Reverse Flys Are the One Exercise You Need to Improve Your Posture

Attention all desk-ridden humans: You need to do this move, stat.

You probably already know that your desk-troll lifestyle isn't magical for your health. (Chime in with all the "sitting is the new smoking" and "tech neck" comments right now.) And while you can pop up with a standing desk or take walking breaks, there's not much you can do about the fact that you likely need your fingers on a keyboard (and/or smartphone) for many hours of the day.

What you can do, though, is incorporate preventative exercises into your routine to combat all that negative impact. And that's where the reverse fly (also called a back fly, demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) comes in.

Reverse Fly Benefits 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 hunching will lead to poor posture. The reverse fly, on the other hand, trains the back part of your body, which will help you maintain better posture. "When you strengthen the posterior muscles, like in this exercise, it will help not only help you look better and shape your body but also save your back problems down the road," 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 posterior delts (rear shoulders) as well as your rhomboids, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi (aka your lats, which stretch down your back from your armpits to your spine) muscles.

Not only will reverse flys help balance out the forward-leaning nature of your daily tasks, but they'll help counterbalance a lot of other anterior-focused workout moves. For example, shoulder presses, push-ups, and bench presses all work the front of your body. Doing reverse flys along with all these other exercises helps keep everything in balance. TL;DR — With the reverse fly, the muscles worked are the ones that are under-used and under-trained. (See: How to Diagnose (and Fix) Your Body's Imbalances)

To scale down the movement, or if the standing version of the exercise hurts your lower back, try lying prone (facedown) on a bench or exercise ball, advises Thurman. "This takes all of the guesswork out of the motion and limits injury. It also engages the muscles better," 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 all about targeting the correct muscles, versus powering through it (as you would, say, a burpee). Start with small weights and get the movement right before you worry about progressing to heavier weights.

How to Do a Reverse Fly

A. Stand with feet hips-width apart and knees soft, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by sides. Hinge at hips with soft knees, flat back, and neutral neck, leaning torso forward about 45 degrees. Let hands hang directly below shoulders, palms facing in to start.

B. Keeping core engaged and maintaining a slight bend in elbows, exhale and lift dumbbells up laterally in a wide arching motion until they reach shoulders height. Focus on squeezing shoulder blades together.

C. Pause at the top of the movement, then inhale and slowly lower dumbbells to return to starting position.

Reverse Fly Form Tips

  • Don't swing or use momentum to get the weights up. Instead, move in a slow and controlled motion on the way up and down.
  • Keep back straight (meaning, neutral) during the entire movement. Rounding the back will place too much stress on the lumbar spine (aka the lower back).
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