18 Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises (For Stronger Shoulders)

Rear delts are one of the most neglected body parts of the human body; many gym-goers fail to work the muscle efficiently, resulting in poor posture, weaker lifts, and a higher risk of injury.

In this article, you’ll discover 18 of the best rear delt dumbbell exercises you can do in your home gym. After adding these exercises to your workout, you’ll have improved posture, a stronger upper body, and be less likely to injure yourself.  

1. Seated Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise  

This rear delt exercise is one of the most common you’ll see gym-goers performing each week. It’s a simple exercise that doesn’t require a lot of weight.  

While performing this rear delt dumbbell exercise, you mustn’t go too heavy, as it will hinder your form and usually changes the exercise to be more traps and rhomboid dominant.

The seated bent-over dumbbell raise is suitable for all ability levels.  

How to do it: 

  • Sit on the end of a bench with two dumbbells placed on either side of your feet.  
  • Hinge forward from your hips to a 45-degree angle and pick the dumbbells up.  
  • Bend the elbows slightly and lock them in place.  
  • Lift the dumbbells up and out to the sides in a dumbbell raise movement. 
  • Stop when your arms are level with your back. 
  • Slowly bring the dumbbells down and repeat. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to lift the dumbbells directly to your sides; if your arms stray backward, you'll work your traps and rhomboids. 

Seated Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise

2. Standing Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise 

The standing bent-over dumbbell raise is another popular rear delt exercise that helps maximize your rear deltoid workload.  

While this exercise is simple to perform, it’s slightly more difficult than the exercise mentioned above as it requires you to hip hinge in a standing position. This requires far more core strength and the ability to maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.

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How to do it: 

  • Stand with one dumbbell in each hand with a hip-width stance.  
  • Hinge from the hips while maintaining a neutral spine.  
  • Let the dumbbells hang and draw your scapula back to create tension in your shoulder blades.  
  • Lift the dumbbells out to the sides in a slow and controlled manner.  
  • Control the negative portion of the movement and bring the dumbbells back to the start.  
  • Repeat.  

Pro Tip: Go light and focus on the slow contraction of the rear deltoids. 

Standing Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise

3. Single-Arm Seated Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise 

This seated dumbbell rear delt raise is a uni-lateral movement allowing you to work each side at a time, making it a brilliant exercise for anybody struggling to activate their rear delts during the traditional seated bent-over dumbbell raise.  

It also helps you fix any muscle imbalances that can occur during training; this is pretty common among newbies.

I’m a big fan of this exercise as I can ensure I’ve worked each arm equally, leaving no side lagging.

How to do it: 

  • Sit on the end of a bench with one dumbbell placed at your feet.  
  • Hinge forward to 45-degrees and pick up the dumbbell.  
  • Slowly lift the dumbbell to the side while maintaining a straight arm (with a slight bend at the elbow joint).  
  • Reverse the movement slowly and repeat.  
  • Swap arms and perform the exercise again. 
Single-Arm Seated Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise

4. Side-Lying Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise 

This rear delt dumbbell exercise is an effective movement to perform regardless of your level of ability. It’s not difficult to perform, and most gym-goers will get the hang of it within a couple of sets.

The side-lying dumbbell rear delt raise is a brilliant exercise for developing your rear deltoids as it isolates the area while working the delts through an extensive range of motion.

Also, check out our complete breakdown of the cost of dumbbells!

How to do it: 

  • Lie on your right side on a bench press while holding a dumbbell in your left hand.  
  • Let the dumbbell hang downwards and tilt your body slightly to the ground.  
  • Raise the dumbbell upwards until the dumbbell is directly above you.  
  • Slowly bring the dumbbell back to the start.  
  • Repeat the movement to finish your set.  
  • Swap sides and repeat. 
Side-Lying Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise

5. Single Arm Dumbbell Reverse Fly With Support 

This rear deltoid exercise looks similar to a single-arm bent-over row; however, there are a few differences.

