achieving an astonishing physique by training one key muscle

Achieve an Astonishing Aesthetic Physique by Training One KEY Muscle

Hey, you!

Yes you, you sexy mofo.

My God, your legs look amazing. Those are the kind of solid tree trunks that even Groot would pine over.

And look at your back, it’s chiseled; you can see muscles you didn’t know you had before. But, bro, more important than all that, your chest is looking swolier than ever. If you were a lion, your chest would be your mane: majestic, and the envy of others in your pride.

Your arms, well…..they look okay. You’ve got some nice biceps, nothing super impressive, but they do snuggle up closer to your sleeves than ever before.

But they could be better. They could be more three dimensional.

Wait. I know why your arms don’t pop off your swoly frame like they should: you neglected to train your rear delts didn’t you?

Look, it’s not your fault.

Okay, that’s a lie, it’s 1,000% your fault. You skipped training one of the most important muscles in the body; a muscle that can increase your aesthetic by 756%, and why? Because it’s not a “mirror muscle?”

Well, that my small armed, non three dimensional friend, is why your upper body falls behind.

Your rear delts are the secret sauce, the holy grail, the little-known musclehack that makes your upper body pop.

Welcome to Class

Understanding how your muscles work doesn’t require you to be a rocket scientist. It’s not going to hurt anything if you are (right, Jason Maxwell?), but the more you know about how your muscles work, the better equipped you’ll be to make the most out of your physique.

Now, I’m not going to treat you like an idiot. By reading this, I hope that you know your shoulders are comprised of three muscles:

  • the anterior
  • Lateral; and,
  • posterior deltoids.

And since you’re (obviously) not an idiot, you know that overhead pressing (and a bit of bench pressing) hits your anterior delts. While all those sets of lateral raises you hammer out each week hits your lateral deltoid.

Now, before we hop into the best exercises or how to hit your rear delts more often, let’s cover the general mechanical functions of your rear delts function. Your posterior deltoid works to:

  • Extend your shoulder
  • Rotate your shoulder externally
  • Extending in the transverse plane (i.e., moving your arm away from your chest with flared elbows)
  • Abducting in the transverse plane (i.e., machine delt fly)

achieving an astonishing physique by training one key muscle

Greater than the Sum of Your Parts

Unlike the anterior deltoid, your rear delts aren’t prime movers. They operate more often as synergist: supporting your shoulder as it enters extension during the lowering portion of the bench press and as you pull weight toward your body with any type of rowing exercise.

That means that your rear delts are activated when you bench or when you perform any type of horizontal pull. Yes, you may be hitting those muscles with heavy weight while you bench or perform barbell rows, but if you’re not isolating the rear delts, you’re leaving precious gains on the table.

Unlike the bigger muscles of your body — quads, glutes, pecs, lats — your rear delts aren’t designed to hit heavy weight in isolation. But, when it comes to moderate or high reps, your rear delts can handle the extra volume.

Since your rear delts can handle higher volume, that means you should be isolating them more than once a week. High rep training of your rear delts provides numerous aesthetic benefits. It makes:

  • Your shoulders that look three dimensional;
  • Widens the look of your back; and,
  • Because of where the rear delts attach on your shoulder, bigger rear delts give the illusion that you have more massive triceps.

You want “more massive” looking arms, right?

Of course you do. And do you know how had amazing rear delt development that made his arms look freak-beast big? Flex Wheeler.

“Rear delts are so important in a bodybuilding show. They often separate the top guys from all the other guys by giving depth to your rear and side shots. The key to rear laterals is getting a strong contraction on every rep.” – Flex Wheeler

Did you see what Flex said? “[The rear delts] often separate the top guys from all the other guys.” A 4-time Arnold Classic winner isn’t talking about biceps or pecs or his tremendous quads. He’s telling you that if you want to build one hell of an aesthetic body—one that wins trophies—building bigger and better rear delts is the secret.

Back to School to Show Flex that You’re Not a Fool

Bent-over rear delt raises are a Freshman year shoulder exercise. And since you’re not a Frosh any more, it’s high time you move up to the next class of rear delt exercises.

Fitness Fact #119: Face pulls are the most effective exercise for building stronger and aesthetically awesome rear delts. They’re also one of the best exercises for improving your posture and overall shoulder health.

Some people “may” consider face pulls an intro exercise. But this is my class and I will teach it however I see fit; now sit down, shut up, and inject these facts straight into your cranium. (God, kids these days think they know it all. Damn Internet.)

Face pulls allow you to get a harder squeeze out of your rear delts. And when it comes to increasing the hypertrophic response, the harder you can squeeze, the better.

To perform Face Pulls:

  1. Grab a rope attachment and set the pulley machine to just under chin height
  2. Grip the rope from underneath with a neutral hammer-style grip.
  3. Maintain a high chest, pushing your shoulders back, and slightly retract (pull back) your shoulder blades.
  4. Pull the rope back towards your face, trying to touch the inside of the rope to your nose.
  5. Take a brief pause at the end of your motion and feel the squeeze in your rear delts.

