The bench press is seen because the go-to chest train by many lifters trying to construct a well-rounded set of pecs, but it surely has some limitations. Most considerably, it’s not truly a “chest” train. It’s a “chest, shoulders, and triceps” train as a result of it’s a compound (multi-joint) motion and it lacks the flexibility to successfully goal a single muscle.

This is the place isolation (single-joint) workout routines can shine. The dumbbell flye is without doubt one of the best workout routines to actually zero in on the chest. It emphasizes growth of your pecs whereas creating much less general demand and decrease basic fatigue in different muscular tissues. Here’s why you must add this bodybuilding staple to your chest exercise.

How to Do the Dumbbell Flye

The dumbbell flye’s vary of movement strikes the weights additional away out of your physique’s midline, which permits gravity to ship a fair higher problem to the muscle within the eccentric (reducing) portion of the carry.

Step 1 — Set Up On the Bench

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Lie on a flat bench whereas bringing a pair of dumbbells to your chest with bent arms, tucking your elbows to your sides. Keep your ft flat on the ground, set barely wider than your hips. Press the weights above your chest along with your palms going through one another. Keep your head in touch with the bench.

Slightly bend your arms. Retract your shoulder blades by pinching them collectively and keep this place all through every rep.

Form Tip: Before starting every rep, take one or two seconds to “reset” within the prime place and guarantee that your physique is correctly in place.

Step 2 — Lower the Weights right into a Stretch

Man on bench in gym lowering dumbbellsCredit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Because it is a flye, not a press, hold your elbows at a constant angle all through the motion. Slowly decrease the dumbbells out to the facet till your arms are parallel with the ground and your palms are going through up.

Your elbows ought to find yourself consistent with your shoulders. Pause briefly within the backside place to considerably stretch your pecs.

Form Tip: The backside place of the flye is the place most accidents happen as a result of your joints are naturally most susceptible because of poor leverage. It is essential to stay steady by driving your ft into the bottom to extend your stability. Managing your respiration also can assist. Hold your breath as you decrease the burden, breathe out as you carry the burden again up, and inhale earlier than reducing the burden once more.

Step 3 — Lift the Weights to Full Contraction

Man in gym on flat bench lifting dumbbells Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

With your abs and higher again muscular tissues engaged and your decrease physique driving into the bottom, take into consideration pulling your elbows and higher arms throughout your chest.

Be certain to maintain your arms at a constant angle. If they’re bending and straightening excessively, you’re utilizing your triceps, not your chest, to maneuver the burden.

Form Tip: As you come to the highest, think about that you’re giving somebody a bear hug. This movement will assist to maintain your arms and shoulders in place and it helps to totally shorten the pecs as you attain the highest place.

Dumbbell Flye Mistakes to Avoid

The dumbbell flye takes some focus to yield most advantages. This additionally means it’s extremely essential to nail the technical part as a way to decrease the chance of accidents occurring.

Lifting With Your Arms

One of the commonest errors is popping the dumbbell flye into the dumbbell bench press. While the press could be an efficient train by itself, it recruits extra muscular tissues on the expense of chest emphasis.

Man outdoors on flat bench lifting dumbbellsCredit: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Bending your arms will scale back general pressure on the chest muscle, stopping the flye from stimulating most muscle progress.

Avoid It: Maintain a barely bent arm all through the complete train. In the underside place, your fingers ought to be prolonged away out of your shoulders, not close to your shoulder in a urgent place.

Lack of Stability

Some lifters will go away their legs utterly relaxed, pointed on their toes, or raised utterly within the air. This de-stabilizes your physique and makes you much less efficient at performing this train because of a scarcity of stability from the bottom up.

Woman in gym performing dumbbell flyeCredit: BLACKDAY / Shutterstock

When your physique is unstable, your muscular tissues can not produce enough pressure or keep muscular pressure. This creates a poor stimulus for progress.

