In search for the best possible exercises I can have in my arsenal, I always find myself going back to how Arnold Schwarzenegger performed a movement.
I mean it makes sense, right? Arnold was the best bodybuilder of all-time, he trained incredibly hard, he used a number of innovative methods, and he always seemed to discover a number of unique exercises like the Arnold Press.
Plus, I’m lucky and privileged to have been able to go through every take of Pumping Iron from Arnold’s own archives. I’m not talking about the extended version of the iconic movie or a few extra deleted scenes. No, I’m talking about the entire library of footage, which means hours upon hours of footage that came nowhere near to making it in the actual film.
Believe me, it was an incredible experience just to see some of the amazing footage that didn’t even make the film, including a vast amount of training footage.
One of the common themes I saw throughout the film was that Arnold (and everyone else in the gym!) loved doing heavy chest flys. But even more, one common thing I saw from people was how deep they went with every rep of the chest fly.
Before we go further, just check out the video of Arnold going super deep on the chest fly:
There’s no doubt in my mind that, over time, people have gotten away from this crucial exercise and now rely too much on machines. As big of a fan that I am of the Golden Era – and these brutally deep and taxing chest flys are certainly a reason why – I want to re-introduce the chest fly back into your workout. Now, I’m not talking about half-rep flys that work your shoulder more than your actual chest. I want super deep, Arnold-like chest flys that build and stretch the chest like no other exercise.
I have always taught the motion with my feet up, another technique I learned from Arnold. Also, it’s big to concentrate on having the elbows drop deep, allowing a quality stretch of the pec muscle. I always told people to descend the elbow like an arrow, and not a ‘T’ at the bottom, which helps keep the shoulder healthy and make sure the stretch is entirely on the chest.
To be frank, when I see people doing a chest fly, most of the time they’re using the wrong angle, robbing them of some major potential growth. If that’s the case and the form is incorrect, all you’re doing is hurting your shoulders.
When done properly, chest flys can help your chest grow to another level, so the absolute critical key when doing them is making sure the technique is proper.
If you emulate Arnold and get that deep stretch, there’s no doubt your chest can make some serious progress.
To be honest, I have no problem with doing these three times per week if you really want to bring up your chest. Arnold and Franco relied on these up to three times per week, and they worked up to some seriously impressive weight, building an incredible shelf of a chest.
I recommend starting light and doing 3-5 sets of anywhere between 10-20 reps and really pushing yourself a few times a week with deep, proper chest flys.
Like I always go back to, if it’s good enough for Arnold, it’s good enough for you.
Just curious. Is it possible to build a big chest, if you have an injury that limits you to doing only flyes, but no bench press or other pushing movements?
Need a little more info than that, Joseph. What is the injury, and will you be able to train with presses or pushing movements again?
I haven't seen a doctor, but it's a thick pain in the side my right arm, mainly on the forearm. It prevents me from performing any kind of pushing movement. However, pulling exercises like curls and back work are not affected. I'd like to know if it's possible to build a significant amount of chest mass with only flyes.
Not really. Flyes are great for isolating the pecs, but you need serious weight to make them grow, and going heavy on flyes can be real risky.
I hope you'll see someone about the injury before going any further. It would suck if it got worse.
Yes---please explain arrow versus T...I do not quite understand.
It basically means don't flare out your elbows, keep them in slightly. Otherwise its an unnatural position for your shoulder and it will eventually give in under too much stress.
Cory, thanks for article.
" I always told people to descend the elbow like an arrow, and not a ‘T’ at the bottom"
Can you explain the above statement with more detail please??
I think it means to descend your arms so they are at the angle to your body. In other words -> instead of -|
It's not visible on the video but quite obvious on thr photos.