Exercise Form: Dumbbell Pec Fly

When exercising, especially lifting weights… form is king! What does that mean? Simply that doing the exercises with good form, correct alignment, body position, range of motion and engaging the correct muscles is the key to avoiding injury, getting the most out of your strength training and getting better, faster results.

Periodically I’ll be doing posts on form for specific exercises. These exercises and others will be included in an online course I’m creating on how to do some basic strength training moves to help people get safe and effective workouts. If you have an exercise you’d like to see on the blog ( or in the course), please let me know!

Dumbbell Pec Fly: what does this move do and why should you do it?

The pec fly primarily works the pectoral muscles. These are the large muscles of the chest. They attach at the sternum (in the center of your chest) on one side and at the humorous (upper arm bone) on the other. This exercise also, to a lesser degree, works the shoulders and the biceps.

Doing pec flys you should use less weight than for a chest press. Because of the arm position, holding the weights further out to the sides, the shoulders take more of the load. Less weight in combination with good form are critical for keeping the shoulders happy while you work the chest on this move.

While there are other exercises that I would consider more of a staple for working the chest (ex. chest press, push-ups) it is a good chest exercise to have on hand to add variety to your routine.

Good Form Is In The Details

This exercise can be done on a flat bench, a mat on the floor or on a stability ball. Your head should be supported, torso horizontal (hips level with shoulders). When on the bench or mat, bend the knees and put your feet flat on the surface you’re lying on to help support the back. Doing this move on a stability ball is a more advanced version than the other two that requires some core strength to maintain proper position and to keep you from falling off the ball.

Start with the weights up over the chest. Arms are mostly straight, but keep the elbows slightly bent. Palms are facing in and the dumbbells are parallel to each other. Slowly lower the weights out to the side. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows, but do not increase the bend of your elbows as you lower the weights. Lower until your elbows are about the same distance from the ground as your shoulders. Then lift the weights back up to the start position. The motion of the weights throughout the move should line up right about at heart level.

Dumbbell Pec Fly:


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