Do you include dumbbell flys in your strength-training routine? Most women don’t want the bulky chest muscles that male bodybuilders seek, but strong, defined pectorals can make a modest bustline look at bit perkier. Plus, developing your chest muscles has functional benefits. If you ever have to fight off an attacker, you’ll have a more powerful punch. That’s important for self-protection! Plus, moving heavy furniture or pushing a lawnmower will be easier. One exercise that works pectoralis major, the biggest muscle in the chest, is dumbbell flys. Here are five things you should know about this exercise.
Dumbbell Flys Will Improve Your Posture
You might not do dumbbell flys for this purpose, but this popular chest exercise will train you to sit and stand a little straighter. That’s because flyes help you master scapular retraction, the process by which you pull your shoulder blades toward your spine. The ability to do this is important for good posture. If the muscles that retract your shoulders are weak, your shoulders fall forward. Not only does this affect your alignment, it places more stress on your spine. With back pain being at epidemic proportions, we need a strong chest and the ability to retract our scapula.
They Work More Than Muscle Group at a Time
You probably think of dumbbell flys as a chest exercise, but this movement works several muscle groups in your upper body – the chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps. When you do this exercise using good form, dumbbell flys mainly works the pectoralis major and the smaller pectoralis minor muscles in your chest. The fly movement also works the anterior and medial part of the shoulder, and the triceps and the biceps serve as stabilizers.
You Can Do Them Several Ways
You can do dumbbell flys with your back flat on a bench or with the bench at an incline, an inclined dumbbell fly. Another option is to stand when you do them. You can also do the exercise using cable or resistance band flys. Working with cables or resistance bands is the safest approach. When your arms are at their widest point during a dumbbell fly, it places stress on your shoulder joints. However, if you do a cable flye or use resistance bands instead of dumbbells, the tension on your shoulders is constant throughout the exercise. So, your shoulder joints receive more controlled tension and limits the extra strain on the shoulders at the bottom of the exercise.
Here’s how to do a chest fly using resistance bands:
Anchor the bands at around chest height.
Face in the opposite direction so your back faces the bands.
Stretch your arms back and grab the handles of the resistance bands.
Step forward until you’re about 6 inches from the wall and bend your knees a bit.
From this position, bring your hands toward one another while holding the bands.
Pause for a second at the top of the movement.
Let your arms return to the starting position in a controlled manner.
Keep repeating for 10-12 reps.
Do 3 sets in total.
Tip: To lower your risk of injury, keep your core tight and your back straight.
If you do flys using dumbbells on a bench, avoid the temptation to extend your arms too far apart with each repetition. Lower the weights only until you feel the first sign of a stretch in your chest. Your arms should go no lower than parallel to the floor. If you extend beyond that, you don’t increase the benefits of the exercise, only your risk of injury.
Add a Little Squeeze to a Dumbbell Fly
You’ll stimulate your pectoral muscles most if you squeeze at the top of the movement when you bring your arms together. Don’t allow your hands and arms to touch, as this will make it harder to squeeze at the top. Keep the dumbbells a few inches apart at the top and focus on squeezing your chest muscles with each repetition.
A Better Chest Exercise Than Push-Ups?
Who can deny the chest strengthening benefits of a push-up? But dumbbell flys may outperform push-ups for working the pectoral muscles in the chest. According to the American Council on Exercise, when you do dumbbell flys with your back resting on an incline bench, it activates your chest muscles more than a push-up. Don’t give up push-ups but vary your routine by adding incline dumbbell flys to your routine or, for a safer alternative, use resistance bands or cables.
Keep Your Upper Body Workout Balanced
Dumbbell flys aren’t the only exercise you should do for your chest. Based on EMG activity, the incline barbell bench press outperforms dumbbell flys in terms of activating the pectoral muscle activation. The pec deck and bent-forward cable crossover also activate the pectoral muscles more than dumbbell flys. Yet it’s important to have variety in your upper body workouts for balanced muscle development and to avoid reaching a plateau.
If you have shoulder problems, do dumbbell flys with caution and use impeccable form. Don’t let your arms drop lower than parallel to the floor. Even better, use cables or resistance bands since they maintain constant tension on the muscles and are easier on your shoulders. However you do them, use good form.
Balance chest work with exercises that work the mid and upper back. Good exercises for doing this are variations on rows, such as the bent-over row. Bent-over rows can be hard on your back if you don’t use impeccable form. When you row with your pelvis bent forward, you have little torso support. If you use bad form and round your back, you’re at risk of a back injury, including a herniated disc. A safer alternative is to do chest supported rows while lying face down on an inclined bench for torso support.
The Bottom Line
Flys are an effective exercise for working your chest muscles but watch your form! If you have shoulder problems, resistance band or cable flys are a safer alternative.
- com. “What Are the Benefits of Dumbbell Flys?”
- American Council on Exercise. “Lying Chest Fly”
- American Council on Exercise “Top Three Most Effective Chest Exercises”
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