5 Best Reverse Pec Deck Alternatives (With Pictures)

the reverse pec deck is a popular machine is used to build size and strength in the upper back

The reverse pec deck is a popular machine in many commercial gyms and is used by bodybuilders, powerlifters, and general fitness enthusiasts to build size and strength in the upper back. 

If we’re someone who trains at home, is traveling often, or goes to a gym that doesn’t have a reverse pec deck, we can still get the desired benefits of this exercise by incorporating alternatives that will be very similar and give us the same (or better) results.

The 5 best alternatives for the reverse pec deck are: 

  • Bent Over Rear Delt Fly
  • Banded Rear Delt Fly
  • YTWs
  • Face Pull
  • Rear Delt Row

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes an exercise a good alternative to the reverse pec deck, why the exercise is important, and 5 excellent alternatives that we can include for those with limited access to equipment.

What Makes A Good Reverse Pec Deck Alternative?

A good reverse pec deck substitute is an exercise that targets the same musculature and has a similar movement pattern to the reverse pec deck.

Muscles Used In The Reverse Pec Deck

The muscles used for the reverse pec deck are:

  • Rear Delts
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius

The reverse pec deck machine is used to target the muscles of the upper back to increase their size and strength. The rear delts, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles all work together in this movement to pull the arms and shoulder blades back in line (or slightly behind) the body.

These muscles are important to train because they improve our posture and increase stability at the shoulder girdle – which can help prevent shoulder impingements, and reduce the risk of other shoulder injuries in everyday life and while lifting weights.

Movement Pattern: Reverse Pec Deck

The reverse pec deck’s movement pattern is that of a reverse fly, which involves scapular retraction (shoulder blades squeeze together), and horizontal abduction of the humerus (arms travel horizontally away from the midline). 

The movement patterns performed determines the musculature that will be used; therefore, when we’re looking for a good reverse pec deck replacement, we want an exercise that has similar movement patterns.

All in all, a good exercise alternative for the reverse pec deck will involve scapular retraction (squeezing the shoulder blades together) and horizontal abduction of the arms (bringing the arms out to the sides in a horizontal plane – like a “T” position).

Reverse Pec Deck Alternatives

1. Bent Over Reverse Fly

The bent-over reverse fly is a great reverse pec deck alternative using dumbbells because it targets the rear delts, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles in the same movement pattern as the reverse pec deck, just at a different angle.

A bent-over row is a great option for those who don’t have access to the pec deck machine but do have access to dumbbells. The bent-over reverse fly can be performed seated if a bench is available, or it can be performed by hinging at the hips and actively maintaining an inclined torso position (which will involve additional postural stability). 

The bent-over reverse fly will require more stabilization than the reverse pec deck because we will be holding ourselves in a static position as we perform the reverse fly, which is different from the reverse pec deck, that holds us in position and allows for the focus to be solely on the upper back musculature.

How To:

  • Sit on the edge of a bench with dumbbells in hand (if using the bench), or hinge at the hips with a soft bend in the knee, letting the torso incline towards the floor with dumbbells in hand (if not using a bench)
  • Start with the arms hanging down in front of the body with palms facing each other
  • Maintain a slight bend in the elbow throughout the movement
  • Initiate the movement by pulling the arms out towards the sides (away from each other) in a “T” position
  • Focus on squeezing the shoulders blades together as the arms raise out to the sides, but avoid shrugging the shoulders towards the ears
  • Stop elevating the arms when they are parallel with the body, and pause briefly in this position
  • Lower the arms back to the start position with control
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

The dumbbell reverse fly is a staple in most powerlifter’s training programs. Check out our other article on: How Do Powerlifters Train Shoulders.

2. Banded Rear Delt Fly 

The banded rear delt fly is an excellent alternative for the reverse pec deck because it targets the same musculature (rear delts, rhomboids, traps) and is the exact same movement pattern as the reverse pec deck, but is performed with a band that is anchored to a rack (or any sturdy object) rather than using a machine.

The limited equipment needed for this exercise makes it so easy to include this variation into a training plan for those whose gym does not have the reverse pec deck, or for those who workout at home.

