A shoulder becomes a boulder shoulder when you’ve got a build rear delt. Without it, your shoulder might just feel a little incomplete. So if you’re looking for that shape and capped shoulders to rock in a tank this summer, you’re going to want to incorporate these 5 best cable rear delt exercises into your next shoulder day. Let’s get swole.
The deltoids or delts, are composed of three primary muscle groups (the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid) which embody your shoulders, giving them the rounded triangular shape. Your shoulders are attached by tendons to three other skeletal structures: the collarbone or (clavicle), the upper arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder blade (scapula).
The deltoids are activated as a secondary muscle group, during chest and back exercises, therefore it’s crucial to designate rear deltoid-specific exercises to your training protocol. The rear deltoids are often the most neglected muscle group of the three primary muscles of the shoulders.
To fully understand how to build your shoulders and rear deltoids, you need a basic understanding of the shoulder anatomy.
1. Anterior Deltoid Muscle (Front)
Your anterior deltoids are positioned at the front of the shoulder. Also called front deltoids, most movements that stimulate this muscle group will be placed pushing weight above overhead, or in front of the body.
2. Lateral Deltoid Muscle (Medial)
Lateral deltoids are located at the middle of the shoulder, also known as medial deltoids. Medial delts are the biggest of all three deltoid heads and can be activated with a variety of different shoulder workouts and exercises, yet are targeted most effectively with side or lateral raises.
3. Posterior Deltoid Muscle (Rear)
Posterior Deltoids or rear delts are located at the back of the shoulder. Any movement which pushes weight behind you, such as cable crossover, or exercises which are positioned in a bent-over position uses gravity against the posterior muscles to build bigger and more defined rear delt muscles.
Aside from just not targeting the rear delts in your training program or using cable rear delt exercises to develop this muscle fiber, other reasons for poor shoulder development may be not perfmcoring movements with correct form, technique, or being inefficient in the movements. This would mean that you’re focusing more on pushing movements, not pushing and pulling exercises, to develop all three heads of the deltoid muscle. It isn’t really that rear delts are harder to build as compared to any other muscle, but they’re often overlooked in a exercise program.
Having strong shoulders doesn’t just contribute to a more muscular and athletic looking body but they also help provide the body with stability and balance. Strong shoulders mean having a better time lifting, pushing, and pulling in real life. So whether you’re picking a chick up to put her on your shoulders at the beach (bro’s where you at?) or just looking to put a box up on the shelf in your garage, you’re going to want to train all three heads of the deltoid to reap all the benefits of strong shoulders (especially with these cable rear delt exercises).
RELATED: 10 Best Shoulder Workouts To Build All Three Heads Of The Deltoid Muscle
Lastly, before we get into our 5 favorite cable rear delt exercises, a common question that we get as trainers is ‘how do I build bigger shoulders’ and more specifically ‘how do I get bigger rear delts’. Well, you’ve come to the right place on how to get bigger shoulders, shall we?
Tip #1: Work from the back to the front
When you head into the gym for your shoulder day we recommend starting by focusing on the rear delt, then the medial, and then the front. This is especially true for anyone reading this out there that has an undeveloped rear delt or is lacking size in the shoulders. If you train rear delts at the end of your training session chances are your mind-muscle connection is lower, you’re going to be fatigued, and your form is going to go out the window, contributing to those reasons we mentioned that your shoulders might be underdeveloped in the first place (form, inefficient movement, etc.).
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Tip #2: Follow a training program
Not planning is planning to fail. Following a training program written by a fitness professional will save you time in the gym and produce more efficient results from your hard effort in the gym. Instead of cherry shoulder workouts from the internet or your favorite influencers page, recognize that a systematic plan for progressive overload when training the shoulders, as designed by a professional, will yield the best results. Lucky for you, we do just that here at Swolverine. Check out our training programs here and if you’re looking for online 1:1 personal training specifically tailored to you and your goals, schedule a consult with a coach here.
Tip #3: Focus on form
The rear delt development doesn’t come from using massive weights to target this specific muscle fiber. Instead, focus on form and incorporating a full range of motion to achieve the best results and development. You’ll probably also want to hit shoulders twice a week, but if you follow one of our training programs, we’ll make sure you have plenty of rest time between your shoulder days for optimal development.
RELATED: How To Improve Shoulder Mobility and Range Of Motion
Tip #4: Use cables for shoulder development
Often times people just reach for the dumbbells or the barbell for the shoulder movements most often seen on social media. However, if you’re looking for those juicy capped shoulders, reach for the cable machine, too. Cable rear delt exercises are a solid way to target the muscle in the eccentric portion of the movement with a constant amount of tension throughout the movement. This contributes to getting developed shoulders fast, especially when coupled with dumbbell shoulder exercises that focus specifically on the concentric movement.
This movement is going to target the rear deltoid muscle in the shoulders with emphasis on the concentric loaded weight from the cables. Make sure to keep the core engaged so that you’re not arching your back through the movement and overcompensating for using too high of weight. The elbows should be bend throughout the entire movement and the neck should be relaxed.
- Set your cables about as high as they go in the horizontal plane (not the vertical plane, think a little over your head/face)
- Once your have your cable height set, remove the handles, and reach with your left arm to the right cable, right arm to the left cable, and hold on to the ball on the cable machine
- Get centered in the middle of the machine with a close grip, take a few steps back (about 3 feet)
- With the hands together in front of your face, keeping a slight bend in your arm, retract the shoulders back and down keeping a big chest and a good angle in the elbow
- Initiate the exercise, pulling the arms back and down, squeeze, and return
This isometric movement is a great way to focus on the rear delt specifically while incorporating a little secondary emphasis on the traps and core. This movement shouldn’t be done with maximal weight and you should focus on good form and keeping tension throughout the body during the entirety of the movement.
- Adjust the pulley to shoulder width
- Stand with your shoulder lined up with the pulley to maximize resistance
- Bring the arm back as far back as you can with the torso still facing the cable
- Focus on contracting the rear delt and mid trap then release the tension and repeat the movement
- This movement can be done facing away or facing the pulley
- Position yourself facing a cable with the rope attached
- Grip the rope from the outside with your palms facing the ground
- With a strong core and a firm stance, pull the cable to your face, squeezing the shoulder blades together
- Do not use momentum to pull the rope
Cable wide grip rows are an overlooked movement to develop size and shape in the rear delt. This cable machine can be done seated or standing and we recommend keeping it simple. Don’t over think the movement or use your momentum to focus more so on contracting the muscles of the upper back and shoulders.
- Different from the neutral grip, go slightly wider than shoulder width
- Grab the bar in full extension, pull the bar to you, squeeze the delts and traps, don’t use your momentum, and release.
This is a movement that is going to expose some mobility issues if you have them, but nonetheless, is a great movement for really targeting those rear deltoid muscle fibers for growth and development. Make sure to use a light weight, good form, and don’t arch/overcompensate with the back.
- With handles on the cables, place the pulleys at the lowest part of the rig
- Get into a bent over position with feet about shoulder width apart
- Left arm grabs the right handle, right arm grabs the left handle
- In a bent over position, you’re going to keep the elbows bent and retract the arms squeezing the rear delt and upper back
All in all, the rear deltoids are going to contribute to massive size and shape. Don’t just focus on the ‘mirror muscles’ that you can see from the front. Using the 5 cable rear delt exercises in this article to sprinkle into your shoulder day are going to help you develop the shoulders in the concentric phase that dumbbells and a barbell aren’t going to (they focus more on the eccentric phase). Keep the weight a little on the lighter side, keep the shoulders retracted and down, and lift on.
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