Firstly, rather than rowing the dumbbell to your chest, you raise it to the side, moving the focus to your deltoids. Another difference is the weight you’ll be using; with this movement, you won’t be able to lift as heavy as you would with the dumbbell row.

The single-arm dumbbell reverse fly with support is excellent for beginners, and the support of the bench helps relieve your core from having to stabilize your body throughout the movement.  

How to do it: 

  • Hold one dumbbell in your right hand.  
  • Place your left arm and left leg on a bench to support your body (leg should be at 90-degrees, and your hand directly under your shoulder). 
  • Let the dumbbell in your right hand hang downwards.  
  • Raise the dumbbell to the side and squeeze your shoulder blades at the top of the movement.  
  • Complete the negative part of the movement and repeat.  
  • Swap arms.  
Single Arm Dumbbell Reverse Fly With Support

6. Dumbbell Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Row 

This is one of the most straightforward rear delt exercises for beginners to learn as it doesn’t require much core strength and doesn’t need heavy dumbbells to be effective.

However, during this movement, you are required to place your shoulder in an open position which may cause aggravation for anyone who suffers from shoulder injuries. If this is an issue for you, I recommend you give this rear delt dumbbell exercise a miss and try another from this list.  

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How to do it: 

  • Sit on the end of a bench with two dumbbells placed next to your feet.  
  • Grab the two dumbbells and hinge forward from your hips until your body is 45-degrees. 
  • Draw the elbows upward in a rowing motion (with your arms wide).  
  • Squeeze your rear delts at the top and slowly reverse the movement.  
  • Repeat. 
Dumbbell Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Row

7. Dumbbell Face Pull For Rear Delt 

The dumbbell face pull is a rather old school exercise you’d see the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger doing back in the 70s-80s, and like most exercises from those days...they work. 

During this movement, you're simulating the motion you'd do during a cable face pull, but you're using dumbbells and a bench. Doing so helps isolate the rear delts, providing you use the correct form.  

How to do it: 

  • Set a bench to a 45-degree angle and place two dumbbells on the floor.  
  • Lie on your stomach on the bench and plant your feet firmly.  
  • Pick the dumbbells up and let them hang towards the ground.  
  • Retract your scapula to create tension in your shoulder blades.  
  • Draw the elbows back and wide while externally rotating your thumbs slightly. (At the top of the movement, you should look like you’re doing a double bicep pose). 
  • Slowly lower the weight and repeat.  
Dumbbell Face Pull For Rear Delt

8. Incline Reverse Dumbbell Fly 

If you’ve wanted to work your rear deltoids using the reverse dumbbell fly, but have struggled to maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement, then the incline reverse dumbbell fly is the exercise for you.  

It hits your rear delts the same way but utilizes an incline bench to support your upper body throughout the movement. This is perfect for beginners or anybody with core stability issues.

How to do it: 

  • Place a bench at 45-degrees and hold two dumbbells.  
  • Lie on the bench on your stomach.  
  • Let the dumbbells hang and create a slight bend in your elbows.  
  • Raise your arms to the sides in a controlled manner.  
  • Hold at the top and squeeze your rear delts.  
  • Slowly reverse the movement and repeat.  
Incline Reverse Dumbbell Fly

9. Lying Rear Delt Circles 

The lying rear delt circles are a brilliant exercise that increases the strength of your rear deltoids and helps increase shoulder stability.  

The movement is suitable for intermediate to advanced gym-goers as it does become tough after a few sets, and if you’re new to training, your form might not be up to scratch.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on a flat bench (on your stomach)while holding a dumbbell in each hand.  
  • Raise your arms up and above your head, so you look like Superman.  
  • Keep the arms straight and arc the dumbbells towards your hips. It should look like you’re drawing a circle with your arms.  
  • Repeat. 

