What’s the first exercise that comes to mind when you think about training your rear deltoids? Bent over dumbbell flyes are always going to be a top exercise for your rear delts, although not frequently used (enough).
For many people, it’s the face pull––a great exercise that’s become quite popular recently. Or perhaps you’re partial to reverse flyes on a gym machine. That’s also a good exercise.
However, today we are discussing a somewhat overlooked but practical, effective, and beginner-friendly exercise: bent-over dumbbell flyes. And best of all, it’s a great way to work your shoulders at home.
Let’s discuss what makes the exercise great, how to do it, and what safety precautions to take.
What Are Bent-Over Dumbbell Flyes?
Bent-over dumbbell flyes are a simple and effective isolation exercise you can perform to strengthen the rear deltoid muscles (the back portion of your shoulders).
The exercise is easy to learn, with most beginners needing just a few sets to start doing it correctly. However, you might need a few sessions until you feel a pronounced muscle activation in your rear deltoids.
One notable benefit of the movement is that you only need a pair of light dumbbells to reap all the associated benefits. The range of motion is long enough to target these small muscles well, sparking impressive growth.
On that note, we recommend using around 60 to 80 percent of the weight you use for dumbbell lateral raises. Anything more could affect your technique, causing you to swing your arms up and down.
How to Perform Bent-Over Dumbbell Flyes (Step-by-Step)
- Grab a pair of light dumbbells and stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders back, and arms straight.
- Take a breath, engage your abs, and lean your torso forward as you push your buttocks back. Your back should remain straight, and your upper body should be close to parallel to the floor.
- Your arms should be vertical, with your wrists and elbows directly underneath your shoulder blades.
- Take another breath and lift both dumbbells up and to your sides simultaneously in one fluid motion.
- Move up until your wrists are at shoulder level or close to it, and hold the position for a moment, squeezing your rear deltoids.
- Lower the dumbbells to the starting position as you exhale, and repeat.
Safety Recommendations & Final Tips
The bent-over dumbbell fly is generally safe, even when trainees make some mistakes. Still, taking some precautions to keep your shoulders safe and reduce the injury risk is best.
First, take care of your body by warming up well before exercise. Do some low-intensity cardio (treadmill walking, jumping jacks, high knees, jogging in place, etc.) and proceed to dynamic stretching, where you pay extra attention to the shoulder joint. (1)
Good activities to warm up the shoulders include arm swings, arm rotations, band pull-aparts, and scapular retractions/protractions (bringing your shoulders forward and back). (2)
From there, pick a pair of lighter dumbbells (around 60 to 80 percent of the weight you use for lateral raises) and do sets of 15 to 20 slow and controlled reps. If you’re unsure what weight to pick, start with lighter dumbbells and gradually increase the weight until you can do the recommended number of reps with an even tempo.
Additionally, maintain a neutral back during the exercise. A rounded lower back means more lumbar stress, which can lead to pain down the road. (3)
Click for some more dumbbell workouts:
- Chest and Tricep Dumbbell Workout
- Dumbbell Skull Crushers
- Seated Dumbbell Press
- Dumbbell Front Raises
- Bent Over Dumbbell Rows
- Elizabeth Quinn, M. S. (2020, March 13). Prevent injuries. Verywell Fit.
- A;, C. S. R. (n.d.). Effects of scapular retraction/protraction position and scapular elevation on shoulder girdle muscle activity during glenohumeral abduction. Human movement science. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30660072/
Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis – orthoinfo – aaos. OrthoInfo. (n.d.).