I have a client I’ve been working with for about a year. She has made great strengths and is doing great! Our continuous problem is her rear delts. I’m clearly missing something because even doing a reverse fly on the cable cross with five pounds is quite difficult for her. Her core strength has increased greatly and all other muscle groups are progressing nicely – what am I doing wrong here?
There are a couple of questions that need to be addressed before answering your query. First, what is the posture of your client? Is she “normal” or “neutral?” If she is kyphotic, the forward rotation of the shoulder girdle and abduction of the scapulae make training of the rear deltoids challenging. If this is the case, you must also make sure the mid to lower trapezius muscles are also involved in the exercise. Be sure to stretch the anterior aspect of the torso (pecs, abdominal complex, hip flexors) to allow proper loading of the posterior aspect of the body. If the rear deltoid is already lengthened, the other parascapular muscles will be as well. This will place the shoulder girdle, especially the posterior component, in a mechanical disadvantage.
You stated when doing rear cable fly she is having a problem. My question is, are the scapula retracted and too stabilized? My thoughts are the rear deltoid is attached to the spine of the scapula. By keeping the scapula stabilized and immobile during this movement pattern, the rear deltoid, rhomboid and trapezius are not becoming pre-loaded during the movement. Secondly, when performing this exercise, the action typically is horizontal extension. The rear deltoid not only performs this movement but also is quite active in shoulder abduction as well. Of course, these actions are isolating the posterior shoulder and not working it in an integrated fashion. In functional actions, the rear deltoids will decelerate shoulder horizontal flexion, shoulder flexion and internal rotation as it pre-loads before it unloads, then performing horizontal extension and shoulder abduction.
In functional anatomy, we need to consider the chain reactions and fascial relationships when analyzing movement patterns. Therefore, it is important to include pelvic motions as they greatly influence the shoulder girdle complex. The hips will impact the shoulder in the following manner:
- Sagittal Plane: Hip flexion will enhance shoulder extension, while hip extension will enhance shoulder flexion on the same side.
- Frontal Plane: Hip adduction will enhance shoulder girdle abduction on the same side.
- Transverse Plane: Internal hip rotation will impact the opposite shoulder internal rotation/external rotation of the opposite hip enhances external rotation of the opposite shoulder. Likewise, internal rotation of the same side hip enhances external rotation of the same side shoulder.
With these concepts key to functional action of muscle and joints, I believe it is important to integrate these actions when training the shoulder complex and the rear deltoids. Instead of isolating the rear deltoid in the rear cable fly exercise, try having your client perform integrated movement patterns using either the weight of her arms or dumbbells in the following manner:
- Stand feet hip width apart and in a left foot forward staggered stance.
- Internally rotate into the left hip while reaching with the right arm to approximately knee height and lateral to the left knee (see Figure 1).
- Be sure to allow the pelvis to turn toward the left leg.
- Explode into external hip rotation of the left hip and extend the torso while rotating to the right. Simultaneously, have your client externally rotate and abduct her arm. It is important to have her abduct the scapula during the loading phase and adduct it during the unloading phase (see Figure 2).
- Repeat to the opposite side. Perform eight repetitions for two sets. Progress to 12 to 15 reps for three sets.
Additionally, "figure 8" patterns with a medicine ball are very effective for the entire shoulder girdle. Try performing eight to 10 reps for two sets with a ball weighing approximately three to four pounds.
I hope these help. If you have additional questions, please let me know. Good luck!