I'm currently doing progression to reach the handstand push up. One of the progressions is the pike push up. I've read on a website that those exercises only works the anterior and lateral delts.
Is that true ? and if so, what bodyweight exercise should I do to target the posterior deltoid ?

  • Why are you concerned about your posterior deltoid? Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:48
  • I don't know if this will affect muscle balance. But I don't want to be imbalanced
    – Peter
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:54
  • 1
    @DaveLiepmann - Actually, if the anterior deltoid becomes more developed in relation to the posterior, it can promote a rounded shoulder look. You can see this in a lot of swimmers, since swimming emphasizes ant/medial over posterior deltoid development.
    – JohnP
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 16:20
  • @JohnP I don't dispute the fact of muscle imbalance, but I was trying to elicit whether this was a bodybuilding issue or an imbalance issue. The former requires exercises specific to that muscle, the latter can often be prevented by more general pulling exercises. I admit it was a bit of a knee-jerk attempt to move away from a muscle-specific frame for exercise. Commented May 28, 2014 at 16:28
  • @DaveLiepmann - Gotcha, I gr0k where you're coming from now. :)
    – JohnP
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 16:35

4 Answers 4


You are correct, in that the pike and handstand pushups will not involve the rear deltoids to the extent that the front and medial heads are utilized. If you do get overdeveloped, the anterior deltoids will tend to overpower the rear, pulling the shoulder forward and giving you a hunched type look.

For body weight exercises, there are very limited options. The best one is some sort of a supine row, where you pull your body up towards something (Think of a pushup position on your back, pulling your upper body towards the bar). Even this requires some sort of a bar and place to prop your feet.

Other things you can do at home are bent over lateral raises. Since they are not large, powerful muscles it doesn't take a lot of weight to stress them. You can save a couple of gallon milk jugs and fill them with water, that gets you to ~ 8-9 lbs (A gallon of water is 8.8 lbs). After that you can start filling them with sand.

The basic function of the rear delt is transverse extension. If you raise your hands straight out in front of you at shoulder height, and then swing them out wide (like a big T) that is transverse extension. Any motion like that with stress/weight will work the rear deltoids.

If you have a set of gymnastic rings you can get some fantastic bodyweight work throughout the shoulder area, but again, that requires some external equipment.


JohnP is correct that the posterior deltoid is not really used in those exercises. I would add that most upper body exercises (bodyweight or not) tend to overuse shoulder internal rotators vs external rotators. This is a big factor in people ending up with the hunched-shoulder look.

The big movers of the gleno-humeral joint all act to internally rotate your shoulder (i.e. pec major, latissimus dorsi, teres major). When you do push-ups, hand-stands, and even pull-ups, you tend toward internal rotation.

There are only a few smaller muscles to aid in external rotation (teres minor, infraspinatus) and I would definitely suggest an exercise targeting those muscles for postural balance.

Something like a mix of this

enter image description here

and this

enter image description here


Edited: Yes handstand push ups are very good for shoulders, but not for the posterior deltoid.

If you looking for some body-weight (Calisthenics) exercises for shoulders Here is our video tutorial for some of bodyweight shoulders exercises: Strong shoulders workout

If you add it to your regular workout, I'm sure you will see some results Strong shoulders

And if you also interested about:

progression to reach the handstand push up

Here is my answer for it: progression to reach the handstand push up

And for a lit inspiration, here is my fun video I made for last new year: HandStand push ups

  • It's still not an answer for the question, as @SeanDuggan says . It's great you do so well at them, but the basic question is "Do handstand pushups engage the posterior deltoid".
    – JohnP
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 21:42
  • It is actually - since the question is about: "progression to reach the handstand push up" which is clearly mentioned at the first line. Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 23:24
  • That is a bit better. Thank you. Since you've addressed my comments, I'm going to delete them as they're now obsolete.
    – Sean Duggan
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 16:33

Yeah you will want to use an isolation exercise for the rear debts, such as forcing the arm backwards and stopping it with the hand of the other arm for 10 seconds on each side ten times, its all about tension in such an exercise, it also greatly improves your rear delt strength.

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