Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredDumbbell
  • MechanicsIsolation
  • Force TypePush (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Shoulders, Triceps
Target Muscle Group


Chest Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Dumbbell Flys Overview

The dumbbell fly utilizes a chest fly movement pattern to isolate the muscles fo the chest to better help the muscles grow and become stronger.

The dumbbell fly is often thought of as a classic bodybuilding movement as the goal of the exercise is to isolate the chest for aesthetic purposes. The movement itself can be used to help build a stronger bench press but isn’t typically thought of from an increased performance stand-point.

Thus, this movement is best reserved for traditional chest workouts in bodybuilding style splits.

Dumbbell Flys Instructions

  1. Pick up the dumbbells off the floor using a neutral grip (palms facing in). Position the ends of the dumbbells in your hip crease, and sit down on the bench.
  2. To get into position, lay back and keep the weights close to your chest. Once you are in position, take a deep breath, then press the dumbbells to lockout at the top.
  3. Slightly retract your shoulder blades, unlock your elbows, and slowly lower the dumbbells laterally while maintaining the angle at your elbow.
  4. Once the dumbbells reach chest level, reverse the movement by squeezing your pecs together and bringing the dumbbells back to their starting position.
  5. Without allowing the dumbbells to touch, start the next repetition, and continue until the set is completed.

Dumbbell Flys Tips

  1. Imagine you’re trying to hug a tree while completing the exercise.
  2. Don’t squeeze the dumbbell handles excessively tight as this can over recruit the forearms and biceps thereby reducing activation of the pecs.
  3. Avoid touching or banging the dumbbells together at the top of each repetition in order to keep constant tension on the intended muscle groups.
  4. Always keep a slight bend in the elbows and never lower the weight to the point where you get any sort of pain and pressure at the front of the shoulder joint.
  5. If you’re feeling pain within the shoulder joint itself (specifically at the front), ensure your shoulder blades are slightly retracted and try to keep the shoulder girdle “packed”.
  6. Keep your feet flat on the floor, focus solely on keeping your elbows bent and activating your pecs.
  7. Ensure you maintain some tension in your abs and don’t allow your lower back to excessive arch.
Posted on: Wed, 10/11/2023 - 16:29

As a beginner, when I do this exercise, I only ever tenseness and soreness in my arms and never ib my chest. I try to "squeeze my pecs" qhen moving the dumbbells back up, but I feel that I'm unable to feel or control any of the muscles in my chest. Is there any advice for remedying this?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 10/22/2023 - 11:05

Hi, Miles. One way that I have found helps people with this is to not hold the weights with a super tight grip. Maintain a solid hold but don't try to break the handles. Also, stick that chest up high and bring your shoulders back. Finally, when you get to the top, pretend like you want the chest muscles to touch each other. If those cues don't help, then you may need to use a machine or cable machine to perform flyes instead. Hope this helps. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Mon, 01/30/2023 - 06:54

I experience quite strong pain when doing this exercise,also partly with dips. Pain comes from lower part of the palm,not wrist just that thick part between your thumb and wrist. Don’t know if it’s muscle or bone. Tried to adjust the way you grip dumbbell but not much success. What could that be?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/31/2023 - 20:39

Hard to diagnose because I am not a doctor. Could be anything from nerve damage to a strained muscle, Pav. See a physician about it.

Posted on: Wed, 02/01/2023 - 13:42

Sure, I will. I just thought it could be something to do with bad form or grip .

Posted on: Wed, 10/05/2022 - 19:10

As a female… how can I squeeze my chest while doing this exercise ??

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 10/08/2022 - 17:29

Focus on flexing the chest instead of lifting the weight. The cue I used to tell clients is to try to make the middle of your pecs touch each other, then lift the chest up. I hope that helps.