Related Article: 18 Rear Delt Workouts (Barbell, Dumbbell, Cable, Machine)

How-To

  • Wrap a band around a rack (or other sturdy item) at chest height, and grab one end of the band in each hand
  • Switch each end of the band to the opposite hand so that the band is crossed and it forms an “X”
  • Elevate the arms (with the bands in hand) in front of the body to make them parallel with the floor
  • Step back until there is tension in the band
  • Maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout the movement
  • Initiate the movement by pulling each arm backwards horizontally to form a “T” with the arms
  • Squeeze the shoulders blades together, while keeping the shoulders away from the ears
  • Pause briefly once the arms are even with the body
  • Control the arms back to the start position by resisting the tension
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

A lot of people wonder what muscle groups they can train together in the same workout. Check out our article on Can You Workout Back And Shoulders Together?

3. YTWs

YTWs are the best reverse pec deck alternative for home workouts or for those who don’t have access to any equipment, because it is a bodyweight movement. It is a possible alternative for the reverse pec deck because its 3 positions (the y, the t, and the w) will target the same musculature, and the “T” is the same movement pattern as the reverse pec deck.

The YTW exercise is not only an excellent option because it will build strength in the rear delts but also because it teaches us how to activate our lower traps instead of our upper traps, which will help with our posture and in keeping our shoulders healthier.

How-To

  • Lie facedown on the floor with the forehead resting on the floor
  • Place the arms overhead in a “Y” position with the thumbs pointed up towards the ceiling
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together into scapular retraction while keeping the shoulders blades depressed (down) to lift the arms off the floor
  • Return the arms to the ground, and repeat 10 times
  • Move the arms out to the sides to form a “T” position with palms facing the ground
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together while keeping the shoulders away from the ears (relaxing the upper traps) to lift the arms off the floor 
  • Return the arms to the ground, and repeat 10 times
  • Keep the palms facing the ground,  bend the elbows, and pull them into the sides of the body to form a “W” (the hands, head position, and elbows will for the W)
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together to lift the hands and elbows off the floor without letting the shoulders roll forward
  • Return the arms to the floor, and repeat 10 times
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets

The YTWs was mentioned as one of my go-to exercise in How To Warm Up For Powerlifting.

4. Face Pull

The face pull is an alternative to the reverse pec deck because it builds the same musculature as the reverse pec deck, and is a similar movement pattern to the reverse pec deck. 

It should be noted that although the face pull is similar to the reverse pec deck, it does have an external rotation component with the arms closer to the body during the pull, which decreases the demand on the rear delts, and focuses more on the external rotators.

The face pull is a great alternative for those performing the reverse pec deck to increase the strength and stability of the shoulder because it targets all of the shoulder muscles that will keep the shoulders healthy. 

However, if we’re performing the reverse pec deck to build size specifically in the rear delts, then we may prefer the banded rear delt fly over the face pull.

How-To

  • Stand facing the band or cable
  • Grab the band or the rope attachment and step back to a staggered stance generate tension
  • Start with arms outstretched in front of the body
  • Initiate the movement by pulling the elbows back behind the the head
  • Use the hands to pull the band or rope apart, as the forearms rotate backwards 
  • Keep the elbows high as the forearms rotate backwards (externally rotate)
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together and hold this position momentarily before returning to the start position
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Related Article: 15 Best Landmine Press Alternatives

5. Rear Delt Row

The rear delt row is a great alternative to the reverse pec deck that allows us to lift more weight than we could when performing a typically fly movement pattern. This allows us to load the rear delts more heavily, but it also means that we will use larger musculature to assist in the movement. 

A rear delt row is a great option for those who have access to dumbbells and are using the reverse pec deck to build overall size and strength in the upper back but are not hyper-focused on “isolating” the rear delts.

How-To

  • With dumbbells in hand, hinge at the hips with soft knees to assume an inclined torso position
  • Let the arms hang down in front of the body and angle the hands so that the thumbs are facing each other
  • Initiate the movement by pulling the shoulder blades together and row the arms back so that the elbows are even with or slightly behind the body
  • The elbows should be away from the body but not completely pointing sideways (~80 degrees from the body)
  • Pause at the top of the row to engage the muscles of the upper back
  • Control the weight back down to the start position
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

The Rear Delt Row is more of a back exercise than rear delt movement. If you want more back workout tips for strength, check out my article on How Do Powerlifters Train Back?

Final Thoughts

The reverse pec deck is a great machine for those looking to build up the upper back; however, if we don’t have access to one, all hope is not lost. In fact, some of the exercise alternatives are actually better options if we’re looking to perform this movement for increased shoulder stability and overall shoulder health.


About The Author

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.