When it comes to rear delt exercises, cable exercises are the absolute best way to target and grow the rear delt muscles.

With so many different variations and movements you can do - how would you even know where to start?

Well, with these ten best rear delt cable exercises, you can stop wondering and get straight to work!

These ten shoulder exercises will help you develop bigger and stronger rear deltoid muscles, improve shoulder mobility, and help you obtain those massive “Death Star” delts you’ve always dreamed of!

So, without further ado, let's check the best rear delt exercises you can do today!

Cable exercises are inarguably the best way to target the rear delts since they provide constant tension throughout the entire range of motion.

The cable rear delt fly, cable face pull, and other cable rear deltoid exercises allow for a full range of motion, greater control, and ease of movement throughout each rep.

This allows for more controlled and effective muscular contractions since the cable is anchored to its station by a cable pulley system, and the tension is consistent throughout each rep, resulting in greater rear delt growth and definition.

Furthermore, cable exercises can be used to isolate individual muscles better.

For example, a rear delt exercise like a single-arm rear delt cable fly can activate one side of the body at a time, which could be very beneficial if you have an injury or imbalance in the opposite side of your body.

Not to mention, free-weight rear delt exercises are often less effective than the cable ones because you'll often use other muscles, like traps, for strength, momentum, and stabilization.

Moreover, training your rear delt muscles with cables offers increased safety since they don’t require heavy weights that can stress the joints while building muscle.

In fact, cables are often recommended for those who suffer from joint pain or discomfort.

Also, when using free weights to train your rear delts, you're often working out in positions that put a lot of strain on your lower back, which could lead to injury.

All in all, using a cable machine for your rear delt workouts will help you target the rear delt muscle fibers more effectively and efficiently by allowing a more extended time under tension.

10 Best Cable Rear Delt Exercises (To Add Into Your Routine)

Cable machines are pretty much all you need for rear delt training. And these ten cable rear delt exercises will prove that to you!

1. Standing Cable Rear Delt Fly

Muscles Targeted: Posterior deltoids, trapezius, infraspinatus and supraspinatus (rotator cuff muscles), teres major, teres minor, rhomboids, triceps
Man In Blue Shirt Doing Cable Rear Delt Flys

The standing cable rear delt fly, read delt fly, or a reverse cable crossover is of my favorite exercises for your rear delts or the rear back in general - no matter what you call it.

While it may seem like a compound exercise, like pull-ups or bench pressing, considering how many muscles it targets, it's actually an isolation movement. 

More precisely, a single-joint exercise that you can do to effectively hit rear delts without fatiguing the surrounding muscle groups too much. Think of it as the opposite of a regular cable chest fly, as you’ll pull the weight behind you instead of in front.

When it comes to rear delt exercises, isolation movements are my go-to as I love feeling my rear delts firing up and being put to work. And, with the constant tension from the cable machine, this is one hell of an exercise.

Benefits:

  • Uses a wide range of motion. 
  • Suitable for all abilities. 
  • Strengthens your scapula.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand in front of the cable pulley and set cables at head height.
  2. Grab the opposing handles, position yourself in the middle of the pulley and take a few steps back.
  3. Keep a neutral grip. Start the movement with your arms crossed and a slight bend in your elbows while keeping your shoulder blades retracted.[1]
  4. Pull backwards in a slow and controlled manner, ensuring your wrists stay stable.
  5. Finish the movement in a slightly hyperextended position, squeezing your rear delts at the end.
  6. Control the weight on the way back and repeat.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

If you want to perform this one at home - resistance bands could help.[2]

 Just repeat the same motion utilizing bands and relying on horizontal shoulder abduction. This simple exercise is called band pull-aparts.

2. Cable Face Pull

Muscles Targeted: Posterior deltoids, rhomboid, infraspinatus, teres major, teres minor, rhomboids, triceps
Man Performing Cable Face Pulls

Cable face pull is one of the best cable rear delt exercises and my personal favorite.

It’s simple, effective, and will leave you drained after only a few sets. I've used this rear delt exercise to strengthen my client's scapula and rear delts, as it's suitable for all abilities. 

And, just like a cable rear delt fly, the cable face pull will effectively isolate your rear deltoids while also targeting the external cuff rotators and rhomboids.

