Jeremy Ethier explains how to perfect Chest Flys.
“Chest flys are one of the most effective exercises for building your chest. But if you don’t do them correctly, they’ll end up working other muscles like your shoulders instead of your chest. There’s 5 common form mistakes almost everyone makes on the chest flyes exercise. They’re easy to fix but will make a massive difference when applied to your chest workout in terms of your chest growth. There are generally 3 different types of chest flys you can do. Dumbbell chest flyes, cable chest flyes, and machine chest flyes like the pec deck. Some of these options are better than others. But for now, as we go through the mistakes and fixes, I’ll make sure to show you how they apply to each one of these variations.”
“The first mistake has to do with the bend in your elbows when performing chest flys. I’ll use the dumbbell fly to illustrate this. At the bottom position, the straighter your arm is, the more tension will be applied to your chest. However, the straighter your arms go, the more your biceps also get involved. Eventually, there comes a point where your biceps work harder than your chest is and will become the limiting factor in the movement. The same is true with cable fly or pec deck. So, instead, at the bottom position you’ll want to keep a slight bend in your elbows such that your hands are just slightly outside your elbows. However, once you get to the top position, the opposite is now true. Straighten your arms and think about squeezing your elbows together as you approach the end position.”
“The next common mistake on the chest flyes exercise has to do with something called the line of force. Let’s explain this with a cable fly. During this exercise, the direction of the cable will determine where on your body the force is being placed. To maximize chest activation, the direction of the cable needs to be aligned with the direction of your arms. You can play around with the cable height and your arm position until you get this right. And the same applies for the pec deck or even the dumbbell fly. In this case however, since you can’t adjust the line of force like you can with cables, you’ll simply want to keep your elbows up such that your hands and shoulders are always at the same height rather than letting your elbows drop down.”
Next mistake: given that many of us are stuck in a hunched over posture, your shoulders will have a natural tendency to want to take over as you’re going through your chest workout. To ensure the tension is being placed on the chest, first bring your shoulders down and away from your ears and then stick your chest up and out. Focus on squeezing your biceps into the sides of your chest. Your chest should remain up and out throughout this rather than letting your shoulders come forward and takeover.
The next mistake has to do with how you’re setting up your fly. During the regular dumbbell chest flyes, cable chest flyes, or pec deck flyes, the main area targeted is the mid-chest. If you’re already doing a lot of flat bench press and flat dumbbell press which already target the mid-chest, I’d recommend adjusting the setup of your flys to work more of your upper and lower chest. The pec deck can’t be adjusted much because of the fixed bench. But for a cable fly, to target the lower chest you’d want to bring the pulleys up higher and perform a high to low fly. To target the upper chest, you’d want to use a bench set up at a slight incline. The same can be done with dumbbells by using a slight incline to emphasize the upper chest and a slight decline by putting a plate under one end of the bench to emphasize the lower chest.
The last mistake has to do with the type of chest fly you choose to do. Dumbbell flys’ main limitation is they’re only really hard and challenge your chest at the bottom position. Most of you are likely already doing either a dumbbell press, bench press, or machine chest press before you get to your chest flyes. These exercises already challenge your chest the most in the fully stretched position. So doing a dumbbell fly afterwards can be redundant. Instead, to potentially maximize growth, your workout should challenge your chest throughout the whole range of motion, especially in that end position when your arms are brought in together.
How? Simple, with properly executed cable chest flyes or machine chest flyes, with cables having a slight advantage because you can easily adjust them to target the different areas of the chest like we went through.
- Chest-muscles-james-newbury: CrossFit Games / Depositphotos