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

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.)

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 desk body ~bleh~. 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, fitness and nutrition expert 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 our 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." Doing reverse flys will target your posterior delts (rear shoulders) as well as your rhomboids, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi (back) muscles. 

Not only will reverse flys help balance out the forward 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. (See: 8 Exercises to Fix Common Body Imbalances)

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

How to Do a Reverse Fly

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees soft, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by sides. Hinge at the hips with soft knees, a 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 the elbows, exhale and lift dumbbells up laterally in a wide arching motion until they reach shoulder height. Focus on squeezing shoulder blades together.
C. Pause at the top, 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 (neutral) during the entire movement. Rounding the back will place too much stress on your lumbar spine (lower back).

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