Dumbbell fly is an upper-body isolation exercise that is done to exercise the pectoralis major and minor like the chest muscles. You can do this workout in various positions and angles, which will target different muscles in your chest. For example, flat dumbbell chest flys work mid-chest more, whereas the incline dumbbell fly is more concentrated on training your upper chest.

Although doing a chest fly exercise has many benefits, there are limitations and weaknesses that you should not ignore. For example, you have no protection from overexertion of your shoulder joint, causing damage to the anterior shoulder capsule. So, instead of the conventional chest fly exercise, do a chest fly alternative instead to ensure that your training is safe!

Chest Fly Alternatives For Pumped-Up Pecs

A good dumbbell fly alternative should enable you to train the same muscle groups and isolate the pecs to gain muscles (hypertrophy). The muscles targeted in this workout are pectoralis major (upper and lower fibers), pec minor, deltoids, and biceps. So, the best alternatives are isolation chest exercises since they allow more muscle fiber recruitment from the pec muscles.

Here are ten alternative exercises to dumbbell fly:

1. Floor Fly

Floor fly is an excellent alternative because it has a similar movement pattern as the chest fly, but instead of using the flat bench, you’re lying down on the floor. Because of this, you can be sure that you’re targeting the same musculature and stressing your chest muscles more than the contributing muscle groups. 

You can do a floor fly at home if you have access to dumbbells. Anyways, you don’t need a bench since you’ll be executing the exercise on the floor. 

How to do it

  • Start by laying down on the floor with your knees bent and a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Raise the dumbbells over your face, with your elbow slightly bent and palms facing each other. 
  • Direct your arms out, going to the sides to drop towards the floor. Ensure that you’re maintaining the bend in your elbows.
  • Stop going down once your triceps make light contact with the floor.
  • Keep your chest puffed up throughout the movement to stop your shoulders from rolling forward.
  • Once you reach the bottom position, use your pecs to bring your arms from the sides back up together at the top in a hugging motion.
  • Remember to squeeze your pecs as your arms are nearing each other at the top of the movement.
  • Do as many floor fly as you can.

2. Incline Bench Press

This chest workout is a good chest fly alternative since it targets similar musculature even though it has a different movement pattern as it requires horizontal abduction and shoulder flexion. However, even if this bench press variation is identical to a chest fly, this workout will target the upper pecs more. 

You should take note that this workout is not an isolation exercise since it requires more effort from the triceps and shoulders along with the chest. For that reason, this barbell bench press exercise is a compound movement rather than an isolation workout. 

How to do it

  • Use an Adjustable Weight Bench that’s around a 45-degree angle from the floor. 
  • Adjust the pins to easily unrack the bar once you sit on the bench.
  • Position your shoulder blades in a retracted, slightly depressed posture with your chest puffed somewhat up. 
  • Place your feet on the floor and use them to create tension in your legs.
  • Hold the bar in a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  • While keeping your arms straight, unrack the bar and use your lats to pull it out from the pins. Ensure that you maintain scapular positioning.
  • Carefully lower the bar down your chest while keeping your wrists and forearms stacked.
  • When the bar touches your chest, pause momentarily to prevent the bar from bouncing off your chest.
  • Lift the bar off your chest and unload it towards the rack to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many as you see fit.

3. Cable Fly

Cable fly is another excellent dumbbell fly alternative because it uses a similar range of motion to a dumbbell chest fly. Also, it’s a fantastic exercise that you can do in various angles, which is perfect if you have any shoulder discomfort when doing a dumbbell fly. 

If you used to have a shoulder injury and experiences stiffness, it’s ideal that you lower your cable attachment to the ground. Then pull into a shoulder flexion and arm abduction from this angle to target your chest. To do this cable fly movement, you need a Functional Trainers Machine.

How to do it

  • Use each sides of the Cable Machine, so you have a separate cable for each hand.
  • Set the height of the cables to chest height if you’re doing a traditional chest fly (without shoulder issues) or lower to the ground if you’re doing a modified cable fly (with shoulder issues).
  • Grab the handle attachment and step out from the cable machine into a staggered split. This will give you enough balance and tension in the cable.
  • Pull the cable in line with your body and hold them while keeping a slight bend in your elbows.
  • If your cable is chest high, your starting position should be your arms parallel to the floor. If your cable is lower, your starting position must be your arms perpendicular to the floor. 
  • While keeping your chest puffed up, pull your arms together as if to give a hug.
  • Once your hands meet, pause for a moment to give your pecs a good squeeze.
  • With your elbows slightly bent, slowly return your arms back to the starting position. Don’t let the cable go too far back between reps. It may put unnecessary strain on your shoulder joints. 
  • Repeat as many reps as you please.

4. Exercise Ball Ys and Ts

Exercise Ball Ys and Ts are a great home workout if you have an exercise ball and dumbbells lying around in your house. In this dumbbell fly alternative, the exercise ball keeps you in an unstable position, working all your small stabilizing muscles around your shoulder joint. It specifically targets your front deltoids and medial deltoids, giving you a stronger chest.

How to do it?

  • Lie face down on the exercise ball while holding a pair of dumbbells on both hands. Lean over towards the ball and let your arms hang over the sides of the ball.
  • Raise your chest as you bring your arms directly up in a diagonal position parallel with your torso.
  • Then bring your arms down and out to your sides.
  • Return to the start position and repeat. Do 3 sets of 12.

5. Front Raise for Chest

This next alternative exercise to dumbbell flys is an excellent chest workout that isolates the upper chest. It’s a fundamental weight training exercise perfect for people who want to build their strength. Compared to a traditional fly that you do with dumbbells, this is a safer option and lifting weights that are heavier will not be a problem.

