Ignoring your rear delts is a mistake. Many lifters don’t give much thought to training their rear deltoids because out of sight usually means out of mind. However, training your rear delts properly will not only makes your shoulders look better, it may also reduce your risk of injury and improve your athletic performance.
So, it’s time for your rear delts to get their due, and I’m going to help. In this podcast, you’ll learn what the rear delts are, why it’s important to train them, four tips to make your rear delt training as effective as possible, and the best rear delt exercises for size and strength.
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3:52 – What are rear delts?
6:49 – What are the common mistakes that people make when training their shoulders?
8:25 – Rear delt exercise selection
10:08 – How much volume should you do for your rear delts?
11:52 – How do you progress on rear delt exercises?
15:07 – What are your favorite exercises for training rear delts?
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Howdy ho, fellow traveler. I am Mike Matthews. This is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today for an episode on the Rear Dels. Something that many lifters don’t give much thought to because in contrast to the side and the front Dels, the rear Dels are, Out of sight, out of mind, right? You don’t see ’em, so you don’t particularly think about them.
And most of the training emphasis is put on the front belts and the side belts, and that’s a mistake because training your rear belts properly not only makes your shoulders look better, it may also reduce your risk of injury and improve your. Performance. And if you are going to train your rear belts correctly, you probably are going to have to do at least a few sets, three to six sets of direct training for the rear delts.
You’re going to have to target them with rear dealt isolation exercises. Just doing compound exercises for your shoulders is probably not going to get the job done. It can, in the case of the front Dels. Similar to the side belts, if you only do, let’s say, compound pressing, chest pressing, overhead pressing, you are not going to get enough side dealt definition or development to get that kind of capped 3D look as they say.
The same goes for your rear belts. They are just not going to receive enough stimulation before we begin. Many people say that you are as old as you feel, and there’s definitely some truth there, but for us, physically active people, for US fitness folk, it’s probably even truer to say that we are as old as our joints feel because healthy, functional PainFREE joints make our workouts more enjoyable and more productive, as well as everything else we do really.
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Go to buy legion.com/fortify now. Use the coupon code muscle at checkout to save 20% or get 6% cash back and try fortify risk free and see what you think. Okay, so in case you are not familiar with the rear deltas, the deloid muscles or the deltas are the muscles that cover your shoulder joints, and they help your upper arms move forward upward and backward.
And each deloid is made up of three sections or three heads. You have the anterior deloid that’s on the front. You have the later. Deloid that’s on the side and the posterior deloid on the back, and the posterior deloid is often referred to as the rear delta. Now, of course, you have three of these muscles on each side of your body and adequately training your rear.
Deltas, in particular, offers two important benefits. One, it helps. Produce more proportional aesthetic, as they say, shoulders. So the rear Dels are smaller and more stubborn. Generally, they are harder to grow than the other two heads of the OIDs, and that means that they usually need a bit of extra attention, a bit more attention even than the side deltas, which many people struggle to develop.
If you want your. Rear Dels to grow at the same rate, to grow at a proportional rate to your front and side. Dels also adequately training your rear belts can improve the health of your shoulders and can reduce the risk of injury. And this is particularly important for us weightlifters, especially us guys who spend.
A lot more time. Usually training our front and side deltas because we do a lot of pushing exercises. We do a lot of bench pressing and overhead pressing, and a lot of us do a lot of lateral raises as well. And research shows that if you have a large strength and size difference between your rear belts and your front and side belts, if there’s a big imbalance between.
The rear and the front and side belts that can increase your risk of injury. And of course, one of the primary types of injuries we want to avoid in our training is a joint injury. We do not want to hurt our shoulders. We do not want to hurt our elbows, our wrists, our hip. Our knees are back because even when these injuries are not all that severe, even when they are just repetitive stress injuries, they prevent us from being able to train the way that we want to train and they can take a long time to heal, especially if we are stubborn about our training and we don’t stop doing whatever is continuing to aggravate the joint.
And so I don’t want you to be afraid of hurting yourself in the gym. Research shows that when done properly weightlifting is a very safe activity, and it is actually joint friendly activity when done correctly. But I also want you to understand that there are some common mistakes that people make that increase their risk of injury.
And I don’t want you to make those mistakes. And in the case of the shoulders, Two common mistakes are, one, not training the rear Deltas just doing a lot of, it’s usually a lot of front dealt training and then also very little side dealt, and basically no rear dealt training. That’s the most common mistake.
And then another very common mistake is doing a lot of pressing, a lot of horizontal pressing, a lot of vertical pressing, and very little. Pulling research shows that is also not good for your shoulders. You want to make sure that you do not have a major size and strength and balance between the front and the back of your torso, between your pushing or your pressing muscles and your pulling muscles.
