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JUN 14, 2024

Reverse Fly Exercise for Good Posture

Learn all about the Reverse Fly exercise and how it targets your upper back muscles, while enhancing your strength and posture.

Read time: 12 minutes

Why is it some of the best exercises have dumb names? Reverse Fly sounds like a schlocky horror movie from the 80s. Well, it’s not – as far as we’re aware. It’s actually a great move that can improve your upper body strength, posture, and physical stability.

How? By targeting your upper back and shoulder muscles, which sometimes get overlooked or neglected. In terms of how to execute it correctly, what equipment you need, and the common pitfalls to avoid, we’ve got you covered. So let’s unpack the essentials.

Benefits of Reverse Fly

The reverse fly exercise offers several key benefits, including improved posture and strengthened upper back muscles. And when you incorporate this exercise into your routine, you're actively working to correct rounded shoulders and a slouched back. Which leads to overall posture improvement that creates a more confident and upright stance; ideal for anyone who works at a desk for long hours.

  • By targeting the muscles that support your shoulder blades, the reverse fly helps you achieve better shoulder stability. Enhanced shoulder stability makes you less likely to experience shoulder-related injuries and discomfort. This is particularly beneficial if you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk or using devices, which can strain your shoulders and upper back.
  • A stable shoulder girdle provides a solid foundation for other exercises and daily activities. Tasks like lifting, reaching, or carrying groceries will become easier and more efficient.

Muscles Worked During Reverse Fly

When performing a well-executed reverse fly, you engage several key muscle groups in your upper body, and understanding your body’s muscular anatomy helps you recognize which muscles are activated during the exercise.

  • Primarily, the reverse fly targets the posterior deltoids, which are essential for shoulder stability and movement. These muscles are at the back of your shoulders and play an important role in your strength.
  • Additionally, the reverse fly activates the rhomboids and trapezius muscles in your upper back. The rhomboids between your shoulder blades help retract your scapulae, while the trapezius, spanning from your neck to mid-back, aids in lifting and rotating your shoulder blades. These muscles work together to improve your posture and upper body strength.
  • The reverse fly also engages the infraspinatus and teres minor, part of the rotator cuff. These muscles help with the external rotation of the shoulder joint, contributing to its overall stability.

Proper Form

To execute the reverse fly with proper form, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees. This stance helps with your balance and stability. Maintain a neutral spine by keeping your back straight, engaging your core, and hinging at the hips. Your torso should be nearly parallel to the ground.

Now, let’s talk grip. Hold a dumbbell with a neutral grip in each hand (meaning your palms should face each other). Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement to reduce strain on your joints.

Step Description


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.


Hinge at your hips, keeping your back straight and core engaged.


Use a neutral grip, palms facing each other, holding a dumbbell in each hand.


Raise your arms to the side until they align with your shoulders.


Lower the weights back to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Keep an eye on that posture! Avoid rounding your shoulders or arching your back. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you lift the weights. This ensures you're targeting the correct muscles and not overloading others. Stick to these steps, and you'll be on your way to performing the reverse fly with perfect form.

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes will obviously undermine the effectiveness of the reverse fly exercise. And, what’s worse, this can lead to potential injury and suboptimal results.

  • One common error is neglecting proper breathing techniques. Remember to exhale as you lift the weights and inhale as you return to the starting position. This helps stabilize your core and maintain control throughout the movement.
  • Another frequent mistake is ignoring the mind-muscle connection. Instead of just going through the motions, focus on engaging your rear deltoids and upper back muscles. Visualize these muscles working with each repetition, ensuring they do the bulk of the work. This focused approach can drastically improve the quality of your exercise.
  • You might also be tempted to lift too heavy too soon, compromising form and risking injury. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase as your strength improves.
  • Additionally, avoid using momentum to lift the weights. Swinging your arms or using your body to generate movement reduces the exercise's effectiveness and can strain your shoulders and lower back.
  • Lastly, keep your shoulders down and back throughout the movement. Shrugging your shoulders reduces the emphasis on the target muscles and increases the risk of neck strain. Stay mindful of these pitfalls to get the most out of your reverse fly exercise.

Equipment Needed

You'll need the right equipment to perform the reverse fly exercise effectively and safely. The correct tools will help you achieve better results and minimize the risk of injury. Here's what you'll need:

  • Dumbbell Weights are essential for adding resistance to the reverse fly exercise. Choose a set of dumbbells appropriate for your strength level. Light weights, usually 2-10 lbs, are recommended to start. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the weight.
  • Resistance Bands: If you don't have access to dumbbells or prefer a different type of resistance, resistance bands are an excellent alternative. They're portable and versatile, allowing you to perform the reverse fly with varying tension levels. Choose bands with different resistance levels to adapt to your growing strength.
  • Workout Bench or Stability Ball: While not necessary, having a workout bench or stability ball can enhance your form. They provide a stable surface, allowing you to focus on your technique without worrying about balance.

With these pieces of equipment, you'll be well-prepared to perform the reverse fly exercise effectively. Remember, using the right tools is essential for maximizing your workout benefits and ensuring safety.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these steps to perform the reverse fly exercise correctly and safely. Start with a proper warm-up routine to loosen your muscles and prepare your shoulders and upper back. You can do dynamic stretches or light cardio activities like arm circles or jumping jacks for about 5-10 minutes.


Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, keeping your knees slightly bent and your back straight. Bend at the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the ground.

Starting Position

Let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders, palms facing each other. Engage your core to maintain stability.


Lift the weights to the sides, slightly bending your elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you raise your arms to shoulder height.


Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position, ensuring your movements are controlled and deliberate.

