How To Do A Chest Fly

How To Do A Chest Fly


March 2, 2022

The chest fly is an outstanding upper body exercise that you can do either with dumbbells or a chest fly machine to target your arms and chest muscles.

It is a beginner-friendly workout. So, you don’t have to worry about complex moves or maintaining balance if you are just getting started.

Also, if you can’t do push-ups due to a health challenge such as injuries, the chest fly is an excellent exercise for you.

This article will show you how to do a chest fly the right way. You’ll also learn mistakes to avoid. So, keep reading.

Chest Fly Is Important: Here Is Why

Chest Fly Is Important: Here Is Why

These are lots of good reasons you should include a chest fly exercise into your routine. Here are some of them.

Increases Muscle Mass

When done correctly, chest fly exercises can give you bigger pecs by increasing your muscles mass. It can also boost your chest strength.

That’s because the move works your pectoralis major muscles. This is the muscle responsible for all the movements in your shoulder joint.

There are two sets of pectoral muscles on each side of your chest

  • The pectoralis major
  • The pectoralis minor

The chest fly primarily strengthens the pectoralis major, which is the larger of the two muscles.

Protects Your Shoulders

The inner part of your shoulders benefits a great deal from the chest fly exercise. When you do the move correctly, it strengthens and protects your rotator cuff.

Strengthens Your Arms

Your chest is the main focus during chest fly. But your arms also get some workout during the exercise. That’s because you hold the dumbbells and support the motion of the chest fly with your arms.

Promotes Good Posture

The chest fly can be one of the most helpful moves for a newbie. This is because you can perform the exercise in a sitting position and have your back supported by a pad.

This will make it easy to practice good form and posture while exercising. Plus, your seated position will focus more effort on the chest muscles.

Chest Fly Mistakes That Can Cause Improper Form

Chest Fly Mistakes That Can Cause Improper Form

The chest fly seems like a simple move on the surface. While this may be true to some extent, it is common to do the exercise with improper form.

Here are some common mistakes you should avoid when performing the exercise.

Holding Your Breath While Bracing

It is common for people to inhale deeply and hold their breaths while they engage their chest muscles and move their arms together. This is usually the case when using a chest fly machine.

However, you don’t need forced breathing with light weights. 

Holding your breath is only necessary when you increase the weight because it automatically makes the move more tedious.

Besides, exhaling with every rep is beneficial in easing your body as you do the chest fly.

Instead of holding your breath while bracing, breathe and ease with every movement. Breathe in while bringing the handles together to meet in front of you, and breathe out while moving out the handles back to the starting point.

Using Your Legs for Support

Another common mistake that can lead to improper form is applying pressure on your feet to help steady your body. This mistake is usually because you want to add more power and effect to your closing moves.

But using your legs for support will defeat your purpose!

This is because the primary aim of the chest workout is training your chest muscles and not your legs.

So, note this: reduce the amount of weight you lift when you notice that you are focusing on your legs to gain momentum.

Arching Your Back

Arching your back while exercising can cause injury to your lower back.

You will do a better job by keeping a good posture while doing the movements. If you are doing the move while seated, sit upright and let your back maintain good contact with the pad behind you.

Not Properly Using Momentum

Use slow and well-controlled moves when lifting and lowering your weights. Going too quickly will be a waste of momentum, as you will not be concentrating on muscle training.

How To Do A Chest Fly the Right Way

How To Do A Chest Fly the Right Way

Here are the steps on how to correctly perform a chest fly:

  • With your back flat on the floor, bend your knees so that your feet rest on the floor.
  • Hold your dumbbells straight above your chest.
  • Slightly bend your elbow and slowly open your arms wide outward to your side.
  • Move your arms until the back of your arms is barely over your chest.
  • As you move the weight back together at the top, squeeze your chest.
  • Do as many reps as you can.

If you are using a machine, the first thing you want to do is adjust the machine. This is because most machines have a seat pad that lowers and lifts. 

Adjust the heights of the seat until the machine handles are at your chest height.

You should be able to comfortably place your feet on the floor with the back pad giving your spine some support.

Make sure your wrists and elbows are perfectly leveled with your shoulders when extending your arms outward to the side to grab the handles.

Remember to adjust the arm levers accordingly in case you have shorter or longer arms. Keep in mind that some machines do not have this option. 

Next, you want to choose your weight. Always start with a lighter weight and practice with it until you are comfortable with the butterfly-like movements.

Here’s how to do a chest fly using the machine:

  • Sit upright and relax your neck and shoulders with your feet flat on the floor.
  • If the machine has a foot bar that needs to release the handles and brings them forward, go ahead and push the bar and grab the handles with your palms facing forward.
  • Keeping a slight bend in your elbows and relaxed wrists. Use controlled movements to press your arms together in front of your chest.
  • Once your arms are completely closed in front of you, hold for a second.
  • Slowly and deliberately move your arms to the starting point while maintaining a good posture and opening your chest.
  • Go for at least 2 sets of 10 reps for a start. Pause to rest.
  • Add about one to five reps to each set you do as your fitness level improves. 

You can improve by adding more weight and reps if you complete all your reps without fatigue. Make your last set very challenging, but definitely not so difficult that you can’t complete it with proper form.

Alternatives To Chest Fly

Alternatives To Chest Fly

#1 Overhand/Underhand Dumbbell Variation

This movement is similar to the conventional dumbbell fly. Do this variation by performing a fly with an underhand grip.

As you reach the top of the movement, rotate your wrist to an overhand grip and do the next rep.

Focus on squeezing your chest at the top of every rep to get a good contraction.

This is a great variation because while the overhand grip works the upper chest, the underhand grip strengthens your lower and mid-chest.

#2 Around the World Variation

For this move, you should use a lighter weight and concentrate on strengthening your chest muscle.

You can do this exercise on an inclined or flat bench.

Start the workout by bringing your dumbbells overhead. Then, do an “around the world move” by contracting your pinkies over your waist and bringing your thumbs over your head.

#3 Unilateral Fly With Static Hold Variations

This exercise increases the time that your chest muscle is under tension

Start the move by bringing your dumbbells overhead. Next, bring your arms down one after the other.

Hold one of the dumbbells in a stretched position and contract your chest. Now, bring the other dumbbell back overhead.

Do the same movement in reverse.

If you happen to be using a machine, you can also customize this workout.

Most machines give you the option of extending your arms wide enough to get the handles. Nevertheless, some machines are designed with elbow pads in place of the handles.

When using this type, your arms are in an “L” shape position as you do the open and close moves and it suits people with wrist injuries.

You can overcome the challenge of working your abdominals by handling only one side of the fly machine at a time.

This means while one of your arms is at rest, the other one is sweating it out! This will help you maintain a good posture while your abdominal muscles are doing some extra work.


The chest fly is a great workout to do any time on its own. However, you make sure to know how to do a chest fly the right way to avoid the mistakes of improper form.

You can also try a few different alternatives if the conventional move is too monotonous for you.



Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.