Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes

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How To Do Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes?

The flat bench dumbbell flyes belong in the isolating (single-joint) exercise group because only the shoulder joint is mobilized during the movement. As a consequence, the flyes don’t recruit much of the muscle groups surrounding the chest. Unlike the bench press, which also stimulates the triceps, the fly only indirectly works the front part of the shoulders in addition to the chest, its main target. Despite the fact that the anterior deltoid is also used as a secondary muscle, that is just not enough to consider this a compound exercise. 

In other words, this exercise takes your triceps out of the equation, placing most of the impact on your chest muscles (middle portion). The movement puts a fair amount of stress on your shoulders, so begin with the light weight and build up slowly. The flat bench dumbbell flyes are more difficult than the machine flyes (pec-deck flyes) because they require you to stabilize your upper body and create the path the dumbbells follow rather than having a fixed line.

Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes – Exercise Instructions

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Lie on your back on a flat bench with no supports for a barbell. Your head, back, and buttocks are in contact with the bench and your feet are flat on the floor. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms fully extended and vertically over your chest. With the dumbbells in your hands, turn your palms inward (palms facing each other; neutral grip) and touch the dumbbells together or keep them slightly apart.

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, pull the dumbbells apart until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Using a bear-hugging motion raise the dumbbells in front of you, in line with your chest, until they almost touch. Make sure you have a secure grip, then exhale and lower the dumbbells to your sides (along the same path) until they are even with the top of the bench. Hold for a second, then exhale and lift the dumbbells again. To keep the tension on the muscles, do not touch the dumbbells together at the top. Repeat.

Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes

Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes

Flat Bench Dumbbell Fly Tips & Tricks

  • Dumbbell flyes can cause shoulder and elbow injuries if performed incorrectly or with too much weight.
  • Make sure to keep your elbows slightly bent at all times.
  • Lower the dumbbells slowly out to your sides in a semi-circular arc. Keep your elbows locked in the slightly bent position throughout the movement. In other words, don’t change the position of your elbows while you lower or raise the weights.
  • Do not allow your elbows to bend to 90 degrees as this would turn the movement into a dumbbell press.
  • Use arm-hugging motion to bring the dumbbells together in a shallow arc.
  • Squeeze your pectorals together at the top.
  • Make sure that you do not allow your arms to fall below bench level as this also increases the stress placed on the rotator cuff.
  • Keep your elbows away from your body as if you were hugging someone.

Muscles Used in Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes

Flat and decline dumbbell flyes are great for building the outer chest and for carving that clean line that separates the chest from the torso. The flyes tend to target just the chest muscles, leaving the triceps and shoulders relatively fresh.

  • Main muscles: pectoralis major, deltoids (anterior), serratus anterior
  • Secondary muscles: coracobrachialis, subscapularis, m. biceps brachii
  • Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, deltoid (posterior), triceps, trapezius, rhomboids, teres

Variations

  • Machine flyes. You will use a machine, commonly found in gyms, called a “pec-deck.” Sit down on the seat of the pec dec machine. With your elbows bent 90 degrees, raise your arms laterally and place them behind the pads on each side of you. Your lower arms should be essentially vertical behind the pads. Pull the pads together in front of you, then let them return to the starting position.
Machine Fly - Pec-Deck Fly

Machine Fly – Pec-Deck Fly

  • Cable flyes (flat bench cable flyes). This is identical to the flat bench dumbbell flyes, except that you use cables instead of dumbbells. Place a flat bench between two weight stacks that have floor-level pulleys. Lie on your back on the bench. Your shoulders should be roughly in the line with the pulleys. Grab the handles on the cables with your palms up and straighten your arms out to the sides until your elbows almost lock. Bring the cables together over your chest until the handles barely touch (or you can also lift the cables slightly past the point where the handles touch). Hold, then lower the weight until your hands are even with the top of the bench. Cables provide one benefit over dumbbells: you’re able to maintain steady, constant tension throughout the exercise. With dumbbells, it’s much more difficult to raise the weight than to lower it.
Cable flyes - flat bench cable flyes

Cable flyes – flat bench cable flyes

  • Stability ball dumbbell flyes. Lie on ball with your legs bent and feet flat. Keep your upper body in a straight line and your hips raised. Hold dumbbells with arms extended upward, elbows slightly bent, palms facing in. Follow the same exercise instructions given for the basic exercise.
Stability ball dumbbell flyes

Stability ball dumbbell flyes

Replacement Exercises

There are many other pressing movements to target your middle chest area. Each exercise works the middle pecs and supporting muscles slightly differently. Remember, specificity requires that you choose exercises that reflect your needs and goals. Visit our middle chest exercise database to find those exercises.

Closing Thoughts

During a free-weight fly, the resistance is very uneven over the range of motion. The tension is very high in the stretched position (when dumbbells are even with the top of the bench), but as you bring the weights up, the resistance decreases dramatically. To keep constant tension on your pectorals, stop about 12 inches shy of the dumbbells’ touching each other at the top of each rep. Therefore, it is wiser and safer to use a machine rather than dumbbells. If you do not have access to a machine, you can perform the fly on a cable crossover machine. The flyes are considered a good finishing chest exercise because of this muscular isolation, as well as the nice stretch they provide. This is definitely not an exercise for heavy weights.

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