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January 07, 2022 8 min read

The reverse fly is a resistance exercise that works the major muscles of the upper back and the rear shoulders. The only equipment you need to do it is a pair of dumbbells, so you can easily do it at home or in any basic gym.

It is also sometimes referred to as the dumbbell reverse fly, bent over reverse fly, or rear delt fly. Add the reverse fly to your upper body strength-training workout to specifically target your triceps, the rear of your shoulders, and your upper back.

How to Do the Reverse Fly


The reverse fly is a fairly simple exercise. Try not to hunch your shoulders, and keep your chin tucked in to maintain a neutral spine during the exercise. You may want to practice the reverse fly without any weights at first to become familiar with the movement, and then you can pick up some light weights when you are ready to try the full exercise. As you become stronger, you can gradually select heavier weights.

We suggest you get started by performing all of the basic movements listed below with moderate to high reps, such as 8 to 12 reps per set or more.

Follow the step-by-step instructions below to start doing the exercises (you can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or other weighted objects).

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding the dumbbells at your sides at the top of the movement. 
  2. Press your hips back in a hinge motion, while bringing your chest forward and leaning so that your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. 
  3. Allow the weights to hang straight down with your palms facing each other while you maintain a tight core, straight back, and a slight bend of the knee. 
  4. Raise both of your upper arms out to your side with a soft bend in your elbows while you exhale. 
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull them toward your spine. 
  6. Lower the weights back to the starting position as you inhale.

How Many Reps and Sets?

If you are a beginner, we suggest that you try to complete this routine at least three times a week. With this type of exercise, you might find the tension in your muscles intensifying quite quickly. For all the variations of these moves, be sure to pause wherever it feels tight or tender. Also, pay attention to your breathing. Inhale as you lower the weights and exhale as you lift them.

As mentioned above, start out by doing moderate to high reps, such as 8 to 12 reps per set. Try a variety of heavy, low rep sets and also include some lighter, higher weight rep sets to see what format works best for you. Some of the variations might call for slightly different workout routines.

Try to complete one round, and then rest for about a minute before you do another round with a slight variation. For some of the variations, there is no recommended number of reps but you should try to progress slowly to heavier weight as fast as you and then hold the weights in the flexed position for a few seconds each time. 

The number of sets you need to do depends on how frequently you have been training the muscle groups of your shoulders, upper arms, and upper back, how many sets you need to stimulate more growth in those areas, and what other exercises you are already doing in your back workouts. In general, somewhere between two and four work sets is about right for most people.

If you are following a nutrition plan optimized for bulking, you might want to do a few more reps and sets.

Benefits of the Reverse Fly

Performing the reverse fly can really improve your functional (or day-to-day) fitness level. The reverse fly really promotes an upright stance and better posture in general. Walking and sitting with an upright stance not only supports a healthier spine and lower back but it also gives you a lot more self-confidence. Because the reverse fly targets the posterior deltoids (rear shoulders) and major upper back muscles (rhomboids and trapezius), the effects will mostly be seen in these areas.

Strengthening the shoulder muscles specifically helps you improve your poor posture, promotes an upright stance, and improves your overall balance.

Modern life requires most people to constantly keep their head protruding forwards. This type of position can cause the rear shoulder and back muscles to lengthen and the chest muscles to become tighter. This can lead to pain and a reduced range of motion. Research shows that including the reverse fly in your strength training routine can help reduce chronic neck pain as well as reduce the amount of pain and disability in the shoulder and chest areas.

A randomized trial found that people with work-related neck pain experienced significant and long-lasting relief by regularly practicing five specific neck muscle-strengthening exercises.

Hyperextension exercises such as these can be particularly useful if you want to strengthen the muscles of your back as well as your other upper body muscles. These exercises have often been used during physical therapy to treat conditions that might have developed for some patients in the lower back, such as herniated disks.

A Few Other Reverse Fly Tips

Always reduce the amount of pain you experience in any workout by staying hydrated and stretching your body. Always keep your core tight and your back straight, and ease into the movements when you are just getting started with any type of new exercise. Squeezing your shoulder blades together in the middle of your back is another good thing to remember as you are completing your sets. If you don’t squeeze your shoulders, it will result in too much emphasis on certain muscles and not enough on others.

Squeezing your shoulder blades together also helps keep your chest up. Also, never use momentum to do your lifts. This is a piece of advice that applies to pretty much all of the exercises you will be doing in the gym. If you want to build the strongest upper back you can, you will need to limit your momentum as much as possible. Never sway your body back and forth every rep just to lift the weights to shoulder height.

