THE REAR DELTS are potentially the most neglected muscles in your upper body. That’s too bad, because targeted training of these muscles can unlock the 3D shoulder shape you’re likely aiming to achieve in your workouts.
Even more importantly for all the office workers out there, giving the posterior (rear) side of your shoulders can help address the poor posture that comes with the hunched forward seated position at a desk. Overall, you’ll have a better balanced body once you stop ignoring the small but important muscles.
Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS and MH fitness advisor and celebrity trainer Don Saladino want you to add more rear delt training to your workouts. “It can never hurt to hit more rear delt,” says Saladino. “It’s one of those areas that you really could sprinkle in every single day because guys, we fight it—we’re in front of a computer, we’re driving a car, we’re always in this rounded position, developing kyphotic posture … you can finish every workout with some rear delt work.”
Slot these five moves recommended by Saladino into your workouts as warmups, part of your split, or as finishers—just stop skimping out on your rear delts.
5 Must-Do Rear Delt Exercises
Suspension Trainer Rear Delt Fly
3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
This movement uses a suspension trainer (you might know them better by the brand name TRX) and your bodyweight to put your rear delts to work in a super accessible manner that’s as valuable for seasoned trainees as it is for beginners.
“This gives you a chance to start to develop that mind-muscle connection” says Samuel. What’s more, you’ll need to have your whole body in order to perform the move properly—your core and glutes need to be locked in to be able to move yourself properly through the exercise’s full range of motion.
Just be aware of your position. Samuel notes that a vertical torso position won’t be very challenging—ie, standing straight up before engaging in the movement—but as you lean back closer to a position where your torso is parallel with the ground, it will get much harder. From there, you’ll be able to move with intention and emphasize the eccentric portion of the exercise.
Band Pull Apart
3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Another simple, accessible movement gives you a chance to home in on your rear delts with a resistance band. “This is a movement where we want to keep the band really light,” says Saladino, noting that he recommends higher rep sets for this exercise.
Samuel echoes that the band pull apart is a valuable warmup exercise, which you can use to prepare for upper body training sessions.
Incline Pronated High Row
3 to 5 sets of 8 to 15 reps
Set up your incline bench for the first exercise that uses an external load. Unlike the previous two movements, your position on the bench will take your core out of the equation—so all of your focus can be on the rear delts.
Saladino says that it is important to support yourself to prevent the lower back from tiring, allowing you to put more load on the rear delt muscles. You won’t be working with as much weight as you might with a traditional row—but Samuel says that this should be the heaviest rear delt-focused movement you can do.
Bent Over Reverse Fly
3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Here’s the classic you were expecting to see on this list—but it’s not as simple as just picking up a pair of dumbbells, bending over, and flapping your arms. “What I love about it is that we have some core stability, we have to work on that hinge a bit, getting into position, maintaining posture—a lot has to go on in one’s physique just to be able to get into that stating position ,” says Saladino. From there, maintaining the position and working with good form becomes the challenge.
Samuel says that the key to the bent over reverse fly is remembering the position of peak tension: when your arms are at the top position supporting the weights. Rather than moving quickly or swinging the weight up, he recommends instead picking up a lighter weight, moving with control, and pausing at the top if possible.
Cable Rear Delt Fly
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
The experts love the bent over reverse fly, but the exercise has one major flaw: there’s very little tension at the bottom of the movement. That’s where the number one pick on the list excels. The cable rear delt fly allows you to keep the muscle loaded throughout your set with no break. “That’s what I love about the reverse cable fly,” says Saladino. “You’re never allowing any tension to release.”
Both trainers like the additional range of motion available with the cables; don’t be afraid to cross your hands over the midline of your torso to get more of a stretch on the muscle. Just make sure to maintain space between your shoulders and your ears to avoid other muscle groups getting involved.
Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.