The main reason for doing a chest fly is to gain muscle mass as opposed to getting stronger. That said, even in a programme aimed principally at gaining strength, there is a place for the fly and, in all programmes, chest flys add good variation. The principal points to getting the most out of a chest fly are as follows:
- As in the video, the feet should be on the bench or up, off the floor.
- Whilst maintaining a slight curve in the elbows, it is important to feel that the arms are lengthening throughout the exercise.
- As the dumbbells are lowered, feel as if widening the arms – as broad as the ceiling. Send those dumbbells away through slightly bent elbows.
- When bringing the dumbbells back, imagine squeezing the ceiling together. This helps recruit the chest muscles, the pecs, well. Get the brains right in the armpits. Any discomfort in the biceps – or any muscle other than the pecs – means you are not getting the most out of this exercise.
- Therefore the weight will be light. If the weight is too heavy, the brain will automatically put more bend into your elbows, and you will feel as if you are pulling the dumbbells in and not sending them away. Yes, you will have waggled your arms with heavy weights attached, but you won’t have done much for your pec development. As you tire, the arms will also start to pull inwards. This exercise is not the easiest one to do well until the bitter end!
There are three other reasons to do a chest fly than just to get a bulgy chest. The first is overcoming a plateau. So if your bench press has got stuck at a weight, doing a set of flys first then doing the same weight as usual on the bench will pre-exhaust the muscle and, after a couple of workouts doing this, you may well find you can shove more weight on the bench press.
The second reason is another way of getting an increasingly bulgy chest. One of the best ways of gaining muscle mass is to do more than one exercise on the same body part. So perform a bench press, wait 10 seconds, then do a chest fly and you will pump more blood into the pecs and pump up that chest. Make sure you keep within the same rep range for each exercise.
The third reason is because the fly has some carry over into sports – for example, tennis or golf involves hitting the ball with a swing as opposed to a push. And so flys strengthen the chest in a more sports specific way.
Chest flys are a challenging exercise technically – and they look so simple! – and have a valuable place in a well constructed work out. Just don’t forget the basic rule of what you push, you must balance with pulling. It is only too tempting to work up massive chest muscles and end up injured plus looking silly from behind because the pulling muscles of the back have been neglected.