Incline Dumbbell Fly
Incline dumbbell flyes target the fibres of the clavicular head of the pectoralis major (upper chest). Incline flyes are performed using a weight bench, typically at a 45-degree angle. The traditional, flat bench dumbbell fly typically targets the sternal head of your pectoralis major muscle, which is the muscle that makes up most of your chest wall. By targeting the clavicular (upper) portion, you increase the load on the smaller chest muscle.
How To Perform Inclined Dumbbell Fly – Correct Form
STARTING POSITION: Lie back on an inclined bench with your shoulders higher than your hips at no greater than 60 degree angle (ideally 45-degree). Hold the dumbbells above your chest so that your palms face each other (neutral grip). Your elbows should be very slightly bent. Your shoulder blades should contact the bench. Keep your spine in a neutral position and your feet flat on the floor. Also ensure that your hips and back are well supported on the bench.
ACTION: Keeping your elbows slightly bent, push the hands apart (lowering the dumbbells down and out to the sides) and inhale until your hands drop to just below the height of your chest. Return to the starting position by squeezing your chest and bringing the weights back to the starting position along the same path (in a wide arc) as the descent, exhaling as you do so.
MOVEMENT PATH: As the dumbbells leave the starting position they come down and apart in an semi-circular arc that begins vertically and drops to horizontal relative to the ground, not the bench.
Incline Dumbbell Fly – Muscles Involved
Incline dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise that primarily works your chest muscles, with lots of emphasis on your shoulder muscles. The exercise also places some emphasis on your triceps, although less than many other chest exercises.
- Pectoralis Major, Clavicular
- Deltoid, Anterior
- Biceps Brachii, Short Head
- Biceps Brachii
- Triceps Brachii
- Wrist Flexors
Incline Dumbbell Fly – Additional Tips & Tricks
- Your chest and rib cage to rise as the weight descends;
- Your palms to be oriented toward each other throughout the exercise;
- Your spine and shoulders to remain in the same position as you return to the starting position;
- Your elbows to be locked in the slightly bent position throughout the movement;
- Moving your head or chin forwards off the bench;
- Allowing your elbows to bend to 90 degrees as this would turn the movement into a dumbbell press.
- Elevating your shoulders towards your ears;
- Bending your elbows excessively as the weight descends or flattening them as the weight ascends;
- Never straighten your arms completely during the exercise because doing so places too much unwanted stress on the biceps tendons.
- Keeping you grip strong and your upper arms (both biceps and triceps) contracted;
- Ensuring that your shoulder blades remain in contact with the bench throughout the movement;
- Keeping your feet flat and your neck long. If you have an excessive arch in your back, place your feet on a step so that your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
- Ensure that you do not overdo the weight – this could lead to poor form and the risk of injury. Using heavy weights also means that you are likely to engage your triceps over your chest muscle.
Incline Dumbbell Fly Variation
- As with the flat bench fly, try turning your palms toward you as you lift the dumbbells, then squeeze you pectorals at the top.
- You can perform two kinds of wrist rotations to contract your chest muscles better: (1) Rotate your wrists so that your pinky fingers come toward each other (this will help target the lower-chest muscles); and (2) Rotate your wrists so that your thumbs come toward each other at the top of the movement (this will accentuate the work of the upper chest).
- Perform the machine fly but with the seat low and the handles at eye level in order to engage the upper pectorals.
Incline Dumbbell Fly Substitutes
Instead of using dumbbells, you can do flyes on a machine or with opposing low cable pulleys. The advantage of these tools is that they provide resistance over the entire range of motion (not just half of it, as is the case with dumbbells).
Visit our upper chest exercise database to find those exercises.
As with presses, you move more of the workload to your upper pecs if you incline the bench 45 to 60 degrees and start with the dumbbells over your collarbone. Essentially, the technique used is the same as in the basic exercise (flat bench dumbbell fly) but on a bench set at an incline of 45 to 60 degrees. Incline dumbbell fly is an excellent companion exercise to the incline press that offers you a greater range of motion to work the large muscles of your chest. Obviously, it is the upper fibers that make the greatest effort, although the rest contribute. Pay special attention to your form if you’ve had shoulder (especially rotator cuff), elbow, or lower back injuries.