And practically speaking, to achieve that, you wanna make sure that you are doing at least as much pulling. Pressing. So if you look at just hard sets, sets taken close to muscular failure for your pushing slash pressing and pulling, they should be more or less the same. And some people say that you need to do even more pulling than pressing to achieve the balance needed to preserve your shoulder health.
- Don’t think that there’s a strong evidence based case to be made for that, but I do certainly agree that you should be doing at least as much pulling as pressing. Okay, so coming back to rear Del, let’s now talk about training them. Let’s talk about. Exercise selection. Now, if you are following my advice or really just I would say strength training, kind of 1 0 1 advice, you are going to be doing a lot of compound exercises in your training.
A lot of exercises that involve multiple major muscle groups, multiple joints, and that’s good. And there are compound exercises that do engage the rear dels, like pullups and pull downs and row. But research shows that if you want to maximize your rear dealt development, which really is our goal, because again, these are small, stubborn muscles, and so maximizing rear dealt development does not mean the same thing practically speaking as maximizing your quads, for example.
And so what research shows is that you also should be doing isolation exercises that emphasize your. Rear delta, and I’ll be sharing some of those exercises here in the podcast. And as for the proportion of volume for compound versus isolation exercises for your rear deltas, you can do the majority of your volume with compound exercises.
Let’s say 80% of it, 70 or 80%, and then the minority of your volume specifically for your. Rear delta. So if you are doing, let’s say, 10 to 15 sets of compound exercises per week, I think doing anywhere from three to five sets of specific rear dealt work, in addition to the compound work that also involves the rear deltas is a reasonable way to program.
Now as for the absolute amount of volume that you should be giving to your rear doubts, a good rule of thumb is just somewhere between 10 to 20 hard sets per week. Again, a hard set being a working set, a set taken close to muscular failure, and that applies to any major muscle group, 10 hard sets per week.
Probably the bare minimum that will be needed to make any progress whatsoever unless you are absolutely brand new to all of this. And somewhere around 20 hard sets per week is probably the maximum amount of volume you can do and successfully recover from for any major muscle group. And so just to relate that then back to the first point that I made, Let’s say you are.
10 hard sets for your rear adults per week. Reasonable programming, I think would be seven to eight of those sets being compound exercises. Again, that I will share with you in a little bit on this podcast. And then the remaining two or three would be isolation work specifically for the rear delta. Now when you are training your rear belt, it’s important to treat them like any other major muscle group, and that means progressive overload, always trying to get stronger, trying to get more reps, trying to eventually add more weight to the bar or to the dumbbells or to the machine.
And depending on how you are setting up your programming, occasionally increasing volume for a muscle group is also an effective way to progressively overload it. But that is also. The most difficult to recover from. That is also the hardest method on your body, and so it needs to be used sparingly. Now, as for methods of progression with a small muscle group like the rear adults, I most like the method double progression, which is basically where you are working in a rep range, let’s say six to.
Eight reps, and once you hit the top of that rep range for a certain number of sets, 1, 2, 3, 4, depending on the programming, you then add weight to the exercise and that then bumps your reps down two or three. Down to the bottom of your rep range, and then you work with that new heavier weight until you hit the top of your rep range.
Again, If we’re working in the rep range of six to eight, it would be eight. So let’s say once you get eight for one or two sets in a row, it’s time to add weight. And if this is a rear dealt exercise, that’s probably gonna be 10 pounds total. So let’s say five pounds to each dumbbell. If you’re doing a dumbbell rear raise, for example, and now you can only do, let’s.
Six, which is usually what happens when you add 10 pounds to an exercise. You lose about two reps. Cool. Now you’re at the bottom of your rep range, your six to eight rep range, and you work with that new heavier weight until you can do one or two or maybe three or four sets of. Eight, again, add weight and so forth.
That method works really well with. It can work really well with all exercises. I do think that it gets more difficult with compound exercises when you are an intermediate or advanced weightlifter, but it always works well with isolation exercises and if you wanna learn more. About double progression and how it works and how to include it in your training.
Head over to legion athletics.com, Search for double progression, and you’ll find an in-depth article that I wrote on it. But anyway, coming back to my point here, treat your. Rear doubt like you would treat a also group you really care about, like it’s your biceps if you’re a guy or it’s your glutes, maybe if you’re a girl and push for progress, it is not enough to just go through the motions every week.
Do the same number of reps, the same number of sets, the same amount of weight, same exercises, indefinitely. That’s fine if all you want to do is maintain your current level of strength and development, but if you want to increase strength and development, you have to push for progress. Now, one other training tip for the rear Deltas is studies show that you make the fastest progress on the exercises and on the muscle groups that you train at the beginning of your workouts because of course, that’s when you are freshest both physic.
