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What you MUST know about Pec Flys – Chest Training Series Part 2

Welcome to our second post in our Chest training series focused on getting the best from your training, program design and preventing injuries! 

You probably use exercises such as flys in your chest workouts, but do you really understand the differences between a cable, dumbbell or machines? Are they all the same or are they different? When do you use them? Today we take a deeper look…

NOTE – Please read our first POST for a review of important anatomy and arm position considerations as these rules apply to flys the same as presses.


There are 3 divisions to the pec; clavicular, sternal and costal. While all of the muscle contracts, portions of the muscle have a different mechanical line of pull depending on where the humerus is positioned thus biasing that portion more. This means that for overall chest development you will need to change the arm position to emphasize pec divisions at one point in your training cycle.


Cable Flys

The cable fly’s bias the pec in the short position. This is effective for warm up sets as you can get more CNS activation. We recommend spending time in the top of the range of motion to get the most from where this exercise overloads.

Coaching Tip – Focus on staying in your active range of motion and drive your bicep into your pec. If your hands touch you are most likely protracting at the scapula and have lost tension on the pec.

Pec Fly Machine

The pec fly machine is a great tool to overload the middle range of motion. Depending on the type of machine some may bias different portions (PRIME makes one that can be changed). Leaning your body more forward will allow you to line up more sternal fibers as oppose to leaning back for costal.

Coaching Tip – Pay attention to where the axis of rotation is as often you will need to use a half foam roller to move you more forward and match the mechanics of the machine better.

Dumbbell Fly

Dumbbell flys provide the most overload in the lengthened position of the pec. There is effectively no resistance at the top hence spending time in the bottom (with tension) is optimal for this exercise.

Coaching Tip – Keeping tension with pauses in the bottom of the range helps with shoulder stability. We also recommend not going all the way up and keep slight abduction of the arms so the pec is resisting gravity. If you are banging the weights together you’ve lost tension!

Hypertrophy Chest Workout Incorporating Flys as Primary 

 A Horizontal cable fly 4 10-12 3012 45s  2 second contraction in short
 B1 flat dumbbell chest press  5  4-6  4010  10s continuous tension
 B2 flat dumbbell chest fly  5  8-10 3210  90s  2 second pause in the lengthen
 C pec fly machine 4 15,12,10,8 3011 60s 1 second pause with tension

Not sure how to read this work out format? Click HERE

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