Reverse Pec Deck Alternative (9 Substitutes For Rear Flys)

The standard pec deck machine is a pretty versatile tool and is one of the most beginner-friendly ways to train your pecs. Another common way that it is used, however, is in reverse. This is where you sit facing forwards towards the machine, pulling the handles backward and engaging your upper back.  

While this is a great beginner-friendly move, many people find it uncomfortable or a little lacking compared to other more effective back movements. If you fall into either of these categories, you should consider looking at these reverse pec deck alternatives. 

Utilize them correctly, and your back will thank you. 

So, what can you use if you don't have a pec deck machine, or if using it isn't an option due to injury?

All of these pec deck alternatives can be done at home, with little to no equipment. This means you can still get all of the benefits of the reverse pec deck without the need for a pec deck machine. 

1. Bent-Over Reverse Fly 

The bent-over reverse fly is a simple exercise that only requires two equal-weight dumbbells. Reverse flys are great for training stability and increasing functionality in muscles that are often tight or stiff. They also help increase your strength in the shoulders for other lifts. 

How to perform this exercise

To perform a bent over reverse fly, grab a dumbbell in each hand and begin by leaning forward, keeping a straight spine and a neutral gaze. Lift both dumbells out to the side, leading with your elbows, and squeeze your shoulder blades together before returning to the starting position. Exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down, keeping a neutral spine. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you have a hard time stabilizing yourself, you can use an incline bench to place your forehead on the top of the padding. It looks a bit awkward and can leave a red mark on your forehead, but it helps keep you stable.

Read Also - 18 Dumbbell Rear Delt Exercises

Bent-Over Reverse Fly

2. Horizontal Band Pull Aparts 

If you have a resistance band at home, you might want to consider performing the horizontal band pull apart to strengthen those rear delts and traps. Resistance bands are a great way to train your muscles without the strain that free weights place upon the joints. 

How to perform this exercise 

Take a medium strength band, and with an underhand grip, hold the band shoulder distance apart. Keep your arms long, and your elbows slightly bent. 

Plant your feet hip-width apart, maintain a neutral head and neck and pull apart the band as if trying to stretch it as far as it will go. Then, return to your starting position and relax your shoulders. These are great for a warm-up and can even be a hardcore workout if you have a stiffer resistance band. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: The most important thing for this exercise is form. You're not lifting heavy weight, so your form should be on point to feel the burn.

Related Article - How Long Do Resistance Bands Last?

Horizontal Band Pull Aparts

3. Banded Face Pulls

Face pulls are one of our favorite exercises, and we feel they don't get the praise that they should. They are one of the best ways to build mass and warm up the shoulders, and they can be done almost anywhere as long as you have a resistance band. 

They provide stability in the scapular and can allow you to train harder in lots of other lifts. If you want to up your overhead press or your bench press, we highly recommend you add them to your routine and watch those personal bests stack up. 

How to perform this exercise 

To perform the banded face pull, simply loop your band around something secure and upright, grab the band in each hand, lift your elbows parallel to the floor in line with your face and pull your elbows back, pulling the band towards your face. Exhale while releasing and inhale on the pull. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you focus on pulling the band towards your eyes, you'll target your upper back and traps as well as your rear delts.

Also See - Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?

Banded Face Pulls

4. YTWs 

This next exercise is a bit more complicated but is by far one of the most valuable exercises for training a tight back and improving your range of motion. They are called YTW's after the shapes you make, a Y, a T, and a W. 

This exercise targets your entire upper and mid-back and is surprisingly effective at releasing tension and tightness in muscles that are abused in everyday life. This will massively benefit your posture and reduce injury or mobility pain if performed regularly. 

YTW’s are often used during physiotherapy as they are great for training and strengthening muscles after injuries without too much strain being placed on the injured area. 

How to perform this exercise 

For the Y, start in a standing neutral position, take your arms up into a Y shape and pull them back to contract the middle of your back and scapular. Squeeze for a second, then move to the next step, the T. 

For the T, make a T shape with your arms parallel to the floor straight out to the side of you. Squeeze backward, contracting the scapular again, and hold for around 3-5 per rep before returning to neutral again. 

Finally, we have the W, and you might guess what's coming next. Lift your arms into a W shape and contract once again for 3-5 seconds per rep. 

It requires no equipment either, making it perfect for on the go when you don't have access to your home or commercial gyms. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Focus on holding each position as long as you can. This will help immensely as you warm up.

