There are several deadlift variations, each with its unique benefits and muscle activation patterns. However, no type of deadlift targets the rear delts as a primary muscle. The conventional, sumo, Romanian, and trap bar deadlifts all involve your rear delts for stabilization, but this is not enough work to build significant strength or muscle. So, it’s best to add rear-delt-specific exercises to your program. Face-pulls, reverse flyes, and Y-raises are excellent movements that specifically target your rear deltoids.
Table of Contents
What Muscles Do Deadlifts Work?
The primary muscles worked by deadlifts are the glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, and quadriceps. These muscles are responsible for hip and knee extension and lower back stabilization. So, it’s best to think of deadlifts as a lower-body exercise, not as a muscle builder for your upper body.
- Primary muscles: Hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and erector spinae (lower back).
- Secondary muscles: Abs, forearms, trapezius, rhomboids, and rear deltoids.
- Do not expect a full workout for secondary muscles during deadlifts.
In addition to the primary muscles, deadlifts also recruit your abdominal muscles, trapezius, rhomboids, rear delts, and forearms as secondary muscles. These muscles aid in stabilizing and maintaining proper form during the lift. Of these secondary muscles, the rear deltoids are used very little during deadlifts.
How Are Rear Delts Used During Deadlifts?
While deadlifts don’t directly target the rear deltoids, they do require them to work indirectly. Your rear delts stabilize your shoulder during the lift. They help to maintain proper shoulder position and posture. This indirect engagement can help strengthen the rear deltoids to a small degree.
- Rear delts work to keep your shoulders back during deadlifts.
- Strong rear delts help to improve your deadlift form.
- You can improve your rear delts with target exercises, such as face pulls.
Compared to exercises specifically designed to target the rear deltoids, deadlifts offer much less opportunity for building muscle size, definition, and strength. Exercises like face pulls, bent-over lateral raises, and rear delt rows provide more focused engagement of the rear delts. For more information on these exercises, check out our article on how face pulls develop your rear delts.
What are the Benefits of Building Your Rear Delts?
When you include specific exercises for the rear deltoids in your routine, you will build a balanced physique with much more functional strength. Strengthening your rear delts can help improve shoulder health and posture, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance overall upper body strength.
- Better posture and aesthetics.
- Improved form on important lifts.
- Decreased risk of injury.
Strong rear delts makes performing many fundamental exercises, such as overhead press, pull-ups, and deadlifts easier. This is because your rear delts help to keep your shoulder blades retracted throughout the exercise. This results in better form and a better workout for the primary muscles responsible for the lift. Underdeveloped rear delts increase the chance that your form breaks down due to fatigue. When this happens, your injury risk skyrockets.
Are Deadlifts Enough to Build Your Rear Delts?
While deadlifts are an incredibly effective exercise for building overall strength, it’s crucial to recognize that they’re not a one-stop solution. Here’s how deadlifts impact your rear deltoids:
- Deadlifts do not work your rear delts as a primary muscle.
- Your rear delts will act only as a secondary muscle during deadlifts.
- During a deadlift, your rear delts act mostly to keep your shoulders in the proper position.
- Deadlifts will not build much noticeable strength or muscle in your rear delts.
- Use specific exercises to strengthen your rear delts.
- Face pulls, reverse flyes, bent over lateral raises, and Y-raises are among the best rear delt exercises.
- Strengthening your rear delts improves posture and weightlifting form, while at the same time decreasing injury risk.
Although deadlifts won’t make your rear delts much stronger, stronger rear delts will improve your deadlift form and overall physique. So, if you do deadlifts on back day, make sure to follow them up with one or two targeted rear delt exercises.