The reverse pec deck is an excellent exercise to develop your rear delts, right?

But unfortunately you can't always perform this movement in your gym.

Whether you don't have a pec deck machine, or simply want to switch things up a little, there are many reverse pec deck alternatives that you can perform in your home gym. 

Throughout this article, you'll discover 9 of the best reverse pec deck alternatives around, what they're good for, and how to do them. 

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 the reverse 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 clunky (and often expensive) pec deck machine. 

1. Bent-Over Reverse Fly (Reverse Pec Deck Alternative For At Home)

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. 

One of the main benefits to this pec deck alternative is that it doesn't require much space, so even if you only have a small workout area, you can perform it easily.

Benefits:

  • Suitable for all ability levels.
  • Doesn't require much equipment or space.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Hinging from the hips, lean forward while keeping a straight spine.
  3. Lift both dumbells out to the side, leading with your elbows, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. (Maintain a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement).
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • 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. 

2. Horizontal Band Pull Aparts (Reverse Pec Deck Without A Machine)

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. 

I often use this with my clients for shoulder rehabilitation. The movement uses your rear delts and helps "switch on" your scapula, helping you eliminate annoying shoulder impingements. 

I've often performed this exercise in hotel rooms while I've been on the go. You can do the resistance band pull apart in your hotel, office, local park, living room... anywhere. 

Benefits:

  • Great for shoulder rehab. 
  • Ideal for all ability levels. 
  • You can do them anywhere.

How to do it:

  1. Take a medium strength band, and with an underhand grip, hold the band shoulder distance apart.
  2. Keep your arms long, and your elbows slightly bent. 
  3. Plant your feet hip-width apart, maintain a neutral head and neck.
  4. Slowly pull apart the band as if trying to stretch it as far as it will go.
  5. Reverse the movement and return to your starting position, relaxing your shoulders.
  6. Repeat to complete your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • 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. 

3. Banded Face Pulls

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. 

benefits:

  • Suitable for all abilities. 
  • You can do them anywhere.
  • Excellent for shoulder health.

how to do it:

  1. Loop your band around something secure and upright.
  2. Grab the band in each hand using an overhand grip.
  3. Lift your elbows parallel to the floor in line with your face and pull your elbows back, pulling the band towards your face.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Slowly reverse the movement and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you focus on pulling the band towards your eyes, you'll target your upper back and traps as well as your rear delts. 

4. YTWs 

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 with your arms (a Y, T, and 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. 

In the past year I've had a shoulder impingement which was extremely painful. However, I've implemented the YTW exercise into my shoulder routine and it's definitely helped. Even my posture has improved. 

DON'T underestimate this pec deck substitute. 

Benefits:

  • Excellent for shoulder rehabilitation. 
  • You can do them anywhere.

how to do it:

For the Y (part 1)

  1. Lie on the floor or on a bench (I recommend a bench).
  2. Lift your arms up into a Y shape and pull them back to contract the middle of your back and scapular.
  3. Squeeze for a second, then move to the next step, the T. 

For the T (part 2)

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

For the W (part 3)

  1. Lift your arms into a W shape.
  2. Squeeze your shoulders blades together.
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds per rep. 
  4. The repeat all 3 movements.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Focus on holding each position as long as you can. This will help immensely as you warm up. 
  • Don't rush through these movements. Each rep should be slow and controlled, ensuring your scapula is activated throughout.

5. Incline Bench Dumbell Reverse Fly (Reverse Pec Deck With Dumbbells)

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's 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 by using dumbbells instead of a barbell mean you place a lot less stress on your shoulders. 

Benefits:

  • Great for hypertrophy.
  • Develops your rear deltoids.

how to do it:

  1. Adjust a bench to a 30-45 degree angle.
  2. Lie with your chest on the bench (face down).
  3. Grab a dumbbell in each hand.
  4. Let the dumbbells hang in your hands.
  5. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, lift them sideways until your arms and body look in a "T" shape.
  6. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

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

6. Standing Cable Reverse Fly 

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.

If I'm honest, a cable machine is one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment because of its versatility. 