YTWs

5. Incline Bench Dumbell Reverse Fly 

Doing dumbbell reverse flys on the incline bench targets the rear deltoids and activates some of the more difficult muscle fibers to reach. This means you get a high level of hypertrophy that will help you build mass, strength, and explosive power in a way that is hard to beat. 

If you are an experienced lifter, this is a great exercise to implement when you want to build as much size as possible and should be included in your back or shoulder day routine. It is also a great option for those that find it hard in terms of their range of motion on the flat bench. The larger, less restrictive range of motion and the utilization of dumbbells instead of a barbell mean you place a lot less stress on your shoulders. 

How to perform this exercise 

Position yourself on a bench that you have set to between a 30 and 45 degree angle with your feet pressing into the floor. As you lay with your chest on the bench (face down), let the dumbbells hang in your hands, or if using heavy weights, kick one up at a time. Make sure your elbows have a slight bend in them. 

To begin the movement, inhale and raise the dumbbells outwards and up towards the ceiling. Exhale and push the weights back to the position you started in. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don't go too heavy on this exercise. I recommend using a lighter weight to get full rear delt and upper back activation.

Related Article - Best Cheap Adjustable Dumbbells

Incline Bench Dumbell Reverse Fly

6. Standing Cable Reverse Fly 

If you are lucky enough to have access to a cable machine, reverse cable flys are a great exercise that really targets the rear deltoids with laser precision to create a high level of hypertrophy that will cause a burn quite unlike anything else. They also feel pretty satisfying. Grunting isn't necessary, but it definitely helps. 

The best cable crossover machines are extremely versatile. We highly recommend them for home gyms as you can get a full body workout with one machine!

How to perform this exercise 

To perform them, you simply grab the left cable with your right hand and the right with your left, raise your arms to face level, like a face pull and then pull the cables apart. Start light with these and move up as you gain experience as they feel very different from other flys. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: I find that removing any attachments from the cable machine is an excellent way to really engage your rear delts. You simply hold on to the ball that is typically attached to the carabiner.

Standing Cable Reverse Fly

7. Bent-Over Cable Laterals 

Another good exercise for those with cable machine access is the bent-over cable lateral. When performing bent-over lateral raises with cables, it is imperative that you keep your back straight and hinge your hips forward.  

How to perform this exercise 

To start with, you need to make sure that the handle attachment is installed on the low pulley of the cable machine. Set the weight and grab the handle firmly in your right hand. 

Next, bend at the waist, keeping your back near parallel to the floor and let your other hand hang in front of you; bend your right elbow slightly. 

For the lift, keep your elbow slightly bent and lift your right arm until it's parallel to the ground. Exhale during the lift, hold for a second, then inhale, lowering the weight until your hand rests in the starting position. 

Swap hands after you have completed your reps and repeat for one set. Remember to lift the cable through the full range of motion aiming for shoulder height.  

Once you get skilled at using the cables for this movement, you might want to consider changing to dumbbells for more engagement. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: You can do this exercise individually with each shoulder or you can do them both at the same time!

bent over cable lateral raise

8. Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Row 

If you want the perfect supporting delt move, one that is perfect for ending your routine and depleting max glycogen, the bent-over dumbbell rear delt row is the one. Targeting the back shoulder muscles like the medial and rear deltoid heads, this pressing movement increases stability and promotes a well-rounded shoulder development.  

As this is a supporting movement, perform 10-15 reps at a reasonably light weight. 

How to perform this exercise 

To perform the bent over dumbbell rear delt row (yeah, we know it's a mouthful), start in a standing stance with a dumbbell in each of your hands. Next, you need to bend your knees slightly to allow a small flex of the hips. This will enable you to lean forward without compromising your core. 

Flex your elbows and extend the shoulders and row both dumbbells towards your while inhaling; squeeze your shoulder blades together during the row, stopping when your elbows pass the 90-degree mark.  

Take care while returning to the original position and keep it controlled to avoid injury. Avoid swinging or releasing your core. 

This exercise is also an excellent alternative to barbell rows!

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you are having trouble stabilizing yourself in the hip hinge position, try sitting on the edge of a flat bench as seen in the image below.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

9. Barbell Rear Delt Row 

For a great variation of the traditional barbell row, the rear delt row requires more bending at the waist. This means your body will be parallel to the floor with your elbows flared out. This shifts the focus to the shoulders and is a great move to do heavy, at the start of your routine in the place of other compound lifts. 

How to perform this exercise 

The barbell rear delt row is similar to the dumbbell row, only utilizing a barbell. To do one correctly, you start in the same standing position with your arm reaching down. Bend your knees and flex your hips to lean forwards. Grab the bar by flaring your elbows outwards in a way that makes your upper body resemble a T shape.  

