How to Do Reverse Dumbbell Flyes: Muscles Worked & Proper Form

Reverse Dumbbell Flyes exercise technique

Muscles Worked in Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

Muscles Worked in the Reverse Dumbbell Fly

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Do Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells, lean forward, and let your arms hang towards the floor.
  2. With almost straight arms (just a slight bend at the elbow), slowly lift the dumbbells by raising your arms out to the sides.
  3. Reverse the movement and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Text and graphics from the StrengthLog app.

Which Muscles Do the Reverse Dumbbell Fly Work?

The reverse dumbbell fly primarily works your rotator cuff and rear deltoids, and secondarily your trapezius.

Muscles Worked in the Reverse Dumbbell Fly

The reverse dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise for the muscles that horizontally extend your upper arms and thus trains many of the antagonists of common pressing exercises.

Unlike exercises such as lat pulldowns or rows, the upper arm just barely moves closer to the origin of the lats, which means that the lats aren’t very active in this exercise.

This is an exercise where it is easy to cheat by using momentum from your hips or lower back, which takes away the work from the rear deltoid. Instead, make sure to pick a weight light enough to be able to perform the exercise correctly and with control.

Benefits of the Reverse Dumbbell Fly

  • Better posture. Strengthening the muscles in your upper back can help pull your shoulders back and contribute to a better posture.
  • Balanced shoulder development. Many lifters have stronger pushing muscles due to focusing on exercises that work the front of the body, like the bench press. The reverse dumbbell fly helps strengthen the rear deltoids, helping you to achieve a more balanced muscle development.

Reverse Dumbbell Fly: Proper Form & Technique

Starting position
End position


Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Lean forward by tilting your hips. Make sure that you keep your spine straight, and brace your core.

You should keep your arms in the same position during the entire movement, with a slight bend in the elbow.


Lift the dumbbells up by bringing your arms up by your sides. Lift them up until they are just about level with your body. You don’t have to overextend the movement.

Avoid shrugging your shoulders during the exercise. Instead, focus on drawing your shoulder blades together as you lift the dumbbells.

Pick a light weight, so that you can perform the movement slowly and controlled without starting to hinge and creating excessive momentum.

Common Mistakes in Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

  • Picking too heavy dumbbells. By choosing a pair of dumbbells that are heavier than you can handle, you might end up using excessive momentum or other muscles than the targeted ones to complete the lift, compromising the exercise’s effectiveness and potentially leading to injury.
  • Not keeping form. This is an exercise where it’s easy to start using a swinging motion to help lift the weights. This can place unnecessary stress on the lower back and shoulder joints. Keep the movement slow and controlled.

Reverse Dumbbell Fly Variations

  1. Reverse Cable Fly
  2. Reverse Machine Fly

1. Reverse Cable Fly

How to do reverse cable fly
Reverse Cable Fly

The reverse fly can be performed using a cable machine instead of dumbbells. The cable machine allows for constant tension throughout the full movement since the direction of resistance can be adjusted according to the cable’s setup.

The cable machine allows for a more controlled and stable motion, which might be appreciated by the beginner. However, setting up the cable machine can be more complex than simply grabbing a pair of dumbbells.

2. Reverse Machine Fly

The reverse machine fly is another effective rear delt exercise that, like the reverse cable fly, keeps your muscles under constant load.

It might also be a good alternative for beginners or someone who wants to focus fully on the targeted muscles, because the machine provides stability and guides you through the right movement path.

Program and Workouts That Include the Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

All of these and many more workouts and programs are available in our free workout log app StrengthLog.

Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:

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