Natasha Augustin
Posted on: Sun, 07/11/2021 - 16:39

How much weights shouldthe dumbells be if am a female 5'2 inches weighing about 120pounds?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/12/2021 - 11:06

Hey Natasha - there's not a specific weight to use. You should choose a weight that you can move safely and with proper form for the given number of reps.

mohamad kamal
Posted on: Mon, 06/28/2021 - 10:27

which Exercises i can do for 3 split days with martial art?

Posted on: Wed, 11/18/2020 - 10:38

Is this the recommended tempo?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 11/19/2020 - 10:08

Hey Ed - tempo will vary based on your workout.

corey lelacheur
Posted on: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 00:20

Instead can I use a sitting fly machine instead of laying on a bench

Posted on: Sun, 01/22/2017 - 11:27

no bench in home/work place using Stability Ball

Posted on: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 13:12

Sorry wrong exercise, i meant could we substitute the dumbell fly with a cable crossover?

Posted on: Mon, 12/08/2014 - 13:11

Can we substitute the dumbells with a bar and weight? I find it hard to balance 40lb dumbells on their own.

Stig Johnny Hansen
Posted on: Mon, 10/06/2014 - 11:18

on this workout, is it 20 reps on each site/arm = 40 reps, or is it 40 on each site/arm = 80 reps??

Posted on: Tue, 05/13/2014 - 00:52

What do you do if you don't want to use bench ? is it possible on floor ??

Posted on: Tue, 07/21/2020 - 11:32

There are examples of people doing it on the floor, but I don't know if it as effective or have a different impact especially if the muscle focus

Posted on: Wed, 02/12/2014 - 11:56

should women do all these types of chest exercises?

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2017 - 02:46

Hi. I'm no expert, but I have been doing all " mens chest " exercises since I started in August 2016. The only thing I notice is my boobs have gone smaller - they were never big like you see in most womens sport pictures.

Posted on: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 21:17

Hi!! heres my question.. Im vegetarienne.. I eat very good but just eat certain fish.. I work out alot .. Tread mill, eliptical, also do a regulier program on my bow flex .. sometime do yoga... im very active.. and my day job is very physique also!!! My question here is .. what kind of proteine powder should I take and when during the day and how many times a day....ect.. im doing everything im supose to do but dont stay tone like I wish I would .. theres alot of effort here .. but the resulte are not what I expect. Can anyone help me out .. on this one. I realy wont to stay tone at all time. I realy think the problem is not enaught protein. Thanks

Posted on: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 23:22

Eat a lot and burn those calories

Posted on: Thu, 07/21/2016 - 12:57

When you say eat alot and burn those calories. Do you mean eat alot of veggies? Or protien? And burn the calories by doing more cardio?

By the way do you live in Kitchener / Waterloo?

Posted on: Sun, 02/02/2014 - 11:02

can we use butterfly exercise in place of dumbbell fly ?

Posted on: Wed, 12/11/2013 - 20:06

Shoulders take over once you have extended pass the stretching of your pectoral muscles. Once you feel that good stretch in your chest do not extend any further and while coming back up squeeze your chest until your arms are parallel above your head. Make sure you are using a weight that you can manage and over time gradually increase your weight. I suggest using lighter weight until you get the technique down.

Posted on: Thu, 10/31/2013 - 22:34

If you dont have a bench, are they as effective sitting on a chair?

scott cole
Posted on: Sun, 09/22/2013 - 08:37

if this is consitered a isolation movment the why are shoulders a secondary muscle mentioned.that makes no sence

Posted on: Fri, 08/23/2013 - 10:12

Will doing the similar chest exercise on a machine (don't remember what it's name is) serve the same purpose and give the same results, or does this exercise give better/worse/different results?

Posted on: Fri, 03/01/2013 - 11:52

I currently bench 65kg for 8 reps. What would be a suitable weight for each dumbell?


Posted on: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 05:47

The best thing u can do it take the best guidance and do it properly,putting too much weight on any exercise won't help to build any muscle,begin with the low weight and get the maximum result,and its better to do the original exercise without cheating yourself rather than alternatives.

