Why are rear deltoids such a common deficiency among bodybuilders, and how can they be developed?


My most effective training principles for increasing rear-deltoid muscle mass are isolation, full range of motion and maximum weight resistance. However, the remote location of rear deltoid heads renders them a challenging exception to these principles. 

Ronnie Coleman Delts 2

Try flexing your rear delts and you’ll see what I mean. Unlike many other muscles in the body, the position of rear deltoids limits the ability to control them directly, to move them through a wide range of motion and, especially, to contract them with power and strength. About all you can do is pull backward with a flye movement, yet no matter how far you pull, their range of motion amounts to little more than a partial squeeze. What’s more, they are only being reached indirectly; rhomboids provide most of the motion and tend to take most of the stress before the rear delts are activated. 

To illustrate this difficulty, compare your rear delts’ isolation, range of motion and strength with those of other muscles. Biceps, triceps and legs contract directly against the weight they are lifting and, therefore, are more thoroughly fatigued. Pectoral muscles and lats can push an enormous amount of weight through a great range of motion, which means they, too, are more directly fatigued. Even frontal and lateral deltoid heads can be more easily isolated and lift a greater amount of weight directly and through a greater range of motion by means of front or lateral dumbbell raises. They, too, can be more directly and thoroughly fatigued. So, what is the solution?


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Ronnie Coleman Rear Delts 1


This exercise is my best solution. The key is to lie face-down with your chest against an incline bench. This position eliminates the need to stabilize your body, as in free-standing laterals, and allows you to focus your strength on rear-deltoid contractions.

With palms facing each other, begin with the dumbbells parallel at the bottom and your elbows bent slightly. Then, lift your arms outward and upward as far as possible, squeezing only with your rear deltoids. Do not swing or jerk the weights, and do not squeeze your scapulae together. If you keep your shoulders hunched slightly forward during the exercise, your scapulae will be spread farther apart, allowing your rear-deltoid muscles to contract through a greater range of motion. When you’ve raised the dumbbells as high as you think they’ll go, steel your will and squeeze them higher. Always try for more height.


To accelerate rear-delt development, superset face-down incline dumbbell laterals with seated bent dumbbell laterals. The lower angle of this exercise will add more mass to lower rear delts.

For each exercise, do three sets of 10-15 reps per set. Incorporate these permanently in your shoulder workout, and you’ll soon have cannonballs hanging off your rear shoulders. – FLEX

Ronnie Coleman's Delt Workout