When was the last time you saw the backside of your body? For some of you, it’s been months or even years. Your posterior gains are left to chance without knowing what progress is being made, and that’s okay if you have a structured exercise routine with plenty of rearward movement. But oftentimes the reality is “we can’t see it, so we don’t train it“, or we simply forget it’s there. Yet you do every exercise variation for the chest, biceps, and abs under the sun but can’t remember the last time you did a rear delt fly… and yes, it’s very necessary. Just like a chest fly, or lateral shoulder raise.
In fact, we’re so passionate about this topic that we wrote this entire guide on band reverse flys. A variation of an important movement pattern created solely for the purpose of bringing out the rear-facing aspect of your tri-headed deltoid muscles.
Keep reading and you’ll learn ideal band reverse fly technique, get pro tips plus best variations, and find answers to common faqs.
Muscles Worked During Band Reverse Flys
A robust movement for the rear delts and upper back muscles, it pays to learn about the anatomy of muscle stimulation during band reverse flys.
- Deltoid posterior – Reverse flys were the answer to training the rear delts with focus and precision. It’s the perfect option to encourage drawing the arms rearward and hitting the posterior fibers of the shoulder.
- Deltoid lateral – Muscles with benefits, the lateral or outer section of the deltoids gets partial stimulation during backward arm motions. However, the lateral fibers are more prominent when lifting the arms up between an angle of 15-100 degrees.
- Infraspinatus – Wing-like muscles on either side of the upper torso, infraspinatus stretches from the scapula to the upper arm bone, where it helps form the rotator cuff. Hence moving the arm and stabilizing the shoulder.
- Teres Minor – A muscle covered by the deltoids, teres minor promotes shoulder stabilization by keeping the ball and socket shoulder joint in place.
- Trapezius Lower Fibers – A member of a three muscle family in the upper neck and back, the trapezius lower fibers create downward movement of the scapula. Like when you pull the shoulder down in preparation for a set of band reverse flys.
- Trapezius Middle Fibers – The middle trap fibers activate when cued to pull the shoulders back. This action stabilizes the scapula for various movements.
How To Do Band Reverse Flys
Everyone’s setup may not be the same when performing band reverse flys. However, the general concept should remain the same. Get in a position that will allow you to generate the most strength, and activate the rear delts. This is what we’ll help you to get right with the following written instructions and video demonstration with key form tips.
- Secure the end of your band to an object at roughly chest height.
- Grab your band with both hands, palms facing each other. Set your feet roughly hip width apart. Pull your shoulders back and down. Tense your core.
- Keeping your arms straight, open the hands wide and pull the band back behind you. Squeeze the shoulder blades together.
- Slowly bring your hands forward straight out in front of you. Then you can repeat step 3, and perform the desired number of repetitions.
Pro tip: You can also bend the elbows for more range of motion.
Here’s a simple tutorial on band reverse flys.
- Stand farther away from the base for more resistance and step closer to lower the intensity.
- You can use the same setup like shown in the video example, or find a power rack, door handle, or any object that will safely secure one end of the band.
- No options to anchor your band at chest height? Use a tree branch, get a little creative, or use your feet and do the bent over variation shown later in this guide.
- There really are no drawbacks of this exercise, other than needing somewhere to anchor your band.
Benefits of Band Reverse Flys
We cant think of several necessary reasons to do band reverse flys, or flys in general. Any serious training program should have them. Here’s why we recommend this exercise.
Build a shield-like upper posterior
Everyone’s goal should be to build a resilient armor plated backside from the traps, to the rear delts, glutes, hamstrings, and all the way down to the calves. These muscles are crucial to longevity, supporting posture, balance, movement, and overall structural health.
But for aesthetic purposes, the rear delts are one of the most important yet ignored muscle. We don’t realize how much they contribute to an appealing physique until you see someone who has them. If you want the three dimensional, superhero look, then do your best not to neglect the posterior delts.
Strengthen your posture
Band reverse flys will strengthen the muscles that we use for both daily (Standing, walking, etc), and lifting posture. How you stand and sit for hours affects your, spine, shoulders, nerves, and energy levels. Safe lifting also requires a strong body position with a neutral spine, and strong posterior muscles. Otherwise, you’ll have sloppy and dangerous muscle alignment combined with less efficient force transfer in the muscles. Hence suboptimal performance and injuries.
Does what a cable machine can do (Sort of)
While a cable machine is “better” for many reasons. Well, many times it’s just not an option. Bands are one of the closest things to a cable machine, and for home workouts it’s king. In other words, you can attach a band at any height which allows you to have more training variety.
However the biggest disadvantage for the band is its unequal resistance load. Rubber has to stretch more and more to increase resistance. Cables don’t. It’s the same weight from beginning to end, although we’re still stronger during certain parts of a repetition.
Common Mistakes During Band Reverse Flys
For the sake of your shoulder health, and gains potential, we listed the most important band reverse fly bad habits to avoid.
Arms too high or low
More important than the height of where the band is attached is how high or low your arms are when performing band reverse flys. Keep them too and you may focus too much on the traps, when the goal is truly to maximize activation of the posterior deltoid head. But if your arms are too low, the movement will probably feel awkward, and unnecessary.
Keeping the arms level with the mid to lower chest is probably where you want to be for optimal feel. However, feel free to adjust slightly so long as you feel good activation in the rear delts and no pain.