However, if you don't have a cable machine available, I suggest you try doing face pull alternative exercises that are just as effective.

benefits:

  • Improves posture. 
  • Can help alleviate shoulder pain. 
  • Suitable for most abilities.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand in front of the cable pulley and attach a two-sided rope attachment to it at chest or shoulder height.
  2. Keep your feet at shoulder width (with one foot in front for stability), and grab both sides of the rope with a neutral grip.
  3. Start with your arms straight and pull backwards in a slow and controlled manner, spreading your arms as much as possible while squeezing your shoulder blades at the end.
  4. Hold the weight at the end and control it on the way back. Repeat.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

If you want to perform this one at home - resistance bands could help. Just wrap the resistance band around something stable and pull it towards your face, pulling the band apart like you’re performing band pull-aparts. 

3. Cable Overhead Press

Muscles Targeted: Deltoids, pectoralis, triceps, trapezius
Woman In Blue T-Shirt Doing Cable Overhead Press

While the shoulder press is usually reserved for building your front delts, this particular variation allows you to hit your rear delts because of the line of pull involved in the motion.

Namely, since the starting position of the handle is down and in front of you, the cable machine will pull your arms down and forward, forcing your posterior chain, in this case, your rear deltoids, to stabilize the weight and keep it from moving forward.

As it requires a lot of shoulder stability, I've used this in the past to improve other lifts that require stability in my shoulder joints. This not only enhances my strength, but also lowers my risk of injury. 

benefits:

  • Improves shoulder stability. 
  • Works each side independently. 
  • Suitable for most ability levels.

How To Do It:

  1. Attach a straight bar to the cable and grab it with an overhand grip, keeping your hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Curl or clean the bar up to your shoulders.
  3. Keep your shoulders braced and slightly retracted.
  4. Press the bar upwards without pulling it back.
  5. Control the weight on your way back and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Use lighter weights to prevent shoulder pain or even shoulder injury if the weight pulls you forward. 

4. Single-Arm Bent-Over Cable Rear Delt Fly

Muscles Targeted: Posterior deltoid, triceps
Man Doing Single-Arm Bent-Over Cable Rear Delt Flys

Unilateral exercises like this one can be very beneficial for fixing imbalances and forming a strong mind-muscle connection. My clients have used it many times to iron out muscular imbalances with great effect.

Just like the standing cable rear delt fly, the one-arm bent-over cable rear delt fly is a brilliant isolation exercise for your rear delts that hits other muscle groups in your upper back, so it can be a part of your upper body or even back exercise cable workout routine if that’s the split you’re going for.

benefits:

  • Works each arm separately. 
  • Isolates your rear delts. 
  • Irons out muscular imbalances.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand off to the side of a low pulley cable machine and grab the cable with your opposite arm.
  2. Hinge forward to a bent-over position with your knees slightly bent, chest almost parallel to the floor, and back straight. Keep your elbows slightly bent, too.
  3. Tighten your core and brace your shoulders in a down and back position.
  4. Pull away from your body and stop when your arm is parallel to the floor.
  5. Hold the weight in the top position and control the weight on your way down.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Always keep your elbow slightly bent to ensure the force is placed on your rear delts and not through your joints. This is a common mistake I see many gym-goers do. 

Related Article - Best Cable Arm Exercises

5. Cable Wide-Grip Row

Muscles Targeted: Posterior deltoids, lats, middle and upper traps, teres major, teres minor, biceps, forearms
Man Doing Wide Grip Seated Cable Rows

I know what you're thinking... "The wide grip row is a back exercise". - While you're right, it does primarily work your lats, it also works your rear delts too. In fact, you can make it work more of your rear delts by adjusting your grip width and elbow positioning.

While I'm sure your lats will feel sore after this great exercise, the wide-grip cable row will destroy your delts if you perform it correctly.

benefits:

  • Allows you to overload your rear delts with a lot of weight.
  • It's a compound movement.
  • Suitable for most gym-goers.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on a flat bench and attach the lat-pulldown bar to a seated row position on a cable pulley.
  2. Grab the bar with your palms facing forward, keeping your hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
  3. Straighten your arms, and while sitting in an upright posture, pull the bar towards the bottom of your ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades at the end of the movement.
  4. Hold the weight in the final position shorty and control it on the way back.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Focus on slow and controlled movements, ensuring that you're using a full range of motion for each rep. By doing so you'll increase rear delt activation.  

