Best Chest Fly Exercises

Young man doing a dumbbell chest fly at the gym

Chest fly exercises are just a few exercises that can work the chest muscle. Chest flies offer the best chest workout since they target the lower chest, upper chest, shoulder blade, upper arm, etc. This article will provide you with a list of the best chest fly exercise options to practice to build better upper body strength. 

What Is a Chest Fly Exercise?

Chest fly exercises are a type of workout many people do to strengthen their chest, shoulders, and arms. These workouts are great since they can help build more than one muscle group. Trainers use these workouts to help those who want to make a bigger frame in the upper part of their body.

If you constantly do cardio or leg day, you should add some upper body workouts to your routine to ensure you’re getting an even workout for your entire body. Chest fly exercises are great introductions to chest and arm workouts and are easy to practice once you learn the proper form. Plus, these workouts can be done in the comfort of your own home as long as you own a few dumbbells. 

Muscles Worked

Dumbbell chest fly exercises target the chest muscles, and they can help define your pecs and strengthen your upper core, but they can also help improve your shoulder and arm muscles. These workouts are great at targeting your pectoral muscles, biceps, triceps, lats, and anterior deltoids. 

Thanks to the many muscles it works, trainers love using this workout to help prepare people for upper body workouts. If you have goals of heavy deadlifting weights, you need to strengthen your upper body muscles and your legs and back to make sure you’re physically prepared to try that workout.

Other Benefits

There are plenty of additional benefits that chest fly exercises offer the person working out. Yes, you can quickly build muscle and strength in your upper body, but you can also open up your chest muscles. Doing this can make stretching feel more accessible, and it might help reduce upper back pain. If you feel tight in your chest or general upper body, chest flies can also help increase your range of motion and relax this tightness. 

Doing some chest fly exercises often can help you lengthen your range of motion in your arms and shoulders. As long as you’re safe not to overextend your arms, you can work out while increasing your flexibility. It’s important to use no weights or very light weights at the beginning of practicing this workout because you must practice the form to avoid overextension. 

This type of workout is also great for improving your posture. Because you will practice scapular retractions as part of the movements in this exercise, you can help loosen your back while working the muscle groups in your back. Since you also gain strength in your shoulder region, good posture will naturally come to you. Excellent posture means maintaining a straight back, but it also means holding your shoulders back.

To reap all the benefits of chest fly exercises, you’ll need to perform chest dumbbell flies multiple times a week. Repetition and consistency are vital in gaining all the benefits workouts have to offer. Also, it’s important to increase your symmetrical strength while doing chest fly workouts. The more you try these workouts, the stronger you get, but don’t forget that rest days are imperative to your muscle’s health. Without time to recover, you could risk accidentally injuring yourself. 

closeup of a sporty woman holding dumbbells

What You Need to Perform This Workout

To perform chest fly exercises, you’ll need two dumbbells, and you can use a bench. If you’re new to chest flies, you might want to begin practicing them without any weights, but if you work out your arms regularly, you can start practicing these with very light weights like three or five-pound dumbbells. You do not want to use more than a 10-pound dumbbell for this workout, or else you really risk overextending your arm.

Having a bench to perform these workouts on can help you follow through the moments of the exercises more easily. However, if you don’t have a bench, you can perform most of these workouts standing up. 

How to Get the Most from Chest Fly Exercises

There is a lot you can gain from chest fly exercises. To make sure you get the most out of these workouts, you need to set realistic expectations. Don’t use weights that are too heavy. It’s always better to start light. If you want to use heavier weights, but are new to chest flies, then start with a smaller weight, and you can add more as you go through your sets if you feel comfortable doing so. Advanced fitness enthusiasts can use 8-10 pound weights when performing chest flies. 

Like other exercises, it’s important to take care of yourself mentally and physically to gain the most from chest fly exercises. Ensure you get enough sleep before performing these workouts to encourage proper form. It’s important to eat a decent meal and stay hydrated before working out, but you don’t want to work out right after eating. Keep a water bottle nearby while practicing your chest flies, so you’re ready to dig in when you start your workout. 

Chest Fly Exercises

Dumbbell Chest Fly

To complete a dumbbell chest fly exercise, you have to lie flat on your back on an incline bench. If you’re new to chest flies, you might want to lie on the floor first to get a feel for how far your arms are supposed to stretch out. Making this move on an incline bench can cause you to overextend your arms accidentally. If you perform the exercise on a bench, place your feet firmly on either side of the bench. If you’re lying on the ground, you can bend your knees so they’re up and have your feet flat on the floor.

While performing this workout, your head and back should remain pressed against the surface. If you start to lift your head or back, you can accidentally injure yourself.

Ask a friend to hand you two dumbbells or gently pick them up from the floor, holding one dumbbell in each hand. After you have a firm grip on your dumbbells, lift your arms, so they’re above your head, extend your arms but do not lock any joints. You should have a slight bend in your elbow, and your palms and dumbbells should be facing each other. 

Slowly inhale and lower the dumbbells in the opposite arc motion until they align with your chest. You should have your arms extended to the sides, but don’t lock any joints again. Don’t drop your arms lower than your shoulders, as this can lead to injury. Slowly exhale and press dumbbells in the same arc motion, and just keep repeating those steps.

For a solid workout, perform 10-15 repetitions of this movement for three sets total. Consistency and repetition are two of the most important parts of working out and seeing noticeable change. 

Vector drawing of a man doing dumbbell chest flies

Incline Bench Dumbbell Chest Fly

The incline bench dumbbell chest fly requires two dumbbells to complete. To do this exercise, you must start with your back flat on an incline bench and set the bench to a lowered angle of 30 degrees. Then, you can hold one dumbbell in each hand at your sides. 

