10 Best Safer Dumbbell Fly Alternatives You Must Know

Published by Roshan S Pillai on

Dumbbell Fly Alternatives

Photo Credits- People photo created by Racool_studio – www.freepik.com

Dumbbell fly is one of the common and popular exercise to train your chest. Many old school bodybuilders like Arnold and Jay Cutler use to do dumbbell flys and you can see their chest, how good and massive it looks. However there are some limitations and problems with dumbbell flys which you should not ignore. There are better alternatives available which are even better and effective as compared to dumbbell flys.

In this article, I will share some of the best alternatives to dumbbell flys which are much safer to the joints and is more effective. But before talking about the alternatives, lets quickly look at the muscles engaged and limitations with the dumbbell fly.

Muscles Worked During Dumbbell Fly

Dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise which is done to train the pectoralis major and minor i.e. the chest muscles. you can do this exercise on a different angles and positions which will target different areas of the chest. For example, incline dumbbell flys is done to target the upper chest whereas flat dumbbell flys work your mid chest more.

Secondary muscles like front delts and triceps are also involved during the movement.

Now lets look at some of the problems and limitations with dumbbell flys which you cannot ignore before planning your workout program.

Problems with Dumbbell Fly

1. Not Good For Your Shoulder Joint

Dumbbell flys when performed on a bench, puts your shoulder in an unsafe position at the bottom. As there is less stability at the shoulder joint and there is nothing at the bottom to stop you from overstretching your muscles. So it is better to avoid them.

2. No Full Contraction of Chest

When you perform a dumbbell fly, you can only bring your arms to the midline of the chest at the top. You cannot pass that midline. This means that your chest muscles are not fully utilized in this exercise. Instead of dumbbell fly, if you do cable crossovers you can easily bring your arms across the midline and fully contract the pecs.

3. No Tension At The Top

Another problem is that at the top half of the movement, there is no tension on the chest. Your chest is having almost zero tension at the top. If you compare that with a cable crossover then there is a full tension on the chest at the top half of the movement.

4. Can’t Go Heavy

Dumbbell fly is already putting your shoulders in an unsafe position. Also, there is less leverage and stability at the bottom. Due to this, it is very dangerous to go heavy on this. You cannot overload with heavier weights in this exercise.

Due to these limitations, it is not one of the best exercises for your chest. As there are many other alternative options out there, it’s better to do those instead of a dumbbell fly. So let’s find out those effective alternatives!

Dumbbell Fly Alternatives

1. Barbell Bench Press

This is one of the old school favorite exercises which you might have seen many famous bodybuilders like Jay Cutler or Arnold use to do. It is a very effective way to build the size and strength of your chest. It is also one of the safest chest exercises and you can go heavy on this. So you can do this instead of a dumbbell fly.

How to do

1. Lay down on a flat bench with your feet placed on the floor. Your feet should be under the knees.

2. Grab the barbell with both hands placed slightly wider than the shoulder width. Have a spotter behind you to lift the weights for you.

3. Lift the barbell up and hold it at the top. The barbell should be in line with your mid chest. This will be your starting position.

4. Bring the barbell down towards the mid part of your chest. Breath in as you go down.

5. Pause at the bottom when the barbell is almost touching your chest and then push the weights up back to the starting position. Breath out on the way up.

Make sure that you do some warm-up sets before starting your main set. Also, some rotator cuff exercises before doing a bench press.

You can also do this exercise with dumbbells.

2. Incline Bench Press

Incline press is a very effective exercise to build your upper chest. Many people have underdeveloped upper pecs, so I would highly recommend you to include those exercises which target your upper chest.

So if you have any pain or discomfort doing incline dumbbell flys, then go with incline presses.

How to do

1. Lay down on an incline bench with your feet on the floor.

2. Grab the barbell with both hands slightly wider than the shoulder width. Have a spotter behind you to lift the weights for you.

3. Lift the barbell and hold it at the top. This will be your starting position.

4. Bring the barbell down towards the upper part of your chest. Breath in as you bring the weights down. Your elbow should be at about 45° angle.

5. Pause at the bottom and then push the weights up back to the starting position. Breath out on the way up.

You can go heavy on this but your form should be perfect. Also, focus on your upper chest when performing this exercise and feel those muscles getting pumped up!

3. Front Raises for Chest

Front raises are a great way to isolate your upper chest and here, we are not talking about the front raises for shoulders. This is a different exercise that is specifically used to train your chest. This is a much safer option compared to dumbbell fly and you can also go heavy on this.

How to do

1. Grab two pair of dumbbells and stand straight with both hands facing forward.

2. While maintaining a supinated grip, start moving a hand up towards the midline of your body.

3. Pause at the top when your hands are at about shoulder height and squeeze your upper chest at the top.

4. Slowly return to the starting position and do the same movement from the other hand.

You will strongly feel your upper pecs getting pumped while performing this workout. Make sure to concentrate on your chest and keep your palm facing up to keep the tension on the chest.

4. Swiss Ball Push-Ups

This is a little harder exercise for your chest. You will require great balance and stability while doing this move which will make it more challenging for beginners.

How to do

1. Place your hands on a stability ball and slowly bring your feet back and keep it straight.. Hands should as further as the ball allows.

2. Your chest should be in line with your hands. It should not be away from the ball.

3. With your core and hips tight, start bringing your body down until your chest almost touches the ball.

4. Push back to the starting position and repeat the movement.

This exercise is an advanced exercise so beginners or intermediates should stick with the regular push-ups. Once you master the pushup, then slowly and gradually add this to your workout program.