Repeat for typically 10-15 per set. Also, why not consider bent-over rows or face pulls if you're looking for alternative exercises to target similar muscles? And always finish with a cool-down and stretching to help your muscles recover.

Variations to Try

Why not explore different variations of the reverse fly to add variety to your routine and target your muscles from new angles? Incorporating different equipment and techniques can keep your workouts fresh and effective.

Here are a few alternatives to keep in mind:

Cable Reverse Fly

A cable machine allows you to perform reverse flies with continuous tension throughout each movement. Stand facing the cable machine, grab the handles, and pull them apart in a reverse-fly motion. Cable variations offer the advantages of adjustable resistance and a smooth range of motion.

Resistance Band Reverse Fly

Resistance bands are a fantastic alternative if you can't access a cable machine. Anchor the band at chest height, grab the handles, and perform the reverse fly. Resistance bands provide variable resistance, challenging your muscles differently than free weights.

Bent-Over Reverse Fly

This variation can be done with dumbbells, cables, or resistance bands. Bend at the hips, keep your back flat, and perform the reverse fly. This position engages your core and lower back, providing a more diverse workout.

Advanced Techniques

Once you've mastered the basics, incorporating advanced techniques into your reverse fly routine can greatly enhance your strength and muscle definition.

  • One key element to focus on is the mind-muscle connection. Concentrating on the muscles you're working - specifically the rear deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius - guarantees each rep is as effective as possible. Visualize these muscles contracting and relaxing with each movement.
  • Tempo manipulation is another powerful tool for elevating your reverse fly game. Adjusting the speed at which you perform each rep can substantially impact muscle growth and endurance. For example, try a 3-1-3 tempo: take three seconds to lift, hold for one second at the top, and three seconds to lower.

Here are three advanced techniques you can incorporate:

Isometric Holds

Pause at the movement's top for a few seconds to increase muscle tension.

Eccentric Focus

Slow down the lowering phase to maximize muscle engagement.

Partial Reps

Perform partial reps at the end of your set to push muscles beyond fatigue.


Incorporating the Reverse Fly into your routine will strengthen essential upper back and shoulder muscles, improving posture and reducing injury risk. Focus on proper form to maximize benefits and avoid common mistakes. Whether you're a beginner or advanced, there are variations and techniques to keep the exercise challenging and effective. So, grab your equipment, stay consistent, and watch your confidence and stance improve with each workout.


Q: What is the Reverse Fly exercise?

A: The Reverse Fly is a strength training exercise that targets the upper back and shoulder muscles. It helps improve posture and physical stability by engaging key muscle groups often neglected in regular workouts.

Q: What are the primary benefits of doing Reverse Fly exercises?

A: The primary benefits include improved posture, enhanced shoulder stability, reduced risk of shoulder-related injuries, and increased overall upper body strength. This exercise is especially beneficial for individuals who spend long hours sitting at a desk.

Q: Which muscles are primarily worked during the Reverse Fly?

A: The Reverse Fly primarily targets the posterior deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles. It also engages the infraspinatus and teres minor, which are part of the rotator cuff.

Q: How do I ensure I’m using proper form when doing a Reverse Fly?

A: To maintain proper form, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hinge at your hips with a neutral spine, and keep your elbows slightly bent. Use a neutral grip with dumbbells, raise your arms to the side until they align with your shoulders, and avoid rounding your shoulders or arching your back.

Q: What common mistakes should I avoid when performing a Reverse Fly?

A: Common mistakes include improper breathing, not engaging the mind-muscle connection, lifting too heavy weights too soon, using momentum to lift the weights, and shrugging your shoulders. Focus on controlled movements and proper form to avoid these pitfalls.

Q: What equipment do I need for the Reverse Fly exercise?

A: Essential equipment includes dumbbell weights or resistance bands. Optional equipment like a workout bench or stability ball can enhance your form by providing a stable surface.

Q: Are there variations of the Reverse Fly exercise?

A: Yes, variations include the Cable Reverse Fly, Resistance Band Reverse Fly, and Bent-Over Reverse Fly. These alternatives can add variety to your routine and target your muscles from different angles.

Q: Can I incorporate advanced techniques into my Reverse Fly routine?

A: Yes, advanced techniques include focusing on the mind-muscle connection, manipulating tempo, and incorporating isometric holds, eccentric focus, and partial reps to enhance strength and muscle definition.

Q: How many repetitions should I aim for in each set of Reverse Fly exercises?

A: Aim for 10-15 repetitions per set. Adjust the number of sets and repetitions based on your fitness level and goals.

Q: What should I do if I experience discomfort or pain while performing the Reverse Fly?

A: If you experience discomfort or pain, stop the exercise immediately and check your form. Ensure you’re using an appropriate weight and not overexerting yourself. If pain persists, consult a fitness professional or a healthcare provider.

Q: How often should I include Reverse Fly exercises in my workout routine?

A: Incorporate the Reverse Fly exercise 2-3 times per week, allowing at least one day of rest between sessions to let your muscles recover.

Q: What other exercises can I do to target similar muscles as the Reverse Fly?

A: Other exercises that target similar muscles include bent-over rows and face pulls. These can be incorporated into your routine to diversify your upper body workouts.

Q: How can I modify the Reverse Fly if I have limited equipment?

A: If you have limited equipment, use resistance bands instead of dumbbells, or perform bodyweight exercises that target the upper back and shoulder muscles. Be creative with household items that can serve as weights.

Q: Why is it important to warm up before doing the Reverse Fly exercise?

A: Warming up is crucial to prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise, reduce the risk of injury, and improve performance. Dynamic stretches or light cardio activities are recommended for about 5-10 minutes before starting.

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Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.


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