7 Cable Rear Delt Fly Alternatives For Strong Shoulders

Cable Rear Delt Flys are an extremely popular supplemental exercise for shoulder development. They’re easy to learn, beginner-friendly and are one of the most effective exercises for focusing on the posterior deltoid.

However, sometimes you may need an alternative for Cable Rear Delt Flys.

Maybe you don’t have a cable machine or are just looking to add some variety to your workouts.

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for an exercise to substitute for Cable Rear Delt Fly then you’re in the right place. I’m about to share with you 7 of my favorite Cable Rear Delt Fly alternatives.

Alternatives for Cable Rear Delt Fly

I’ve tried to include as much variety in this list of rear delt exercises as possible. There are exercises that utilize all kinds of different equipment – dumbbells, resistance bands and even one that doesn’t require any equipment at all.

What all these exercises have in common, though, is that they are all target and emphasize the rear delt and rotator cuff muscles.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise

Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise

The best (and closest) Rear Delt Fly alternative for most people is going to be Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise.

It’s basically the same movement pattern and will still target the rear delts. The only real difference is using dumbbells instead of a cable machine.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells*
  • 5 or 10-pound iron plates*

*Either is fine for most lifters. Advanced lifters may want dumbbells heavier than 10 pounds.

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Start in a standing position with knees slightly bent and feet hip-width apart.
  • Grab your dumbbells (or plates) and bend at the waist until you are close to perpendicular to the floor.
  • Keep a slight bend in the elbow and keep your palms facing each other. As you execute the movement, the palms will face the floor.
  • Initiate the movement by bringing your arms out to the side and squeezing the shoulder blades.
  • Pause at the top of the movement for about 1 second.
  • Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

In the setup, be sure to bend at the waist enough so that you are perpendicular as much as possible. When doing Rear Delt Raises, the burn should be felt in the upper back and rear shoulders.

If your setup is too vertical, you may feel the burn in the traps or medial delts.

Don’t hitch (bounce) into lockout. If you find yourself using your torso to hitch, go down in weight. The emphasis here is on time under tension and quality movement still matters.

Band Pull Apart

Band Pull Aparts are an incredibly simple, yet effective, exercise for hitting the rear delts.

All you need is a resistance band which also makes it incredibly versatile and a great option when you’re on a road trip and away from the gym.

Equipment Needed

  • Resistance Band (optimally a thin red band)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a resistance band, one hand on each end of the band.
  • Hold the band out in the front of the chest with just a slight bend in the arms.
  • Now pull back and directly out to the side, as if you are trying to ‘tear’ the band in half.
  • Pull back until the band hits the chest.
  • Let the band retrace back to the starting position under control.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

The biggest key to Band Pull Aparts, also called Band Tears, is choosing the proper band. Too thick of a band will make the movement almost impossible to do with proper form and too thin of a band won’t give enough resistance.

Band Face Pulls

Band Face Pull

Another solid rear delt exercise that only needs a resistance band is Band Face Pulls.

Similar to Pull Aparts, Band Face Pulls can generally be done with more resistance because the hands are kept closer to the midline.

Equipment Needed

  • Resistance Band
  • Something sturdy to anchor the band to (Squat Rack is perfect for this)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Loop a resistance band around the vertical beam of a squat rack at shoulder height.
  • Grab the band with an overhand grip, hands roughly 3 inches apart.
  • Stand far enough away from the rack to get tension on the band.
  • Set feet shoulder-width apart, stand tall and brace the core.
  • Pull the band directly towards the chin.
  • Control the band back to the starting position and repeat.

Coaching Points

The key to Band Face Pulls is figuring out the proper distance away from the rack to stand.

This will depend upon your strength and the strength of the band you are using. You want to be far enough away from the rack to create good resistance, but not so far that you can’t complete the reps with good form.

Don’t rush. This is an exercise that it’s easy to speed through it and just go through the motions. Focus on each rep and the contraction at the top of the rep.

Scap Pushups

Athlete Doing Push-Ups

This Cable Rear Delt Fly alternative doesn’t need any equipment at all.

Scap Pushups are one of my favorite exercises to warm up the rear deltoids before a workout – especially before Bench Press.