6. Cable Cross Body Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Muscles Targeted: Posterior deltoids, trapezius, infraspinatus and supraspinatus, rhomboids, triceps
Man Doing Cable Cross Body Bent-Over Lateral Raise Exercise

The cable cross-body bent-over lateral raise or a bent-over reverse cable crossover is an exercise very similar to a dumbbell reverse fly - one of the most common rear delt exercises.

Unlike the dumbbell fly, cross-body bent-over lateral raises put less strain on your stabilizing muscles, shifting the focus directly onto the rear delts.

The cables also put uniform resistance on your muscle throughout the entire range of motion, unlike with dumbbells, where the resistance changes depending on the position of the dumbbell.

However, as this exercise involves you being in the bent over position, it might not be suitable for gym-goers with lower back issues. 

benefits:

  • Provides constant tension on your rear delts.
  • Uses a wide range of motion. 
  • Stabilizes your shoulder joints.

How To Do It:

  1. Assume a bent-over starting position, like with a reverse fly, with your knees bent and arms down. Stand in the middle of a cable machine.
  2. Attach either a D-handle to the end of the cables or just grab the opposing ends.
  3. Keep your hands together and elbows slightly bent. From that starting position, pull the cables apart and finish in a slightly hyperextended position.
  4. Shortly hold at the top and control the weight on the way back. Repeat.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12/12-20 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

This is a great isolation exercise for forming the rear delt mind-muscle connection, so ensure you maintain proper form throughout the entire range of motion. Use lighter weights utilizing high reps early on.[3

7. Cable External Rotation

Muscles Targeted: Infraspinatus, posterior deltoid
Man Doing Cable External Rotation Exercise In The Gym

Cable external rotation is an excellent exercise for strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and aiding overall shoulder health.[4]

You'll often see in the gym that this exercise is usually performed by athletes recovering from an injury, as it is one of the easiest yet most often forgotten pulling movements.

Doing this exercise with a cable is much better than doing it with a dumbbell.

While the two might have a similar movement pattern, I've found performing this exercise with a dumbbell puts unnecessary strain on your shoulder, upper arm, and forearm muscles by pulling your arm down.

So, instead of treating an injury, it could cause one because you're not stimulating your shoulder optimally. It's the last thing you need, right?

Also, there's a lot more tension on your rear delt due to a constant cable pull, meaning you will get more out of your workout.

benefits:

  • Constant tension on your rear deltoids.
  • More efficient than using a dumbbell. 
  • Ideal for shoulder rehabilitation.

How To Do It:

  1. Set an adjustable cable machine to an elbow height. Attach the D-handle onto a pulley and grab it.
  2. Stand upright and sideways to a machine, with your opposite shoulder facing the pulley.
  3. Keep your arm bent at a 90-degree angle and perpendicular to your core.
  4. From that starting position, pull the cable outward, finishing in a comfortable position, as far away from your body as you can.
  5. Control the weight on the way back. Repeat.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 12-20 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Use a light weight for this movement. If you allow momentum to take over, you'll miss out on the benefits that performing this exercise gives you. 

8. Cable Supine Reverse Fly

Muscles Targeted: Posterior deltoids
Man Doing Cable Supine Reverse Fly (Inclined)

Essentially a cable rear delt fly in a laying position, a cable supine reverse fly is arguably one of the best isolation exercises for your rear delts in my opinion. 

I believe the reason why this exercise is so effective is because you can't really use your upper back or other muscle groups to cheat.

You just lie down on your back, and you let your delts assume all the load.

While not easy to set up due to constant tension from the cables, the supine reverse rear delt fly will definitely pay out in the end.

I've found that my clients with lower back issues have no problem performing this exercise as the lying position doesn't place any unnecessary  strain on the lower back. 

benefits:

  • Ideal for gym-goers with lower back issues. 
  • Isolates the rear delts. 
  • Doesn't allow you to cheat. 