A Better Way to Face Pull

Execution wise, face pulls are an easy exercise to perform. But they’re also an easy exercise to bastardize as well. And I see tons of people in the gym going too heavy and using their hips during this exercise.

You can’t isolate your rear delts if you’re using your hips to swing the weight toward you. So how can you truly isolate your rear delts?

Simple: get on your back.

Supine face pulls take any chance of you using your hips to assist in this movement. Because your flat on the bench or the floor, you have more stability than you would if you were standing. And that extra stability can be used to better isolate your rear delts, and put more tension where you want it.

Angles for the Win

The standard way to perform a face pull is at eye level. But when it comes to building the most eye-popping physique possible, at some point, you have to change the angle of the exercises you’re performing.

Changing the angle challenges your rear delts in different ways, but it will also hit your different portions of your traps:

  • The higher the angle, the more lower traps you engage
  • The lower the angle, the more upper traps you engage

Obviously, this is great for long-term shoulder health. But in regards to building a more aesthetic physique, hitting your muscles from different angles allows you to build up lagging areas of your body.

Optimal Training Days for Rear Delt Domination

As I mentioned before: your rear delts don’t need to be hit with heavy weight. A moderate or low weight is all you need. Now when it comes to selecting rep ranges the ideal range is to stay between 12 to 25 reps, with no more than 2-4 sets.

Now, if you’re after optimal growth from your rear delts, training them once a week isn’t going to cut it. Hit those bad boys 2-3 times if you train 4-5 times a week. Or at minimum twice a week if you train 3 days a week.

Most upper body pulling and pushing exercises will recruit some part of your rear delts. So what day you choose to directly target them is up to you. What I’ve found, however, is that you can create massive growth by hitting them in some direct fashion on your chest, back, or shoulder days.

This will entirely depend on your training split; these could be separate days entirely, or you may have a leg/shoulder, chest/back split in your routine.

Chest Day

Your rear delts act as stabilizer muscles when you bench press. So making sure you have plenty of blood flowing into your stabilizer muscles is a great way to keep your body from over fatiguing.

Now, since you’re just trying to get blood flowing before you bench, all you need here as your training implement is a small resistance band. Wrap it over the top of a rack, and pull down towards your face. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 12-15 reps with a small pause at the concentric phase of the face pull. Rest for 45 seconds before your next set, you should feel a small pump beginning to happen.

TIp: Keep your elbows slightly higher than your shoulders when you pull the band to your face, and maintain a slight external rotation of your shoulder joint.

Back Day

Any horizontal pulling you do on back day will also hit your rear delts. That means if you choose to hammer your rear delts on back day, then save hitting your rear delts for the end of your workout.

This way you’ll be able to stimulate further growth by focusing on using much lighter weight, hitting reps as high as 25-30, and you can keep the movement slow and controlled and crush those rear delts with more tension.

Since you’ll be going for higher reps with more tension kept throughout, that means you’ll want to prioritize the cables machines as your tool. But we’re not going to use good ol’ faithful — aka, the rear delt fly machine. Nope, you’re going to use the power of angles to torch your rear delts and deliver a pump that would make Arnold jealous.

And the exercise that will accomplish that is the Low to High Cable Face Pull.

Tip: Weight should be light here. Your main focus is on feeling the squeeze in your rear delts. Perform 1-2 sets of either 25-30 reps with 60 second rest periods between sets.

Shoulder Day

Fact: if you’re reading this right now, I can guarantee that you have poor external rotation of your shoulders.

Thanks to the world we live in today that keeps us hunched over and starting at computers all day, most of us are severely internally rotated. This weakens our rear delts, while keeping our pecs chronically tightened.

But hitting your rear delts with face pulls, rear delt flyes, or when they act as stabilizers or synergist muscles during your bench press or barbell rows likely won’t help with one aspect of how your rear delts function: external rotation.

There are plenty of great external rotation exercises you can do to strengthen your external rotators. But most of those are boring, and quite frankly, you’re probably going to skip them because they don’t feel hard enough.

Enter the TRX.

This training tool is useful for far more than “functional training.” In fact, for many exercises that you already think you’re a badass at, you’ll find quickly that you’re far weaker than you think using TRX.

But, an exercise like the TRX Rear Delt Fly helps you to strengthen the external rotation function of your rear delts; hitting every way your rear delts function will help you build a more aesthetic body.

Superset this exercise with shoulder presses or lateral raises for a burn like you’ll never believe.

Get an A for Aesthetic

Even if you weren’t the greatest student in school, you can still be a great student of physique building. You don’t need an advanced degree to have a body that’s aesthetically pleasing. But what you do need to do is listen to what the best of the best have said works. And Flex knew that if you wanted to command attention with your upper body, training your rear delts was a must.


About the Author

Robbie, King of the Gingers and Protector of the North, is an uber nerd who loves all things Star Wars, video games, Marvel, and 90s music. (Oh and tacos and whiskey.) Robbie helps guys in their 30s take back control of their lives so they can live a more kick ass life; you could say he helps guys Make Their 30s Better than Their 20s. Oh my God, that's exactly what he'll show you how to do when you grab this free guide to dominating your 30s.