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The Posterior Deltoid

Learn How To Effectively Stimulate & Train Your Post Delts For Maximum Growth!

Posted by Daniel_Meyer - July 5th, 2014

Shoulder workouts are often too focused around the middle and anterior head of the deltoid. The majority of the time they consist of copious amounts of presses, raises etc with a couple of reverse flyes thrown in at the end to work the posterior deltoid. Not only is this detrimental to physique but also function, performance and injury prevention.


The posterior deltoid functions to extend, horizontally abduct and externally rotate the shoulder. In relation to exercises this means that the posterior deltoid is activated on the majority of rows and pulldowns but not at a significant threshold to stimulate optimal growth. Reverse flyes are primarily the motion of horizontal abduction but often I see these exercises executed with bad form and too much weight which removes the isolation of the posterior deltoid. Note also that overhead presses provide very little stimulation to the posterior deltoid regardless of whether they are performed behind the neck or in any other fashion.

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So How Should We Train The Posterior Deltoid?

To fully stimulate the posterior deltoid we must address one major component; isolated mechanical tension. Here are the ways in which I like to create this component:

  • Keep the shoulders protracted throughout the movement.
  • Horizontal abduction must come solely from the shoulder joint and not the shoulder girdle. What I mean by this is that when you horizontally abduct to get full ROM you must at some point retract the shoulder. By doing this you are removing some tension from the posterior deltoid as the scapula retractors will engage to facilitate the movement. By keeping in a protracted state you will decrease the activation of other muscles.
  • Work through a stimulation ROM.
  • When executing reverse flyes you must only work to around 80˚ of shoulder horizontal abduction. Any more than this and you will begin to retract the shoulder girdle.
  • Focus on quality of contraction over amount of weight lifted.
  • The mind-muscle connection must always be present when stimulating the posterior deltoid. This means that weight may be compromised in order to create isolation. As a general ruling I like to say with DB reverse flyes the weight used should be around 20% of your DB shoulder press 10 rep max.

Here Is a List Of My Favorite Posterior Deltoid Exercises:

  • Prone, chest supported, reverse flyes with a pronated grip.
  • Prone, chest supported, wide-grip row to neck
  • One-arm reverse cables flyes
  • Reverse Cable Flyes
  • Face Pulls with external rotation

In a shoulder workout you should be aiming for a minimum of 2 posterior deltoid exercises. Within the exercises I like to do one with moderate reps eg 10 – 12 then one with higher reps 20 – 25. If you follow this rep scheme aim for around 4 – 6 sets in total for the posterior deltoid.


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