The Ultimate Rear Delt Workout

Ronnie Coleman's solution to lagging rear delts.

The Ultimate Rear Delt Workout


Even though my physique is balanced and symmetrical, I don’t seem to have any rear-delt development. Any clues?


Lagging muscle development is easy to troubleshoot. It means the muscle group is not being trained hard enough, heavy enough or correctly. With rear delts, especially, that’s a major problem. No muscle group is as resistant to isolation, or as limited in range of motion, or as difficult to hit with enough weight, all of which combine to prevent it from growing at an equal pace with other muscles.

However, that is no excuse for not developing world-class rear delts. All bodybuilders are rear-delt challenged, and yet no top Mr. Olympia competitor is rear-delt deficient. Here’s how I get it done.


Try this experiment. Press your rear delts backward. You will notice that your lats and traps, which have more strength and leverage than  your rear delts, will try to take over the movement. In effect, they bully your rear delts out of the way, thereby preventing your rear delts from benefiting from the exercise. That’s your clue to tell your lats and traps to mind their own business and stay the heck out of the movement.

I do that by mentally separating my rear delts from all other muscle groups, as though they are the only bodypart I have, sitting out there all by themselves, unconnected to my lats, traps or medial delts.

I then run through a rep in my mind, imagining how my rear delts will contract to move the weight, and I realize that — since they cannot be pulled by my shoulder blades — they must rotate clockwise, or inward, around their vertical axes.

For the extension, the movement is reversed, so that they can rotate counterclockwise, or outward. This allows me to focus 100% of my energy into my rear delts alone, so that at no time do I pull back with my shoulder blades or lift with my traps.


In the case of rear delts, an inch of movement is worth a mile. Full range of motion is no more than  a couple of inches, so it’s absolutely imperative you use every bit of it. First, reverse your mind-muscle connection to deactivate your back, traps, front delts and medial delts, so they will not take over some of the movement that should be performed by your rear delts.

Now, contract and expand your rear delts by moving your arms. Keep all other muscles immobile. Contract to the point where your shoulders are about to be pulled backward; extend to the point where they are about to be pulled forward.


Notice that when you are standing free, with your body unsupported, your rear delts have no stabilized base against which to press with their max strength. I have two solutions to this training paradox: The first is to perform seated dumbbell side laterals with my chest braced against an incline bench. Not only does this prevent forward thrust of my torso  as I raise my arms, but my stabilized torso enables me to isolate all of that power into squeezing my rear delts. I’m also able to squeeze that max weight through the full range of motion of my rear delts.

The next solution is seated dumbbell presses, with my back braced against an upright pad, except that I press the dumbbells up through a backward bias to hit my rear delts.

For now, prioritize your rear delts in your shoulder workouts by adding these two exercises. Do four sets of each, 10-12 reps per set. Before you know it, you’ll have new boulders hanging off the back of your shoulders. – FLEX


  • Seated Barbell Presses | SETS: 4* | REPS: 8-10
  • Bent Laterals (on an incline bench) | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-12
  • Seated Dumbbell Side Laterals | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-12
  • Seated Dumbbell Presses (through backward arc) | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-12

* Warm up with one set of 20 light reps.

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