How to Do a Chest Fly

The chest fly is an excellent exercise for targeting the pectoralis major in the chest, while having the added benefit of working the triceps and shoulders at the same time. This exercise is performed primarily while lying flat on the floor or on a bench, and is also good for giving the lower body a rest if needed.

The movement is considered beneficial in its ability to open the chest muscles, which can go a long way toward relieving upper body tension. The muscles targeted are also responsible for assisting in daily activities such as carrying heavy loads and pushing open doors. See also the Machine Fly.

How to:

  • To perform a chest fly, pick up the dumbbells and while holding them close to the chest, or propped on the upper thighs, slowly lay back onto the bench.
  • Hold the dumbbells with thumbs closed over the fist and press your arms straight up, away from the chest, with palms facing each other while keeping the dumbbells parallel to each other. Make sure to maintain a slight bend at the elbow. 
  • Engage the shoulder blades by squeezing them together, and inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbells out to the side of the body until the arms are at about 90 degrees to the floor. Make sure the arms do not dip below the shoulders.
  • To complete the motion, inhale as you slowly press the weights back up while making sure not to lock the elbows. Make sure to keep squeezing the shoulder blades through the entire motion.
  • To finish, bring the dumbbells back into your chest or prop them on your upper thighs, before returning to a seated position.  You can now gently place the weights on the floor.


The number of reps to be performed will depend on your desired outcome. A lower number of repetitions with heavier weight will help to build muscle mass, while more repetitions performed with lighter weights helps to build endurance. As a general rule, three reps of 10 is a good number to follow for the average workout.


There are a few variations that can be used in order to perform this exercise:

  • Lying flat on a padded bench with the feet positioned firmly on the floor (You can also perform this variation while lying flat on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor)
  • Seated using a chest fly machine or with free weights (Using a chest fly machine gives you the advantage of a back rest, which helps with posture)
  • Standing using free weights is a slightly more technical version as more balance and stability muscles come into play in this position

Cautionary Notes

This exercise should not be performed if you are dealing with back, shoulder or arm injuries. Your doctor may be able to recommend a variation or weight limit, so it’s always best to check with them first.

If you feel that you are unable to perform the movements smoothly, you may want to decrease the weights you are using. Once you master the movement with lighter weights, you can consider slowly increasing them.

Avoid the temptation to lower your arms past your shoulders. All this will do is over stretch the chest muscles. The farthest you want to go is to have your upper arms parallel to the floor.

More Chest Fly Related Resources

How To Do Chest Flys
Chest Exercises | Lying Chest Fly
Why the Chest Fly Is a Must-Do Upper-Body Exercise
How to Master the Dumbbell Chest Fly Exercise to Get Stronger
12 Best Chest Workout Moves to Train Your Pectoral Muscles
Dumbbell Flyes | Exercise Videos & Guides |
3 Ways to Do Chest Flies

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