Build A Better, Stronger Upper Body

Want a sexy-looking back and shoulders? Target your rear delts with these two workouts!

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Take a quick glance at your upper back in the mirror. Is something missing? Your standard shoulder workout may result in a stronger-looking upper half when viewed from the front, but there’s a good chance you’re only polishing one side of the proverbial coin.

Put simply, if you want a strong, sexy-looking back and shoulders, you must train your rear delts. A good set of rear delts looks great in open-back dresses and tops and will prevent you from looking boxy by accentuating your curves. But all too often, women put so much emphasis on developing their anterior and lateral delts, biceps and chest muscles that they end up with rounded, forward-sloping shoulders. Combine this with a nine-to-five desk job, and you have a recipe for poor posture that won’t reflect all the hard work you put in at the gym.

Neglecting your rear delts also has another downside: Without strength in this area, your arms, especially your triceps, will look flat and underdeveloped regardless of how hard you train them.

Switching the emphasis of your shoulder workout to your posterior deltoids will help build balance where you may be lacking. Strong rear delts are not only aesthetically pleasing, contributing to the illustrious V-taper, but they also contribute to improved posture and a healthier shoulder girdle.

Your Delts: A Perfect Trio

Your anterior, posterior and middle deltoids all have equally important — but extremely different — roles. Your rear delts manage shoulder extension, external rotation and the deceleration of your shoulder following throwing, hitting or swinging. When you pump your fists in the air during your favorite dance song, you can thank your rear delts for stopping your arms from rocketing toward the sky.

But here’s where the problems arise: If your anterior and lateral delts are tight from overtraining, they prevent your rear delts from performing optimally, which can cause instability. This can lead to problems like impingement of the shoulder girdle — a painful injury that can put your training goals on hold. Strengthening your rear delts will bring balance to your upper body, preventing shoulder pain and future injuries.

Your Moves

This workout brings together flyes, rows, presses and raises to target every angle of your deltoids, preventing that dreaded, uncomfortable slouch. By placing the row and bent-over flye at the beginning, your rear delts are exhausted while still being worked as stabilizers with every subsequent rep.

Your Rear-Delt Fortified Shoulder Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
One-Arm Rear Delt Row 3 8–10
Bent-Over Rear Delt Flye 3 10–12
Seated Shoulder Press 3 12–15
Front Raise 3 12–15
Lateral Raise 3 12–15

1. One-Arm Rear Delt Row


Target Muscles: posterior deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, muscles of the shoulder girdle

Set Up: Stand beside a bench and place your inside knee on its surface with your corresponding hand flat on the bench directly under your shoulder. Hold a dumbbell in your free hand with your palm facing the wall behind you.

Action: Exhale as you pull the dumbbell up and to the side, keeping the weight pointing toward the ground, until your upper arm is in line with your shoulder or slightly higher. Inhale and slowly return to the starting position. Complete all reps before doing the move on your opposite side.

Tip: Although this move looks similar to a bent-over one-arm row, the weight that you use should be substantially lighter.

2. Bent-Over Rear Delt Flye


Target Muscles: posterior deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, muscles of the shoulder girdle

Set Up: Sit on the end of a bench with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart or closer, holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Fold over from your hips to bring your chest toward your knees with your palms facing the outside of your calves.

Action: Exhale and lift the dumbbells up and out to the sides of your body, bringing your arms in alignment with your shoulder or slightly higher. Pause before slowly lowering back to the starting position and repeating.

3. Seated Shoulder Press


Target Muscles: anterior and middle deltoids

Set Up: Begin by sitting on the edge of a bench with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart or closer. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bring your upper arms in line with your shoulders or slightly lower, hands pointing toward the ceiling with palms facing forward.

Action: Press the dumbbells up and over your head, stopping just short of touching. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position.

Tip: You can also do this move standing, which will engage more core and stabilizing muscles. However, you won’t be able to lift as heavy without compromising form.

4. Front Raise


Target Muscles: anterior deltoids, pectoralis major

Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a light dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your thighs.

Action: Exhale as you raise the dumbbells simultaneously in front of your body, stopping when your arms are parallel to the ground or slightly higher. Inhale and slowly lower back to the starting position.

Tip: This move can also be done one side at a time or by alternating your working arm.

5. Lateral Raise


Target Muscles: middle deltoids

Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a light dumbbell in each hand at your sides, your palms facing the outside of your thighs.

Action: Exhale and raise your arms away from the sides of your body until they are in line with your shoulders or slightly higher. Pause, then slowly reverse the motion and return to the starting position.

Tip: Want to ramp up this move? Use the cable machine instead: Stand beside the weight stack and hold a D-handle attachment with your outside hand. Raise your arm up and out.

Soar Your Way to Perfect Flyes

The rear delt flye can be a tough exercise to master, and proper form can make or break the efficiency of this move. To ensure you get the best results from your training efforts, keep these coaching tips in mind.

  • Increase the muscle activity in your posterior delts by pointing your thumbs toward the sky.
  • Keep your arms bent at a small angle throughout the movement, and concentrate on leading with your elbows, not the weights.
  • Raise your arms until they are at least parallel to the floor. They can come higher, but make sure you do not arch your back.

Triple-Duty Shoulder Workout

By switching the order of the shoulder exercises and using supersets and drop set techniques, you’ll have a workout that hits all three heads in one intense session. For quick results in developing your rear deltoids first do the “Rear-Delt-Fortified Shoulder Workout” and then, after resting your shoulder for 48 hours, do this “Triple-Duty Shoulder Workout.” Perform this two workout sequence only once per week for the next month.