How To Do It:

  1. Attach the D-handle to a cable. Lie down on the bench, cable in hand.
  2. With your arms straight above your chest, pull the cables across your body until you end up in a slightly hyperextended position.
  3. Squeeze at the end, and control the weight on the way back.
  4. Repeat.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12 reps 

Tips From A Trainer!

Don’t lock your elbows. Keep a slight bend at all times to avoid injury and to place more emphasis on your rear delts.

9. Cable Cuban Press

Muscles Targeted: Rear deltoid, side deltoid, front deltoid, rotator cuff, trapezius
Man Doing Cable Cuban Press Exercise

Just like the cable rear delt fly, the cable Cuban press should be a staple of every shoulder workout.

Popularized by the Cuban Olympic weightlifting team, this complex exercise will target every deltoid muscle, with a slightly elevated focus on the rear delt by pulling you forward towards the cable machine.

Unlike all of the other exercises on our list, the cable Cuban press involves several movements strung together, so make sure you master the form first and then up the weight.

While I've had many of my clients performing this exercise, I wouldn't recommend it to beginners. The exercise is complex and requires a lot of coordination to ensure that you're doing it correctly. 

Benefits:

  • Works all areas of your shoulders. 
  • Places a lot of tension on your rear delts. 
  • Improves shoulder stability.

How To Do It:

  1. Attach D-handles onto cables.
  2. Cables in hand, assume the starting position facing the pulley.
  3. With your back straight and core flexed, bend your arms in elbows and row the weight towards your sternum.
  4. Next up, rotate your arms up, ensuring your elbows stay as still as possible.
  5. Finally, press the weight up and hold for a second.
  6. Return to a starting position by reversing the entire motion. Repeat.
Rep Range: 4 sets, 8-12 reps 

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't be tempted to use a lot of weight for this movement. I find that it's a complex exercise that doesn't require a large amount of weight for it to be effective.  

10. Cable Machine Y-Raise

Muscles Targeted: Rear deltoid, side deltoid, front deltoid, rotator cuff, latissimus dorsi
Man In Red Shirt Doing Cable Machine Y-Raises

For the final rear delt exercise, I have another exercise targeting all three deltoid muscles and your upper back - all at once.

Cable machine Y-raises combine shoulder abduction and external shoulder rotation, guaranteeing all-around shoulder stimulation.

I like this movement as it helped me develop my shoulder stability. Since I started adding the cable Y raise into my workout routine, I found that I feel more comfortable performing movements like the military press.

benefits:

  • Improves shoulder stability. 
  • Works all three deltoid heads. 
  • Great for shoulder injury prevention.

How To Do It:

  1. Attach D-handles onto cables and keep the pulleys in the low position.
  2. Stand in front of the cable machine with handles in hand, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. To avoid poor posture and unnecessary core involvement, flare up your chest and keep your core braced.
  3. From the starting position, pull the cables up and back, finishing the movement with arms above your head in a slightly hyperextended position.
  4. Control the weight on the way back. Repeat.
Rep Range:  4 sets, 8-12 reps 

Tips From A Trainer!

You’re guaranteed to feel this one in your whole body (especially your core) until you master the technique, so don’t stress about it. 

Deltoid Anatomy

Deltoids are a skeletal muscle group surrounding your shoulder, a ball-and-socket joint.

They are made up of anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (rear) delts.[5]

These three work together to provide movement and stability for the shoulder joint during activities like throwing, lifting weights, or simply moving and reaching overhead.

In this section, I will discuss the anatomy of each head.

Anterior Deltoid

The anterior (front) deltoid is a triangular muscle located at the front of the shoulder - hence the name.

Despite being the one in the front, the front deltoid isn't the head that will give you that rounded, massive shoulder look. This muscle originates at the lateral third of the clavicle and inserts at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

In other words, it starts near the outermost portion of your collarbone and attaches near the middle of your upper arms.

The primary functions of your front delt involve shoulder flexion, adduction (internal rotation), and arm elevation.

Medial Deltoid

The medial (side or lateral) deltoid is a triangular muscle located on the middle portion of the shoulder joint. This is the muscle you'll want to hit if you want your delts to appear massive.

Its origin point is the acromion of the scapula (shoulder blade), so right in the middle of your shoulder, where some of you might have that "protruding" bone.

