Close your eyes and think about an ideal free-weight chest workout. Chances are the training session includes the bench press, dumbbell press, dumbbell fly, and some variation of the incline or decline fly. All these exercises share something in common — they require a bench.
Busy folks that train during rush hours might not have the luxury of waiting for a bench. On the other hand, people that work in their minimal garage gyms might not have access to a bench.
Contrary to what most lifters think, you can train your pecs effectively without a bench with free weights; one of the best exercises to do this is the standing dumbbell fly.
Whether you don’t want to wait for your turn on the bench, don’t have a bench in your home gym, or want to try a new exercise to spark chest growth, the standing dumbbell fly has you covered.
The standing dumbbell fly is a versatile exercise that can be included in your chest, push, upper body, or full-body workouts. This movement demands decent core stability to perform correctly. Furthermore, going too heavy on the standing dumbbell fly can render the exercise ineffective.
You must follow a slow and controlled range of motion while using moderate weights to make the most of the standing dumbbell fly, making it an excellent exercise for beginners. It will also help improve your mind-muscle connection, which will carry over to other lifts.
In this article, we cover everything you need to learn about the standing dumbbell fly to make the most of this lift, including its benefits, the common mistakes, the muscles worked, how to perform correctly, and the best variations and alternatives.
Developed pectoral muscles take your physique aesthetics to the next level. They add to your V-taper, draw eyes to your midsection, and improve your overall functionality. However, most lifters leave gains on the table during their chest workout as they chase weights and forget about using a full range of motion and contracting their muscles with each rep. The unique setup of the standing dumbbell fly fixes this. This exercise also improves your stability and balance. Furthermore, the range of motion of the standing dumbbell fly will make you strong enough to lift the love of your life in your arms.
The standing dumbbell fly is a standing low to high cable fly variation. To perform a standing dumbbell fly, assume a hip-width stance while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Maintain an upright torso, push your chest out, and raise your hands to shoulder level while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
You could also turn this exercise into a unilateral movement by working one side of your body at a time. Unilateral exercises are incredibly effective at fixing muscle and strength imbalances. While doing the single-arm variation of this lift, keep your other hand on your hip or hold onto a dumbbell for better balance.
The standing dumbbell fly works the following muscles:
The pectoralis muscle consists of two muscles, the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is a fan-shaped superficial muscle in the front of your chest wall. On the other hand, the pectoralis minor is triangular and located under the pectoralis major.
The standing dumbbell flys mainly target the pectoralis major, which helps with the adduction, or depression, of the arm and arm rotation forward about the axis of the body.
The standing dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise that restricts movement to the shoulder joint. Since this exercise involves movement in the sagittal plane, it results in anterior deltoid recruitment.
This dumbbell fly variation involves maintaining a slight bend in your elbows throughout the range of motion. You might experience a slight biceps engagement during the movement’s concentric (upward) part while performing this exercise, especially while lifting heavy.
Adding the standing dumbbell fly to your exercise arsenal entails the following advantages:
The standing dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise that can help build muscle mass and improve your conditioning. Perform 3-5 sets and 8-12 reps of this exercise once weekly using appropriate weight to induce hypertrophy. 
This dumbbell fly variation involves lifting light to moderate weights while focusing on your form, making it an excellent exercise for beginners. You must readjust your form if you don’t feel your chest muscles contracting with each rep. Use this exercise as an opportunity to polish your mind-muscle connection.
Most free-weight chest exercises require lying on a bench. The unique stimulus of the standing dumbbell flies can shock your muscles, sparking new muscle tissue growth. Plus, it is a versatile exercise that can be added as an accessory lift in most training programs. Since it requires only dumbbells, the standing dumbbell fly is incredibly convenient.
This is how to perform the standing dumbbell fly with the correct form:
Avoid these lapses to make the most of the standing dumbbell fly:
The standing dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise. Using heavier dumbbells than you can handle comfortably can remove tension from your pecs and put it on your shoulders and biceps. For optimal results on this lift, use a moderate weight and focus on contracting your pecs with every rep.
Many lifters tend to lean forward while performing this exercise. However, it can result in greater deltoid engagement and remove tension from your chest. You must maintain an upright torso and push your chest out to work your pecs.
Squeezing the dumbbell handles too hard can fire up your forearms and biceps. Additionally, since you’ll maintain a slight bend in your elbows, it can result in a biceps pump. Use a false (thumbless) grip if you feel excessive forearm engagement while performing this exercise.
Add the following standing dumbbell fly variations and alternatives to your training regimen to build a full and round chest:
This chest movement is the closest alternative to the standing dumbbell fly exercise. The cables help keep constant tension on your muscles throughout the range of motion.
Pro Tip: Slow down the exercise’s eccentric (lowering) motion for optimal pectoral engagement.
Since the pec deck fly machine follow a fixed movement path, it is a beginner-friendly chest exercise. The fixed movement trajectory allows you to focus on establishing a mind-muscle connection with your pectoral muscles and contracting them throughout the ROM.
Pro Tip: Keep your shoulder blades pinched throughout the exercise. Rounded shoulders take tension off your pecs.
Check out our complete pec deck fly guide here!
Although this exercise requires barbells, it is a bodyweight movement. Besides annihilating your pecs, the barbell fly will engage your core and help improve your balance and stability.
Pro Tip: Place a weight plate on each side to keep the bars from rolling too far out. The weight plates on the floor will act as guard rails.
Check out our complete barbell fly guide here!
This is a staple exercise in most chest training routines. It helps develop your inner chest, giving it a fuller appearance.
Pro Tip: Keep your rhomboids pinched together as if holding a pencil between them. This will improve your chest stimulation.
Check out our complete flat bench dumbbell fly guide here!
The upper pecs are a lagging muscle group for most lifters. Not only does the incline dumbbell fly improve your upper shelves, but it also enhances your muscle separation.
Pro Tip: Many lifters make the mistake of holding the dumbbells at an angle, which removes tension from their chest and puts in on their anterior deltoids. Your arms should be at a 90-degree with the floor for optimal chest engagement.
Check out our complete incline dumbbell fly guide here!
The standing dumbbell fly is an unorthodox exercise that can spark new growth in your chest. Perform 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps of this exercise with moderate weights to put you in the sweet spot for gaining muscle mass and conditioning.
You must follow a full range of motion to get optimal results. Furthermore, switch this exercise with the alternatives and variations mentioned in this article to target your pectoral muscles from different angles and fast-track your pectoral growth.
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