Equipment Needed

  • None

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Scap Pushups begin with the athlete in a push-up position.
  • Hands should be directly under the shoulders. The body should be in a straight line, core engaged.
  • Retract the shoulder blades by actively lowering the chest and allowing the shoulder blades to slide together.
  • Now protract the shoulder blades by elevating the chest, essentially trying to ‘reach’ the upper torso toward the sky.
  • Arms should stay straight throughout the movement.

Coaching Points

Do NOT rush through Scap Pushups.

Yes, the longer you hold the position the more challenging it is on not only your shoulders but your core as well. This is part of the point of the exercise is to continue forcing the body to stabilize once fatigue starts to set in. Embrace that aspect of the movement.

Keep your arms straight! Easily the biggest mistake I see with athletes with Scap Pushups is wanting to bend the arms on the scap retraction. Keep the arms straight and focus on the movement of the shoulder blades.

A, Y, Ts

Rotator Cuff and Upper Back Muscles

A, Y, Ts fall into a category known as shoulder pre-hab.

It’s an exercise that is done with athletes coming off various shoulder injuries to rebuild the strength in the rear delts and surrounding stabilizer muscles.

Here, we’re using it as pre-hab – to try to reduce the risk of injuring the shoulder in the first place.

Equipment Needed

  • Very light dumbbells (typically 3lb or 5lb) OR Weight Plates (typically 2.5lb or 5lb)
  • Adjustable Bench (or Incline Bench)

How To

  • Adjust an incline bench up to about 30 degrees and grab two light weight plates.
  • Lay on your stomach with your head hanging off the top of the bench.
  • Set up in the starting position by engaging the lats and pulling the shoulder blades together.
  • Now, keep the arms extended and raise the plates overhead (like the A in YMCA).
  • Lower back down under control and complete 10 reps.
  • Once all reps are done immediately begin doing Ys by raising the plates at a 45-degree angle, thumbs pointed toward the ceiling.
  • Once you’ve completed ten Ys, finish with 10 Ts.
  • Ts are done by raising the arms straight to the side, thumbs still pointing up.

Coaching Points

Keep the shoulder blades pulled back, but do not shrug up. Shrugging up takes the emphasis away from the focus of A, Y, Ts.

Stay in control of each rep. Do not allow weights to be swung up and down.

Cable Upright Row

If you do have access to a cable machine, another option for hitting the rear delts is Cable Upright Row.

The cable variation of Upright Row is the best for targeting the rear delts because of the angle you can achieve by taking a small step away from the machine.

This will add just enough of a horizontal movement path to really work the rear delts.

Equipment Needed

  • Cable Machine

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Attach a straight handle* to a cable machine and lower the attachment pin to the bottom of the beam.
  • Grab the handle with an overhand grip and stand tall, handle starting right in front of the thighs.
  • Flex knees slightly and stand upright with good posture.
  • Pull the cable handle upward along the abdomen and chest toward the chin.
  • At the top, the elbow should be higher than the wrist, and above the shoulders.
  • Lower the handle under control back to the front of the thighs.
  • Do not ‘jerk’ or ‘rock’ the weight up and keep the handle close to the torso throughout.

Coaching Points

*You can use multiple different attachments other than a straight handle. The Rope Attachment is another popular attachment for Cable Upright Rows.

Big 30

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The Big 30 is a combo exercise that is great hitting all three of the shoulder muscles at once.

It’s a combination of Dumbbell Front Raises, Side Raises and Rear Delt Raises – done as one big giant set, back-to-back-to-back.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Step-By-Step Instructions

  • Start in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells in hand.
  • Begin by doing 10 Dumbbell Front Raises.
  • Once those reps are completed immediately transition into 10 Dumbbell Lateral Raises.
  • Once those reps are completed immediately transition into 10 Rear Delt Raises.

Coaching Points

The key to the Big 30 is to do each exercise back-to-back-to-back with no rest in between and without sitting the dumbbells down until all reps are completed.

Because all three exercises are done in a row you’ll need to use a lighter weight than you would doing each individually.

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Final Thoughts

The Rear Delts are an often overlooked, but extremely important set of muscles to maintain strong, healthy shoulders.

The Cable Rear Delt Fly is an excellent exercise for shoulder development, but sometimes Cable Rear Delt Flys just aren’t an option.

You may not have a cable machine available to you or at other times you might just be looking to add some variety to your shoulder routine.

In these situations, you’ll need a Cable Rear Delt Fly alternative and I hope that one of the exercises I’ve listed here fits what you were looking for.

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