Make sure your arms are level with your chest when they’re extended at your sides. Your elbows should be pointing outwards. Then, you slowly exhale, and you should lift your arms above your chest. Slowly inhale as you lower your arms to the sides until they reach the starting position once again. Then press up again to begin your next repetition. These can be done in 10-15 repetitions for three sets to see the full benefits of this workout. 

vector drawing of woman doing dumbbell chest fly exercises on an incline bench

Standard Chest Fly

The standard chest fly is a simple workout that you can do in a home gym or office. You don’t need a bench to lay on since you can do this workout standing up, and all you need is two dumbbells.

Begin this workout by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and keeping one dumbbell in each hand. You want to raise your arms, so they’re straight in front of you and level with your chest. Make sure your palms face each other and maintain a tight grip on the dumbbells. With soft knees and a slight bend in your elbows, extend your arms to your sides until they are all the way out. Don’t move them past your shoulders, and keep them at the same level as your chest for the entirety of the movement. Then, bring your arms back to your center to finish one repetition.

If you want to use standard chest flies to increase your chest strength, then repeat this workout three times a week. You can practice three to four sets with 10-15 repetitions in each set to get the most out of this exercise.

Vector drawing of a woman doing a standard chest fly exercise

Cable Fly

In order to complete a successful cable fly, you will likely need a cable machine, so unless you’re lucky enough to own one of these in your own home, you will have to have access to a gym to practice this workout. 

You can perform a cable fly by placing a bench in front of a cable stack and selecting a low pulley angle for both handles. You must use a cable to pull from both sides and make sure you have the height of the pulley adjusted to your desire. The pulley’s height determines the specific direction and angle you need to pull the cables. If you are aiming to do a cable fly to work your chest area, shift the pulley’s height to an area that emphasizes the work on your pecs.  

The best part about the cable fly is that cables keep tension throughout the entire movement of these exercises. When working with dumbbells, gravity is the main force of tension. Unlike dumbbells, the cable machine makes the workout more physically challenging. You can also increase the difficulty by physically crossing one hand over the other when your arms are in front of you. This movement increases the tension in your inner pecs and allows you to work a more neglected area of that muscle. 

These machines are very customizable, making them great for everyone who performs them. These specific exercises allow you to choose your decline or incline level, and you can pick between a flat bench or standing up, depending on your preference. When you work with cables, you’ll be working with pre-established paths rather than dumbbells that are completely free weights. Variations like these machines provide a type of accommodating resistance and tension that you just can’t get with dumbbells. 

You can do this workout multiple times a week, although because you’ll have steady resistance, you probably won’t be able to perform as many chest flies as you would standard chest dumbbell flies. Keep that in mind when working out, and you’ll figure out what method is best for you.

vector drawing of a woman doing cable chest fly exercise

Machines Flies

When performing machine flies, you’ll need access to a machine, so you’ll have access to a gym. You must sit on the machine with your back flat on the pad and take hold of the handles on the machine. Allow your upper arms to be parallel to the floor and adjust the machine accordingly before you begin your workout. Do not let your back come off the pad while moving, and remember to inhale as you push the handles together and slowly exhale as you allow them to go back to their starting point.

Slowly push the handles together as you squeeze your chest in the middle to complete this exercise. It’s best to hold the contraction for a second to provide sustained tension to your pectoral muscles. Return to the starting position until your chest muscles are fully stretched. Once you’ve reached this point, you’ve completed one full repetition. 

You can repeat this workout as much as you’d like. These machines, like cable flies, offer pre-established movement paths and resistance throughout the full motion. This means these might work your muscles more than dumbbells if you’re used to performing chest flies with dumbbells. This machine is a great way to help beginners learn proper form, especially because they reduce the number of stabilizer muscles needed. Since your stabilizer muscles are less engaged, you can usually lift heavier weights.

Man doing chest flies using a machine at the gym

Add These Workouts to Your Regular Routine

Once you regularly complete chest fly exercises, you can increase the weights you use every other week or each week if you feel yourself getting strong quickly. It’s a good idea to only increase weights by two to three-pound increments, but keep in mind that even if you don’t want to lift weights after two weeks, you are still working those muscles, and you just may not gain muscle mass as quickly.

If you want to challenge yourself even more, you can begin performing dumbbell chest flies on an exercise ball to challenge your core and stabilizer muscles. Only do this if you are sure you have proper form when doing these exercises. 

It’s good to do variations of these workouts now and then, or you might get bored doing the same ones. You can always switch things up to practice other chest exercises, like the cable fly or incline dumbbell chest fly. You can even benefit from bench presses at the gym to rejuvenate you between chest fly workouts.


The chest fly workout is one of the best chest exercise options available, and it can work your upper chest muscles and cause great muscle growth over a short period. Your upper pecs won’t be popping out of your body after a week of thee, but with a commitment to dumbbell chest exercises, you’ll start seeing results in no time. 

It’s important to start with lighter dumbbells if you’re a beginner. You don’t want to injure yourself and prevent yourself from gaining muscle as quickly as you had hoped.

To gain muscle mass even faster, combine these chest exercises with other workouts to build your upper body quickly. If you want to build a bigger chest, a barbell bench press or seated decline cable press can help you reach your goals. You can also practice more classic exercises like push-ups, chest presses, planks, or seated decline cable presses.

The most important part of building a successful chest workout routine is making a routine that encourages you to stay consistent. If you aren’t excited or semi excited about the results you’ll get performing regular upper body workouts, you need to change your routine until you build one that makes you happy to work out. Chest fly exercises are a favorite among fitness enthusiasts and personal trainers. With a little practice and a lot of consistency, you can see the benefits of chest fly exercises as they start helping you build strength in your upper body.

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