How to Perform Chest Flys Exercise with Dumbbells or Machine for a Bigger Chest

Arnold performing the Dumbbell Flys

Can't feel your pecs? Or are you looking for a chest muscle finisher move?

Then chest flys performed lying with dumbbells or seated with machine is an excellent option to target your pecs and get super-pumped chest workout.

Inside This Article:

P.S. Chest flys or flyes goes by a lot of names: dumbbells flys, cable flys, pec flys, pec decks and can be done with cables, dumbbells or machines. The technique remains the same.

Why Chest Flys

Although I am big fan of multi-joint moves, exercises like chest flys are an exception. Why?

Because chest flys, although a single joint exercise is excellent for mass, strength, flexibility and control - the kind you’ll see only in gymnastics.

Secondly, it uses the second function of pectoral muscles - brining your arms in from of your body towards the midline.

Thirdly, if you have tried it you will know that you will feel your pecs more than regular bench press. The squeeze works perfectly.

Lastly neurophysiology and electromyography research has shown that flys target your pecs without over-loading the shoulder capsule/joint. Hence they are safer to do.

Chest flys is a great addition to bench press, not a total substitute. I use it as a giant set finisher move.

How to Perform Chest Flys with Proper form

The conventional chest flys or pec decks are performed with dumbbells, so I am detailing the dumbbell version.

One caveat: Do not make Dumbbell flys an Ego lift. Your goal is overload the pecs by the principle of isolation. Pec Stretch is more important than weight used.

You have to use a lot less poundage than dumbbell bench press. The best is to use 10-15% of your maximum barbell bench press poundage. If you bench 100 pounds, fly with 10 lbs  or max 15 lbs dumbbells in each hand.

The position: Use the 4 point contact posture.

Exercise Steps:

1. Grab a set of dumbbells you can safely do at least 10 reps {for learning proper technique}.

Hold them at an arms length with palms facing each other.

Brace your abs, tighten your glutes and tighten your grip around dumbbells as if trying to crush the bar. You will feel instant gain in strength.

2. Take a deep breathe in and lower the dumbbells as if you are opening up your chest. Pinch your shoulder blades for better position.

Feel the stretch at the bottom but do not lower dumbbells below the parallel to ground level for safe shoulder joints.

Do not lift your neck or legs off the bench.

Effective Dumbbell flys technique

3. Lift the dumbbells using the working muscle i.e. pectorals and not your arms. Come up in the same arc you brought the dumbbells down in and squeeze your chest. Maintain the squeeze for 1 second. Feel the burn!

  • Do not bounce or use momentum. Do not let the tension drop. 
  • Exhale at the end of the rep or during last 1/4th of the lift. I learn this technique from martial arts. It works great.
  • Inhale deeply and begin the next rep.

3 Big Uses/advantages of Chest Flys

1. As a superset for higher muscle stimulation:

Perform flys as a superset after bench press. You can target all muscle fiber types - type IIb and type I, and exhaust them, giving you a complete chest training.

2. As a pre-exhaustion technique

Have you ever had a problem when you arms {triceps} tire before chest does? Chest pectoral muscles are bigger muscles and tire later than triceps in bench press exercise.

How do you overcome this? Perform flys before bench press exercise to exhaust your chest muscles. 

This advanced technique has been used by Arnold, the Austrian Oak, to build arguably the best chest in bodybuilding history and when the big man says something, we should listen.

3. To build bigger upper chest and rib cage

Expanding the chest with deep breathes under load is an excellent way to built a bigger rib cage.

Chest Fly Variations

Incline Chest flys

Chest Flys can be performed in many ways.

You can do dumbbell, machine, cable chest flys and even floor flys.

You can do them flat, incline or even on a stability ball.

Avoid decline flys {and every other decline chest exercise} as it is unnecessary and waste of your workout energy.

Muscle coaches rave the many benefits of floor press

Chest Muscle Building Programs

Looking to set new record in bench press and build solid muscle too. Then I highly recommend the Blast your Bench Muscle Building Program.

It is written by Mike Westerdal who not only increased his bench to 452 pounds but also added 75 lbs of muscle mass in the process. Click here to read his secrets.


An exercise is as good as the way you use it. Chest flys are the best pec isolation exercise and can build a bigger upper chest and inner chest lining.

Perform 2-3 sets of flys after bench press in every workout. Try the incline variations every 3-4 weeks and you have a proven recipe for chest muscle building.

› Dumbbell Chest Flys Exercise

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