And mentally. And so if you want to really kickstart your rear dealt development, then you wanna make sure that you are starting your workouts that involve your rear dels with exercises that involve your rear Dels. And that can be compound exercises. That would be my general recommendation. Don’t start your workout with an isolation exercise for your rear belts followed by.
Compound pulling exercise. I would do that the other way around. But the point is, start those workouts with the exercises that train your rear belt. Okay, now let’s talk about exercises. My 10 favorite exercises for training the rear. Dealt, and this isn’t necessarily in order of preference or importance, but here are 10 exercises that I’m always rotating through in my own programming.
The first one is the barbell Row, one of my favorite rowing. Pulling back everything on the backside of your body exercises that you can do. One of the reasons I like it is you can generally lift more weight with the barbell row than you can with other rear del exercises, and that makes it great for.
Gaining strength, which is great for gaining muscle because as you become a more experienced weightlifter, the only reliable way really to keep gaining muscle is to keep gaining strength. All right, The next exercise is the one arm dumbbell row. Another fantastic rowing, pulling back of everything exercise that includes the rear deltas.
And one of the reasons I like this exercise is it allows you to train each side of your body independently, and that allows you to then lift more weight per side than would be possible with something like a barbell. And again, that’s great for progressively overloading your muscles. And an exercise like this that allows you to train each limb independently, make sure that you are not accidentally developing slight imbalances between the left and right sides of your body, which can happen with a barbell exercise because we tend to be stronger on one side of our body than the other.
And if we don’t pay attention, the stronger side can take over. A little bit more than the weaker side. Maybe, 60 or 70% of the pulling in the barbell row is with your stronger arm and your weaker arm is still pulling, but is also a little bit along for the ride. Next up, we have the pull up, which is yet another fantastic exercise for training the rear belts and our biceps to some degree, although the chin up is better for that and our back muscles.
And the pullup is great because once body weight pullups become too easy. Let’s say you can do 20 plus body weight pullups per set, and you wanna work in the 68 rep range. You can just add weight with a dip belt. That’s the easiest way to do it. Or with your feet, you can snatch a dumbbell in between your feet.
And work in whatever re range you want to work in, and you can never outgrow this exercise in that sense because as you get stronger, just add more weight. Then we have the chin up, which I just mentioned puts a little bit more stress on your biceps a little bit better for. Building your biceps, but it also puts a little bit more stress on your rear belts.
Research shows that the Chinup trains your rear belts through a larger range of motion, which means they have to work harder, which of course is better for making them bigger and stronger. Next up on my list is the machine variation. Of the pull up, which is the LA pull down. Great way to build up to being able to do pullups.
Also, just a great alternative to pullups. If you’ve been doing pullups or weighted pullups for a couple of months and it’s time to do something else, the LA pull down is a great option. Next we have the seated cable row. Yet another exercise that trains the rear belts, trains your biceps, trains your back muscles.
And one of the things I like about this exercise in particular is it offers constant tension throughout the set, which stimulates muscles slightly differently than exercises where you have a large amount of tension at a certain point when you’re, let’s say your muscles are maximally contracted, and then.
A very small amount of tension in your muscles at the opposite end of the exercise when your muscles are not nearly as contracted. Number seven is the barbell rear dealt row. So now we’re getting into some isolation exercises, and this is similar to a barbell row. But you are pulling the weight to your mid chest instead of your stomach, and that reduces the amount of LA engagement, which means that it’s harder on your upper back, it’s harder on your rear belts, and it also means less weight of course, because you are not using your big strong lats nearly as much.
Then we have the dumbbell, rear lateral ray. One of my favorite isolation exercise. For the rear belts. And this one also trains your traps. It trains your rom boards. You can do this exercise seated, you can do it standing, or you can do it on an incline bench. And I hadn’t done that in a while, but I started to do it recently and I think that’s my favorite setup actually, previously, I preferred the seated variation, but somebody commented on Instagram.
They asked me, Hey, why don’t you do that on an incline bench? And that reminded me, Oh yeah, that actually is a good variation. I haven’t done that in a while. Started to do it in this training block and really like it. And I think that’s just gonna be my preferred dumbbell rear lateral. Raise setup going forward.
Another go-to rear Dell exercise for me is the machine reverse fly. And research actually shows that this exercise in particular activates the rear Dels more than exercises like the seated cable row and the LA pull down. And that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more effective than the. Compound exercises, but it means that it is a very effective alternative and a very effective isolation exercise specifically for the rear dels.
Now, last on my list is the face pole, which is an interesting exercise because it not only trains the rear Dels with the. Pulling of your hands toward your face. It also trains your shoulder, your rotator cuff muscles because when done correctly, you are finishing with your shoulders in an externally rotated position.
And studies show that training that external rotation so externally rotating against resistance and improving the strength of those rotator cuff muscles can improve your shoulder. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
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Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle or life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.