The machine reverse fly is a shoulder exercise performed on a reverse fly machine.

It’s beneficial because it effectively trains your rear delts, the oft-neglected muscles on the back of your shoulders. Training these muscles is important because it ensures your shoulders grow proportionally and can lower your risk of injury.

In this article, you’ll learn what the machine reverse fly is, why it’s beneficial, which muscles the machine reverse fly works, how to do the machine reverse fly with proper form, the best reverse machine fly alternatives, and more.

What Is the Machine Reverse Fly?

The machine reverse fly is an upper-body exercise that primarily trains your posterior deltoids or “rear delts,” the muscles behind your shoulder joints on your upper back.

You perform the machine reverse fly using a piece of equipment called a reverse fly machine, which typically comprises a seat, a chestpad, and two handles.

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Machine Reverse Fly: Benefits

Many weightlifters train their rear deltoids less than their front and side delts.

Over time, this can lead to strength and size imbalances between your shoulder muscles, which may blight your upper-body aesthetics and increase your risk of injury.

Research shows the machine reverse fly effectively trains your rear delts, making it ideal for ensuring your shoulders develop proportionally and remain healthy

Furthermore, many find the machine reverse fly more comfortable and stable than similar free-weight exercises, such as the dumbbell rear lateral raise and rear delt row.

Using a machine also prevents you from using momentum to “cheat” the weight up, ensuring your rear delts do the lion’s share of the work.

These reasons are why I often include the machine reverse fly in my training and recommend it in my programs for men and women, Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger

(And if you’d like even more specific advice about which exercises to include in your training to reach your health and fitness goals, take the Legion Strength Training Quiz, and in less than a minute, you’ll know the perfect strength training program for you. Click here to check it out.)

Reverse Fly Machine: Muscles Worked

The main muscles worked by the machine reverse fly are the . . .

  • Rear deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres major and minor

Here’s how those muscles look on your body:

reverse fly machine muscles worked

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How to Do the Machine Reverse Fly

The best way to learn how to do the machine reverse fly is to split the exercise into three parts: set up, fly, and protract.

1. Set up

Adjust the handles and seat on the reverse fly machine so that when you sit and grip the handles, the handles align with your shoulders and your hands are as close together as possible.

Sit on the seat with your chest against the pad and plant your feet on the floor, then reach forward and grip the handles with your palms facing down.

2. Fly

While keeping slightly bent elbows, push your hands away from each other. Continue pushing until your arms are directly out to your sides (or slightly behind your body).

3. Protract

Reverse the movement, return to the starting position, and repeat for the desired number of reps. 

Don’t let the weight yank your arms back to the starting position or try to return to the starting position slowly. The entire “protraction” should be controlled but only take about a second.

Here’s how it should look when you put it all together:

machine reverse fly

The Best Machine Reverse Fly Alternatives

1. Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise

machine reverse fly alternative #1: dumbbell rear lateral raise

The dumbbell rear lateral raise trains the same muscle groups as the machine reverse fly; the only difference is it uses dumbbells instead of a reverse fly machine. Given that both are equally effective, you can use them interchangeably in your routine. 

2. Cable Machine Reverse Fly

machine reverse fly alternative #2: cable machine reverse fly


Like the seated machine reverse fly, the cable machine reverse fly keeps constant tension on your muscles throughout each set, stimulating them slightly differently from similar free-weight exercises. As such, the cable machine reverse fly is a viable alternative to exercises like the dumbbell rear lateral raise and rear delt row. 

3. Barbell Rear Delt Row

machine reverse fly alternative #3: barbell rear delt row

The main benefit of the barbell rear delt row is it allows you to lift heavier weights than similar rear delt exercises, which is generally better for gaining muscle and strength. However, the downside of using a barbell is that it limits the range of motion, negating some of the exercise’s muscle- and strength-building potential.