The dumbbell reverse fly is a popular and effective isolation exercises used to build the rear deltoid muscles.
The rear deltoids are an often neglected muscle group. Why? Because they’re invisible when looking in the mirror. Therefore, many forgot to or just ignore training this muscle altogether.
But that’s not advised. These upper posterior muscles are essential for good posture, upper limb movement, and aesthetics. If you want to be stronger and prevent injuries, then we must pay more attention to this muscle group.
Many exercisers tend to do lots of pressing movements and fewer rear exercises which is very problematic and throws off structural balance.
Learn how to do this exercise and we’ve included tips, variations, and how to best include it in your workouts.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Deltoid posterior
- Type: Hypertrophy, strength
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Dumbbell
- Difficulty: Beginner
While the rear delts are the target muscle group, the dumbbell reverse fly works a few other muscles as well.
The deltoid lateral makes up one of the three shoulder heads. It’s important for posture and stabilizing the arm to facilitate movement. It also works with the latissimus dorsi to extend the arm when walking.
The infraspinatus is one of the rotator cuff muscles. It helps to form the glenohumeral joint and therefore assists in shoulder movement and stability.
The teres minor is also a rotator cuff muscle and therefore contributes to similar function as the infraspinatus.
Trapezius Lower Fibers
The trapezius muscle is a superficial muscle that spans the upper back. This muscle has three fiber sections; upper, middle, and lower. The lower fibers are responsible for depressing the scapula or shoulder blades. It also assists the upper fibers in upwardly rotating the shoulder blades.
Trapezius Middle Fibers
The middle trap fibers function to retract the scapula.
How To Do The Dumbbell Reverse Fly
There are various ways to do this exercise. However, we’ve provided exercise instructions for the basic standing variation.
- Grab two light to medium weight dumbbells.
- Bend your knees, tighten your core, and lean over until your torso is slightly above parallel to the floor keeping your back flat.
- With a slight bend in your elbows, raise your arms out to the sides as high as you can and squeeze your rear delts.
- Slowly lower the weight back and repeat.
Here’s a video example.
Dumbbell reverse fly tips
- This exercise is not intended to be done using maximum poundages of 1-2 reps. Choose light-medium, medium, and heavy weights that you can perform at least 5 complete reps with.
- If you are going to use very heavy weights, keep more bend in your elbows to both protect yourself and maximize your performance.
- You can also do this exercise seated which may allow you to use heavier poundages.
- If possible, avoid turning your thumbs down toward the ground as this could place stress on the shoulder. This is a technique that we recommend only for more experienced lifters.
- Ensure that your torso is bent over far enough to really target the rear delts.
- Always keep your knees bent to protect your lower back.
Dumbbell Reverse Fly Variations / Alternatives
While many do like the dumbbell reverse fly, some don’t. In addition, it’s also good to change things up for best results and to prevent boredom.
Here are a few variations/alternatives that we recommend.
1. Single-arm dumbbell reverse fly
The single-arm dumbbell reverse fly may have advantages over using both arms at the same time. That’s because dumbbells typically allow for a larger range of motion/contraction which may help to enhance muscle stimulation.
We suggest you check out this article and watch the video inside to learn how to maximize your rear delt gains!
2. Cable reverse fly
Cables offer an advantage over dumbbells in our opinion. That’s because you can use a wider variety of positions and still ensure that the tension remains on your delts.
You can set up a single-grip handle on a low cable pulley, and this will allow you to take a step away from the machine so that the far side arm has to reach across, thereby allowing the rear delts to get a nice stretch and enhanced eccentric (negative portion of the rep) overload on the muscle.
Another very effective cable rear delt variation is the seated high row. You set up as if you’re doing a seated row but you’ll use less weight and pull the bar to shoulder level.
Related: Tips To Make Your Rear Delts Roar.
3. Barbell high row
If you want to really overload your rear delts to the max, do the barbell high row. It’s a similar setup to the basic barbell bent-over row that works the back, but you’re using less weight and pulling the bar to the shoulders rather than the stomach or chest.
Using a barbell allows you to load more weight and build strength while also putting on size.
Using Dumbbell Reverse Fly Into Your Training Routine
When it comes to training the rear delts, we recommend doing a minimum of 4 sets per workout that focuses on the delts. Again, many either neglect this muscle or don’t realize that their ratio of pressing movements to upper posterior exercises is not balanced, and it should be.
We also recommend training the rear delts at least twice per week for the same reason. But that doesn’t mean you should only do the dumbbell reverse fly. Utilize the variations included above and experiment with more of them to see what works best for you.
Also read: Best Rear Delt Exercises For Mass
Again, we recommend at least 4 sets per shoulder workout. As for reps, a range of 5-20 reps per set is ideal and you should vary the resistance between exercise sessions.
If you need to bring up your rear delts and posture, the dumbbell reverse fly is an obvious choice to incorporate into your training regime.
It’s been used for decades by legends, to build complete deltoid muscles and is still just as much in style although we have access to fancy equipment. Free weights always offer an advantage and that’s why the dumbbell reverse fly is an exercise we recommend.