Some Reverse Fly Variations

Strength and muscle building requires an extended long-term commitment, so varying your exercises becomes very important through the full range of motion. The movements in this exercise can really improve your strength, so experiment with a low rep count and a heavier weight. The reverse fly can be performed in a variety of different ways to accommodate your own personal fitness level. Here are a few of the different ways you can adapt this exercise to your own preferences.

Seated Reverse Fly 


You can do the reverse fly seated on a bench if you find the standing position too uncomfortable. This will help you perform the exercise with more stability and eliminates the discomfort caused by standing during the movement. The hinge forward hip position and neutral spine are still implemented in a sitting position. 

Upright Reverse Fly With Resistance Band 


You can use a resistance band and do the reverse fly while you are standing or sitting upright. This can be an excellent alternative for people with low back problems where bending over feels uncomfortable. To do it, place the middle of the band around a stationary object, and then pull the ends toward you. 

Prone Reverse Fly 


You can do this exercise lying prone (face down) on a bench or over a stability ball to eliminate any lower back discomfort that may be caused while standing or seated. This will enable you to really focus on muscles such as the rear deltoids and it will limit the risk of injury during the exercise. 

Reverse Fly With Lunge 


This exercise is more for advanced exercisers, because performing the exercise in a lunge position increases the instability of the movement. Holding this body position forces more core engagement and leg work to complete the exercise. The hip hinge and straight back body position are still maintained.

A Few Common Mistakes

Avoiding these common mistakes can help you perform this exercise safely and effectively. First, avoid rounding your back during the reverse fly, as this can place too much stress on your lumbar spine (low back). This mistake can be fixed by paying attention to your body position. Keep your core tight (with your navel sucked in), your chin tucked in, and your back straight. 

Second, always use a slow, controlled movement when you are doing any of the reverse fly variations. Swinging the weights uses momentum instead of muscle to raise your arms out to the side. It may take longer to do the exercises, but always remember that strengthening muscle is not a race, but rather it is a slow and steady process.

Third, if you are struggling to perform a full range of motion during your reverse fly exercises, you are probably trying to lift too much weight. You may also notice strain in your shoulders, back, and neck. Reducing the size of the weights will help you perform the movements more effectively and with good form.

Safety and Precautions 

Weight training, in general, requires attention to body position, form, and function. Performing the reverse fly or any resistance exercise improperly can increase your risk of injury. Consult your personal trainer before doing this exercise if you experience any issues with your shoulders or back. If pain develops in either of these locations while you are doing the reverse fly, stop this movement and do other exercises to work these areas instead. 

If you start developing any type of injury in your shoulders or chest muscles, never just ignore it and hope it goes away. Rest the painful area and exercise other parts of your body that don’t hurt. You might even consider seeing a physiotherapist or consulting a personal trainer if the injury lasts longer than a few days. Start with one set if you are new to the exercise and work your way up to three sets. Repeat the exercise for up to 12 repetitions. 

Starting a Workout Routine

As you get started, we suggest training for about an hour three times a week at a reasonable level of intensity. If you do three solid sets of reverse fly movements every week each on separate days, you will quickly see some real results in terms of how your chest and shoulders look and feel. The best and most sustainable approach is to follow a progressive bodyweight training regime and  follow a customized diet plan that will help you build muscle.

Always warm up the muscles and joints you will use for these types of workouts.

Do some helpful stretches to  increase the amount of overall strength and mobility of your body and relieve some of the pain in your lower back before you even get started. If you have a personal trainer, be sure to use him to help you with the proper form for these exercises and to get you following a safe and effective workout plan.

If you are really serious about weightlifting, look for a local qualified coach or personal trainer (who is USA Weightlifting Accredited) in your area. If you cannot find one, you might also consider looking for a good coach online who will break down the movements of a wide variety of exercises and show you some of the basic skills. 

Most lifters who want to improve their weightlifting performance and technique should at least complete three training sessions per week that include the reverse fly or a variation. The more frequently you train, the more you will need to monitor your recovery, training intensity, and general performance.

Using Supplements to Enhance Your Performance

At the end of the day, the reverse fly is gonna help you meet your fitness goals when it comes to building a stronger back and shoulders. Paired with the  BEACH BOD STACK  to increase strength and muscle growth, the sky is the limit.