Rear Delt Raise (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

The rear delt raise is a popular shoulder and upper back exercise. This exercise is typically performed at the end of an upper-body session but can also be utilized as a part of the warm-up to get the shoulders ready to lift.

In this guide, I will be going over how to do the rear delt raise, coaching points, muscles worked, and more.

How To Do Rear Delt Raises

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

  • Grab your dumbbells (or plates) and bend at the waist until you are close to perpendicular to the floor.
  • I recommend slightly bending the elbow and keeping 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. In this movement, 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.

Do not bang the dumbbells together at the bottom of the rep. Stay in control of the movement throughout.

Benefits of Rear Delt Raises

Rear Delt Raises are an effective way to target and strengthen the posterior deltoid muscle, which is an important part of the shoulder complex. By improving the strength of your posterior deltoids, you can improve overall shoulder stability and reduce the risk of injury.

There are several variations of Rear Delt Raises that can be performed using dumbbells as described above, but also with resistance bands or cable machines, making it a versatile exercise that can be adapted to many different situations.

Muscles Worked

  • Rear Delts
  • Mid traps
  • Rotator Cuff muscles

Rear Delt Raise Alternatives

If you don’t have dumbbells or are just looking to change your workout up a bit, here are a few alternatives.

If you want even more options, check out these 11 Rear Delt Raise Alternatives.

Cable Face Pulls

Grab a rope attachment for the cable machine. Set the height right at about the forehead. Set your stance in an athletic posture and pull the cable to your face, letting the elbows go out. Squeeze the upper back and feel the burn!

Chest Supported YTWL

Grab a bench and set it at 45 degrees. Lie face down. Use very lightweight here (Some can even just go body weight). Perform 5-10 repetitions of each letter with your arms. Focus on full protraction and retraction of the scapula. This one burns, enjoy!

Band Tears (Band Pull Aparts)

Grab a light band for Band Tears. Stand with your hands at about shoulder-width and protracted grip. Hold the band straight out, parallel to the floor. Pull the band apart utilizing your rear delts, mid traps, and rotator cuff muscles.

Focus on keeping tension on the band and feel the burn in that mid-upper back.

More Info and Links

Looking for some more great exercises to increase your upper body strength? Head over to our exercise library to find step-by-step exercises to help you get stronger. All for free.

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