Discover 4 Chest Fly Muscles Worked

There are many ways of working your chest muscles, and one of the most effective is by performing the chest fly exercise. 

Whether you undertake dumbbell flyes or the cable fly, both variations will isolate your chest helping to increase strength and build muscle, making it a worthwhile addition to your chest workouts.  


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In this article we’ll look at everything you need to know about this chest-focused exercise, including which muscles chest flyes work, how to do them properly along with some useful tips. 

What Is A Chest Fly Exercise?

The chest fly, also known as a Cable Crossover is a resistance-based exercise that can be performed using either a pair of dumbbells or on cable machine.  

Dumbbell Chest Fly

It’s what’s known as an isolation exercise as it requires only movement from the shoulder joints.  

The variations of the chest fly exercise will be performed differently. 

For example, a dumbbell chest fly is completed by lying down on a bench, whereas a cable chest fly is performed standing upright.  

How Do You Do The Chest Fly Exercise?

The different variations influence the way the exercise is performed, and the muscle groups activated.  

How To Do Dumbbell Chest Flyes

  1. Take hold of your dumbbells and lie back on a flat bench.
  2. Make sure your head, shoulders, upper back, and glutes are supported with your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Hold the dumbbells straight up overhead so that they’re positioned directly above your lower chest.  Your palms should be facing towards each other with your wrists straight. 
  4. Inhale and using an arc motion, lower the dumbbells out and down to your sides for a count of 4 to 5 seconds.  
  5. Stop once the dumbbells are just above your shoulder height.  You should feel a good stretch across your chest.  
  6. Exhale, and raise the dumbbells back to the start at a count of 1 to 2 seconds.  
  7. Perform the exercise for the desired number of sets / reps.  

How To Do Cable Chest Flyes

  1. Set the cable pulleys to your preferred height and choose your weight.  
  2. With your back to the machine, take hold of the handles and take a large step forward to create some tension in the cables.  
  3. Adopt a split stance (one foot in front of the other) and extend your arms straight out in front of you.  Your palms should be facing each other and hands together with a slight bend to your elbows. 
  4. Keeping your weight on your front foot, ensure your core is tight and your back straight.
  5. Using control, slowly open up your arms, moving them out to your sides.  
  6. Stop when your hands are in line with your shoulders.  Your elbows should be pointing towards the machine (not the ground or the ceiling).  
  7. Squeeze your chest muscles and slowly bring your hands back together.  
  8. Perform for your chosen sets and repetitions.  

Tips for Doing the Chest Fly Exercise

Cable Chest Fly Exercise
  • Do not lock out at your elbows.  It’s important to maintain a slight bend to minimize stress on your joints. 
  • When performing dumbbell flyes use light dumbbells.  Going too heavy can result in incorrect form and potentially injury.  
  • Do not hinge at the elbows, your elbow joints should remain in a fixed position throughout the exercise.  
  • Lower the weights slowly to ensure your elbows don’t rotate.  At the bottom of the movement, they should be pointing towards the floor or cable machine.  
  • Don’t lower the weights beyond your shoulders as this could add stress and cause injury. 
  • Keep your shoulder blades retracted to prevent your shoulders from rolling forwards at the top of the movement.  
  • When performing a cable chest fly, don’t allow your upper back to round forwards when bringing your hands together as this will take emphasis away from your chest muscles.  

Chest Fly Muscles Worked

The primary muscles activated during the chest fly exercise are the pectorals.  Secondary muscles that act to stabilize and control the movement are the deltoids, triceps and biceps.  

It’s important to note that whilst you cannot isolate certain parts of your chest, you can place more emphasis by altering the angle of the fly movement.  

For example, when performing a cable chest fly if you position the pulleys at the bottom of the machine this will require you to pull the weight in an upwards motion, resulting in more emphasis on your upper chest muscles.  

On the other hand, by setting the pulleys to the top of the machine and pulling the weight downwards, you can add more tension to your lower chest muscles.  

The same can be said for a dumbbell chest fly. 

If you perform the exercise on an adjustable bench, you can alter the angle of the back pad and perform either incline chest flyes or decline chest flyes.  

By varying the angle will allow you to properly work all of your chest muscles and help to address any strength or muscle imbalances you may have.   

Benefits of Chest Fly Exercise

The chest fly exercise offers several benefits that contribute to muscle development, upper body strength, and overall fitness. 

Dumbell chest fly on incline bench

Here are the advantages of adding chest flyes into your workout routine: 

  1. Build muscle mass and promote symmetrical muscle growth
  2. Develop and define the upper and lower parts of the chest, promoting a well-rounded chest structure. 
  3. Improves shoulder joint flexibility and range of motion
  4. Fosters awareness of your body’s alignment and posture, which can help to improve your posture.  
  5. Opens up your chest muscles, which helps reduce upper back pain and tightness in the upper body
  6. Helps improve chest expansion, which is particularly beneficial to people with chronic lung disease. It reduces shortness of breath and increases the amount of air exhaled during breathing.
  7. Activates the upper pectorals better than bench presses or pushups, allowing you to lift more weight and become stronger, faster.  

Cable Chest Flyes VS Dumbbell Chest Flyes

The key difference between a cable chest fly when compared to the dumbbell chest fly is that the weight load remains constant throughout when performing a cable fly. 

When the dumbbells are up overhead during a dumbbell fly, there is little tension placed on your chest muscles.  

However, when performing a cable chest fly, your chest muscles need to work their hardest in order to bring your together and keep them there.  

Are Dumbbell Flyes Better Than the Bench Press?

If you want to isolate certain parts of your chest muscles to address any muscle size or strength imbalances, then the dumbbell chest fly will be better than the bench press. 

However, if building overall strength and mass is your main aim, then the bench press is preferable over the chest fly. 

In order to build strength and size, you’ll need to lift heavy weights. 

Because the bench press is a compound movement, you’ll always be able to lift more, leading to better strength gains. 

That’s not to say that you should perform one over the other. 

Often, dumbbell flyes are a good finishing exercise after a bench press session as, overtime, they can help to sculpt the chest muscles. 

To Summarize 

Incorporating chest flyes into your exercise routine is an excellent way to improve your overall physical fitness and well-being.

Aesthetic benefits aside, chest flyes contribute to better posture, increased range of motion to the shoulder joint, and enhanced stability of the upper body. 

Remember to execute the exercise with proper form and gradually increase the rep range or weight load.

Don’t rush the process and maintain controlled movements throughout each repetition.

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