You know in The Notebook when Rachel McAdams runs along the beach saying she’s a bird while flapping her arms? Yeah, that’s kind of how it feels whenever you do a reverse fly exercise. But this move is so much more than an homage to the classic rom, it’s a fantastic way to tone and strengthen your back. Specifically, “reverse flys work the muscles on the back of the shoulders called deltoids,” says celebrity fitness trainer and “Revenge Body” star Lacey Stone. “They also work the upper and middle back, mainly the rhomboids and traps.”

But to really reap the benefits of this upper body move, you need to do it correctly.

How To Do A Reverse Fly

How to: Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hinge forward at the hips and let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders, palms facing your body. Raise both arms out to the sides as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Return to start. That’s one rep.

Sets/reps for results: 12 reps for 3 sets

Reverse flys strengthen your back, and may improve posture.

Form tips: “When you’re lifting the dumbbells, you should be focused on squeezing your shoulder blades together,” says Stone. “Also, be sure to keep your chest open to the ground which will ensure you use you upper back and deltoids to lift the dumbbells.” It’s also important to think about your arms: “Lead with your arms, make sure your elbows are slightly bent, and don’t go past shoulder height when you lift the dumbbells,” she says. And don’t forget about those abs! Keep them engaged so you don’t put too much pressure on your lower back or neck.

Benefits Of Reverse Fly

As mentioned, reverse flys are primo for toning your upper back and the backs of your shoulders. Why is that important? For starters, it will help improve your posture, says Stone. So if you sit at your desk all day long slouched over a computer, you may want to add reverse flys to your arsenal, stat.

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Doing this exercise can also help you reduce the risk of shoulder injury, since you’re building up supporting muscles. Plus, it can help reduce neck and shoulder pain.

Try this complete upper body workout that helped one woman majorly transform her arms:

Make Reverse Fly Part Of Your Workout

Due to their awesome back and shoulder benefits, Stone recommends adding this exercise to your routine at least once a week. It fits seamlessly into an upper-body day, or back-specific workout.

You can also try different variations—like alternating, which will help up the challenge for your core muscles.

However you decide to add reverse flys into your routine, get ready for a stronger upper back and better posture in your future. Boom!


You should feel your upper back and the backs of your shoulders working during this exercise. Specifically, when lifting the dumbbells you should feel the tension of your shoulder blades squeezing together. To maintain correct form, make sure you engage your abs to keep a flat back in the bent-over position. To maintain the correct arm movement, make sure to keep your elbows bent slightly, lead with your elbows, do not go past shoulder height when you lift, and keep your chest facing the ground. Focusing on your chest staying open to the ground will ensure that you use your upper back and rear shoulders to lift the dumbbells.

If you notice that your back is rounding or you feel discomfort or pain in your low back do this exercise in a staggered stance. Stagger either foot forward about 12 to 18 inches before bending at the hips to release any pressure in your low back.

You can also do this exercise seated on a bench. If sitting, bring your feet to about hip-distance apart. As you hinge at your hips to lower your torso parallel to the ground, let your hands (holding the dumbbells) drop to the outside of your legs. This is the starting position for the seated reverse fly. Do the reverse fly as described above, only in a seated position. Finally, you can do the reverse fly in a standing position by anchoring a resistance band (green or red) around a pole or in a door (just close the band in the door). Make sure you choose an anchor that allows the band to be level with your shoulders.

If you can do 2 additional repetitions per set or complete 60 seconds without fatigue, consider adding repetitions, time, and/or sets. For example, instead of doing 10 repetitions for 3 sets, try 15 repetitions for 3 sets. To increase intensity without changing sets or time, try adding weight or using a resistance band (red or green) instead. If using a resistance band, stand on the band in the bent-over position as described above. Criss-cross the band so that the side anchored by the right foot is in your left hand and vice versa. Perform the reverse fly exactly as you would if you were using dumbbells.