Pro Tip: Slightly arch your arms by bending the elbow joint, which helps remove the stress from your elbow joint.  

Lying Rear Delt Circles

10. Incline Rear Delt Dumbbell Row 

This version of the rear delt dumbbell row uses a bench press to support your chest throughout the movement. In addition, the incline bench supports your upper body, so you don't need to rely on your core strength to maintain a neutral spine.  

It’s an easy exercise for beginners to work their rear deltoids efficiently without placing themselves in a compromised position where the incorrect form could cause injury.

How to do it: 

  • Set a bench to 45-degrees and hold two dumbbells.  
  • Place your chest against the bench press and let the dumbbells hang down.  
  • Retract the shoulder blades to create scapula tension.  
  • Draw the dumbbells up towards your chest by bending the elbows and flaring them out wide.
  • Control the negative part of the movement and repeat.  
Incline Rear Delt Dumbbell Row

11. Dumbbell Incline Y Raise 

The dumbbell incline Y raise is a challenging exercise that works most of the muscles in your upper back, such as the traps, rhomboids, and rear deltoids.  

While this exercise isn’t the hardest to perform on this list, it is pretty challenging and could be too difficult for beginners to perform. But don’t let that put you off; if you do this movement with good form, your rear deltoids will gain strength and size.

How to do it: 

  • Set up a bench angled at 45-degrees and pick up two dumbbells. (Don’t go too heavy on this exercise).  
  • Place your chest against the bench and let the dumbbells hang.  
  • Slightly bend your elbow to remove the stress from the joint.  
  • Raise your arms forward on a slight angle (so it looks like you’re doing the Y from YMCA). 
  • Control the negative portion of the movement and repeat.  
Dumbbell Incline Y Raise

12. Dumbbell Incline T Raise 

This dumbbell lying rear delt lateral raise is a fantastic rear deltoid developer that doesn’t require heavy dumbbells, making it suitable for all abilities.  

It’s incredibly similar to the regular incline raise; however, it’s performed with the thumbs facing upward. This small rotation of the hands helps increase the rear delt activation throughout the movement.

I’m a big fan of this rear delt dumbbell exercise due to the strict nature of the movement.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on a 45-degree bench (on your chest) with a dumbbell in each hand.  
  • Place your hands so your little fingers are facing each other and your palms are away from your body.  
  • Raise your arms straight out to the sides, stopping when your arms are in line with your back.
  • Slowly lower and repeat.  
Dumbbell Incline T Raise

13. Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise With Head Support 

During this rear delt exercise, you’ll need an incline bench and a set of dumbbells. It’s a strange-looking exercise which you’ve no doubt seen others performing in the gym and wondering, “what on earth are they doing?" but the rear delt lateral raise with head support is a brilliant rear deltoid developer.

The idea behind supporting your head is that it limits momentum, preventing you from swinging your body to help move the dumbbells. This places more force on your rear delts and stimulates them for muscle growth.  

Beware: It leaves your head rather red. 

How to do it: 

  • Set a bench to a 45-degree angle and pick up two dumbbells.  
  • Stand a few feet away and lean forward, hinging from your hips.  
  • Place your head on the top of the bench.  
  • Raise the dumbbells to the sides with a slight bend in your elbow.  
  • Slowly lower and repeat. 

Pro Tip: Slightly tilt the dumbbells to the floor during the movement; this increases rear deltoid engagement. 

Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise With Head Support

14. Single Arm Dumbbell Reverse Fly With Support 

If you’re struggling to perform the single-arm dumbbell reverse fly due to losing your balance, using a bench to assist you throughout the movement is a viable option for you.

Using a bench to stabilize your body helps you shift the focus back onto your rear delts rather than focusing on staying bent over, making it perfect for beginners.  