Brace, extend your shoulders, and row the bar towards you, keeping your spine neutral and your core braced. Hold for a second at the top before returning to the original position. Try and avoid letting your biceps do the work as they will try to compensate as your delts tire. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don't forget to ensure your chest is almost parallel to the floor. If you're standing too upright, you'll end up working your lats.

Benefits Of Reverse Pec Deck & Similar Exercises 

Reverse flys are a great exercise to include in your workouts for several reasons. The first and main reason is that they target muscles that are often overlooked and neglected by lifters, the posterior deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius. 

Your posterior deltoids are found in your rear shoulders, whereas your rhomboids and trapezius are located in the upper back. You can massively improve your posture, lifting strength, and balance by strengthening these muscles. This will enhance your other lifts and other aspects of your life. 

If you work at a computer, you most probably slouch to some degree. Anyone who has tried to correct their posture knows that it is a near-impossible task to keep upright for a whole day. Slouching in this position creates tightness in the rear shoulders, which affects the chest and can cause a reduced range of motion. This can be catastrophic for lifts like the bench press. 

Performing regular flys helps in all of these areas and reduces the adverse side effects of a sedentary job. 


What Muscles Do Reverse Pec Deck Exercises Work?

We have briefly touched upon the muscles worked by the reverse pec deck fly but let's get a bit more in-depth about every muscle you will be utilizing during this movement: 

Posterior Deltoid 

The posterior deltoids are one of the muscles that make up your shoulders, its primary function is to extend and provide a degree of rotation. This is crucial for your range of motion for anything that utilizes your arms and chest. 

Infraspinatus 

The Infraspinatus is a muscle that not many people have heard of but plays a crucial role in a number of different motions. It is found in the scapula and is made up of a thick triangular knot of muscle that forms part of the rotator cuff muscles. Its primary function is to provide external rotation and stabilize your shoulder joint. 

Teres Minor 

Another important component of the rotator cuff, the teres minor, is a thin muscle that provides a critical function. It stabilizes the glenohumeral joint, one of the most important ball and socket joints of the shoulder.

Rhomboids

Formed of the major and minor rhomboids, these muscles are essential in your upper body movement and provide stability and range of motion to the shoulder girdle and scapula. These muscles take a beating when you spend all day on the computer and can cause pain and stiffness if not trained. 

Trapezius 

Starting at the base of the neck and crossing your shoulders, your trapezius is a big muscle with many functions. It helps you move your head and shoulder as well as your arms and also stabilizes your spine. This is why it is crucial to take care of it and strengthen it through exercises like the reverse pec deck fly. 


Common Mistakes When Performing Reverse Pec Deck Exercises

The reverse pec deck has garnered a bit of a bad reputation in recent years. This is unwarranted and comes from the fact that when it is done wrong, it can cause injury pretty easily. 

These are the common mistakes that people make during this exercise. 

  • Not Pausing At End Of Each Rep   
    Because this exercise seriously burns, it is uncomfortable, and many people try to get through their reps too quickly without taking time to pause. Pausing ensures that you keep in control and keep tension at the right level. Once you lose control, you are not stable, leading to injury. 
  • Going Too Heavy  
    This is a strange movement, which means your arms are in an unusual position. When you add too much weight, more than you can handle, you will eventually injure yourself. The pec deck isn't like the bench press where you should be aiming for high numbers; instead, go for 70% of your 1RM and perform high reps for the best results. 
  • Not Setting Seat To Correct Height  
    Everyone is a different build, height, and size; this means that if you get on the pec deck after someone who is much taller than you has been on, you will need to alter the seat height. If you are too low or too high, you will injure yourself quickly. 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Is the reverse pec deck exercise effective? 

When done correctly, the reverse pec deck is an excellent way for targeting muscles that are hard to target normally. 

Is the reverse pec deck for back or shoulders? 

Both! The reverse pec deck targets the upper body, back, and shoulder muscles like the traps, delts, and rhomboids. 

Can you do a reverse pec deck with dumbbells? 

No, the reverse pec deck is a machine; you can perform similar exercises with dumbbells but not on the pec deck machine. 

How often should you train rear delts? 

Once or twice a week is an optimal amount, but make sure you have decent rest periods of 2 days between training the same muscle group. 


Conclusion

The rear delts are tough to train, but luckily, the reverse fly pec deck makes it easy. Remember, keep the weight reasonable, your movements controlled, and adjust the seat accordingly. Do this, and your upper back will be monstrous in no time. 

Paul J