Aiming to achieve those Superman pecs with your shirts feeling snug across your chest? Congratulations, you have come to the right page!
When we say “Upper Body Day,” fitness enthusiasts often jump straight to doing bench presses. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, there is power – literal and figurative – in exploring other upper body exercises that could target different angles of your pecs. In this article, we dive into dumbbell flys – its benefits, muscles worked, variations, and alternatives, among others.
By knowing how to properly perform the dumbbell fly, you will not only gain muscular strength and a balanced physique, but you can also address your upper back pain and improve your posture.
This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:
- How To Do Dumbbell Fly
- Dumbbell Fly Benefits
- Common Dumbbell Fly Mistakes To Avoid
- Dumbbell Fly Muscles Worked
- Dumbbell Fly vs Bench Press
- Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
- Dumbbell Fly Variations
- Dumbbell Fly Alternative Exercises
- Wrap Up
- FAQs About Dumbbell Fly
How To Do Dumbbell Fly
What You’ll Need:
In performing the dumbbell flys, you will need the following equipment:
- Pair of dumbbells
- Flat bench
Isolated shoulder exercises typically require lighter weights compared with compound chest exercises like bench presses, so make sure to pick light weights that you can carry with enough tension without straining your joints. It is also optional to exercise on the floor if a flat bench is not available at the moment.
Step 1: Find Your Position
Go to a sitting position on a flat bench. Your two dumbbells should be on your hand, resting on your thighs and your palms facing each other. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your eyes looking ahead.
Step 2: Raise The Dumbbells Over Your Head
To get to your start position, lay down on the bench with your back in full contact with the surface. Use your thighs to bring the dumbbells to your chest. As your feet are planted firmly on the ground, raise the dumbbells over your head with your palms facing each other. Keep your elbows slightly bent and not fully locked out.
Step 3: Lower The Dumbbells (Eccentric Motion)
Start to lower the dumbbells from over your head towards each of your sides until the dumbbells reach your shoulder height level. Breathe in as you perform the eccentric phase and control the tension of the movement.
Step 4: Lift Back The Dumbbells (Concentric Motion)
Activate your chest and shoulders to lift the dumbbells back over your head. Breathe out as you lift the dumbbells and remember to squeeze your pecs at the top of the movement. Count this as one repetition. Perform the number of repetitions and sets according to your program.
4 Dumbbell Fly Benefits
1. Muscular Strength
Dumbbell flys promote horizontal abduction movement. When done properly with the appropriate reps and sets, they could generate hypertrophy with emphasis on the shoulders and chest. This leads to a general strength for everyday lifting, increased sports performance, improved posture, and improved form and strength for other chest exercises.
2. Balanced Physique
Dumbbells flys are one of those isolated chest exercises that will give you a well-balanced physique. Most lifters often focus on working on the arms, abs, and shoulders when it comes to the upper body. Meaning, there is not enough work done on the pecs. If so, it only gets worked on during compound movements.
3. Greater Range of Motion
Compared with a flat bench press which puts a lot of work on the shoulders and limits chest activation, dumbbell flys will let you feel a good stretch on your pec muscles as you lower and lift your dumbbells. You may also use lighter weights for a better range of motion.
4. Chest Opener
As your pec muscles contract and expand with every movement, this opens up your chest and reduces back pain, and loosens up the tightness on your upper back. Fortunately, you can do dumbbell flys either with light to moderate weights or none at all. The simple act of scapular retraction improves your posture drastically for your everyday ease of movement.
Common Dumbbell Fly Mistakes to Avoid
Using heavy weights
Some people make the mistake of ego-lifting. This essentially transfers the tension from the chest to the shoulders – an injury waiting to happen. To fix this, opt for lighter weights. Fortunately, when it comes to the pec muscles, you do not need much to make gains.
Activating the arms instead of the chest
One of the common mistakes lifters commit with dumbbell flys is focusing on putting tension on the arms by bringing the hands together. Instead, what you want to do is bring your elbows together. In this way, you are activating the chest properly and shifting tension to the right muscles.
