Cable Reverse Fly (A guide for bodybuilders)

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What is a Cable Reverse Fly?

The Cable Reverse Fly is a resistance exercise performed on a twin cable machine that targets muscles in the rear shoulders and back.

The major muscles activated are the posterior deltoids, Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi and to a lesser extent the Rhomboids.

It is a popular exercise for bodybuilders looking to create rounder shoulders and add mass to their back. Strength trainers often also use it as a warm-up exercise or an accessory exercise after a heavy pulling session.


Benefits of Rear Delt Flys

The benefits of using reverse cable flys are many. By developing the muscles that this exercise targets you can:

  • Improve posture.
  • Increase muscle mass in the lats.
  • Create a rounder and more defined shoulder muscle.
  • Increase strength for pulling movements such as deadlifts and rows.
  • Improve mobility and add stability to the shoulder joint
  • Reduces the risk of injury in the shoulder muscles and joints.
  • Stronger back muscles reduce the risk of back injuries.

How to do a Reverse Cable Fly

The reverse cable fly is a great exercise for targeting your rear delts and strengthening your back muscles. It also helps to reduce the risk of injury by targeting specific muscle groups that are often neglected during other exercises.

To perform reverse cable flys, you will need access to a twin cable machine. these are commonly found in the majority of commercial gyms across the country. If you do not have one in your gym, you are going to have to settle for bent over dumbbell flys or rear delt rows. 

Reverse Cable Fly demo


How to perform the exercise:

  1. Select the desired resistance from the weight stack on each side of the machine. Start with a light weight and pyramid up for your working sets. 
  2. Set the cable pulleys at a high pin. You can use stirrup attachments or just hold on to the ball stops at the end of each cable. 
  3. Stand facing the machine. Cross over the arms and grab cables at the opposite sides. This is your starting position. 
  4. Take a deep breath, as you exhale, use a fly movement to pull the cable ends across the body and to the side. Keep the back straight and the arms rigid so that the lats, traps and rear delts are taking all of the strain. 
  5. When the arms are straight out at either side and the back muscles are fully contracted, hold the position for two seconds and squeeze the rear delts and traps.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position by letting the arms cross over and the weight stacks drop
  7. Before the weight hit the bottom of the stack, perform your next rep. Doing this keeps the target muscles under constant tension. 
  8. Repeat for the required number of reps and sets. 
Tips for better results.

Maintain steady breathing throughout the movement in order to keep oxygen levels high and harness power for the 'fly' part of the exercise. Make sure that you are breathing in as you lower the weight stack and breath out as you raise the stack putting strain on the target muscles. 

It is not possible to perform this movement with a heavy weight and still maintain good form. Opt for a lighter weight and place all of the focus on good form and maximising the time under tension for the target muscles. Practice this with good form and make sure that you can feel a connection with the target muscle. 

For the best results, use an explosive movement when lifting the weight stack, hold for a couple of seconds and use a really slow negative movement to return the weight stack. The slower you go for the negative part of the exercise, the more time the muscle is spent under tension. This allows you to train with lighter weights, use good form and get better results. 

Muscles Worked With a Reverse Cable Fly

The rear delts are the major contributing muscles that are used when starting a reverse cable fly. They work to stabilize and support the shoulder joint and help you perform a number of other exercises. 

As you bring your arms round to the side, the traps and lats are engaged and start to take more of the strain. At the tops of the movement, the lats, traps and rear delts are all contracted and taking nearly all of the tension. The rhomboids are engaged to a lesser extent but still assist with the movement. 

Muscles worked with rear delt flys

There are a few other muscles that are activated as stabilisers and assisters. The lower back, glutes and abs stabilise the core while your biceps keep the arm in a rigid, slightly bent position throughout the exercise. 

Your forearm muscles are used to assist with the grip but as you are using a light weight, the activation is minimal.  


Other Exercises That Target the Rear Delts

Rear delt exercises for bodybuilders, list of rear delt exercises in the gym

The rear delt is the area between your shoulder blades and it is probably the most difficult muscle to directly work out in the gym. It is often ignored by bodybuilders because they think it doesn't have much impact on their overall physique. 

However, this muscle group has a lot of benefits for bodybuilders. It helps them increase their back width and add thickness to their chest. If you are looking for exercises that target your rear delts, then try these exercises: 

1) Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise 

Rear delt raises are a great alternative to reverse cable flys if you are looking to isolate and directly target the rear delts. If you do not have a cable machine or a rear delt fly machine, you can just grab a pair of dumbbells. This is a great exercise to superset with lateral raises or front raises as part of your shoulder workout. 

2) Machine Rear Delt Fly

If you have a rear delt fly machine at your local gym, you should take full advantage of it. The rear delt fly machine allows you to totally isolate the rear delts with little involvement from the lats and traps. Because you are in a seated position, the core is supported so you can focus all of your attention on connecting with the rear delts. This is a great movement for supersetting with upright plate rows or a lateral fly machine. 

If you are looking to build the lats and traps as well as the rear delts, you will need to look at compound exercises:

1) Bent Over Rows

Bent over rows are a great mass builder for the rear delts, lats and mid-traps. If you have access to a power rack, you can easily load up the barbell and do not have to lift it from the floor. This allows you to go really heavy with the load. Make sure that you pyramid up to your working set and are wearing a lifting belt to prevent injury. 

2) Humble Rows

Humble rows are a good option if you do not have access to a power rack or cable machine. All you need is an incline bench and a pair of moderate dumbbells. No other exercise allows you to connect with the rear delts and mid traps like the humble row when performed correctly with good form. 

3) Hammer Strength Rows

The hammer row predominantly targets the lats but the rear delts, traps and rhomboids are also activated making this a great compound exercise. If you are looking to train with a heavy load and add serious mass to your back, the hammer strength row is the best way to do it. 


Conclusion: Start Using Reverse Cable Flys in Your Bodybuilding Workout

This article has discussed the benefits of using reverse cable in your bodybuilding workout routine. It has also provided some tips for beginners and advanced lifters on how to incorporate it into their workouts.

One thing that many people don't know is that a good number of professional bodybuilders are using flys in their workouts to build muscle and get defined. 

We hope that you have found this article useful. For more exercise tips and access to our FREE bodybuilding training programs, please subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Instagram.

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