How To Do Dumbbell Flyes

How To Do Dumbbell Flyes

You’ve come to the right place if you want to know how to do dumbbell flyes. Today’s post will outline the exercise, what muscles it trains, variations you can do, and safety tips to consider.

Let’s dive in and explore.

What Muscles Do Dumbbell Flyes Train?

Dumbbell flyes are an excellent exercise for training the chest (pectoralis major). The primary function of the chest is arm adduction––bringing your arms from the side to the midline of your body.

As you lower the dumbbells to your sides, you stretch the chest. Bringing your arms in forces the muscle group to contract.

Some degree of bicep activation is also inevitable during dumbbell flyes because the muscle flexes isometrically to keep your elbows slightly bent.

How to do Dumbbell Flyes (Step-By-Step)

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on the edge of a flat gym bench.
  2. Place the weights on top of your thighs and lie back carefully as you extend your arms.
  3. Position the dumbbells over your chest with palms facing one another.
  4. Bring your shoulders back and take a breath.
  5. Lower your arms to your sides while keeping your elbows slightly bent.
  6. Move down until your elbows are at torso level, pause for a moment, and bring your arms to the starting position, tapping the dumbbells at the top. Exhale.
  7. Take another breath and repeat.

Dumbbell Fly Variations And Alternatives

1. Incline Dumbbell Fly

An incline dumbbell fly is a variation where you perform the exercise on an incline bench. One option is to set the angle of an adjustable bench at 45 to 60 degrees.

Performing the exercise at an incline is beneficial for emphasizing the upper (clavicular) portion of the chest. 

Incline Dumbbell Fly

2. Cable Fly

Cable flyes are another variation you can add to your arsenal. Doing the movement on a cable machine provides constant tension and can lead to superior muscle activation.

Setting the cable pulley in a high position allows you to emphasize the mid and lower chest; in contrast, a low cable position is great for the upper part of the muscle.

Cable Fly

3. Resistance Band Fly

Like cable flyes, using a resistance band is a great way to maintain constant tension on your chest muscles.

One difference is that bands offer linear variable resistance (LVR). The more you stretch the band, the more resistance it provides, allowing you to achieve peak contractions at the top of each repetition. (1)

Resistance Band Fly

Safety Tips and Considerations For Dumbbell Flyes

The fly is an isolation exercise, and you likely won’t ever start your workouts with it, but we still need to discuss the importance of preparation.

A crucial tip to keep in mind for dumbbell flyes is to warm up well before training. Start with light cardio to get your blood moving, perform dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles and joints, and begin with lighter weights. (2)

Another tip for the fly is to prioritize proper technique over the weight you’re using. Doing so will allow you to get the most from the exercise without putting yourself at risk of an injury. Perform each repetition slowly and feel your chest muscles stretch and contract on every repetition.

Click to return to more dumbbell workouts, and also our video library of chest workouts.

David Williams

David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach and working out, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

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  1. (2022, September 9). .” World of sports science. . 25 Aug. 2022 .
  2. Contributors, W. M. D. E. (n.d.). Warm-up exercises: Do they improve performance and reduce injuries? WebMD.

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