Overstretching at the bottom
One of the worst things you could do when doing the dumbbell flys is overstretching the dumbbells to reach past your shoulder level. This makes your joints, especially your elbows and shoulders prone to injury and stress.
Locking out the arms
Not every exercise calls for a lock-out. In the case of dumbbell flys, this only puts unnecessary weight on your elbows and shoulders. To quickly fix this, make sure to have your elbows bent slightly all throughout the movement.
Dumbbell Fly Muscles Worked
The pectoral muscles are the main target of dumbbell flys. Overall, the following are the muscles engaged in this chest exercise:
- Pectoralis major
- Pectoralis minor
- Deltoids (mostly anterior)
- Biceps brachii
The primary muscle group that benefits the most from the correct movement and form of Dumbbell Fly is the Pecs. This includes the pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor which are located in the middle of your chest towards the shoulders and upper arm. These muscles are responsible for the pushing and back-reaching movements.
The deltoids on the other hand are the muscles that help you lift things. The muscles start from your shoulder blades and the collarbone stretch over your shoulder. The exercise works the middle parts of your delts and secondary strengthening benefits are received by your posterior delts.
Dumbbell Fly vs Bench Press
These two exercises are often compared with each other. At the least, they are thought to be great alternatives to each other. But what are the real key differences between them? What exercise is better for a specific goal? Let us find out.
To kickstart their main differences: the dumbbell fly is an isolated exercise that primarily targets the shoulders and chest while the bench press is a compound movement that works the elbow and shoulder joints, triceps, and chest.
Moreover, the dumbbell fly works on adducting skills that result in a balanced and functional chest wall. On the other hand, bench presses work on pushing skills and support size or muscle mass more. We conclude, do flys to focus on your upper chest muscles and bench presses for a full upper-body compound.
Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs:
For Muscle Growth
Dumbbell fly targets the pectoral muscles directly. If you are aiming to increase mass in the chest region, perform 4 to 6 repetitions of 5 sets using heavyweight. Make sure to control the tension and slowly lower the weights to conform to proper form even with an increased load.
For Strength Improvement
Strength occurs over time when the muscles are trained consistently. Incorporate dumbbell flys into your chest workout by performing 8 to 12 repetitions of 3 sets starting from lightweight until you can gradually progress into heavier dumbbells each week or so.
Dumbbell Fly Variations
Feel free to expand your chest workout and grow mass on your pecs faster by adding in some dumbbell fly variations such as follows.
Decline Dumbbell Fly
This exercise engages the lower chest muscles more. It is ideal for muscle and strength building, which makes it an excellent isolation movement to balance out your physique and fill in your tops nicely. Taking its declined position, this variation promotes better stability and strength, and muscular balance. Reap these benefits with a small adjustment from the flat DB fly.
Around The World Dumbbell Fly
This variation utilizes the shoulder joint, anterior delts, and every part of the chest muscles by creating circular motions with your arms from the sides. When executed properly, this also requires great effort from the forearms.
Bench Cable Flys
Compared with a standard dumbbell fly on a flat seat, this variation puts constant tension on the different parts of the upper body including the upper chest. With balancing out of your worries, you can focus on the correct form and even add more reps using heavier weight.
Dumbbell Fly Alternative Exercises
Complete your chest day routine by activating more pectoral muscles doing these DB fly alternatives.
Incline Bench Press
This alternative engages the anterior delts and upper chest mostly. Note that the shoulders are activated further based on the level of incline on the Bench. Thus, this alternative develops the upper portion of the pecs properly while giving you a go signal to lift with heavy dumbbells.
Reverse Grip Pushup
This exercise is a great alternative for dumbbell flys due to chest activation. Since it is a push-up by default, it is also a challenging upgrade to a standard push-up, which engages the biceps well instead of the triceps. Since this exercise is prone to injury when done incorrectly or in a rushed manner, make sure to work slowly towards your desired number of repetitions.
Machine Incline Chest Press
Now with the use of machines, you have fewer worries when it comes to balance and you can focus on working on the tension and form. Chest press performed on a machine targets your upper and lower pecs in an equal manner while the biceps have a secondary role with the pushing action.