Benefits:

  • Develops your rear delts. 
  • Brilliant exercise for bodybuilding.

how to do it:

  1. Set the cables in a high position. 
  2. Grab the left cable with your right hand and the right with your left.
  3. Hold your arms to face level, like a face pull and then pull the cables apart towards your hip level. 
  4. Reverse the movement and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • 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 clip. 

7. Bent-Over Cable Laterals 

bent over cable lateral raise

Another good exercise for those with cable machine access is the bent-over cable lateral raise. 

It's an excellent reverse pec deck alternative as it places your rear delts under a constant tension forcing them to work incredibly hard. And that's what you want, right?

My only issue with this movement is that some gym-goers might struggle to achieve the bent over position. If this is the case, try another rear delt exercise from this list like the incline reverse fly. 

Benefits:

  • Creates constant tension on your rear delts.
  • Brilliant for muscular hypertrophy.

how to do it:

  1. To start with, you need to make sure that the handle attachment is installed on the low pulley of the cable machine.
  2. Sit on the end of a bench. 
  3. Set the weight and grab the left handle firmly in your right hand and the right handle with your left hand. 
  4. Next, bend at the waist, keeping your back near parallel to the floor.
  5. With your elbows slightly bent, raise your arms until they're in line with your shoulders. 
  6. Slowly reverse the movement back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • You can do this exercise individually with each shoulder or you can do them both at the same time. - I'm a fan of working both sides at once.

8. Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Row 

Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

If you want the perfect supporting delt move, one that is perfect for ending your routine and pushing your shoulders to their limit, the bent-over dumbbell rear delt row is the one.

This reverse pec deck substitute targets the back of your shoulders like rear deltoid heads.  The movement improves your stability and promotes a well-rounded shoulder development.  

As this is a supporting movement, I recommend performing 10-15 reps each set using a reasonably light weight. You want to feel the burn, don't you?

This exercise is also an excellent alternative to barbell rows!

Benefits:

  • Great for all abilities.
  • Only requires dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. Next, you need to bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from the hips.
  3. Bend your elbows slightly and lift your arms upwards to your shoulder level.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Control the dumbbells on their way down and repeat

Tips From A Trainer!

  • 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 above.

9. Barbell Rear Delt Row 

Barbell Rear Delt Row

This pec deck alternative is basically the bent over barbell row with an adjusted grip to target your rear delts.

And let me tell you... it's a killer. 

As you're using a barbell, you can seriously overload your rear delts using a lot of weight. This stimulates your muscles for growth, resulting in excellent looking delts. It's why you're reading this guide, isn't it?

The reverse pec deck machine will be the last thing on your mind with this compound exercise in your workout. 

benefits:

  • Overloads your rear delts.
  • Develops strong delts.
  • It's a compound movement.

how to do it:

  1. Load a barbell with suitable weight.
  2. Stand behind the barbell with your feet in a hip-width position.
  3. Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward from your hips.
  4. Grab the bar using an overhand slightly wider than shoulder grip.
  5. Lift the barbell from the floor and let the weight hang. 
  6. Pull the barbell upwards towards your chest, flaring your elbows outwards in a way that makes your upper body resemble a T shape.  
  7. Slowly lower to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • 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?

Reverse pec deck exercises work a wide range of muscles ranging from your rear delts, rhomboids, traps, and more. Here's a closer look at the muscles:

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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. 

Common FAQs About Reverse Pec Decks

Is the reverse pec deck exercise effective? 

Yes, when performed correctly, the reverse pec deck is an excellent way for targeting muscles that are hard to target normally, such as the rear delts.

Is the reverse pec deck for back or shoulders? 

The reverse pec deck works both your back and shoulders. 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, you can't do the reverse pec deck with dumbbells as the reverse pec deck is a machine. However, you can perform a wide range of alternatives such as the incline dumbbell reverse fly. 

How often should you train rear delts? 

You should train your rear delts once or twice a week. But make sure you have decent rest periods of 2 days between training them to allow for a full recovery.

Conclusion

The rear delts are tough to train, but luckily, the reverse fly pec deck makes it easy.

If you don't have access to a pec deck machine, don't worry... There are plenty of alternatives that you can perform instead. 

Choose your favorites from the list above and watch your upper back grow. Your upper back will be monstrous in no time. 

References:

1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21504-rotator-cuff

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513324/

3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21563-trapezius-muscle

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.