight.
A rear delt machine will have you sit with your chest against a pad and handles in front of you. Grip the handles with your palms facing towards one another. Engage your back by pulling your shoulders down and back from the ears, open your arms to the side until your wrists are even with your torso, and then slowly bring the palms back together.
Pull-ups or Lat Pulldowns
Pull-ups and lat pulldowns are great exercises for developing the upper back muscles as well as the entire back. The rear delt again helps stabilize the shoulder as it goes through the range of motion.
While it may not seem as important, training the rear delt in a stabilizing way, where it helps to hold everything in place, promotes more mind-body connections that allow the muscle to work harder and grow stronger from using more of its muscle fibers.
Pull-ups can be challenging for everyone to perform, so utilize variations in pull-ups to train your back and rear delts. Perform this exercise using resistance bands or assisted pull-up machines to help you keep from kipping and using any swinging motions to help you do a pull-up. Kipping pull-ups without having trained that movement can cause damage to the rotator cuff and even go as far as to require surgery.
Lat pulldowns should be performed with a weight that is light enough for you not to have to swing your entire torso back and forth to pull the weight towards your chest. Using variations in your grip, such as a wide grip, can target different points of your back and shoulders and provide more engagement of your rear delt.
Add Variety to Your Shoulder Workouts
Doing the same shoulder workouts week after week will cause your body to get used to what to expect from a workout. Our bodies respond well to training that offers variety, but this does not require you to develop a new movement or workout routine completely.
Adding variety to your workouts can be as simple as using dumbbells instead of a barbell or a machine.
If you notice your progress begins to slow, try adding new movements and equipment, such as a landmine like we discuss in this article.
Putting It All Together
Finding the training that works for your body is a process, but you will find what works for you to develop your rear delts best with time and effort. The rear delt is a minor muscle that plays a significant role in your entire shoulder joint. The development of the rear delt through your training will provide a fully defined physique and protection from shoulder impingement and pain.
For more information about how to train your body to look and perform its best, read through our training articles and find what will fit your routine and body the best!