Chest Isolation Exercises to Put Target Emphasis on Your Chest and Pecs

Chest Isolation Exercises - Flat Dumbbell Fly

The pectoralis major (chest) is one of the biggest and strongest muscles in the upper body.

One way to target and develop it effectively is through chest isolation exercises.

Today, we’ll break down the best isolation movements for the area and some tips to make the most out of each rep you do.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

Main Takeaways

  • Chest Isolation exercises are a great way to develop your chest with less emphasis on your front delts and triceps.

  • Flyes are a great exercise to isolate your chest.

  • Dumbbells, cables, and machines can be used to isolate your chest during resistance training.

  • No exercise will truly isolate one muscle group as other muscles will be engaged, but isolation exercises put an increased focus on the target muscle group.

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Chest (Upper, Middle, and Lower chest)

Secondary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Anterior Deltoids (Front Shoulder Muscle)

5 Of The Best Chest Isolation Exercises

1. Flat Dumbbell Fly

The flat dumbbell fly is a classic movement to emphasize the lower and middle portions of the chest.

How to:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench.
  2. Position the weights over your chest with your palms facing one another.
  3. Plant your feet flat on the floor, retract your shoulder blades, and inhale.
  4. Slowly lower the weights to your sides while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
  5. Lower them as comfortably as you can, pause, and bring the weights to the starting position as you exhale.

Dumbbell Chest Flyes

2. Incline Dumbbell Fly

Given your body’s position at an incline of 35-55 degrees, this fly variation allows you to emphasize the upper (clavicular) portion of the chest.

How to:

  1. Set a bench at an incline of 35-55 degrees (the middle between flat and upright).
  2. Grab a pair of light dumbbells and sit on the bench.
  3. Place the weights on your thighs and carefully lie back as you extend your arms.
  4. With the weights over your chest, bend your elbows slightly and point your palms toward one another.
  5. Bring your chest out, inhale, and lower the dumbbells to your sides.
  6. Pause briefly and move them to the top position as you exhale.

Incline Dumbbell Fly

3. Cable Crossover

Performing flyes on a cable machine provides constant tension for your muscles, which can help you better engage your chest.

How to (high to low):

  1. Set the cable pulleys on a double cable machine in a high position and attach handles.
  2. Select the appropriate load.
  3. Walk over to one handle, grab it, walk over to the opposite one, and grab it.
  4. Stand in the middle of the cable machine and take a step forward.
  5. Extend your arms to your sides and bring one foot forward for support.
  6. Bring your chest out, engage your abs, and take a breath.
  7. Squeeze your chest to bring your arms together.
  8. Extend your arms to your sides and exhale.

Cable Crossover Chest Workout

4. Pec Deck Fly

The pec deck fly also offers constant tension, with the primary difference being that you maintain a 90-degree bend in your elbows. (1)

How to:

  1. Adjust the seat’s height appropriately to be able to comfortably position the inside of your arms against the pads.
  2. Select the appropriate weight and sit down.
  3. Place the inside of your arms against the pads and grab the handles. Your upper arms should be roughly at shoulder level, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  4. Bring your chest out, engage your abs, and take a breath.
  5. Bring the two handles toward one another, squeezing your chest.
  6. Pause briefly and allow your arms to move to the sides as you exhale.

Pec Deck

5. Chest Fly Machine

This exercise offers similar benefits to the previous two, so it mostly comes down to convenience and what allows you to best engage your chest muscles.

How to:

  1. Adjust the seat height so the handles are slightly below shoulder level when you sit down.
  2. Select the appropriate load, sit down, and grab the two handles at your sides. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows.
  3. Bring your chest out, engage your abs, and inhale.
  4. Squeeze the handles together as you engage your chest.
  5. Pause briefly and allow your arms to move to the sides. Exhale.

Fly Machine

3 Tips to Make Chest Isolation Exercises Better (and Safer)

1. Slow Down

Doing each rep slowly and with intent is a great way to fully isolate your chest muscles and get more out of each training set.

2. Reduce the Load

The goal of isolation exercises is to force a single muscle group to do all the work. So, the best thing you can do is reduce the weight to clean up your technique and ensure that no other muscles assist your chest.

3. Squeeze Your Chest

One simple but highly effective way to better engage your chest and potentially see more growth from isolation exercises is to squeeze the muscle as hard as possible at the top of each rep.

For instance, as you bring your arms in during a fly, don’t just move the weight to the top position of the rep. Forcefully engage your chest.

It might sound simple (it is), but this cue can instantly make every rep more challenging and disruptive.

Isolation exercises are a great finisher after a compound movement, and learn more about chest compound exercises to build a strong and beefy chest. Also, check out our upper and lower chest exercises to focus on a certain portion of your chest. See more on building lean muscle.

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Philip Stefanov

Philip is a fitness writer, blogger, certified personal trainer, and the founder of ThinkingLifter.com. He trained at BioFit College, and has spent the last nine years writing fitness content and training men and women in the gym, as well as online. His passion is fitness and exercise, and helping others improve their fitness and wellness.

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References

  1. Malia Frey, M. A. (2022, November 4). How to use a chest fly machine: Techniques, benefits, variations. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-use-a-chest-fly-machine-4589757

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