Too much intensity
A lot of exercisers will have weaker rear delts naturally, just because they tend to be an ignored muscle, likely because they’re out of sight most of the time. Not everyone cares to look back and check in on the posterior muscles, unless you take your training and physique goals very seriously.
But what happens is that when people start training their rear delts, they get an ego check real fast! “What is going on here, why am I so weak?”. This is a common concern when you fail to train every muscle and think your other movements cover all bases.
Well, it’s not true. Take the hamstrings for example. Because they cross both the hip and knee joints, just doing squats isn’t enough. Because it activates more hip than knee. Therefore, you need to incorporate leg curls that create more concentric resistance at the knee. But it can be a humbling experience when you realize you’re pathetically weak due to never doing them.
Same for the rear delts. As a result you get sloppy, uneven form, frustration, and a lack of progress. Lower the resistance, and build a solid foundation, working on symmetrical, full range of motion training and then you can increase the load.
Resting the arms
Most experts are proponents of constant muscle tension, or not allowing your muscles to relax while a set is in session. Although research is not entirely conclusive on the subject, try to keep the muscles working to enhance strength in all positions of a repetition, and possibly create more of a growth adaptation.
8 Variations and Alternatives of Band Reverse Flys
If you like variations and alternatives, then your mouth should be watering with these must-have rear delt movements.
One arm band reverse flys
If after doing the two arm variation you find one side is weaker, you can utilize the single arm reverse fly to help correct any imbalances. It’s also a useful trick to really zone in on the rear delt, and understand what’s really going on in the muscle which can work wonders for perfecting your form and technique.
You can also anchor the band low and replicate a one arm bent over band fly. Find this brief video tutorial below for an idea of setup and execution.
Bent over band reverse flys
If you’ve got nothing to anchor your band to, then use your feet to create a base. Actually this is the most minimalist band technique and it’s the original. Not to mention, this position may provide the most support for us to use the most resistance.
- Grab your band in both hands then anchor it down with your feet. Remember, a narrower stance lightens the resistance while wider feet make the exercise more challenging.
- Cross the ends of your band to form an “X” which will create a more ergonomic, natural path of resistance.
- Bend your knees, hinge forward at the hips, and strengthen your core.
- Keeping your back and arms straight, pull the bands up as high as you can, leading with the wrists. Contract the rear delts.
- Slowly reverse the motion by lowering your arms, repeat step 4, and complete as many reps as needed.
Band reverse flys with overhand grip
If you tried the machine reverse fly (Next up) with an overhand grip, you probably never went back to a neutral grip. However, the catch is that you need to right body position to protect your shoulders since they’ll be more internally rotated during this variation.
Machine reverse flys
The variation that we’d choose more often than any other. Machine flys the ego lifter’s movement, and we love it for that reason. Setup so ergonomically for us to move big weights, you have the psychological aspect of being able to pick your weight and watch a stack of iron move up and down, reminding you of your beastliness!
There’s a whole lot to talk about when it comes to machine reverse flys so here’s a complete guide to this top-tier exercise.
Cable rear delt fly
While not quite as satisfying as its inverted counterpart (Cable chest fly), cable rear delt flys feel pretty darn good. And what obviously makes this variation better (Yes, we went there) is that a cable machine was designed perfectly for this type of movement. Plus you can pick the weight which makes it easier for progressing.
Face pulls dig right into that middle section of muscles between the shoulders, but you’ll still activate the rear delts. Although maybe not to the same degree as reverse flys. It’s accrued almost a cult like following since its high praise from fitness experts, namely Jeff Cavaliere, MS, PT, CSCS, of the popular Athlean X YouTube channel, who is a big proponent of face pulls after every workout.
Not a reverse fly but definitely in the same family of exercises, band pull-aparts, as the name implies involve pulling your band in opposite directions, thereby activating the rear scapular muscles. And it’s so easy that anyone can do it.
Check out our full write up of band pull-aparts with a video tutorial featuring Jeff Cavaliere.
TRX reverse flys
Unless you usually train with TRX or alternative suspension straps, then this variation would probably slip your mind. But it’s a solid way to build your rear delts if you train at home, alongside bands and other training tools or as a standalone training aid.
The catch is your bodyweight determines the amount of resistance, but you can change position to either increase or decrease the weight load.
Be cautioned however, that suspension straps are not necessarily a beginner friendly training method due to the greater stability needed to perform many movements. The reverse fly would definitely be one of them.
What's the best type of band to use for this exercise?
That depends on how you’re able to anchor it. However, for most people who train at home, we recommend the standard double ended bands with handles. These bands make it easy to bring the arms out wide, and get a larger range of movement.
What's the best sets and reps ranges for band reverse flys?
You’ve got the right idea. Most exercisers should aim for sets and reps ranges rather than trying to hit the bullseye.
For band reverse flys, we recommend 2-4 sets x 7-15 reps with a level of resistance that challenges you at the top end of a set. Of course, this is just a general suggestion based on what research says is optimal for both strength and muscle gains. But your workout regime will determine how you structure sets and reps.
What if my shoulders hurt during this exercise?
Pain during exercise is typically caused by pre-existing issues, exercise technique, or using too much resistance.
Band reverse flys are beneficial, non controversial, and clearly have a reason to be in your shoulder training repertoire. Simple, low impact, low stress, and high reward, rear delt fly variations are a little thing that you can do for the health of your shoulders and posture, while improving the physical development of your posterior chain.
No where to anchor your band for this variation, anchor it down with your feet and do the bent over variation which is just as beneficial.