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Rear Delt Fly: Technique, Muscles Worked & Variations to Try

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a man is performing rare delt fly exercise, reverse flyes with dumbbells, standing
David J. Sautter post Reviewer David J. Sautter post Reviewer
Verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

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Have you ever felt like your shoulders and upper back are lagging behind the rest of your physique? 

If so, incorporating rear delt fly exercises into your workout routine may be just what you need to bring balance and symmetry to your upper body. 

Not only do rear delt flys target the often neglected rear deltoid muscles, but they also work the upper back and improve posture. 

The rear delt fly, also known as rear delt raise or reverse fly, is a well-known and fairly simple pull exercise that targets the back area of the deltoids. 

Let’s take a look at how to perform it correctly, its benefits, and some tips on maximizing your shoulders’ strength with this exercise.

Rear Delt Fly: Types & Equipment

The most common versions of this exercise are performed using dumbbells. Here are two main types of rear delt flys:

Standing, Bent-Over Rear Delt Fly

During the standing reverse fly, you must hinge at the hips until the torso is horizontal to the floor. 

This position makes it less stable and requires you to concentrate more to control the movement. 

Seated Rear Delt Fly

The seated dumbbell reverse fly is performed on a bench, and it is deemed as slightly more intense than its standing counterpart as it is harder to use the momentum to lift the weights when sitting down. 

However, it is important to note that the rear delt fly exercise can be performed with more equipment other than dumbbells, such as handle bands, rear delt fly machines, and cables. 

Rear Delt Fly: Muscles Worked

Rear delt fly targets the back area of the deltoids, as well as some back muscles, making it both a shoulder and a back exercise at the same time. 

Below you can find the main muscles targeted by this exercise. 

a male model with muscles worked during rear delt fly or reverse flys highlighted

Primary Muscles

  • Posterior Deltoids

Secondary Muscles

  • Rhomboids
  • Erector spinae
  • Trapezius


  • Lateral deltoids
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor

Rear Delt Fly Technique

Below, we outline the setup and technique to perform a dumbbell rear delt raise from a standing position. 

an animation of a man performing rare delt fly exercise, reverse flyes with dumbbells, standing


  • Choose a place where you have enough space to bring your arms out wide to the sides of you.
  • Select a pair of dumbbells that are lighter but still challenging. We wouldn’t recommend using heavy weights for this exercise.
  • When doing this exercise, leave some flexibility to your knees and elbows to prevent strains and achieve the correct posture.In other words, keep a slight bend in both.


  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing upright.
  • Hinge back at the hips to move the torso forward. You want to be leaning forward but not exactly horizontal with the floor.
  • Extend the arms down in line with your shoulders and with the palms facing each other.
  • Lift the dumbbells up by opening your arms until they are in line with your back.
  • Squeeze the back of the shoulders.
  • Controlling the weights, lower the arms down to the starting position. This is one repetition.


This exercise is an ideal addition to your workouts if you want to get a strong upper body. 

To maximize the results, you can use a workout app to build personalized workouts tailored to your goals. Don’t forget to include push exercises to train your triceps, shoulders, and chest or pull exercises to target your back and biceps

Benefits of Rear Delt Flys

Here are some benefits you would attain if you add reverse flys to your training routine. 

More Stable Shoulders

The shoulder joint can easily get injured. Therefore it is important to strengthen the deltoid muscles evenly to provide more support. [1] [2]

Improved Posture

This exercise works both the shoulders and the back muscles, meaning that they help support the upper part of your torso and prevent the shoulders from rotating forward. [3]

Well-Developed Shoulders

Performing the rear delt flys, along with other exercises that target the lateral and front deltoids, allows you to obtain well-developed and aesthetically pleasing shoulders.

Improved Shoulder Mobility

Moving the arms back from a hinged position aids the mobility of the shoulder joint, further aiding in preventing it from getting injured. [4]

Mistakes to Avoid

Below is a list of mistakes you should avoid when performing the reverse flys.

Using Heavy Dumbbells

Avoid using a weight that is too heavy, as this compromises your posture during the execution of this exercise.

Keeping Your Back Curved

Curving your back can not only lead you to injury but also prevent you from targeting the rear delts and back muscles appropriately. Instead, ensure to keep the back neutral.

Using Momentum

A common mistake is using momentum to lift the weights rather than the rear delts. Ensure to engage in a good muscle-mind connection to activate the targeted muscles.

Rear Delt Fly Variations

This section outlines some variations of the rear delt dumbbell fly exercise you can try.

Single Arm Rear Delt Fly

This bent-over delt fly variation requires you to perform the movement unilaterally, either from standing or seated. This exercise is particularly useful if you have imbalances between the shoulders.

Incline Bench Rear Delt Fly

a male model is performing dumbbell rear delt fly on incline bench

The rear delt fly can also be performed on an inclined bench if you want to focus on the form, as it takes the momentum away. 

The reverse fly bench alternative is also good for those who suffer from lower back pain when performing this exercise, as it doesn’t require to hinge at the hips.

This variation is particularly useful if you want to target the rhomboids and lower trapezius more.

Cable Rear Delt Fly

a male model is performing bent over cable rear delt fly_reverse fly

You can perform the bent-over reverse flys using cables. There is also another standing variation of cable rear delt flys that also targets your lats.

Rear Delt Fly Machine

Performing read delt flyes on the rear delt fly machine is probably one of the safest ways to master this exercise, meaning it’s best for beginners.

a man is performing rear delt fly machine variation in the gym

Wrapping Up

The dumbbell rear delt raise is a very common exercise, although it rarely gains enough credit. Below you can find the key points about this exercise:

  • Reverse flys mainly target the rear deltoids, although they also work the rhomboids, the trapezius, the erector spinae, the infraspinatus, the lateral deltoids, and the teres minor.
  • The main difference between the seated rear delt fly and standing bent over rear delt flys is that the former allows you to be more stable and hence allows you to work the muscles more efficiently, although being harder.
  • Rear delt dumbbell flys are a pull exercise. Therefore they can be added to one’s pull workout routine if using the PPL split.
  • Dumbbells are not the only equipment that can be used to perform rear delt flys, as they can also be performed using handle bands, cables, and specific rear delt machines. 
  • When performing a reverse fly, use the right weights, don’t curve your back and avoid using the momentum to lift the dumbbells.
  • If you want to improve your rear delt workouts, you can switch to alternatives, such as lifting with one hand at a time, using an incline bench to rest against, or using cables.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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