Shoulder Training – Exercises (More Rear Delts!)

The shoulder (deltoid) is composed of 3 parts:

  • Front delts (Anterior Deltoid): Shoulder flexion
  • Side/Middle delts (Lateral Deltoid): Shoulder abduction
  • Rear delts (Posterior Deltoid): Shoulder transverse abduction


Rear Deltoid Need More Attention

In order to build an all-round 3D shoulder, every part is crucial.  Since front delts involve in all pressing exercises, it is fine.  Everyone spends lots of efforts on side delts as well in order to have a wider shoulder.  However the rear delts seems to be most neglected muscle, not because we don’t train it, but we tend to spend most of energy and time on front & side delts.  There’s not much left when we hit the rear delts.

If your rear delts actually lag behind, and you already have enough pressing exercises in your routines, it is advised that you spend more time and energy to the weak point by increasing the rear delts exercises and prioritising it, for example, Rear—>Side—>Front.  You may also add 1-2 rear delts exercises in your back/pull day to increase the training frequency for your rear delts.  So that you can balance your shoulder.

We will discuss 3 shoulder exercises.


Shoulder Exercises

#1 Wide Row

Either machine or bodyweight. Bodyweight version: bodyweight wide row.  This targets rear delts and rhomboid (and biceps and middle traps).  Grab a low bar and your body lean backward. A bit wider than shoulder width. Chest up.  Slow tempo, particularly when you approach peak, where is a nice spot for rear delts contraction.  Adopting 3-4s slow eccentrics are most effective.


Advanced version: Typewriter/Archer row.  For typewriter row, pull yourself up and move to two sides.  Keep the rear delts tension and imagine pulling your rear delts to your grip.  Slow tempo.
If you then add a drop set with a fast-speed wide row,  then you will experience massive blood flow.


#2 Single arm DB wide row

This targets rear delts (also biceps, rhomboid etc.)  One hand holding the bench or something for support, lean forward with split leg positions, tighten the cores.  Chest up, shoulder depressed, keep the upper body stable and straight.  Another hand holding dumbbell, pulls up with your rear delts and elbow pointing out.  The closer to the peak, the slower the motion so as to feel the rear delts squeezing.  Not only can you lift heavier with a single-arm exercise, you can actually focus on the mind-muscle connection.


Other Details

How far should elbow pointing out? It depends on your shoulder’s flexibility and mobility:

  • The smaller the angle, the less rear delts but more lats engagement.
  • The bigger the angle, the more rear delts but less lats engagement.

Note that, the bigger the angle, the easier injuries can occur.  You have to figure out the most suitable angle for yourself.  Guess around 45° – 80° .


How much you should lean forward

  • The more vertical the upper body, the less rear delts but more side delts & upper traps engagement.
  • The more the upper body lean, the more rear delts but less side delts & upper traps engagement.
  • Consider also the stability and the ease of exerting force.

Guess around 0-70°.  Find the suitable angle for yourself.  And vary it from time to time so as to provide stimulation.


#3 Pike Push Ups

This targets front delts and also upper chest.  Shoulder width. Elbows slightly tuck in.  Legs come closer to your body and keep it straight as possible.  Ordinary guys may struggle with this due to lack of flexibility.  It is alright and just try the best you could.  Slow tempo.  When reaching the ground, slightly lift your head up to increase the range of motion.  Remember elbows tuck in.  Reverse via the original path.


As I mentioned before, we can slight change the details of the exercise according to our goal.  If you want more side delts engagement, You can use the wide-grip version where elbows pointing out, like a typical vertical pressing movement with smaller range of motion.

Compare hand distance and elbow position.

Former: Shoulder width. Elbow in. Larger ROM.  Focus front delts and upper chest. Like a barbell pressing.
Latter: Wide grip. Elbow out. Smaller ROM.  Focus front and side delts. Like a dumbbell pressing.


Shoulder is vulnerable to injury as it is full of nerves/tendons/ligaments.  Proper warm up is needed. Never over-train it.  Extra time is required to strengthen the rotator cuff and to increase stability and prevent injury.



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