Developing a strong chest should be among the priorities of any athlete. Usually, the WOD would involve some upper body exercise and, most likely, you will need to have strong pecs to be able to complete it. Powerlifters, weightlifters, CrossFitters, all need strong chest muscles to thrive and the dumbbell fly may help to achieve just that.
The dumbbell fly is not a compound exercise, meaning it focuses solely on one major muscle body which is the chest. When the exercise is executed properly, the dumbbell fly can become your best friend to achieving that eye-popping chest you so much desire.
There is one warning about the dumbbell fly movement that you should be aware of. If not done correctly, it can lead to injury and there are many mistakes one person can make when trying to do the dumbbell fly.
After reading this you will know:
Note that the dumbbell fly can also be referred to as chest fly, and in some web pages you will also find the name dumbbell flye, or a combination of both known as dumbbell chest fly.
How To Do The Dumbbell Fly
Place two dumbbells on the floor in front of the bench. Sit on the bench, one dumbbell on each hand with a neutral grip, palms facing each other, and rest the dumbbells on your knees. Lay back on the bench with head, back and butt touching the bench, feet planted on the floor. Raise the dumbbells above your body with arms slightly bent, not fully locked (about 10% bend). That is the beginning position.
Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells laterally, still with palms facing each other, but do not bend your elbows further or straighten them up, keep them at about 10% bend as when you started the movement. You should lower the dumbbells until they reach your chest line.
Exhale and begin pressing the dumbbells upwards to the first position in the same arc motion. That is one rep.
As a general rule, it is recommended to do 3 to 5 sets of the dumbbell fly and between 4 to 8 reps in each set. Rest at least two minutes between each set.
Mistakes to Avoid
It seems easy and simple to do the dumbbell fly, but that is perhaps one of the dangers of this exercise. There are many mistakes you need to avoid in order to get the best out of this movement.
First, as previously mentioned, keep your elbows bent at around a 10% degree angle. If at any point, you fully straighten and lockout your arms, your chest will no longer be doing all the work and the stimulus will trickle down to your elbows and shoulder joints.
You should avoid arching your back and keep your head and shoulders on the bench. If you lean your head forward, you will not fully contract your chest muscles, degrading the effectiveness of the exercise. A straight back, always touching the bench, avoids injuries and keeps you stable.
Perhaps the biggest and most common mistake is in the range of motion of the exercise. Do not lower the dumbbells below your chest line. The contraction of the chest muscle happens when you are at the top of the movement, so there is no need to force your arms below the nipple line. By lowering your arms below your chest line, you could tear your pec muscles and ligaments in your shoulders.
Pay attention to the dumbbells and do not lift heavy weights. However heavy the dumbbells are when you are doing bench presses, do not use the same weights to do the dumbbell fly. The chest is less able to use its strength the further away the dumbbell is from your body, which makes the dumbbell fly a different and somewhat harder exercise compared to the dumbbell bench press.
Muscles Worked – Dumbbell Fly
Since the dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise, it focuses mainly on the chest muscles.
- Pectoralis major: this is the large muscle in your upper chest.
- Pectoralis minor: the mid and lower part of your chest.
- Deltoids: this muscle starts at your shoulder blade and collarbone and stretches over your shoulder, attaching to your upper-arm bone.
- Anterior shoulder: this muscle supports your pectoral muscles during the movement.
- Rhomboid: the muscle between your spine and your shoulder.
- Scapular stabiliser: the muscles surrounding your shoulder joint.
Variations of the Dumbbell Fly
The two most common variations of the dumbbell fly are the inclination of the bench in which you lay down to do the exercise.
To do the incline bench dumbbell fly, simply set up your bench at an incline of around 30 degrees and perform the movement standards as usual. This variation concentrates on strengthening your upper chest.
On the other hand, you can decline your bench around 30 degrees as well in order to do the decline bench dumbbell fly. This exercise focuses on your lower chest. Be aware that in both incline and decline variation of the dumbbell fly, you must not overstretch your arms and do not lower the weights below your chest line.
You may also swap the bench for the gym ball dumbbell fly. In this variation, you use the ball as support for your back, the butt stays in the air. Keep your spine straight when doing the movement. This exercise will work on different muscles of your body to keep you stable, improving core strength. For that, you should choose an even lighter weight than the normal dumbbell fly.
Since one of the most common and dangerous mistakes of the dumbbell fly is to lower the weights past the chest line, you can perform a variation that nullifies this issue. Simply do the floor dumbbell fly in which you lay down on the floor instead of the bench to do the exercise. The floor acts as your safety net to protect your shoulders and, in that way, you can increase the weight of the dumbbells.