5. Archer Push-Ups

It’s a little advanced pushup exercise. Here, you can create constant tension on your muscles and individually focus on each side of the chest. It is much safer and will improve the overall strength of your whole body. So you can replace the dumbbell flys with this.

How to do-

1. Set up just like a normal push-up position. Your grip should be wider than the normal push-up grip.

2. Lower your body towards one side with the help of one hand. The other hand will be placed on the other side of the ground for balance. You can rotate the wrist of the other hand for safety.

3. Come back up by pushing with your arms and then repeat the same movement with the other hand.

Try to keep your elbows in during the movement. This exercise will give you the strength to perform single-arm push-ups. So if you are struggling with single arm pushups, then do this for a while and then try single-arm pushups later. You will see improvements in your single-arm push-up.

6. Single -Arm Chest Fly

This is a great alternative option for those who have shoulder pain or are uncomfortable with dumbbell flys. This is a much safer option because your shoulders are not in an overly extended position. You can also limit the range of motion during the eccentric part so it’s a much safer option.

How to do

1. Set a pulley at about the chest level and hold the handles. Stand and look straight with your elbows bend. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by moving your arms horizontally and bring your arms across the midline of the chest.

3. Squeeze your chest at the end and then slowly bring your arms back to the starting position.

4. Turn the other side and then do the same exercise with the other hand.

One of the advantages of using cable instead of dumbbells during fly is that you can bring your hands across the midline of the body which completely contracts your chest.

Also, you can focus on each side separately with the single arm cable fly which is another huge benefit. That’s why cable flys are much more effective exercise than dumbbell flys.

7. Sliding Pushup

Another great alternative option for you. This is a bodyweight exercise you can do at home without any equipments. This also activates your core muscles to a great extent which makes them functional and athletic.

This exercise has a similar movement pattern compared with a dumbbell fly. Along with that, it also engages core muscles to a greater extend.

How to do

1. Grab two pairs of hand pads or socks and place both hands on the floor.

2. Keep both hands close to each other and get yourself in a push-up position by keeping your legs and arms straight. The chest should be under the hand.

3. Start the exercise by pushing both hands to the sides for a slide while keeping your back straight.

4. Pause at the bottom when your chest is almost touching the floor and then slide back to the starting position.

Remember to breathe in on the way down and breathe out on the way up. Also, do this exercise slowly. If the exercise is difficult for you then do it with your knees down.

8. Cable Chest Press Crossover

If you are looking for the best fly alternatives, then there is nothing better than cable crossover. You can do this as a chest press or fly. The important thing to keep in mind is the range of motion. You should bring your arms across the midline to get a better activation from the chest.

How to do

1. Attach both pulleys on top of the cable tower. Hold the cables and stand in between the machine with one leg forward.

2. Roll your shoulders back and keep your chest up. Keep your hands close to your chest in a pressing position. Don’t bend too much and maintain an upright posture.

3. Start the exercise by pushing your hands forward and bring your hands across the midline of the body. Breath out while you press.

4. Then slowly return to the starting position while breathing in. Repeat the movement with the prescribed number of repetitions.

As I mentioned before in this blog, cable crossovers is very effective exercise in training your chest as it allows you to bring the arm across the midline of the body. So if you want to completely isolate your chest, then cable crossover is a better option in stead of dumbbell flys.

9. TRX Chest fly

Talking about TRX, it is a great tool that you should have with you. You can do many exercises with the TRX at home or anywhere. TRX chest fly is good for your core and stability along with chest.

You can also do a chest press with TRX suspension, or mix both chest flys and presses as shown in the above video. Add these variations if you can do chest press or flys easily.

Targeted Muscles – mid and lower chest

How to do

1. Attach a TRX suspension at the top where you can fix the strap. You can find how to attach TRX here.

2. Grab each end of the bands and stand forward with your body leaning forward and keeping your arms straight forward. This is the starting position.

3. Slowly bring your body forward and move your arms sideways by pointing your elbows to the side. Control on the way down.

4. Pause at the bottom when your wrist comes slightly above your lower chest. Then Slowly push back to the starting position.

Your shoulders should be pinched back before performing the exercise. Always keep your chest up as you go down as this puts constant tension on your chest without involving your shoulder.

10. Dumbbell Floor Fly

Floor exercises are easier and convenient to do at home. Floor dumbbell fly is much safer and effective in training your chest compared to the regular fly because there is a floor at the bottom which will restrict the range of motion and will not put extra stress on your shoulder joint at the bottom.

How to do

1. Hold both dumbbells and lay down on the floor with your legs either straight or both feet on the floor.

2. Now start moving your hands up while keeping the tension on the chest and then pause at the top when both dumbbells are about to meet.

3. Gradually return to the starting position and then repeat the movement.

Flys done on the floor will keep your shoulder in a safer position as there is the support you get from the ground at the bottom part of the movement. Whereas bench flys are not as safe as floor fly. So if you want to do dumbbell flys, then do it on the floor.

Final Words

Dumbbell fly is a very popular exercise and even today many bodybuilders do this exercise. But still when we look at its limitations and drawbacks, its better if we choose some other exercises if we have better alternatives. And all of these exercises discussed above are a better alternatives and are much more effective in training your chest. So next time when you train your chest, then do consider these options.

If you found this content helpful, then do share it with your friends and on social media so that more people can read it. Also, if you know any other alternative exercises, you can share them in the comment section below.


Roshan S Pillai

Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com, and has worked as a fitness coach in gyms and is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.

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