Workout of the Week: Bent-Over Dumbbell Reverse Flys

This week’s workout is the Bent-Over Reverse Flys. Similar to the Dumbbell Chest Flys we talked about a couple weeks ago, Bent-Over Reverse Flys, or Bent-Over Reverse Dumbbell Flys, is a very popular isolation exercise for upper-body athletes and bodybuilders because it effectively strengthens your shoulder, triceps, and back muscle groups.

This exercise requires the use of dumbbells or weights to be held in your hands, but other objects around the house like paint buckets or gallon jugs can work as a substitute. This exercise can be done either sitting or standing, but it’s important to remember to keep your back straight while doing this exercise. Improper form of this exercise can cause tension to be placed on your back, which can cause serious injury. It is recommended to start this exercise with a light weight while you learn the proper technique, and then you can add on more weight once you are sure you’re using proper form.

Here’s how to do them:

  1. Begin by either sitting or standing (whichever is more comfortable) with your arms hanging by your side, holding weights in each hand.
  1. Slowly lean forward, sticking your chin and your chest out. Keep your eyes straight ahead—this will help you from putting any unwanted strain on your neck. Let your arms come forward and bend your elbows so the weights are parallel with your chest. This will be your starting position.

3. Next, slowly pull your arms back as if you were trying to touch your shoulder blades together, keeping that bend in your elbows as you do so. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds.

  1. Finally, slowly lower the weight back down in a controlled motion till you reassume the starting position.
  1. Congratulations, you just completed one Bent-Over Reverse Fly! Continue steps 3 and 4 in a slow and controlled repetition.
  1. Try doing 2-3 sets of about 10-12 Bent-Over Reverse Flys. As you begin to build muscle in your shoulders and triceps over time, try adding more weight.


  • To ensure correct posture and form, keep your eyes looking forward as you do your repetitions. This helps prevent placing unnecessary strain on your neck.
  • Keep in mind that throughout the movement, your elbows should be bent to prevent straining your wrist or other joints.
  • If you feel an abnormal amount of pressure in your shoulders, chest or back, stop this exercise immediately and consult your doctor.

We hope you’ll try Bent-Over Reverse Flys over the weekend and then build them into your daily routine Monday through Friday of the coming week.

Want more fitness ideas? If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the Wellness Coaching program, reach out to your Wellness Coach for more healthy ideas to get—and stay—fit. And remember, talk to your doctor before beginning any new fitness regimen.

Don’t let the stresses of the holiday season weigh you down. Instead, let’s build up your muscles and your spirits with a holiday strength challenge that will lead you right up to the big day of festivities.


The holiday countdown is on! Plan to dedicate as little as 15 minutes of your time per day to accomplish a daily strength challenge. The format is simple, but can be as challenging as you’d like to make it by adjusting the incline to accommodate your strength level.


Your assignment for the 12 days leading up to December 25, , is to perform the strength exercise(s) listed below for each day. The exercises are grouped into three segments to keep the transitions simple. However, every fourth day you will combine the previous 3 exercises to create a total body circuit. The best part is that you have the whole day to complete the challenge, or you can do it all at once, just as long as you accomplish the task by the end of each day.
When performing the exercises, make sure you:
• Focus on good form
• Take a break when needed
• Adjust the incline appropriately
• Challenge yourself & have fun!


In addition to the strength challenge and your other routines, include cardio sessions every other day aiming for 20-60 minutes. This could be a class, cardio equipment, or if weather permits, get outside to power walk or run.


Accessories Needed: Pull up bars, press bars, squat stand, cables

DAY 1: 100 Pull Ups

• vary your grip or perform plyo pull ups

DAY 2: 200 Squats

• vary your foot stance or perform single leg squats (100 right/ 100 left leg)

DAY 3: 100 Shoulder Presses

• option to perform plyo pull ups


• Set a timer for 10 minutes (or 15 minutes if you have extra time) and burn it out! Continuously perform the 3 exercises until the reps are completed.
• If you finish before the 10 minutes are up, don’t stop! Keep performing the same exercises for the full time on the clock.

