5 Best Rear Delt Calisthenics Exercises: The Most Overlooked Muscle!

Training the often-overlooked rear deltoids is crucial for balanced shoulder development, improved posture, injury prevention, and achieving an aesthetically pleasing shoulder appearance. Keep reading to find out how!

Anatomy And Function Of The Rear Deltoids

Before getting into the exercises it is good to have a basic understanding of the anatomy and function of the rear delt, that way you can know which exercises are targeting the rear delts.

The rear deltoids, or posterior deltoids, are one of the three heads of the deltoid muscle located in the shoulder. It originates from the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade) and inserts into the deltoid tuberosity on the humerus (upper arm bone).

The Rear Deltoids have three primary functions:

Horizontal shoulder abduction: the rear deltoids assist in the transverse abduction of the arm, which means moving the upper arm away from the midline of the body in the horizontal plane.

Shoulder External Rotation: the rear deltoids contribute to shoulder external rotation, which involves turning the arm or shoulder outward.

Shoulder Hyperextension: the rear deltoids assist in shoulder hyperextension, which involves moving the arm backward, away from the front of the body.

5 Best Rear Delt Calisthenics Exercises

Now you have a basic understanding of the anatomy and function of the rear delts, it is time to get down to business, that is why I compiled a list of the 5 best rear deltoid exercises you can do, enjoy!

1. Ring Face Pull

Ring face pulls stand out as a highly effective exercise for isolating the rear deltoids along with other upper back muscles such as the rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles.
Due to the internal rotation often involved in other exercises, ring face pulls provide an indirect yet beneficial engagement of the rotator cuff muscles, through external rotation. This not only contributes to the structural balance of the shoulder but also aids in injury prevention.

How to do ring face pulls:

  1. Walk your feet forward, leaning back slightly to create an angled position. Ensure your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Extend your arms fully in front of you, creating the starting position.
  2. Keep your elbows high and out to the sides. Pull the rings towards your face by retracting your shoulder blades. Aim to bring the rings just above chin level.
  3. Pause momentarily at the peak of the movement. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and contracting your rear delts.
  4. Lower your body slowly and with control. Fully extend your arms as you return to the initial position.

2. Reverse Ring Fly

The reverse ring fly is an exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoids and the muscles of the upper back, through horizontal abduction. The use of gymnastic rings adds an element of instability, requiring additional muscle activation for stabilization. This enhances shoulder stability and the overall integrity of the shoulder joint.

How to perform reverse ring flies: 

  1. Grap the ring with each hand, palms facing each other.
  2. Step back to create tension in the rings, leaning back slightly. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Your arms should be fully extended in front of you.
  3. Lift the rings outward and to the sides, away from the midline of your body. Keep them straight through the movement.
  4. When you reach the top of the movement your arms should be forming a “T” shape. Pause briefly and focus on contracting your rear deltoids and upper back muscles.
  5. Lower the rings back to the starting position in a controlled manner. Fully extend your arms as you return to the initial position.

Start with a lighter resistance and gradually increase as you become more comfortable with the exercise. Ring rear delt flys are difficult to perform with good form, so don’t get disappointed if you’re nearly vertical at first.

3. Wide Bodyweight Rows

bodyweight rows are an excellent compound exercise that engages various muscles in the upper back. A wide grip places more emphasis on the rear delts, as your grip widens you progress from performing shoulder extension to horizontal extension which activates the rear delts to a higher degree.

How to perform wide bodyweight rows for beefy rear delts:

  1. Grip the bar or rings with a pronated grip, hands placed wider than shoulder-width apart. Position your body underneath the bar or rings, with your arms fully extended.
  2. Pull your chest up towards the bar or rings while keeping your body in a straight line, focus on bringing your elbows out to the sides, creating a wide pulling motion.
  3. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together to maximize the contraction in your upper back, including the rear deltoids.
  4. Lower your body back down in a controlled manner, fully extending your arms

Adjust the difficulty by changing the angle of your body. The more horizontal your body, the more challenging the exercise becomes, you can even do them in a declined position if you are super strong.

4. Arc Rows

Arc rows became popular among bodyweight athletes not long ago. It’s one of those moves that, at first glance looks simple, but can be extremely challenging. It is excellent for developing specific horizontal pulling strength towards front lever pull ups and even isometric front lever progressions. This exercise works the rear delts through shoulder hyperextension to an even greater extent than standard rows effectively targeting the rear delts.

How to do Arc Rows:

  1. Grab the rings with an overhand grip, and lean back to create an angled position.
  2. Pull the rings towards your hips by bending your elbows and retracting your shoulder blades.
  3. At the top of the movement, your hips or belly button should be close to the rings, and you should squeeze your upper back muscles. (Your body should never be vertical, always a bit diagonal should you keep tension in the muscles)
  4. Slow lower back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.

This exercise is quite difficult so take your time with it, and don’t rush the progressions to avoid sloppy form and other mistakes that will hurt your progress in the long run.

5. Front Lever Pull Ups

Front lever pull ups don’t only look cool, but it is also a great exercise for building a strong and thick back, It is a horizontal pulling exercise and works the rear deltoid through some degree of shoulder hyperextension.

How to perform front lever pull up progressions:

  1. Pick a progression that suits your current strength level (If tuck front lever pull ups are to hard, regress to arc rows to build enough strength)
  2. Pull up into the front lever progression you want to perform the front lever pull up in.
  3. Initiate the movement by driving your elbows back and pulling your belly towards the rings or bar.
  4. Continue pulling until you lower abdominals touches the bar or you elbows bend 90 degrees or higher.
  5. Slower lower down back to the starting position in a controlled manner, keeping the body horizontal throughout.

Programming tips for best results

For isolation exercises, it makes sense to work in the higher rep ranges (10-20+ reps), because by lifting lighter weights you can keep good form thereby preventing other muscles such as the traps from taking over the movement.

Do the isolation exercises after your main compound exercises to avoid accumulated fatigue for your main exercises.

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