Dumbbell Fly Workouts for Sculpted Chest Muscles

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: March 11, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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The dumbbell fly has gained popularity in strength training and bodybuilding regimens due to its effective muscle targeting and development of the chest muscles.

By using dumbbells, the dumbbell fly allows for an increased range of motion and engages the stabilizer muscles, making it an effective exercise for building upper-body strength and enhancing chest aesthetics.

Based on my experience as a personal trainer, I can confidently state that incorporating dumbbell fly exercises into your fitness routine offers numerous advantages that support your progress in achieving fitness goals.

This article will share my firsthand experience and insights on the subject.

Quick Summary

  • To perform the dumbbell fly, lie on a bench with dumbbells, extend arms above the chest, lower in a wide arc, maintain a slight elbow bend, stretch the chest, lift back, squeeze pecs, and repeat for reps.
  • To effectively develop chest muscles, the dumbbell fly exercise is a key strength training and bodybuilding regimen, focusing on muscle targeting and development.
  • The National Institute of Health emphasizes that the dumbbell fly exercise not only works the chest but also engages secondary muscles like the anterior deltoids and triceps brachii, enhancing overall muscle development.
  • In my opinion, incorporating dumbbell fly exercises into a fitness routine can significantly enhance upper body strength and contribute to a more defined and balanced chest appearance.

How to Perform Dumbbell Fly

Person performing a dumbbell fly

As a personal trainer, I instruct clients to lie on a bench with dumbbells held directly above their chest for a proper dumbbell chest fly.

They should then lower the dumbbells in a wide arc to the sides, controlling the motion to feel a stretch in the pecs muscles.

Then, you raise the dumbbells back up to the starting position, squeezing your pecs muscles to contract them fully.

Including dumbbell chest fly exercises in your workout routine can help improve upper body strength, increase muscle definition in the chest, and contribute to a well-rounded physique.

You should always ensure that you choose an appropriate weight to maintain proper form, as it protects your shoulder joint.

To perform the dumbbell fly correctly, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Lie on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand directly above your chest with palms facing each other. Your arms should be extended but slightly bent at the elbows.
  2. Lower the dumbbells out to your sides in a wide arc while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows. Keep your elbows fixed in a slightly bent position throughout.
  3. Continue lowering the dumbbells until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles or until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Avoid lowering the weights too far down to prevent shoulder strain.
  4. Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, then slowly lower the dumbbells back up to the starting position, squeezing your chest muscles as you lift. Keep your elbows slightly bent, and avoid fully extending your arms. Repeat the exercise for your desired number of repetitions, focusing on maintaining control, proper form, and engaging the chest muscles throughout the movement.

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What Is A Dumbbell Fly?

Person performing a dumbbell fly

The dumbbell fly is an exercise that involves lying on a bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand and performing a wide arc motion with the arms.

This motion mimics the action of a fly. Hence the name "dumbbell fly."

You can perform dumbbell flys on either a flat bench or an incline bench, known as an incline dumbbell flys.

Incline dumbbell fly is a variation of the dumbbell fly exercise that specifically targets different areas of the chest.

By performing an incline dumbbell fly on an incline bench, the emphasis shifts to the upper chest muscles, providing a more targeted workout.

By adjusting the angle of the bench, you can modify the level of difficulty and target specific areas of the chest.

The incline position places greater stress on the upper portion of the pectoral muscles, helping to develop a more well-rounded and defined chest appearance.

Muscles Trained

Muscles trained doing a dumbbell fly

Muscles that are trained with dumbbell fly exercise are primarily the muscles of the chest, specifically the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.

These are the main muscles responsible for the movement and development of the chest.

While the pecs muscles are the primary focus, the dumbbell chest fly also engages secondary muscles.

These muscles play a supportive role in the movement and are involved to a certain degree during the dumbbell chest fly exercise.

  • Anterior Deltoids (Front Shoulders): According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the front portion of the shoulder muscles assists in stabilizing and supporting the movement during the dumbbell pec fly [1].
  • Triceps Brachii: According to NIH, the muscles at the back of the upper arm contribute to the extension of the elbow joint during the lifting phase of the exercise [2].

Dumbbel Fly Benefits

Person performing a dumbbell fly

As a trainer, I find that the dumbbell pec fly offers various benefits, such as enhanced chest development, an increased range of motion, engagement of stabilizer muscles, improved muscle balance and symmetry, and versatility in targeting different areas of the chest.

Unlike typical chest exercises that involve chest pressing movements, the dumbbell fly utilizes adduction to effectively engage the pectoralis muscles by bringing the arms inward toward the chest.

Additionally, incorporating the incline fly exercise isolates the upper pecs, taking your chest workout to the next level in targeting specific muscle groups.

By combining both exercises in your training program, you can maximize the effectiveness of your chest workout and achieve comprehensive chest development.

“One of the benefits of the dumbbell fly is its adaptability to different fitness levels. By adjusting the weight and range of motion, individuals can customize the exercise to their specific needs and gradually progress over time, leading to continuous chest growth and improved strength."

- Coach Jennifer Thompson, Fitness Instructor & Strength Training Specialist

Dumbbell Fly Alternatives

Dumbbell fly alternatives focus on targeting similar muscle groups, primarily the chest, while incorporating different equipment or angles. Here are four effective alternatives:

  1. Cable chest fly: This exercise uses a cable machine to provide constant tension throughout the movement, effectively working the chest muscles. Adjust the cables to chest height, stand in the middle, and bring your hands together in front of you, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
  2. Pec deck machine: The pec deck machine isolates the chest muscles similarly to dumbbell flies. Sit on the machine with your back flat against the pad, place your forearms against the pads, and bring your hands together in front of you.
  3. Resistance band chest fly: Ideal for home workouts, this variation uses resistance bands to mimic the chest fly movement. Anchor the band at chest level, hold the ends in each hand, and perform the fly motion by bringing your hands together in front of you.
  4. Push-ups with a wide grip: While not a direct alternative, wide-grip push-ups engage the chest muscles similarly to flies. Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart and perform push-ups, focusing on squeezing your chest muscles as you push up.


Is the Dumbbell Fly an Effective Exercise?

Yes, the dumbbell fly is generally considered an effective exercise for targeting the chest muscles and promoting upper body strength and development. It effectively isolates and engages the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles.

What Are Dumbbell Flys Good For?

Dumbbell flys are good for developing and strengthening the chest muscles, increasing the range of motion, promoting muscle balance and symmetry, engaging stabilizer muscles, and offering versatility in targeting different chest areas.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537056/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536996/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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