DAY 5: 100 Surfer Rows

• Kneeling or advanced high kneeling
• Modify: if kneeling is not an option, perform seated rows instead

DAY 6: 150 Reverse Crunch & Curl

• Focus on breathing and activating your abs

DAY 7: 100 Chest Fly

• Seated or advanced kneeling
• Vary the angles


• Perform exercises like you did on DAY 4.
• Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and burn baby burn!

DAY 9: 200 Reverse Lunge Repeaters R/L

• Perform 100 right leg / 100 left leg
• Stay low and in the working zone

DAY 10: 100 Pike Up

• Take your time to execute correct form
• Modify: place knees on glide board

DAY 11: 100 Straight Leg Lowers

• The higher the incline, the harder!
• Maintain lower back contact on the glideboard
• Modify: keep knees bent or lower level


Note: change incline and attach or detach accessories for each exercise.
• Today is the day we combine ALL 9 exercises for a powerful strength challenge circuit.
• Adjust the Total Gym settings appropriately for each exercise.
• Perform the reps listed
• Option: If you’re on a time crunch, just perform exercises 9-11 for a shorter challenge.
The goal during this busy holiday season is to challenge your mind and move each day. This strength challenge can be done alone or in addition to your other fitness routines.
Be sure to check out the video to see how these exercises are performed on your Total Gym.
Dedicate time to yourself during this special holiday season and celebrate your commitment to accomplishing your fitness goals.
Happy Holiday’s and cheers to celebrating you!

Reverse Pec Deck


  • Adjust the seat height of the pec deck machine so that when you sit in the machine and grasp the handles your arms will be parallel to the floor.
  • Use a neutral grip (palms facing in) or a pronated grip (palms facing down) if available.
  • Maintain an erect trunk position with your chest in contact with the front support pad.
  • Arms should be directly in front of the body or slightly out to the sides in the beginning position.
  • Inhale and hold your breath as you pull your arms as far back as possible. Your upper arms (elbows) should be approximately 20 to 30 degrees behind the level of the back in the end position.
  • Keep your arms slightly bent in the elbow joints as you move the arms backward through the full range of motion.
  • Hold the end position for 1 to 2 seconds before exhaling and returning under control to the starting position.
  • Pause for a moment after reaching the start position and then repeat.
  • Use a somewhat vigorous pull backward in order to reach the rearmost position.
  • Maintain contact with the front support pad with your chest throughout execution so that the torso remains erect and the spine is in its normal curvature.


  • If the machine you are using has padding instead of handles, place the backs of your upper arms on the pads. In this variant you use more weight but the range of motion is somewhat less. This is why the handle type machine is usually preferred.
  • As you pull back, concentrate on pushing the elbows backward rather than the hands. Doing this will give you more development of the mid back muscles as well as the posterior deltoid.
  • If your machine has a pronated grip you will get more development of the posterior deltoid when you pull back through the full range of motion i.e. until the elbows are as far back as possible beyond the level of the back.
  • Holding your breath during the pull back phase is crucial for stabilizing the trunk, maintaining the spine in its normal curvature and providing a firm base on which the muscles contract to pull arms back as far as possible.
  • Getting the elbows back as far as possible is very important for maximum muscular development. The further back the elbows get, the more intense the muscular contraction and the greater the shortening of the mid back and posterior deltoid muscles. This gives you greater strength and definition of the muscles.
  • To insure a maximum range of motion do not use excessive resistance. A shortened range of motion muscle development will limit the ability of your mid back muscles to keep your shoulders back and to give you better posture. A greater range of motion is also important in overcoming or balancing the usually more developed pectoral muscles which tend to give you rounded shoulders and a “sunken” chest.
  • If you find that you have poor flexibility in the shoulders that does not allow the elbows to get back sufficiently far, you should do some stretches to reverse this condition. One effective stretch is the door stretch in which you place your hands shoulder high against the outsides of a door jamb and then lean forward into the door opening as far as possible. This is similar to doing a standing pushup but going through a greater range of motion so that your chest will be in front of your hands.
  • If is important that your seat height be adjusted correctly so that your arms are parallel to the floor. If your elbows are above the level of your shoulders it could be injurious to the shoulder joint when you pull back. If the elbows are lower than the shoulders you will not get the same development in the mid trapezius or posterior deltoid.

