3 Best Rear Deltoid Stretches (with Pictures!)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 19, 2023

The rear deltoid is a muscle located in the back of the shoulder. Also known as the posterior deltoid, its principal functions are extension, external rotation, and horizontal abduction. These movements are essential for activities such as lifting weights, throwing a ball, and even performing everyday tasks.

Given the importance of the rear deltoid muscle, it is essential to keep it flexible and strong. One way to do this is through stretching. To stretch this muscle, reverse its action via flexion, internal rotation, and horizontal adduction of the shoulder joint. Rear deltoid stretches can help to improve the range of motion, reduce muscle stiffness, and prevent injuries.

It is imperative to discuss the benefits of stretching the rear deltoid muscle, as well as specific stretches that can be done to target this muscle effectively. By incorporating these stretches into a workout routine, individuals can improve the flexibility and strength of their rear deltoid muscles.

Anatomy of the Rear Deltoid

The rear deltoid, also known as the posterior deltoid, is a muscle located in the back of the shoulder. It is one of three deltoid muscles, along with the lateral deltoid (located on the side of the shoulder) and the anterior deltoid (located on the front of the shoulder). The deltoid muscles are responsible for a variety of movements of the shoulder joint, including flexion, extension, abduction, and rotation of the upper arm.

rear deltoid

The rear deltoid is a triangular muscle that originates from the scapula (shoulder blade) and inserts into the humerus (upper arm bone). It is innervated by the axillary nerve and is supplied by the posterior circumflex humeral artery. The muscle fibers of the rear deltoid run diagonally, allowing it to perform a variety of movements, including the extension of the arm backward, rotation of the arm externally, and pulling the arm down.

The rear deltoid is a vital muscle for activities such as sports and performing everyday tasks. It also plays a role in maintaining good posture by helping to keep the shoulders from rounding forward.

Benefits of Rear Deltoid Stretches

Improved Range of Motion

The rear deltoid is a muscle responsible for extending the arm backward. This movement is essential for activities such as lifting weights and throwing a ball. In order to perform these activities with proper form, a full range of motion in the shoulder joint is necessary. 

Stretching the rear deltoid can help improve the shoulder joint's range of motion, allowing for the easier and more efficient performance of these activities. An improved range of motion can also be beneficial for everyday tasks.

Reduced Muscle Stiffness

Tight muscles can lead to muscle stiffness and discomfort. This can be especially noticeable in the shoulders, as they are frequently used in a variety of movements and activities. Stretching the rear deltoid can help to reduce muscle stiffness and improve overall comfort in the shoulder region. This can be especially beneficial for those who sit at a desk or perform repetitive tasks that may cause muscle tightness.

Injury Prevention

Stretching can help prevent injuries by keeping muscles flexible and strong. The rear deltoid is a muscle that is essential for maintaining proper shoulder function. Keeping it flexible and strong through stretching can reduce the risk of shoulder injuries. 

This is especially important for those who engage in activities that put a lot of stress on the shoulders, such as weightlifting or throwing sports. In addition to reducing the risk of injury, stretching the rear deltoid can help maintain healthy shoulder function and prevent muscle imbalances leading to pain and discomfort.

Stretches for the Rear Deltoid

1. Cross-Body Reach

This stretch targets the posterior deltoid and upper back muscles.

To perform this stretch, the individual should stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms relaxed by the sides. The right arm is then reached across the body towards the left shoulder.

cross chest shoulder stretch

Next, the left hand gently pulls the right elbow towards the left shoulder until a stretch is felt in the back of the right shoulder. The stretch is held for 15-30 seconds, then released and repeated on the other side.

2. Behind the Back Shoulder Stretch with Towel

This stretch targets the posterior deltoid and upper back muscles. To perform this stretch, the individual holds a towel in both hands and extends the arms straight out in front of them. 

behind the back shoulder stretch with towel

The towel is then brought behind the back, and the ends are brought towards each other, grasped with the opposite hands. The towel is gently pulled towards the back until a stretch is felt in the rear deltoids and upper back muscles. The stretch is held for 15-30 seconds, then released and repeated.

3. Kneeling One Arm Cross Body Stretch

This stretch targets the posterior deltoid and upper back muscles. To perform this stretch, the individual begins in a kneeling position, sitting on the feet, bringing the torso close to the thighs, and one arm extended out overhead.

kneeling one arm cross body stretch

The other arm is then gently brought across and underneath the body towards the opposite shoulder, keeping the elbow straight. The stretch is held for 15-30 seconds, then released and repeated on the other side.

How Often Should I Stretch?

Stretching is an integral part of maintaining good muscle health and function. However, it is not necessary to stretch every day to see benefits. 

In general, finding a balance with stretching is essential. Stretching too little can lead to muscle stiffness and a reduced range of motion while stretching too often can weaken the muscles. By stretching 2-3 times per week and adding in some extra stretches before and after exercise, good muscle health and function can be maintained. 

If pain or discomfort is experienced while stretching, it is important to stop immediately and consult a healthcare professional. Additionally, it is a good idea to warm up before stretching, as this can help to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Warming up can be as simple as taking a few minutes to walk or jog in place, or doing some dynamic stretches such as arm circles. 

By following the guidelines for the frequency of stretching outlined below and listening to the body, stretching can be a safe and effective way to maintain good muscle health and function, improve the range of motion, and reduce the risk of injury.

After Exercise

It is a good idea to stretch as this can help reduce muscle stiffness and improve recovery. It is recommended to stretch the muscles engaged during the workout, holding each stretch for at least 15-30 seconds.

2-3 Times Per Week

For general muscle health and maintenance, stretching 2-3 times per week is recommended. This can be an excellent opportunity to focus on stretching muscles that are generally not worked during workouts.

Before Intense Exercise

If intense exercises, such as a long run or heavy lifting session, are planned, it is a good idea to stretch beforehand. This can help prepare the muscles for the activity and reduce the risk of injury.

As Needed

If muscle stiffness or discomfort is present, stretching more frequently to alleviate these symptoms is okay. However, it is crucial to listen to the body and stop stretching if pain or discomfort is experienced.

Final Thoughts

Rear deltoid stretches are an important part of maintaining healthy shoulder function. By keeping the rear deltoid flexible and strong, range of motion can be improved, muscle stiffness can be reduced, and injuries can be prevented. 

Incorporating rear deltoid stretches into a routine can help to maintain healthy shoulder function and improve overall athletic performance. Whether an athlete or just looking to maintain good shoulder health, these stretches are an important part of any exercise program.

References

1. Petruska, A. (2014). The posterior deltoid: Anatomy, function, and exercises. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 44(2), 97-105. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.4840

2. Rethlefsen, S. A., & Sward, L. H. (2016). Posterior deltoid muscle activity during common shoulder exercises: An electromyographic study. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 46(6), 469-474. doi:10.2519/jospt.2016.6444

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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