As for the insertion point, it is the same as before - the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

Side delt primarily handles abduction (external rotation) of the arm at the shoulder joint, so, the move you do when performing jumping jacks.

Posterior Deltoid

The posterior deltoid or rear deltoid (the muscle we're teaching you how to train today) is a triangular muscle located on the back side of the shoulder joint.

The insertion point of a rear deltoid is the same as the other two heads (the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus), while its origin point is at the lateral third of the spine of the scapula.

So, back of the shoulder blade.

The primary function of rear deltoids is to extend and rotate the arm, which involves pulling it back and rotating it away from the body.

It can also assist in abduction or lifting a limb away from the body's midline, but you'll mostly utilize the rear delt in the "cock-back" portion of a throwing motion.

Cable-Only Rear Delt Workout Program

As we’ve said earlier, figuring out how to train your rear delts isn’t easy. There are just too many variations.

So, here are two simple yet very effective programs you can follow to maximize your rear depth growth.

Pull Day - Rear Delt Cable-Only Program

There are many exercises you need to fit into your pull day if you're doing a push-pull-leg split, so here's a quick but hard shoulder workout program incorporating nothing but cable machine exercises.

  • Standing Cable Rear Delt Fly - 4 sets, 8-12 reps. 70% one-rep max.
  • Wide Grip Cable Row - 4 sets, 8-12 reps. 70% one-rep max.
  • Cable Face Pulls - 4 sets, 8-12 reps. 70% one-rep max.
  • Single-Arm Bent-Over Cable Rear Delt Fly - 4 sets, 81-12 reps. 70% one-rep max.
Utilizing progressive overload, up your weight accordingly for maximum results.[6]

Shoulder Day - Rear Delt Cable-Only Program

If you’re working out muscle group per muscle group, chances are, your shoulders are going to be toast. So, instead of going hard on each exercise, we’ll take a slightly different approach.

  • Cable Cuban Press - 5 sets, 10-12 reps. 50% one-rep max. Final set until failure.
  • Standing Cable Rear Delt Fly - 4 sets, 10-12 reps. 50% one-rep max. Final set until failure.
  • Cable Wide-Grip Row - 4 sets, 10-12 reps. 50% one-rep max. Final set until failure.
  • Bent-over Cable Rear Delt Fly - 4 sets, 10-12 reps. 50% one-rep max. Final set until failure.
  • Cable Face Pulls - 4 sets, 10-12 reps. 50% one-rep max. Final set until failure.
Utilizing progressive overload, up your weight every two weeks for maximum results.

Common Rear Delt Questions

How often should I train my rear delts?

You should only train your rear delts two to three times a week for optimal muscle growth. As long you incorporate the best exercises in your rear delt workout routine and train in the optimal rep range to maximize muscle hypertrophy, your rear delts should grow.

Why are rear delts so difficult?

The rear delts are so difficult to grow because of one main reason... It's challenging to isolate the rear delts. As they're harder to isolate, it often results in underdevelopment. 

What's the best rep range for training the rear delts?

The best rep range for training rear delts and promoting muscle growth is 8-12. However, since rear delts are harder to isolate, higher reps can also be beneficial. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. If you can perform 50 reps in a row, you’re understimulating your muscle.

Should I do rear delts on push or pull days?

You should do your rear shoulder muscles during your pull days. If you’re not a fan of the push-pull-leg split, a shoulder day (or two) with four exercises per deltoid should be enough to get those rounded shoulders.

Conclusion

Exercising the rear delts is crucial to any well-rounded strength training routine.

It not only helps to create a balanced and aesthetic physique, but it can also help to improve posture, reduce shoulder pain and prevent injury.

With cables being the go-to exercise for targeting the rear delts, I hardly doubt that after reading this article, you will have no trouble building up those muscles!

So get to the gym, pull those cables, and start maximizing your rear delt growth.

References: 

1. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2013/10000/Effect_of_Hand_Position_on_EMG_Activity_of_the.2.aspx
2. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4663/10/2/24
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25853914/
4. https://www.aott.org.tr/en/flexionadductionexternal-rotation-method-for-shoulder-dislocations-134024
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546633
6. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-010-1735-9

Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.