Primary Muscles Involved

In the shoulder joint, the primary muscles are the posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, and teres minor. Of these the posterior deltoid is the largest and most powerful. It is an antagonist to the anterior deltoid in horizontal adduction and comprises the rearmost portion of the deltoid muscle. This muscle gives the full rounded shoulder appearance when viewed from the side and rear. The teres minor and infraspinatus are rotator cuff muscles located on the lower portion of the outer scapulae. Their main action is pulling the arms backward when level with the shoulders. In the shoulder girdle the primary muscles are the rhomboid and middle fibers of the trapezius. The trapezius is a large muscles that extends from the base of the skull to the last thoracic vertebrae, and from the spinal column to the scapula. The rhomboid lies beneath the trapezius extending from its attachment on the spine to the scapula. These are the main muscles that hold the scapula (shoulders) in and back which in turn allows for more effective actions of the shoulder joint muscles.

Muscle/Joint Actions

In the shoulder joints there is horizontal abduction (extension) in which the arms travel from in front of the body to the rear while remaining level with the shoulders. The posterior deltoid, teres minor and infraspinatus are responsible for this action. In the shoulder girdle there is adduction of the scapula in which the scapula moves inward toward the spine together with the rearward movement of the arms. The shoulder joint muscles and the shoulder girdle muscles (rhomboid and middle trapezius) work in concert with one another to allow a full range of motion.

Sports Uses

The reverse peck deck is needed for full development and definition of the rhomboid, mid trapezius and posterior deltoid. This exercise and others that have the same movement pattern are the only ones that effectively target these muscles. The reverse pec-deck exercise is extremely important in strengthening the muscles for holding the shoulders back in good posture. In addition this exercise helps to counteract the chest muscle shortening (tightening) which takes place from doing too much chest work. Horizontal arm abduction is most important in sports such as rowing and archery in which the arms are pulled back while in line with the shoulders. This action is also seen in gymnastics in free exercise and beam routines, in the backhand stroke in the racquet sports, (tennis, badminton, racquetball) and in softball batting (left shoulder of right handed hitter on a high pitch). Golfers and other athletes need this exercise to prevent rotator cuff injuries.

Purpose of the Reverse Pec-Deck

The reverse pec-deck is an isolated machine exercise designed to target the rear deltoid muscles.

Equipment Needed to Perform the Reverse Pec-Deck

As you may expect, the only piece of equipment necessary to perform the reverse pec-deck would be a pec-deck that comes equipped with a setting to put the handles all the way back to next to where the weight stack sits.

Difficulty of the Reverse Pec-Deck

On a scale of 1 to 5, the reverse pec-deck would rank as a 2 – because it is a machine, it is very easy to stabilize your body, but the reason this exercise wouldn’t rank as low as a 1 is because it still requires the individual to focus hard on contracting the rear delts, or other muscles can begin to get involved and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.

How to do the Reverse Pec-Deck

There are two adjustments to look out for when performing the reverse pec-deck – the height of the seat, and the range of motion for the handles.

Generally you want the seat high, or low enough, so that your hands are in line with your elbows, and also your shoulders when seated.

As for the range of motion, generally you want to put the handles as far back as possible, but should you want to limit the range for whatever reason, feel free to do so. Once the machine is set up to the right dimensions, have a seat, and grab onto the handles – palms facing each other.

Initiate the movement by pushing outwards onto the handles, going as far back until your upper arms are directly out to the side of your body – going farther is not necessary, even if you are able to.

