Your Guide to Chest Flyes

Chest FlyesThe chest. That massive set of muscles that have their own workout day devoted to them, but developing the chest is much more than simply performing bench presses like a beast. For this post, we are staying away from the multi-joint chest exercises and talking about chest flyes. These single-joint exercises are the perfect compliment to the bench presses that should make up the majority of your chest workouts. I am not foolish enough to say that you do not need bench presses in your workout, so do not get fooled by this post, but flyes are immensely important as well. Keep in mind that the backbone of every workout should always consist of compound exercises.

Why I Love Flyes

Flyes should have their place in everyone’s chest routine because of how they can isolate the chest muscles without working the supporting muscles groups that bench presses work namely the delts and triceps. As you would expect from any isolation exercise, flyes put the majority of the emphasis squarely on your pec muscles and do not use the supporting muscle groups as much.

The Basic Fly Movement

Think of the basic fly movement of giving someone a giant hug, or better yet hugging a tree. There is a wide arc to get around that tree fully. For the exact motion check out the motion performed on a pec deck. More on pec decks later.

Flyes With Cables

Flyes with cables are my go-to fly movement simply for the fact that dumbbell flyes begin to hurt my shoulders when performed for too long. By too long, I mean that I have a rotation of exercises that I will do for 3-6 months and then I will swap out some exercises for others to change things around a little. By the time that I do dumbbell flyes into those later months, I am feeling too much of a tug on my shoulder so I know that it is time to switch things up.

Performed correctly, cable flyes are still highly effective for stretching out the pecs and getting some serious burns going especially during burnout sets. When I say “performed correctly,” I am referring to not going too heavy with these movements. When going with a weight that is too heavy, you will be forced to recruit alternate muscles into the movement which is the opposite of what you want in an isolation exercise.

Flyes With Dumbbells

Dumbbell flyes are true mass builders that should be part of every chest routine in some way especially for younger lifters. As you get older, dumbbell flyes do become strenuous on the shoulder joints, so they should be rotated out every once in a while.

Machine Flyes

While I am not a fan of pec deck machine flyes for the most part, they do hold some merit for folks who have trouble locking their elbows during the fly movement. Of course, their inability to lock elbows probably have more to do with going too heavy on the lifts than anything else though.

3 Responses

  1. Nice post Mike! I love chest flyes too, they are one of my favourite chest isolation exercises. It’s good there are different variations of chest flyes! One question, when performing flyes with cables, at what height do you have the cables? Do you adjust them to shoulder height or higher?

    All the best,

  2. Mike Guerreiro says:


    Thanks for reaching out. I typically perform cable flyes at the upper most setting, which will hit a little more of the upper chest. Shoulder level puts a little unnecessary stress on my shoulders, which is a constant problem for me. I also love putting the cables at the lowest level and performing a raised movement to isolate the lower chest.

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