Most people don’t even realize they have rear delts (the most commonly used term for your posterior deltoids), which makes rear delt raises a perfect exercise to round out your shoulder workouts by isolating this oft neglected muscle. Your shoulders are actually operated by a set of three muscles, the anterior (front), medial (middle) and posterior (rear) deltoids.
Most shoulder exercises and workouts focus largely on your front and middle delts, but to sculpt and train your strongest and most well-rounded shoulders, you’ll want to zone in on your rear delts, too. Of course compound exercises like the shoulder press work the rear delts too, but not as much. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find when you first try isolating the rear delts and working on them with this exercise, they’re much weaker than your other shoulder muscles. Your rear delts are the smallest of the three shoulder muscles, however, so cut them a little slack!
To perform rear delt raises, you’ll want a bench or something similar to sit on, and dumbells. Other hand weights also work, as does holding weight plates in each hand. You can also do this exercise with a resistance band. Choose a light weight to start out with, and get a feel for the exercise. As I said before, don’t be surprised if your rear delts are much weaker than your other shoulder muscles. For example, while I can perform three sets of shoulder presses with 25 pounds in each hand, I can barely complete three full reps of rear delt raises with 10 pounds in each hand.
Start by sitting on the edge of the bench so that your legs aren’t on the seat, with your legs together. Hold a weight in each hand with your palms facing each other, and bend over at the waist so that your hands are hanging straight down. You can also lay face-down on a bench to perform this exercise if you find that more comfortable. Keeping your head up and your arms slightly bent, raise each arm out to the side in a slow, controlled motion until your elbows are level with your shoulders. Watch yourself in a mirror if you can to make sure that your arms are coming straight up, and not up and to the back, or up and to the front. Pause briefly at the top of the lift, and lower your arms back to the starting position. Exhale as your raise your arms, and inhale as you lower them. Aim to complete three sets of 10 repetitions. If you can easily complete all three sets, increase the resistance.