You likely already know that your sedentary lifestyle isn’t beneficial for your health. (Chime in with all the “sitting is the new smoking” and “tech neck” comments right now.) And while you can switch to a standing desk or take walking breaks, there’s not much you can do about the fact that you probably need to type on a keyboard (and/or smartphone) for many hours of the day.
However, what you can do is incorporate preventive exercises into your routine to counteract all the negative effects. And that’s where the reverse fly (also known as a back fly, demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) comes in.
Reverse Fly Advantages and Variations
“We are a very anterior-dominant society since we sit for so much of our day,” says Joey Thurman, a certified personal trainer and author of 365 Health and Fitness Hacks That Could Save Your Life. And all that forward slouching will lead to poor posture. The reverse fly, on the other hand, trains the posterior part of your body, which will help you maintain better posture. “When you strengthen the muscles in the back, like in this exercise, it will not only improve your appearance and shape your body but also prevent future back problems,” he explains. (More: What Exactly Is the Posterior Chain and Why Do Trainers Keep Talking About It?)
So, which muscles do you target with the reverse fly? Muscles worked include your rear delts (rear shoulders) as well as your rhomboids, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi (also known as your lats, which stretch down your back from your armpits to your spine) muscles.
Not only will reverse flys help counterbalance the forward-leaning nature of your daily tasks, but they’ll also offset many other exercises that focus on the front of your body. For example, shoulder presses, push-ups, and bench presses all target the front of your body.
Doing reverse flys in conjunction with all these other exercises assists in maintaining equilibrium. TL;DR — By performing the reverse fly, the muscles engaged are the ones that are not adequately utilized and inadequately trained. (See: How to Identify (and Resolve) Your Body’s Imbalances)
To decrease the motion or if the upright version of the exercise causes discomfort in your lower back, attempt lying prone (facedown) on a bench or exercise ball, advises Thurman. “This eliminates any uncertainty in the movement and reduces the risk of injury. It also activates the muscles more effectively,” he explains. You can also try reverse flys with a resistance band, cable machine, or a specialized reverse fly machine. Keep in mind: This exercise is primarily focused on targeting the correct muscles, as opposed to powering through it (like you would with a burpee, for example). Start with lighter weights and master the movement before considering progressing to heavier weights.
How to Perform a Reverse Fly
A. Stand with feet hips-width apart and knees slightly bent, gripping a lightweight dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Bend forward at the hips with slightly bent knees, maintaining a flat back and neutral neck. Allow your hands to hang directly below your shoulders, palms facing inward to initiate the exercise.
B. While keeping your core engaged and maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, exhale and raise the dumbbells laterally in a wide arched motion until they reach shoulder height. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together.
C. Pause briefly at the highest point of the movement, then inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells to return to the starting position.
Tips for Proper Reverse Fly Technique
- Avoid swinging or relying on momentum to lift the weights. Instead, perform the movement in a deliberate and controlled manner on the way up and down.
- Maintain a straight back (meaning, neutral) throughout the entire exercise. Rounding your back will place excessive stress on the lumbar spine (also known as the lower back).
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