Avoid It: Your legs help you create a base of assist for extra total-body stability throughout every rep. This signifies that it is possible for you to to create extra pressure on the goal muscle and use barely extra weight. Stay flat-footed and drive your ft into the bottom throughout the rep.

Lifting Too Fast or Too Heavy

This mistake is extra typically related to folks new to coaching and haven’t but mastered flye method or those that rush via reps and use careless method.

Man in gym performing dumbbell exercise on benchCredit: Slatan / Shutterstock

General poor kind, excessively quick reps, or heavy weights can all result in a big quantity of pressure on the shoulder and elbow joints. This also can happen when the arms are locked straight throughout the train.

Avoid it: Keeping your elbows softly bent from begin to end. If the burden is simply too heavy, your arms will instinctively bend an excessive amount of to shift the burden. Taking a quick pause within the prime place can decelerate your reps and guarantee your kind stays on level.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Flye

The dumbbell flye is exclusive as a result of it lets you problem the pecs considerably via the eccentric portion of every rep, making the muscle contract more durable in a stretched place.

Man in gym stretching chest with dumbbellsCredit: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

The dumbbell flye places the chest below a big stretch, adopted by an intense contraction. That’s a profitable mixture for muscle progress.

Challenging The Lengthened Range

The dumbbell flye triggers muscular progress by emphasizing pressure on the pecs within the stretched place. Taking two to 3 seconds to decrease the burden will problem the muscle within the lengthened vary, which can result in elevated muscle protein synthesis. (1)

This is in distinction to workout routines that are tougher within the contracted vary, corresponding to a pec-deck machine or cable crossover.

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Flye

As an isolation train, the dumbbell flye focuses most pressure on only one muscle — the chest. Several smaller muscular tissues are recruited as effectively, however not as a major mover.

Muscular man flexing chest and absCredit: ALL finest health is HERE / Shutterstock

Some lifters de-prioritize isolation workout routines just like the dumbbell flye and overfocus on multi-joint actions. That method can create lagging muscle teams that are under-trained as a result of a number of physique components are continuously working with out regard to balanced growth.


The pectoralis main covers the complete chest. Its two heads, the sternal (mid-chest) and the clavicular (higher chest) are each recruited throughout the train. One of the features of the pecs is to adduct the higher arm — bringing the higher arm towards the physique’s centerline — which is strictly the motion carried out throughout the flye.

Anterior Deltoids

The entrance muscle of the shoulder, the anterior delt, is the muscle that assists the pecs in performing the flye movement. If you’re feeling your delts are being labored greater than your pecs, lower the burden and give attention to feeling the chest muscular tissues contract and stretch, whereas your shoulder stabilizes the weights. Also give attention to holding your palms going through up. Don’t permit your fingers to rotate throughout the motion. 


While your delts help your pecs, the biceps are additionally engaged and put below pressure because of the barely bent arm place. The biceps work to keep up elbow place and stabilize your decrease arm (and the dumbbell) throughout the motion.

The biceps are labored statically since you shouldn’t be curling the burden throughout a dumbbell flye.

Who Should Do the Dumbbell Flye

The dumbbell flye is a basic muscle-building train. Any lifter trying to maximize their chest growth ought to be implementing the motion into their programming. Due to the prolonged arm place and unfavorable leverages, the train shouldn’t be well-suited to maneuver heavy weights safely.

Physique Enthusiasts

This sort of isolation train will help in creating muscle dimension and symmetry of the pecs. The dumbbell flye permits the pecs to work with minimal involvement of different muscular tissues, making it an efficient solution to emphasize the chest.

How to Program the Dumbbell Flye

To prioritize muscle progress, the dumbbell flye ought to be programmed as a secondary train after your major chest urgent. It can be used as a finisher on the finish of the exercise to utterly fatigue the muscle fibers recruited throughout the session.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetition

Using an ordinary bodybuilding method of three to 4 units within the six to 12 rep vary will help in driving up coaching quantity for the pecs, which performs a big function in constructing muscle. (2). 

