There are 6 reasons why you should never do a dumbbell chest fly ever again, and I’m going to show them all to you in this video. As a matter of fact, I’m not going to leave you hanging but rather I’m going to show you a chest fly exercise alternative that you can do at home or at the gym that will give you better chest results without the risk of shoulder injury that comes with the traditional form of this chest exercise.
To start, you want to look at the position of the shoulder and the risk to the joint when performing the dumbbell chest fly unsupported on a bench. With your arms held out to the sides, there is no protection against hyperextension of the shoulder with fatigue. Should you fail with the exercise, even if using lighter weights, you have nothing built in to the movement that will protect the anterior capsule of your shoulders.
If you compare this to the floor fly variation where you have the floor to prevent this unwanted joint stress or even the standing variation shown at the end of this video, you will quickly see why this is something you simply don’t need to introduce to the movement since it isn’t going to get you a bigger chest by doing it.
Next, I mention the fact that you can do a standing version of horizontal adduction of the arm. When possible, you should always try and choose exercise variations that allow you to train on your feet rather than lay on a bench. When you want to train like an athlete, training with ground based movements is going to be more beneficial since it incorporates more muscles, the core gets fired up more significantly and it translates better to function.
Back on the bench however, in addition to the vulnerability of the shoulder in the unsupported position you also quickly realize that to accommodate the weakness in this position you need to lighten the weights significantly. This provides less of a mechanical overload to the muscle you are trying to work here (the pecs) which would make this an inferior choice when trying to grow muscle. In fact, you could only use enough weight that could be safely handled in the bottom position even though the chest reaches its point of most contraction at the top of the movement and is stronger there.
In the standing crossover fly however you have the least amount of tension on the pecs when they are at their weakest and the most amount of tension on them when they are at their strongest. The position of peak contraction coincides with the most amount of tension being placed on the pec muscles. The cable can easily be substituted for a resistance band as well if you prefer to train in the home rather than a gym.
Next, the stretch that people argue they feel more intensely with a dumbbell chest fly is not really something that exists. What you are feeling is not a stretch in the pecs but rather a more intense stretch in the coracobrachialis muscle. Both the pec major and coracobrachialis attach to the humerus but the latter attaches further down the arm. Only it is influenced by the dropping of the arm a bit more on the fly (albeit a little bit) while the pec major stays relatively unchanged in length. This is because of the more proximal attachment having less travel as the distal humerus drops.
You should get the same amount of stretch on the pecs in the bottom portion of the bench press as you would in the bottom portion of the fly. What you are feeling however is a more intense stretch in the cartilage of the rib cage if you properly arch your chest as you perform the exercise.
For all of these reasons, you can see that the dumbbell chest fly is not a superior option when training your chest. The cable standing version of this allows you to match the weight better to your strength curve and provide more of an overload while eliminating almost all of the risk to the shoulder that is common of the dumbbell variation plus it gets you on your feet, in a more athletic training position.
If you are looking for a complete training program that chooses the exercises that we train with based on science rather than what we are told to do by gym bros, be sure to head to the link below and get the ATHLEAN-X Training Program. Train like an athlete and see the difference it makes in your training within even the first couple of weeks.
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