The chest fly is a fun and simple exercise that provides a dynamic arm warm-up and loosens the shoulder joints.
Also called chest flies or pec flies, these strength training exercises primarily target the pectoralis major in the chest, but also work your shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearms while engaging the core.
In a chest fly, the hands and arms work together in synchronicity to move through an arc, keeping the elbow in slight and constant flexion, which also serves to engage your forearm flexors.
The exact origins of the fly exercise are unknown. Being that flys are most commonly performed with dumbells, let’s take a stroll down their memory lane.
The dumbell was thought to have been first introduced to the fitness communities of ancient Greece over 2,000 years ago.
Crudely formed from stone, these crescent-shaped weights with handles were called “halteres” and seemed to have resembled a sort of dumbell/kettlebell hybrid.
This innovation allowed them to easily grip weights for the first time.
Similarly, ancient Indians developed something called the “nal,”which was shorter than a barbell but longer than a dumbell. More closely resembling a club than either of the bells, these weights were commonly used by bodybuilders, wrestlers, and other athletes to improve strength and power.
The more modern iteration of dumbells came to fame with the 1864 publishing of “The Muscles and Their Story” by John Blundell. As a result, dumbells quickly became standard fitness equipment throughout gyms and fitness clubs around the world.
How to Perform a Chest Fly
Step 1: Select dumbells of your desired weight and lie on your back on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
Step 2: Pressing your shoulders, head and glutes back and down into the bench, make sure they maintain contact with the bench throughout the exercise.
Step 3: Using a closed, pronated grip, grasp your dumbells with your arms extended up with a slight bend in the shoulders you will maintain throughout the movement. Placing your hands shoulder-width apart, rotate the arms so your palms face inward.
Step 4: Inhale as you slowly bring the dumbells down in a wide synchronized arch until they become level with your chest.
Step 5: Slowly lift the dumbells back upward, retracing your synchronized arc as you exhale and bring the dumbells back to the starting position in a controlled motion.
Step 6: Repeat until the desired number of reps has been executed.
- Increases shoulder strength
- Improves shoulder health
- Strengthen and stabilize the core
- Encourage a neutral spine
- Increase functional fitness
- Strengthens bones, joints, and ligaments
- Improves coordination, balance, and posture
- Engages full range of motion
- Improves flexibility
- Butterfly machine fly
- Cable crossover fly
- Lying cable fly
- Incline cable fly
- Incline dumbell fly
- Twisting Fly
Don’t Fly too High at First
Due to the exercise being performed at near-maximum extension of the arm, the amount of weight that can be lifted is significantly less than traditional curls or presses. The arms act as levers at their longest length, so there is a potential for shoulder joint or tendon damage if proper form is not maintained throughout the movement.
For this reason, it is important not to try to pile on too much weight at first. We recommend you start light, and progress on an incremental schedule.