If you’re trying to grow your shoulders, you’ve probably tried both variations of rear delt flys and face pulls. Which one is the better rear delt builder?

Should you be doing one or the other, or incorporate both into your training?

Rear Delt Fly VS Face Pull

The face pull puts less stress on the shoulders, so may be the best choice if you have a previous shoulder injury. The rear delt fly isolates the rear delts more. There’s no reason you can’t use both in your training and reap the benefits from both if you they don’t cause pain or discomfort.

Rear Delt Fly

Let’s start with the seated machine version. Most people do not know how to do it properly to target the rear delts. If you are retracting your shoulder blades while you do the movement then you are training a lot of your back and traps.

The name is a rear delt fly, so that is the muscle we are trying to train here.

To properly perform the exercise, sit with the pad against your chest and plant your feet on the ground, while grasping the horizontal handles in front of you. Position your seat so that your arms are straight out in front of you when you grasp the handles.

Your palms should be facing down and your arms slightly bent. Lean slightly forward making sure your shoulders are protracted (not pulled back). This will take your back out of the movement.

Contract your rear delts as you pull the handles back until they’re in line with your shoulders. Stop here, if you go any further back you are contracting the scapula and working your rhomboids. Slowly return the handles back to the starting position.

Make sure that you aren’t gripping the handles too tightly as that can bring the traps into the movement. A light grip will allow you to feel it in your rear delts more.

Rear delts are NOT a body part that require heavyweight to train. Drop the weight and make sure you are completing proper reps with full range of motion.


First of all, too many people focus on their anterior and lateral delts. That is, the front and side of the shoulders. This makes their shoulders look big from the front but then the back is lacking. If you want a full 3D looking deltoid, then you need to train the rear as well!

Strong rear delts will carry over to other big exercises such as the overhead press, bench press, and dead lift.

Rear Delt Fly VS Face Pull

The machine version also reduces risk of injury compared to the bent over version. This is because there is no stress placed on your lower back. This allows you to just focus on working the rear delt without having to worry about stabilizing your body. This makes the movement great for beginners looking to train their shoulders.

Training your rear delts is a great way to improve your posture. This is because it’s pulling your shoulders back and squeezing your scapula together. Many people sit in a chair all day slouched forward, promoting poor posture.

Let’s take a look at the bent over dumbbell version of rear delt flys.

It’s very important to start with light dumbbells so that you don’t injure yourself.

Stand with feet shoulder width apart and pull your hips back to bend forward, reaching your arms out towards the floor. You want to keep a flat back throughout the movement.

Your arms should be slightly bent with your palms facing each other.

Think of moving your arms out, rather than back to place emphasis on the rear delts. Fly the dumbbells out towards your ears. If you bring them too far back it will target your lats.

The more you bend your arms, the more you will target the lats. Keep the arms as straight as possible, while still keeping a very slight bend. Using light weights will ensure you don’t have elbow pain.

Which Variation Is Better?

The machine rear delt fly is going to be better suited for beginners. It allows easy targeting of the rear delt without having to stabilize the body. The dumbbell version will work stabilizer muscles such as the abs, legs, and back. This is because they have to remain tight to keep the body stable during the exercise.

Both are great for growing the rear delts, and I would suggest using both!

Face Pulls

Face pulls are a great way to target the rear delts if done correctly. Start by attaching a rope attachment to cable and have it just above head height.

Grasp the handles of the rope with your palms facing in. Step back so that your arms are fully extended and then pull the rope back as you pull your shoulder blades back.

Flare your elbows slightly out toward the sides and squeeze your rear delts. Your elbows should remain below your shoulders throughout the movement.

When your hands reach beside your head, squeeze for a second and then slowly return to the starting position.

The benefits of face pull include building a thick upper back and traps as well as rear delts.

Strong shoulders are important for everyday activities involving pushing or pulling and any activity that requires you reaching above your head.

Make sure you are feeling the exercise in the back of your shoulders and not just in your traps. Pull the rope straight towards your face to help with this.

Similarly to rear delt flys, you do not need heavyweight. Slow, controlled movements are better for growth.

Don’t have time to make it to the gym? Grab a cheap pair of bands off of Amazon and do rear delt flys in the comfort of your own home.

Face Pulls VS Rear Delt Flyes

Reverse fly’s isolate the rear delt more than face pulls do. Face pulls target the upper back and traps quite a bit, whereas fly’s will isolate the rear delt.

Some people do run into shoulder pain when performing rear delt flys. Do whichever feels better for you. Choose which one you feel in your rear delts more.

If you can incorporate both into training, then this is the best option. If you’re hitting shoulders twice a week like you should be for optimal growth. Then do face pulls one day and rear delt flys on the other.

Why The Rear Delts Are So Important

Most people are neglecting their rear delts. They usually save the last five to ten minutes of their workout to throw in one quick rear delt exercise after they’re already exhausted.

Just because you don’t see them since they’re on your back, does not mean you shouldn’t be training them.

The rear delts give your shoulder a full 3D bowling ball type look that it very aesthetically appealing.

They also pull your shoulders back to stop your shoulders from hunching forward. This promotes better posture.

With developed rear delts, they will pull your shoulders back making your chest and physique appear larger and wider. Yes, they will make you look bigger. Hopefully that’s reason enough for people to train them more.

They also help with shoulder stability and will prevent shoulder injury in other lifts.

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