Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Raise

Exercise Name:
Name: Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Raise
Also Called: Rear Lateral Raise, Bent Over Lateral Raise
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Shoulders (Rear Deltoid)
Secondary: Upper Back
Function: Strength
Mechanics: Isolation
Force: Pull
Main: Dumbbells
Experience: Beginner
Rep Range: 8-15
Training Tempo: 2 – 1 – 1 – 0
Related Exercises:
Variations: Seated Rear Deltoid Raise, Lying Rear Deltoid Raise
Alternatives: Face Pull, Rear Delt Row, Reverse Flye, YTWL

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Assume a hip width stance with dumbbells in hand.
  • Flex knees and hips until torso is parallel to floor (or just above).
  • Hang arms down with elbows slightly bent.
  • Hold dumbbells close together (not touching) with palms facing in.
  • Maintain a neutral spine with back straight.
  • Keep head mostly down, but look ahead (i.e. don’t strain neck to look up).

2. Concentric Repetition

  • Transversely abduct shoulders to lift arms up and out until upper arms are parallel to the floor.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause at the top to squeeze the rear delts and upper back.

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Lower arms slowly and return to the starting position.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the motion for the desired number of repetitions.
  • I recommend staying between 8-15 reps since this exercise is best done in a moderate to high rep range.

Common Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Raise Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Using momentum Lift the weight in a slow and controlled motion and squeeze at the top. Don’t explode up at the start of the rep and allow that momentum to bring the dumbbells to the top. Don’t jerk your back up to create momentum, either.
Using external rotation Use transverse abduction to lift the dumbbells. Lead with your elbows; never let the dumbbell go higher than your elbow.
Elbows behind shoulders When the elbows are behind the shoulders, your lats take over the movement. To avoid this, keep your upper arms perpendicular to your torso at all points during the motion.
Hunching back Keep your back straight and parallel to the floor, with a slight arch in your lower back. This keeps your spine safe and allows your rear delts and the target muscles of your upper back to activate.

Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Raise Tips

  1. This isn’t meant to be a heavy lift so don’t try to lift more than you can. If you have to start with the little pink dumbbells, then so be it! 😀
  2. Keep your upper arms perpendicular (i.e. at a 90° angle) to torso at all times. Don’t allow your elbows to travel behind, or in front of, your shoulders.
  3. Keep your elbows above your wrists during the motion. As I said earlier, lead with your elbows.
  4. Hold the thumbs lower than the pinkies as if you’re pouring out a bottle of liquor (or your beverage of choice).
  5. Focus on controlling the dumbbells on both the way up and on the way down. If you go too fast, you won’t sufficiently activate the rear delts, lower/middle traps and the other upper back muscles.
  6. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows (e.g. bent ~20°). If your arms are totally straight, you won’t be able to lift nearly as much. And if your elbows are bent too much, you take the tension off the rear delts.
  7. Put your head on an incline bench to ensure you stay parallel to the floor and don’t rock your torso up. Obviously, the bench has to be adjusted to the height that allows you to be parallel to the floor.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The dumbbell rear deltoid raise works for all experience levels.

It’s important to note that, at least for beginners, this exercise is not intended for the purpose of “sculpting the rear deltoids.”

I recommend it to beginners because it teaches how to activate the rear delts and lower/middle trapezius. If you can’t activate these muscles sufficiently, then you won’t be able to correctly perform some major lifts like pull ups or bent over rows.

For experienced lifters, this exercise still serve the purpose of reinforcing proper activation of the rear deltoid and upper back muscles…

…However, it also does the trick if you’re simply trying to add muscle to the rear deltoids, which are often underdeveloped because of an overemphasis on push exercises in your routine.

Finally, if you end up not liking rear deltoid raises or can’t seem to get the hang of them, then you can get similar benefits from face pulls.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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