Health

The Rear Delt Raise Will Add Size and Strength to Your Shoulders

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WHEN IT COMES to building a well-rounded set of boulder shoulders, an overhead pressing variation accompanied with lateral raises will usually be the extent of many gym-goers’ workout routines. But if you want to prevent any noticeable delt deficiencies and achieve a superhero shoulder physique, don’t neglect your rear delts.

The solution is adding a few sets of rear delt raises to your workout. This tried and true exercise is perfect for torching the posterior head of your deltoids, adding the finishing touch for the shoulder symmetry you’ve been striving to achieve, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

What makes the rear delt raise such an essential movement is that it’s one of the few exercises that, when done correctly, can isolate the back portion of your deltoid muscle while reducing the assistance from larger muscle groups such as your lats and mid-back.

What the Are the Rear Delts

Before diving into the nitty gritty of the exercise, Samuel explains exactly what the rear delts do. The muscles, which are also known as the posterior deltoids, are located on the back of the shoulder/upper arm area.

While other shoulder muscles function to elevate the arms or drive the shoulder forward, the rear delt muscles retract the shoulder to move the upper arms behind the torso. making this an equally beneficial move for all types of workout warriors—from heavy bench press athletes who oftentimes overload on anterior work while neglecting their posterior muscles to those of us who spend nearly half the day hunched over in front of a desk.

Benefits of the Rear Delt Raise

  • Isolates the rear delts
  • Builds rear delt size and strength
  • Improve mind-muscle connection

The rear delts perform that essential function of upper arm and shoulder retraction, but typically don’t work alone. The lats and mid-back muscles—which Samuel notes are larger than the relatively small delts—usually take on some of the load.

That’s great if your goal is to lift up a heavy object as efficiently as possible, but not so ideal when you’re trying to grow your rear delt muscles. That’s where the rear delt raise comes into play. Samuel says the exercise allows you to take your lats out of the equation, helping to home in on the rear delts for more growth and building the mind-muscle connection.

Muscles the Rear Delt Raise Works

  • Posterior Deltoids (rear delts)
  • Rhomboids
  • Core

While the rear delt raise is meant to help isolate the target muscles, you’ll still have other muscles pitching in to move the weight. Samuel notes that the core, rhomboids, and rotator cuffs will also likely get involved.

Who Should Do the Rear Delt Raise

  • People who regularly train chest (bench press specialists)
  • People who sit at a desk for long periods
  • General exercisers

While just about everyone could probably benefit from some focused rear delt work, Samuel explains that there are a few specific groups that should prioritize the exercise in their training plan. Guys who focus mainly on anteriorly-targeted movements (meaning, you’re training the muscles on the front of your body) like bench presses can balance out their physiques by using the rear delt raise to shift attention to the back.

People who spend a ton of time sitting at a desk can also benefit, since the movement counteracts the kyphotic position you’ll find yourself in day in and day out, with your shoulders slumped forward. But generally, the exercise can be effective and useful for all types of trainees.

How to Do the Rear Delt Raise—and Why You Should Skip It

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Men’s Health

Normally, a classic rear delt raise involves using a pair of light to medium dumbbells, bending at the hips into a forward hinge position (shoulders higher than hips), then performing a reverse fly, focused on isolating your rear delts and squeezing your shoulder blades while you pause momentarily at the top.

But Samuel notes that this variation isn’t as effective as you’d like. The position allows for too much onus to be placed on your lower back, which gives you an easy out to cheat out of strict position and letting your other muscles take over. He instead suggests an easy alternative: the chest-supported rear delt raise on an adjustable bench.

How to Do the Chest-Supported Rear Delt Raise

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Men’s Health

One adjustment Samuel suggests to avoid “rocking” and taking focus from the deltoids is to set up on an incline bench.

  • Set up an adjustable bench in a high position, then put your chest flush with the bench pad (you can also increase or reduce the intensity by adjusting the bench height).
  • Squeeze your glutes and core to create full-body tension.
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells, and with a slight elbow bend—about a 20-degree angle—raise the weights out to the side. Think about raising your palms forward as if you were showing them to whatever is in front of you.
  • Hold for a split second, then lower back down.

Use a lighter weight for about three or four sets of 10 to 12 reps to complete your shoulder training.

When to Do the Chest-Supported Rear Delt Raise

  • Back day
  • Shoulder day
  • Push day
  • 3 to 4 days per week

Samuel says that the rear delt raise can be used on training days focused on the back muscles, on shoulder day, and also on push days. Program it early into your session, which can help to open up your chest and help to put your shoulders in a good position for other exercises. You can do the movement 3 to 4 times in a week.

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