Low Weight, High Repetition

Using a lighter weight for two to 3 units within the 13 to twenty rep vary is an effective way to observe dumbbell flye method, particularly once you first incorporate it into your routine. This method will nonetheless permit an general enhance in coaching quantity, encouraging muscle progress.

Dumbbell Flye Variations

Below are two variations that you may swap into your exercises when you’ve mastered normal dumbbell flyes. While the workout routines are nonetheless very related in nature, the delicate variations in physique positioning, vary of movement, and muscle recruitment can proceed to enhance pec growth.

Dumbbell Foam Roller Flye 

Lying on a foam curler as an alternative of a flat bench can enhance your potential to retract your shoulder blades into the froth curler itself, as a result of the curler is extra slim than the bench, which allows the shoulder blades to maneuver extra freely.

Because the froth curler is spherical and should wish to transfer beneath your physique, it forces you to make use of extra management throughout the train, which will help to maintain your shoulders wholesome and secure.

Incline Dumbbell Flye

Using a bench set at an inclined angle will shift the main target of the stretch to the clavicular (higher pec) head of the chest.

Although the vary of movement on the shoulder joint will likely be barely lower than the flat bench as a result of the arms transfer at a unique angle, it’s nonetheless essential to work via the energetic vary of movement in which you’ll keep pressure on the pecs. Lower the burden so far as potential with out aggressively stretching the chest and shoulders, and carry to a full contraction.

Dumbbell Flye Alternatives

Some lifters could also be unable to carry out dumbbell flyes, both because of mobility points, joint ache, or different individualized components. There are a number of options that can equally strengthen and construct your chest.

Cable Crossovers

The cable crossover, or standing cable flye, is identical single-joint motion sample because the dumbbell flye with two main variations. First, the cable pulley system could be adjusted to various heights and quite a lot of arm positions can be utilized. These slight variations permit “customization” of the motion to accommodate shoulder mobility points.

Secondly, the cable machine doesn’t depend on gravity or leverage like a dumbbell flye, so it applies fixed pressure to the chest all through each a part of the rep. This pressure additionally lets you enhance the vary of movement by crossing your fingers over one another within the contracted place, which will help you to really feel the muscle working extra, and perceive learn how to absolutely have interaction your pecs on any train.


The “notorious” pec-deck machine is a staple in any industrial fitness center, however frequent misuse has constructed its unfair repute as a shoulder-killer. This dumbbell flye various reduces the necessity for total-body stability because of the seated and supported place.

However, this added assist doesn’t imply you’ll be able to overload the motion with heavy weights. The pec-deck is finest used to complete off the chest muscular tissues after you have got already accomplished your major lifts.


What ought to I do if my shoulder hurts once I carry out this train?

Stop performing the train instantly. If you’re feeling ache or discomfort throughout a motion, don’t “soldier on” and push via ache to complete your set.

Pain could not essentially imply you have got an harm, but it surely could possibly be a warning signal and would possibly truly spotlight some areas of weak spot which might flip into greater points if left unaddressed. Consulting with a medical skilled is a good suggestion.

Can I exploit dumbbell flyes in each chest exercise?

You might, as a result of it’s an efficient and direct chest-training train. However, to stimulate general pec growth and keep away from stagnation, it may be more practical to rotate variations of the flye often. Change the motion each eight to 12 weeks or everytime you really feel you can’t proceed safely progressing in weight.

Flyes for Size

The bench press may be the meat and potatoes of many chest exercises, however dumbbell flyes are a vital isolation train once you’re after a extra muscular chest. The often-overlooked isolation train makes it simpler to crank up the pec-training quantity with targeted precision.


  1. Schoenfeld, Brad MSc, CSCS The Use of Specialized Training Techniques to Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy, Strength and Conditioning Journal: August 2011 – Volume 33 – Issue 4 – p 60-65 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3182221ec2 
  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, Okay., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy however Not Strength in Trained Men. Medicine and science in sports activities and train, 51(1), 94–103.

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