Do Pull-Ups Work Rear Delts?

do pull ups work rear delts

I know you have been wondering a lot about muscles and exercises, but there is nothing more to worry about.

We will provide the best information and remove the worrisome and troublesome headaches about pull-ups and their hidden relationship with the rear deltoid powers.

So, are pull-ups the secret key to developing your rear delts?

Let’s find out!

What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Target?

Pull-ups mainly target two important muscle groups: the lats and the biceps. The lats are the big muscles in your back that extend from your armpits to your hips.

When you do a pull-up, these muscles play a key role in pulling your body toward the bar.

At the same time, your biceps, the muscles on the front of your upper arms, also engage to help with the pulling motion.

In addition to the lats and biceps, pull-ups engage several other muscles as secondary movers.

These secondary muscles are the rear deltoids (posterior shoulder muscles), trapezius (upper back muscles), rhomboids (between the shoulder blades), triceps (back of the upper arm), and forearms.

While the rear delts get some stimulation during pull-ups, they are not the primary focus of the exercise.

Pull-ups involve a more vertical pulling motion, which may not effectively target the rear delts as much as other exercises designed for them would.

Are Pull-Ups Ineffective For Developing The Rear Deltoids?

Pull-Ups Ineffective For Developing The Rear Deltoids

Pull-ups may not effectively target your rear deltoids as the main muscles, like the lats and biceps, bear most of the load. Consequently, your rear delts receive only limited stimulation.

When your lats and biceps become fatigued during pull-ups, your rear delts don’t receive enough focus to experience substantial gains in strength, size, or muscle definition.

Relying solely on pull-ups without incorporating other exercises to target your rear delts can lead to muscle imbalances and raise the risk of injury.

To prevent this, include specific exercises focusing on your rear deltoids in your workout routine.

By doing so, you can promote balanced muscle development and lower the chances of potential injuries.

Functions of Rear Delts

The rear delts are muscles located at the back of your shoulders. Their main role is to help other muscles (scapula retractors, rhomboids, and traps) pull your shoulders backward.

Exercises like pull-ups or lat pulldowns are not the primary focus because these movements don’t target the rear delts as effectively as some other exercises might.

However, the rear delts still get worked to some extent in most pulling exercises. If you want to target and engage your rear delts specifically, there are specific exercise techniques to keep in mind.

Key Form Details When Target Rear Delts

To effectively target your rear delts, follow these simple form tips:

  • Keep your arms at 45-degree angle: This aligns well with the rear delt muscles, allowing for a complete contraction and shoulder extension. Avoid going too wide, as that shifts the focus to your upper back and mid traps.
  • Mimic your rowing position: Imagine rowing and driving your elbows back, adjusting the width of arms until you find the best spot to push your elbows back the farthest.
  • Pull your elbows behind your body with each repetition: This ensures you utilize the full range of motion, achieving a complete contraction.

By combining these tips, you can make most pulling exercises target your rear delts more effectively.

Are Pull-Ups Effective For Targeting The Posterior Deltoids?

Although a fantastic exercise, there are more effective options than pull-ups for targeting the rear deltoid muscles.

If your goal is to build solid and well-defined rear delts, it’s essential to consider the following points:

  • Pull-ups primarily focus on engaging your lats and biceps, the primary muscles used during the movement.
  • The rear deltoids at the back of your shoulders are secondary muscles activated during pull-ups. However, they receive less emphasis than the lats and biceps.

Because pull-ups put more stress on the lats and biceps, your rear deltoids might not get the full workout they need to see significant improvements in strength and muscle tone.

So, you should include other exercises in your routine that are beneficial for better developing your rear deltoid.

Consider incorporating movements like seated rows, pendlay rows, and rear lateral raises. These exercises specifically target the rear deltoids and help to create a more balanced and injury-resistant physique.

Remember, while pull-ups make an excellent overall upper body strength, supplementing them with targeted rear deltoid exercises will ensure comprehensive development and better results for your shoulders.

3 Exercises To Target Your Rear Delts

Pull-ups may not be the best exercise for targeting the muscles at the back of your shoulders (rear delts). To effectively build and strengthen those muscles, include these exercises in your workout routine.

1. Seated Rows

Seated rows are an effective way to work and strengthen your rear deltoid muscles. All you need is a gym machine, and you’re ready to start today.

You’ll effectively work on your rear delts and engage your triceps by maintaining proper form and not leaning forward or backward.

Seated rows are a great exercise, especially for beginners looking to work their rear deltoid muscles. Here’s how to do it:

  • Connect a V-grip to the low-pulley cable machine.
  • Sit on the machine’s seat and adjust your feet to the place below the handle.
  • Hold the handle using both of your hands, palms facing each other.
  • Keep your legs slightly bent and your back straight with your shoulders back.
  • Lift the weight slightly off the stack in the starting position.
  • Pull the handle back towards your chest, touching exactly below your sternum.
  • Gradually straighten your arms.
  • Repeat.

2. Rear Lateral Raises

Rear lateral raises are a great exercise to target your rear deltoid muscles. Throughout the exercise, maintain a straight back and retract your shoulder blades.

This workout will effectively target your rear deltoids and help build essential upper back muscles. Here’s how to do it:

  • Position yourself on the edge of a bench or chair, ensuring your feet are securely planted on the ground.
  • Bend over until your chest is resting on your knees.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand
  • Maintain extended arms and lift them outward till they are level with the ground.
  • Gradually bring your arms to the original position and repeat.

3. Pendlay Rows

Pendlay rows are an excellent workout for targeting the rear deltoids. It is particularly suitable if you enjoy compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts.

Since pendlay rows parallel your back to the floor, they are excellent for targeting your rear deltoids. To perform Pendlay rows, follow these instructions:

  • Position the barbell, loaded with weights onto lifting platform or a mat.
  • Stand facing the barbell, making sure your feet are spread wider than hip-width apart.
  • Slightly bend your knees and hinge at your hips until your back parallels the floor.
  • Maintain an erect back posture while pulling your shoulder blades back.
  • Using an overhand grip, hold the barbell with your arms positioned just outside your legs.
  • Initiate the movement by pulling the barbell upward from the ground until it reaches your chest, all while keeping your back steady.
  • Gently lower the barbell to the ground, ensuring a controlled descent.


Targeting and strengthening the rear deltoid muscles is essential for achieving a well-balanced, injury-resistant upper body.

Pull-ups provide great overall upper body strength but are not the most effective exercise for specifically working the rear delts.

Incorporating seated rows, rear lateral raises, and Pendlay rows can provide a more focused and intense workout for the rear deltoids.

You can ensure comprehensive development and optimal shoulders and upper back results by including various exercises in your routine.

Remember to maintain proper form and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to achieve the best outcomes.

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