Dumbbell Flyes ( aka Dumbell Flys )
Dumbbell Flyes are a favorite amongst bodybuilders and gym buffs. They are a great exercise for working your pecs (pectoralis major and minor), particularly the sternal portion of the muscle. Your rotator cuff and muscles stabilising your shoulder blades will also get a good workout during dumbbell flyes. Reportedly this exercise was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorites back in his bodybuilding days. The exercise itself is quite straightforward. However, there are a few important tips for dumbbell flyes which are outlined below.
Instructions for dumbbell flyes (also see video below)
Start position = Lie on your back, on a bench with dumbbells in each hand. Your arms should be almost straight pointing in the direction of the roof (i.e. 90 degrees of shoulder flexion), with the dumbbells close together.
Note: Start with a lighter weight than you think you can manage on your first attempt at this exercise... it is much better to swap for a heavier weight, then injure yourself on the first attempt.
Action = Lower your arms out to the side (also known as horizontal abduction) in a slow steady controlled action until you feel a nice stretch on your pecs. Then reverse the movement lifting the dumbbells back to the starting position (also known as horizontal adduction). See short video below for a demonstration.
Note: It is good to have your elbows a little bent throughout the movement, but make sure you are not actively bending and straightening your elbows otherwise this exercise will become more like a dumbbell press than a fly.
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Tips for the dumbbell fly
1. To build muscle (hypertrophy) aim to do 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions.
2. As you get to the last repetition in the set you should be feeling fatigued but still able to finish each repetition in a smooth controlled movement.
3. Make sure the weight is not too heavy... a sure fire way to lose muscle strength is to injure yourself (there is no prizes for the person who uses the heaviest dumbbells for this exercise).
4. At the completion of each repetition the weight should be more or less positioned directly vertical to your shoulder joint (no need to bash the dumbbells together)!
5. Remember to keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement enough to reduce the strain on your elbows, but not too much that the exercise becomes too easy.
6. Raise and lower your arms symmetrically, so that the left and right arm reach the top and bottom of the range at the same time.
7. As always if the exercise causes sharp pain (not just muscle fatigue), particularly in or near your shoulder joint, then cease the exercise and seek advice from an appropriately qualified health professional.
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This is an example of dumbell flyes being completed on a standard gym bench. It is also possible to complete this exercise laying on the ground (this may be a good option if you have experience anterior shoulder dislocations previously or have ongoing problems with your shoulders). Notice the smooth controlled movement and the slightly bent arms. It is also worth noting that while the arms are slightly bent they are not completely rigid.