How to do it: 

  • Place a 45-degree bench in front of you.  
  • Pick up one dumbbell and use your opposite hand to hold onto the bench.  
  • Hinge your hips and lean forward, maintaining a straight spine.  
  • Let the dumbbell hang and slightly bend your elbow.  
  • Raise the dumbbell, so it’s level with your shoulder.  
  • Bring the dumbbell down slowly and repeat the movement. 
Single Arm Dumbbell Reverse Fly With Support

15. Rear Delt Y-T-I Raise 

The rear delt Y-T-I is not only a top rear deltoid developer but is excellent for overall shoulder health. Physio-therapists often prescribe it to patients who’ve suffered shoulder injuries.

The exercise can be performed with dumbbells or solely using bodyweight, making it suitable for all ages and ability levels.

Earlier in the article, we covered the Y raise and T raise, and by now, you’ve probably pieced together that this rear delt exercise is a combination of the two.  

How to do it: 

  • Angle a bench to 45-degrees or use a swiss ball/exercise ball and hold two dumbbells. 
  • Lie on your chest against the bench/ball.  
  • Let your arms hang with the dumbbells in your hands.  
  • Raise them into the Y position, then lower to the starting position. 
  • Raise your arms into the T position, and then lower.  
  • Lastly, raise your arms to your hips keep your arms straight and lower.  
  • Repeat. 
Rear Delt Y-T-I Raise

16. Dumbbell Rear Delt Pulls 

This rear delt dumbbell exercise is suitable for all levels and is the most straightforward exercise on this list. In addition, you don't need any equipment other than two dumbbells, making it perfect for small home gyms. 

Your traps, forearms, and rear delts are worked during the exercise. 

Even though most people will find this exercise ok to perform, it can irritate some people’s shoulders. This is usually the case if you have a shoulder impingement. If you find this exercise uncomfortable, stop immediately and try another from this list.

How to do it: 

  • Stand tall while holding two dumbbells in your hands at hip level.  
  • Retract your shoulder blades and open your chest.  
  • Drag the dumbbells up your body while drawing your elbows backwards.  
  • Pause at the top of the exercise and slowly lower the dumbbells.  
  • Repeat the movement.  

Pro Tip: This exercise closely resembles a shrug; I often find super-setting this movement with shrugs is a brilliant rear delt and trap developer.  

Dumbbell Rear Delt Pulls

17. Dumbbell Bent Over Alternating Rear Delt Fly 

We’ve covered almost every type of rear delt fly under the sun, but this variation is one of the most effective rear delt developers there is.  

As this exercise involves using one side at a time, your core has to work incredibly hard to stabilize your body due to the offset weight. The unilateral nature of the movement also allows you to focus on one side at a time, ensuring you work both sides of your body equally.

How to do it: 

  • Stand while holding two dumbbells (one in each hand).  
  • Hinge from your hips, leaning forward, bringing your body parallel to the floor.  
  • Slightly bend your elbows and lock them in position.  
  • Raise your arms up and out to the sides.  
  • Slowly lower.  
  • Repeat. 

Pro Tip: The only moving joint should be your shoulders, don’t move your elbow joint during the exercise. 

Dumbbell Bent Over Alternating Rear Delt Fly

18. Arnold Press 

And last but not least is the Arnold press. This is arguably the best all-around shoulder exercise you can perform, as it hits every part of the deltoids: the front, sides, and rear.  

The movement was developed by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger and is one of the main reasons his deltoids were so well developed. So if you want to have excellent-looking shoulders that look great and function incredibly well, you need to include the Arnold press in your workout routine.  

This movement is perfect for all levels but does have a slight learning curve at the beginning to get the exercise right.  

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How to do it: 

  • Stand (or sit) with two dumbbells in your hands.  
  • Lift them to shoulder height with your palms facing you and your elbows tucked in.  
  • Rotate the hands and shoulder joint until your hands face away from your body.  
  • Push the dumbbells above your head in an arc-like motion. 
  • Pause at the top and slowly bring the dumbbells down.  
  • Rotate the hands and shoulders until your palms are facing you.  
  • Repeat until you’ve finished your set.  