As you do front raises, you will feel your upper pec muscles getting pumped. Make sure that you’re concentrating on your chest muscles, and keep your palm facing up to keep the tension in the chest area. Feel free to lift as much weight as you can but don’t overexert yourself.

How to do it

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand straight with both your hands facing forward.
  • While keeping a supinated grip, start moving one hand towards the midline of your body.
  • Pause when your reach the top as your hands are about shoulder high. Then squeeze your upper chest.
  • Slowly return to the start position and repeat the same movement on the other hand.
  • Repeat as many as you can and do the same number on both sides.

6. Archer Push-ups

This next dumbbell fly alternative is a great exercise that creates constant tension on your muscles and individually targets each side of your chest. Compared to what you usually do, archer push-ups can be a little advanced. Still, it’s a much safer workout and can improve your body’s overall strength. 

This exercise will train you to have the strength to do single-arm push-ups. So, if you’re struggling with doing one, do this first, and soon you’ll be able to do the other.

How to do it

  • Start with a standard push-up position, but your grip should be wider than the usual push-up grip.
  • Lower your body on one side with the assistance of one hand. Your other hand will be positioned on the other side of the ground for balance. You can rotate the wrist of your other hand for safety.
  • Go back up by pushing your arms, then repeat the same movement in your other hand. Try to keep your elbows in as you do the exercise. 

7. Single-Arm Chest Fly

A single-arm chest fly is another exercise that you can include in your chest day and an excellent alternative to a dumbbell fly. It’s ideal for those who experience shoulder pain or are uncomfortable doing dumbbell flys. This workout is a much safer option since your shoulders are not overly extended. Also, you can limit the range of motion during the eccentric portions. 

One advantage of using cables instead of dumbbells while doing a fly is you can bring your hands across the midline of your upper body, which fully contracts your chest. 

How to do it

  • Set your pulley at about chest level and grab the handles. While standing, look straight and bend your elbows. Remember this as it will be your starting position.
  • Begin the exercise by moving your arms horizontally while bringing your arms across your chest midline. 
  • Give your chest a good squeeze at the end and slowly return to the start position. 
  • Turn to your other side and do the same range of motion with your other hand.

8. Sliding Push-up

This dumbbell fly alternative is a perfect home workout since you don’t need any equipment. It’s a bodyweight exercise that activates your core muscles considerably, making them more athletic and functional. Sliding push-ups have the same range of motion as a chest fly, so you’ll give your chest a good burn.

How to do it

  • Get a pair of socks or hand pads and place both your hands on the floor.
  • Plant your hands close to each other and get into a push-up stance by keeping your arms and legs straight. Your chest should be below your hands.
  • Begin the movement by pushing your both hands towards the sides for a slide while maintaining a neutral spine. 
  • Pause at the bottom when feel your chest is almost touching the floor. Then slide back up to the start position. Remember to inhale on the way down and exhale going up. Also, do it slowly. If you find it difficult, you can do it with your knees bent.

9. Cable Chest Press Crossover

If you want the best dumbbell fly alternative, nothing beats a Cable Crossover Machine. You can do this workout as a fly or chest press, but you need to be particular with the range of motion. Make sure that you bring your arms across the midline so you’ll have a better activation in your chest muscles.

Cable crossovers are one of the best chest exercises that you can do. It’s even better than a dumbbell fly if you want to completely isolate that part of your body!

How to do it

  • Attach the pulleys onto the top of the cable tower. Grab the cables and stand with your legs forward in between the machine.
  • With your shoulders rolled back and chest up, place your hands close to your chest in a pressing position. Ensure that you keeping an upright posture and don’t bend too much. 
  • Begin by pushing your hands forward and guiding your hands across the midline of your body. Breath out as you press.
  • While inhaling, slowly return to the starting pose. Repeat the exercise with the ideal number of reps.

10. TRX Chest Fly

If you have a TRX at home, you can definitely do this next dumbbell fly alternative. TRX chest fly is an excellent chest workout that focuses on your core and stability. It can maximize the recruitment of muscle fibers in your mid and lower chest as well as your anterior deltoid. 

Because this exercise places an increased demand on your motor units, you can expect to have a more robust and fuller upper body. Also, since the finishing position of this workout is a semi-supinated hand stance, it puts a greater demand on the upper chest.

How to do it 

  • Extend your arms in front of your shoulder with your palms facing each other and your feet behind you. Then proceed to lean forward.
  • Brace your abs and open your arms into a ‘T’ with your elbows slightly bent and palms in front.
  • Squeeze your chest and move your hands together in front of you.
  • Repeat as many reps as you can.

The dumbbell version of the fly is not always the answer to getting pumped chest. Other exercises like bench presses (flat bench press, barbell press, and chest press) are also excellent in working both your upper chest and lower chest. Aside from that, dumbbell flys may potentially cause shoulder joint problems and have many limitations! 

So, if we’re picking our top two best exercises to substitute the dumbbell chest fly, then it’s the cable chest press crossover and the TRX chest fly. They both target similar muscle groups and have the same movement pattern.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many alternatives for dumbbell flys that you can do without a flat or incline bench. There are the sliding push-ups (bodyweight), TRX chest fly (TRX), exercise ball Ys and Ts (exercise ball), and chest front raises (dumbbell). These workouts don’t require a bench but other tools that you can easily find at the gym or purchase.

The dumbbell bench press is far better than the barbell version in this workout. Since the dumbbells are not joined by a long bar, you can bring your arms in, creating a greater chest abduction. Also, you can lower the weights down even more, when you’re using a dumbbell.

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