Pause for 1-2 seconds when your arms are outstretched to the side of your body before slowly lowering the handles to the starting position, and repeat for as many repetitions as desired.

Key Points When Performing the Reverse Pec-Deck

  1. Set seat at appropriate height so hands, elbows, and shoulders are all in line when holding onto the handles.
  2. Set handles to allow for desired range of motion – generally a full range of motion is ideal, so put the handles as far back as the machine allows.
  3. Push outwards on the handles, going back as far until the arms are directly outstretched at the side of the body.
  4. Pause and squeeze rear delts before slowly lowering, pausing at the bottom, and repeating for the desired amount of reps.

How Many Reps When Performing the Reverse Pec-Deck

Because the reverse pec-deck is an isolated exercise designed to target muscles that a very large percentage of people have a hard time recruiting, it is not well suited for heavier weights and lower reps, but rather lighter weights and higher reps.

Most people would likely benefit by selecting a weight that allows for 10-15 reps to be performed.

Common Mistakes When Performing the Reverse Pec-Deck

Some of the more common mistakes when performing the reverse pec-deck are:

  1. Not pausing at end of each rep – a lot of people miss out on an opportunity to stimulate the rear delts when performing the reverse pec-deck by not pausing at the top, or bottom of the rep. Failure to do so can result in momentum being used advantageously to generate more reps at the expense of maximally stimulating the desired muscle.
  2. Going too heavy – because the rear delts are hard for most people to contract, what often happens is larger nearby muscles of the back can begin to take over, and thus the right amount of weight will feel too light. To compensate for this, naturally one would increase the weight, but this doesn’t increase the demand on the targeted muscle, but rather increases the demand on the muscles best suited to take on the stress.
  3. Not setting seat to correct height and failing to have arms parallel to the ground

Modifications to the Reverse Pec-Deck

There aren’t really any worthwhile modifications to the reverse pec-deck, aside from playing with hand positioning – both height, and grip.

Play around with hand positioning to see what you feel best, but don’t obsess over it, as there’s no universally “better” way than the more common, traditional way described above in the “how to do” section.

When to do the Reverse Pec-Deck

Depending on your goal, you can perform the reverse pec-deck pretty much anywhere in either a shoulder workout, or back workout.

There are benefits to using this exercise early, as well as late in a workout, so your goal should determine more than anything where in sequence you use this exercise.

Alternatives to The Reverse Pec-Deck

There are a few different effective alternatives to the reverse pec-deck, among them being – bent-over lateral raises, and reverse cable flyes.

The Reverse Pec-Deck vs. Seated Bent Over Lateral Raise

The primary advantage of the reverse pec-deck over the seated bent over lateral raise is that the tension being placed on the muscles remains consistent throughout the entire range of motion, whereas with a cable, or pair of dumbbells, the resistance felt will be maximized only when the direction of effort is perpendicular to your arms.

Generally with a pair of dumbbells, or when using cables, the resistance is greatest when the rear delts are in a shortened position, meaning they aren’t effectively overloaded when they are in a more lengthened position – with the reverse pec-deck, you don’t have to consider this.

The primary disadvantage is the reverse pec-deck is a lot less practical, as some gyms may not have this machine, but nearly all gyms will have dumbbells, and most will have cables to use.

Here’s The Next Step…

Are you ready to use the one of the routines from this post?

If so, then we recommend grabbing the free checklist we made just for this blog post.

The checklist takes you step by step to show you how to use all of the plans listed here…

…plus 2 bonus techniques that I didn’t have room for in today’s post.

Enter your name and email to access the checklist.


Reverse Pec Deck Fly (Rear Delt Fly)

When training shoulders most guys neglect their rear deltoids! The anterior and medial deltoids receive all the love from presses and lateral raises, however the ‘out of side, out of mind’ mentality seems to come into play when it comes to the rear (posterior) deltoids!

The pec deck, utilizes an arcing movement to maintain tension on the rear delts.