Pro Tip: Arnold used to perform a giant drop set, working his way down the dumbbell rack until he struggled to lift the 2lb dumbbells. Now, I’m not saying be this extreme with your workout, but performing a few drop sets during this exercise is a brilliant way to increase muscle stimulus.  

arnold press

Benefits Of Rear Delt Exercises (For Your Shoulders) 

The rear deltoid muscles are located at the back of your shoulder joint, connecting your delts to your lats.  

Even though this muscle is small, it plays a massive role in your shoulders’ stability. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to perform movements such as shoulder press, bench press, bent-over rows, and many other exercises you take for granted.  

It’s pretty standard for gym-goers to neglect this muscle group as they don’t know the vital role it plays within the body. Failure to train the rear delts results in a weakened movement chain, so you won’t be as strong and increases your risk of injury.  

However, if you train this muscle group sufficiently, you’ll get a series of benefits: 

  • Stronger Shoulder Joint
    Strong rear delts = strong, powerful shoulders; you’ll be stronger when deadlifting, shoulder pressing, bench pressing, and more.
  • Improved Posture 
    Say goodbye to rounded shoulders and hello to fantastic posture. Too much time spent at the office desk leads to rounded shoulders. But, working your rear delts strengthens your scapula and gives you a better posture.
  • Reduces Risk of Injury 
    Stronger rear delts help prevent injuries from occurring in your shoulders, such as the dreaded rotator cuff injuries.
  • Improved Aesthetics 
    Training your rear delts helps fill out your T-shirt, creating a better-looking physique and improving confidence. 

Training Schedule For Rear Delt Dumbbell Workouts 

When it comes to training your rear delts, you have two options: 

  1. 1
    Train your rear deltoids as part of your back day.
  2. 2
    Train your rear deltoids on shoulder day.

Either option is viable and will yield excellent results. You could even train your rear deltoids on both days, doubling the amount of stimulus they receive each week. However, if you choose to do this, you’ll need to leave adequate recovery time between your back and shoulder day; 48 hours should be more than enough rest. 

Performing several of the rear delt dumbbell exercises mentioned on the list above twice a week is plenty of stimulus for the muscles to grow.  

When it comes to how long you should do these exercises, 10-15 minutes per shoulder/back workout should be enough to grow your rear deltoids.  

An example workout for your rear delts could look like this: 

(Perform each exercise 10-12 reps x 3-4 sets) 

  • Overhand dumbbell bent over row 
  • Arnold press 
  • Seated bent over dumbbell raise 
  • Dumbbell incline Y raise 

Frequent Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises Questions 

Is the rear delt considered the shoulder or the back? 

Rear delts fall into a bit of a grey area when it comes to when you should train them. They are an essential part of your shoulder joint, required for shoulder stability. However, numerous back exercises work the rear delts, such as bent-over rows.

Are rear delts hard to grow? 

While some people claim their rear delts aren’t growing, the likelihood is they aren’t training them effectively. The rear deltoids are small muscles and are often neglected by gym-goers, and most people train them half-heartedly or not at all, which results in poor rear delt development.

How do I make my back delts grow quickly? 

Like any muscle group, to get them to grow quickly, you need to apply enough stimulus to encourage muscle development. Training them twice a week, e.g., on shoulders and back day, will provide your rear deltoids with enough stimulus for rapid growth.

What happens if you don’t train rear delts? 

As I said before, the rear delts are often neglected. If you don’t train your rear delts, you’ll create instability in the shoulder joints and will be prone to injuries. Poorly trained rear delts also create postural problems and weaken your movement chain.


Conclusion

If you’re looking to increase your overall body strength while improving your posture and lessening your risk of injury, you need to work your rear deltoids sufficiently. Add a handful of these exercises to your workout routine and watch your overall physique improve.  

Last Updated on March 27, 2022