Fitness Tips

Rear Delt Fly: How To (Video), Muscles Worked, Benefits, & Alternatives Exercises

Article summary: This article covers the Rear Delt Fly exercise. Here you will learn:

  • What the rear delt fly exercise is
  • How to do a rear delt fly – step by step
  • Muscles worked by the rear delt fly exercise
  • Benefits of this exercise
  • Alternative exercises

What Is The Rear Delt Fly Exercise

The rear delt fly exercise is a movement that was developed with the aim to work the rear muscles of your shoulder. This exercise is one that can be performed with both cables or dumbbells.

How To Do The Rear Delt Fly Exercise Step-By-Step

Listed below is the step by step guide on how to perform the rear delt fly exercise

Step 1

Stand upright and hold two dumbbells, one in each hand.

Related Reading: Best Place to Buy Dumbbells

Step 2

Bend your knees a little and lean forward to about a 90-degree angle.

Step 3

Stretch your arms downward, this is your initial position, then move both of your arms away from each other as far as you can and then go back to your initial position, simulating a flying movement, hence the name rear delt fly exercise.

Step 4

Repeat this pattern for the desired number for reps.

Pretty simple as you can see. And here is a visual illustration of this exercise

Rear Delt Fly Exercise

This exercise is ideally done in the form of 2 to 3 sets each with 8 to 12 reps; This means you repeat the pattern we mentioned 8 to 12 times – one set – then rest for about a minute to a minute and a half and then complete another set and so on until you’ve completed the required number of sets.

Muscles Worked By The Rear Delt Fly

1. Rear DeltsMuscles Worked By The Rear Delt Fly - Rear Delts

The main beneficiary muscle group of this exercise is your deltoid muscle -delts-, these muscles are responsible for forming the rounded contour in your shoulder. Having them properly exercised and in shape helps with your body’s movement ability as well as the overall look of your upper-body.

2. Traps

Muscles Worked By The Rear Delt Fly - Traps

Traps, short for the trapezius muscle, is a muscle located in your back stretching from your neck downwards. Having a nice posture and a flexible body relies heavily on this muscle as it sits between your neck, shoulders, and head.

3. Arms

Muscles Worked By The Rear Delt Fly - Arms

This exercise works your triceps and especially your biceps, in this exercise when you lift the dumbbells against the force of gravity. And of course, working your arms isn’t just beneficial for aesthetic purposes but also for practical purposes as you use your arms in most of your day-to-day activity.

4. Chest

Muscles Worked By The Rear Delt Fly - Chest

A secondary muscle that is indirectly worked from this exercise are your chest muscles. You use your chest muscle to stabilize your return repetition.

Benefits Of The Rear Delt Fly Exercise

Listed below are the benefits that the rear delt fly exercise can provide

Excellent Toning Exercise For A Back Workout Day

This exercise is phenomenal when it comes to working your back; as it is easy to perform and greatly impacts your upper back.

Benefits Of The Rear Delt Fly Exercise - Good For Back Workout Day

It Greatly Helps With Your Posture

The modern way of living has impacted our physical health and physical appearance immensely; sitting in an office for most of the day has a really negative effect on different areas of our body but specifically the areas impacting our posture.

The rear dealt fly exercise targets those areas: it targets the spine, the traps, and the shoulders. It greatly helps in reversing the bad side effects that come with the modern way of life.

Other exercises you can do to get better your posture include dumbbell floor press, double crunches, and the T bar row.

Stronger Shoulders

Your shoulder muscles, specifically the outer and most wide part of your delts, are the primary target of the this exercise. The wideness that you see in ripped guys upper back has a lot to do with the rear delts.

Use rear delt flys as a way to not only strengthen your shoulders but also to create the image of a wide v taper.

Improve Physical Appearance

Let’s not kid ourselves, other than the health and psychological benefits that come from consistent training and exercises the main reason we are working out is to look good. I mean it is most certainly the reason i am working out.

As I said above, you want that ripped wide v-tapped look? This exercise will help you get there.

This exercise is also excellent for toning up the muscles in your upper back to create a chiseled grainy look.

Rear Delt Fly Variations

Here are the variations that you can perform of the traditional rear delt fly to target different areas of your shoulder and upper back

One-Arm Rear Delt Fly

One arm rear delt fly is just as the name implies: a rear delt fly exercise performed with one arm instead of two.

Steps to Follow for a One-Arm Rear Delt Fly Exercise

  • Starting position is pretty much the same as in the regular rear delt fly steps above. You stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold one dumbbell instead of two.
  • Proceed to hinge at the waist, just like regular.
  • Bend forward, at about a 45° angle. Keep your back as straightened as possible.
  • Begin the exercise by lifting your arm outwards to the side. Your elbow just slightly bent.
  • Retract to the starting position and repeat for as many reps as necessary. Switch hands if you please.

Recommended reps stay the same at 10 reps for 3 sets.

Bent Arm Lateral Raise

The bent arm lateral raise, unlike the regular rear delt fly, is performed in a standing position. Below are the steps to follow for a perfect bent arm lateral raise:

Step 1

Enter in a regular standing position.

Step 2

Bend your elbows in a 90 degree position. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing inwards.

Step 3

With your elbows already held 90 degrees outwards, contract your shoulders out and back while keeping your arms at the same height as your shoulders.

Step 4

Once the dumbbells are at the perfect height, retract them inwards again to the starting position.

Step 5

Repeat for as many reps as you deem appropriate.

Rear Delt Fly Alternative Exercise

Now we are going to be discussing an alternative exercise to the rear delt fly that targets your shoulders and chest more effectively, the cable rear delt row exercise. As the name suggests you are going to need a cable gym machine to perform this exercise and to follow the steps we mention below.

Cable Rear Delt Row Exercise Step-By-Step

Listed below is the step by step guide on how to perform the rear delt fly alternative exercise, the cable rear delt row

Step 1

Adjust the weights on the cable machine to your desired weight. Attach a rope attachment and adjust the rope’s height to be at slightly above your shoulder’s height.

Step 2

Stand back from the machine and hold both ends of the rope with your hands.

Step 3

Pull the rope towards your chest until your hands meet the upper part of your chest.

Step 4

This is the movement pattern you should follow, Repeat it for the desired number of reps

Video Illustration Of The Cable Rear Delt Row Exercise

Ideally, you should perform this exercise in the form of 2 to 3 sets each with 8 to 12 reps

Common Rear Delt Fly Exercise Mistakes

Here are the most common mistakes that beginners tend to make when performing this exercise

Arm Positioning

The ideal positioning for your arms should be lateral to your shoulders and not diagonal. Start with a light weight until you can master the form correctly.

Too Much Weight

Some beginners tend to make the mistake of using heavier dumbbells than they can handle in hopes of achieving faster results or because they are ego lifting. Doing this actually results in the complete opposite – no results at all.

This is because when you try and use heavy weights that prevent you from using the correct form you tend to to do partial reps instead of complete ones. Know that using correct form is more important than trying to start off lifting as much weight as you can.

Arm Angle

Last mistake we’ll discuss is the arm angle alteration. It is not uncommon for lifters in a rear delt fly to bend the arms too heavily while performing the exercise.

While you want your arms slightly bent doing it too much can completely alter the exercise and turn it into a different workout entirely.

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Ben Mayz

Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now. My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future. I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics. My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics. Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward. You can learn more about Fitlifefanatics on our About Page