Flyes

What are flyes?

Dumbbell flyes are isolation exercises for the chest.

The exerciser lies on their back on a workout bench holding a dumbbell in each hand and uses the chest muscles to pull the weights inwards.

Reverse flyes are performed in the opposite way.

The exerciser lies on their front on an incline bench or stands and leans forward with a dumbbell in each hand, using the upper back muscles to pull the weight outwards.

What muscles are used by flyes?

The dumbbell fly used the chest muscles (pectoralis major). Flyes also use the front shoulders (anterior deltoids) as synergist muscles, but flyes are still considered an isolation exercise and the chest is the target muscle when performing this lift.

The reverse fly uses the upper back muscles (rhomboids, trapezius) and shoulders (posterior deltoid).

dumbbell flyes on bench

Benefits of dumbbell flyes

The benefits of dumbbell flyes include targeted development of the chest muscles (pectoralis major). As this is an isolation exercise, flyes are particularly effective used at the end of a workout.

Other exercises that dumbbell flyes can be used alongside include the chest press, pec dec and bench press. All of these lifts offer a chest workout, with the pec dec and dumbbell flyes giving great isolation for the end of a workout.

Dumbbell flyes can be performed on a flat bench for overall muscle development, on an incline bench to target the upper chest or on a decline bench to target the lower chest.

Performing dumbbell flyes

To perform dumbbell flyes, lie flat on a workout bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Your head, shoulders and hips should be in contact with the bench, with feet flat on the floor and spin neutral. This is the same ‘3 points of contact‘ position as used for the bench press.

If your feet cannot touch the ground without extending your back, use a box or step to raise your feet.

The dumbbells should be positioned directly above the shoulders with knuckles facing upwards when gripping the dumbbell and palms inwards. With arms outstretched, slightly bend the elbows and bring the weights out and down to the sides of the chest.

Raise the dumbbells back up to the centre while exhaling. Keep the palms facing inwards and elbows slightly bent throughout the movement. Hands should be over elbows and inline with mid the chest.

When you have finished your last rep, sit up and move dumbbells to your thighs, then down to the floor.

Cable flyes

Flyes can also be performed using a cable machine instead of dumbbells for the same exercise. This requires less stability from the synergist muscles as the cable is already secured onto a machine or the wall.

These are called cable flyes, pictured below:

Cable flyes

Reverse flyes

Reverse flyes are performed by leaning forward or lying face down on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand and lifting the weight out to your side. This is a great exercise for the upper back.

When performing reverse flyes, only lift the dumbbells until your elbows are level with your back or until you can feel a good tension in your upper back muscles.

reverse flyes

Squeeze shoulder blades together at the top of the lift and always keep abdominals strongly engaged, especially when performing reverse flyes from a standing position. This helps to protect the lower back.

Read more about exercises for the back, shoulders and chest, including the lat pulldown, shoulder press, dips, bench press and pec dec.

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