Movement: Isolation

Targets: Shoulders

Required: Pec Deck Machine

Optional: N/A

Reverse Pec Deck Fly Form:

Sit on the pec deck fly machine with your stomach against the pad.

Grasp the pec deck handles ensuring your upper arms are parallel to the floor.

Push the handles back together as you contract your back and squeeze your shoulder blades.

Hold this contraction for 1 second.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Reverse Pec Deck Fly Variations

Unilateral Reverse Pec Deck Fly

Instead of contracting with two handles at a time you will push one handle while holding the other handle of the pec deck in a static hold, maintaining tension on that side of your deltoid between repetitions.
This is a fantastic core exercise and is often used for overcoming a lagging side/correcting dominance.

You’ll find when flying one side at a time your core will need to be engaged the whole time to maintain your position on the machine.

Common Reverse Pec Deck Fly Mistakes

Not Hitting All Parts Of The Deltoid

Your shoulder is not just made up of one muscle, the shoulder is comprised of 3 ‘heads’, these are known as:

  • The anterior deltoid (the front of your shoulder)
  • The medial deltoid (the side of your shoulder)
  • The posterior deltoid (the rear of your shoulder)

If you are not training all 3 heads you will not get round, full shoulders.

Shoulder training is based around 2 main movements, presses and raises, the traditional dumbbell and barbell presses are a great starting exercise for your shoulder routine as they are a compound exercise (and therefore hit all heads of the deltoid) we can then hone in on the anterior, medial and posterior heads individually through different variations of raises.

Using A Partial Range Of Motion

Partial reps can be used to push yourself beyond your point of failure at the end of your set, however strict, full range of motion must be practiced first.

Poor Scheduling Of Your Shoulder Workout

I highly recommend having at least 1 day between your chest and shoulder workouts.
The flat barbell bench press, incline bench press and dips place a large amount of tension on the front deltoids (even though the chest is the primary muscle targeted during this exercise).
If you’re going straight from a heavy chest workout on Monday into a shoulder workout on Tuesday you won’t be getting the best bang for your buck out of your workout – your shoulders will be recovering and from my experience you won’t be able to lift anywhere near as heavy as if they were fresh.

Ongoing, excessive amounts of stress placed on the shoulders can result in a shoulder impingement which’ll have you out of performing the vast majority of upper body exercises for weeks if not months, not good.

If you’re strapped for time and can only train three times a week the push/pull/legs workout regime is an option which hits both chest and shoulders in the same (push) workout however if you’re able to train 5 days a week I recommend performing a split in the following order:


Alternatively, through a leg or rest day between your chest and shoulder workouts.

Similar & Substitute Exercises

  • Cable Crossovers
  • Flat Dumbbell Flies
  • Incline Dumbbell Flies

Any Questions Regarding The Reverse Pec Deck Fly? Ask Below!

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One Arm Bent Over Dumbbell Reverse Fly Video Guide

  1. Set up for the exercise by grasping a dumbbell with a neutral grip (palm facing in) with your left hand and standing with your feet around shoulder width apart.
  2. Bend slightly at the knees and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist.
  3. Keep your head up and your eyes facing forward.
  4. Your elbow should be slightly bent and the dumbbell should be directly under your chest. You can rest your non-working forearm on your right knee for stability. This is the starting position.
  5. Moving only at the shoulder, raise your left arm in a semi-circular motion out to your side until your arm is parallel to the floor. Keep the slight bend in your elbow throughout the movement.
  6. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the height of the movement and then begin slowly lowering the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for desired reps and then repeat with your right arm.

Exercise Tips:

  1. Practice good form with a light weight.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades and pause for a moment at the top of the movement.
  3. Do not let the dumbbells “hang” at the bottom of the movement, but keep the tension in your arms.
  4. Focus on moving only at the shoulder. The rest of your body should be kept as still as possible and your arms should hold the same form throughout the movement.
  5. It is usually wise to work your weakest arm first. For many people, this will be their left.

Reverse fly muscles worked

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