Posted on: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 04:00

im looking to do this at home but i dont have a bench, what can i use as a substitute?

Posted on: Wed, 01/06/2016 - 06:35

I use a robust cofee table whith a blanket on it

Naman Mehra
Posted on: Thu, 09/13/2012 - 16:45

What's the main difference b/w Dumbbell Press and Dumbell Fly.

clark dominic
Posted on: Thu, 06/20/2013 - 02:29


Posted on: Tue, 07/03/2012 - 23:40

I`d recommend you to keep your shoulders back and down, basically. If you do flys on a bench, you need a spotter and need to make 100% sure that you don’t let your elbows drop lower than your shoulders as this would hyperextend your shoulder and put it at risk of injury. Like all exercises, the key is to do this exercise very slowly and with strict form – no cheating. Keep your arms straight but not locked, if you have to bend your elbows then use a lighter weight. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the ground, this puts your lower back in a safe position. When lifting, flex your abs for additional lower back support. Form is everything, try for 2s up and 2s down. It is best to do dumbbell fly laying on the floor to safely limit your range of motion.

Posted on: Tue, 05/15/2012 - 18:25

I agree with Chris, it sounds like too much weight. I've found that I can use heavier dumbbells, but after a few reps it puts strain on my shoulders so I have a tendency to bring my arms in closer to my body at the bottom of the motion. This reduces effectiveness as a chest exercise and can be corrected by using a lower weight with a slower controlled motion and more reps.

Chris Lund
Posted on: Thu, 03/15/2012 - 11:40

It sounds like you are using to much weight. That will cause you to put more emphasis on your shoulders than than your pecs. Try using less weight and see if it helps.

Posted on: Sun, 03/11/2012 - 16:29

I find that i work my shoulders more than my chest on this exercise. Can anyone tell me why?

Posted on: Fri, 03/23/2012 - 10:49

you may be holding the weight too close to your head. while laying on your back, bring the weight closer down to your feet, so the the weights are above the lower part of your chest, and on the decent, try to keep them in that general vicinity. you'll recruit more shoulder muscle fibers the closer the weight come to your head

Posted on: Sat, 03/16/2013 - 07:20

You are feeling it more in your shoulders because 1. when you have the dumbbells together over you you cannot reach a peak contraction because of the position of your arms perpendicular to the ground thus a lot of the stress is transferred to your elbow joint, AND for peak contraction you need to cross your hands over and past each other over your chest. Drop the dumbbells and start using cable flyes so you can get that peak contraction. (which have the same resistance at the top as they do at the bottom, which dumbbells don't) 2. you stretch your hands too far out from your body during the lower, stretched position, which transfers more of the stress onto your anterior delts. Instead keep the bend in your elbow so that your forearms are always perpendicular to the ground. This allows a full stretch upon your pecs with the maximum stress. AND the 3rd and most important tip: ALWAYS maintain the correct form of keeping your shoulder blades back while performing chest flyes for maximum pec stimulation. Pretend you are trying to squeeze a tennis ball between your shoulder blades.

Additional tip #1. Instead of keeping your feet on the floor bring them up and place them on the bench as if you were going to do sit-ups on the floor position. This little technique (emphasized by the great Vince Gironda) helps place/keep the stress on the pecs.

Additional tip #2: Stop squeezing your hands so hard around the handles. Sounds strange, but try to keep your hands as loose as possible while still maintaining a safe & secure grip. It's the same as with using straps with dumbbell rows. Less stress upon the hands (straps aiding grip) = more muscle activation in the target muscle. Instead of having your thumbs touch your fingers when you wrap your hands around the handles, keep a small amount of space between them for better pec stimulation.

P. S. You're welcome ;-P

Posted on: Mon, 05/04/2015 - 11:31

on the way up,only go about half way.i had this problem myself an it seem to work.