How to Do Cable Flys with Proper Form?

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 24, 2023
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Most bodybuilders tend to stick with free weights for their strength training, but there are really good reasons to occasionally use a dual cable machine, especially for working on your pecs.

One of my personal favorites is the standing cable chest fly exercise, but I see people make very common mistakes that can result in too much shoulder strain and even injuries.

So, I had a physiotherapist help me come up with the ideal setup and form to avoid such injuries and maximize the effect on muscle growth.

Here’s our simple step-by-step guide.

Quick Summary

  • The standing cable chest fly is a great alternative to the flat dumbbell fly, and with the proper form, it can reduce the risks of injuries a lot.
  • The cable fly can be highly effective at strengthening your chest muscles and also improving your range of motion in the shoulder joint.
  • As part of your chest workouts, you also need to consider how supplements can support your overall efforts and results.

Step-By-Step Cable Flys Guide

Cable Flys

Read these instructions carefully before you start doing the cable chest fly.

With the right stance and body position, you’ll be able to make sure your movement is both safe and highly effective.

Here’s what to do: 

  • Set up your favorite cable machine for a high cable fly so that the handles are at about chest height.
  • Get into the starting position and stand with your back to the handles with a slight bend in your knees for stability.
  • Reach behind you, and grab hold of the handles, bringing them forward to about your shoulders.
  • Step one foot forward to lean away from the machine to provide yourself better balance and stability once you start the cable fly movement.
  • Keep your elbows slightly bent, slowly pull your arms forward, and bring your hands almost together straight in front of you.
  • Slowly release the tension back until your hands are behind your shoulders and you squeeze your shoulder blades together; this completes one cable chest fly rep and brings you back to the starting position.
  • You should feel constant tension, even at the starting point, and this will help you increase the time under tension and maximize hypertrophy [1]. This makes it very different from most chest exercises.

The number of reps and sets you do will depend on your goals.

For bulking, I would recommend 3–4 sets of 6–10 reps, and that means loading up the weight stack. 

For toning, you’d want to do about four sets of 15 reps of cable chest flys, which should also help shape your upper arms.

Avoid Common Mistakes

Cable Fly mistakes

Here are some common mistakes I see people make with the standing cable chest fly:

  • Bringing shoulder blades too close: To achieve proper shoulder blade stability, you don’t want to overdo your backward cable fly movement. Instead, bring your elbows slightly behind your back.
  • Using momentum: Your upper body should remain perfectly still and not move forward and backward. If you start creating a bit of momentum with your body, you could strain your joints too much and suffer a rotator cuff injury [2].
  • Limiting the forward motion: To achieve the full and safe range of motion, you need to bring your hands almost together in front of you. Don’t stop short of this, as you won’t get the full benefit of cable chest flys.

“The rotator cuff is a commonly injured area. The most common injuries are strains, tears, and tendinitis.”

- Angela M. Bell, MD

What Chest Muscles Do Cable Flys Work?

Chest Muscles

Cable flys work the pectoral chest muscles as well as the deltoids and core as secondary muscles.

With a properly executed repetition, you should feel maximum strain in your pecs right from the start to the top of the movement.

With a slight adjustment to the height of the cables, you can also transfer more of the strain to the upper and lower chest muscles.

But if you’re just starting out, then stick with the standard cable fly rather than trying to master an upward angle.


Are Cable Flyes Good for Your Upper Chest?

Yes, cable flyes are good for your upper chest. Cable flyes work the full range of pectoral muscles and provide constant tension throughout the rep range.

Should Beginners Do Cable Flys?

Yes, beginners should do cable chest flyes as part of their upper body routine. It’s a safe option and doesn’t require masting the safe handle of free weights if the strain becomes too much on the last rep.


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