How to Use a Chest Flye Machine to Build a Bigger Chest

It’s not all about the bench press. Chest flyes are one of my most commonly programmed upper body exercises for a reason. The pectoralis major is a massive muscle, and just pressing won’t build the shirt-popping pecs you might be aiming for. For maximum chest hypertrophy, chest flyes are going to come in handy. 

The chest flye is a versatile move you can do with an array of equipment. You’ve got the classic dumbbell flye, but you can also use cables or machines. Each has its own benefits to mesh with your programming, but let’s start with the basics. Here’s how to use a chest flye machine (and why you should).

What Is a Chest Flye?

The chest flye is an upper body movement that targets the pec and anterior delt muscles. It pairs well with exercises such as the bench press or chest press machine to help build muscle in a bodybuilding routine. 

Where presses typically use higher loads to stimulate your pectoral muscles, the chest flye aims for a wide range of motion and a longer lever to produce maximum muscle activation. You don’t necessarily need a huge load to do that — just some resistance, carefully controlled at chest height.

[Read More: Dumbbell Flyes vs. Cable Flyes — Which Is Better for Your Needs in the Gym?]

The chest flye keeps your arms long with a slight bend in the elbow. From there, you’ll perform a long sweeping motion with the end result looking like a big hug. Once I know my clients can use proper form, I’ll typically program the chest flye for higher repetitions to take advantage of the large arcing range of motion — and that sweet pump in the front of your chest.

How to Use a Chest Flye Machine

The chest flye machine is one of the best tools to build muscle. Here’s how to use it step-by-step.

Adjust the seat height of the machine such that when you sit down the handles rest at approximately armpit height.

Rotate to grab each handle individually and bring them together in front of the body, interlocking your fingers to hold the position tight.

Sit on the machine with your posture tall, resting against the back pad. This is your starting position.

Release the interlocking fingers and control the eccentric. You’re aiming to get a deep stretch in the chest muscles.

Briefly pause while stretching your pecs before starting the first concentric portion (“hugging” your arms back up to the starting position). Repeat for repetitions.


Make it Easier: Practice the motion with cables or a resistance band secured behind you before locking into the set position of the machine. This will help you learn which way to best adjust the machine height for your body.

Make it Harder: Try to incorporate pauses at the end ranges of motion, but without letting the range extend so far that you’re recruiting your biceps and delts. Remember, this is an isolation exercise.

Coach’s Tip: Make sure you’re stopping the eccentric before feeling your biceps or delts take some of the stretch away from your chest.

Tips for Using the Chest Flye Machine

The chest flye machine is a fantastic tool for making massive chest gains. Choosing the right variation, using tempo, and aiming for a high rep sets count are excellent ways to improve progress.

Choose the Right Variation

There are many ways to perform the chest flye, and the machine is one of my favorites for my clients. Although the machine chest flye is highly stable and helps you get as close to temporary muscle failure as possible, it isn’t the only way to perform the exercise. 

[Read More: 9 Dumbbell Flye Variations for a Bigger Chest and Stronger Presses]

Depending on your goal or available equipment, machines, cables, or dumbbells are solid options for this move. Sometimes a pre-set machine doesn’t quite match your body dimensions. Each alternative allows you to tailor the load and execution to best match your needs. Don’t feel like you have to use the machine just because other folks do.

Use Tempo

Tempo is a fantastic way to ensure quality control over the chest flye. What we mean by tempo is, in this case, slowing the lowering portion of the movement down and even pausing at the end of your range of motion. With such a long lever and a high probability of some burning muscles, tempo helps keep the tension right where we want it.

[Read More: Do the Seated Chest Flye for Stable and Consistent Pec Gains]

Tempo is a good way to scale load for any experience level, mind you. When you’re just starting out, it helps teach you proper form. And when more advanced lifters are fatigued from a hard bench press session or just accumulating fatigue from weeks of hard training, tempo training is a smart tool for preserving our technique. It can help you avoid common mistakes like rushing through this movement or displacing load into your biceps or triceps.

Aim for Reps

The major difference between the chest flye and other upper body exercises is the long lever it uses to create the challenge. The chest press, for example, is a bent-arm exercise that’s typically loaded much heavier. With your arms extended and using a large sweeping motion, the chest flye is much more difficult with less weight.

[Read More: The Best Bodybuilding Chest Workout, Customized for Your Experience Level]

To best stimulate your chest without breaking down technique, aiming for higher repetitions is a solid strategy. Where some of your heavier exercises — think, the dumbbell bench press — may land around six to eight reps per set, the chest flye is usually best suited around 10 to 15 reps, or possibly more if you’re chasing failure using a machine.

Machine Flye Vs. Dumbbell Flye Vs. Cable Flye Vs. Pec Deck

With the fundamentals of the chest flye accounted for, there are a handful of different variations and alternatives to choose from. Each has solid merit depending on your goal or the gym equipment you have on hand. Over my long career as a personal trainer, the machine flye, dumbbell flye, cable flye, and pec deck have all appeared in my programming for clients at some stage or another. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Machine Flye

Highly stable, fixed range of motion machine.

Excellent loading increments for slow and steady progress.

Beginner-friendly (enforces movement path) but also great for advanced athletes (helps hit failure safely).

Dumbbell Flye

Requires a dumbbell and adjustable weight bench.

Less stable than the machine, requiring you to control the range of motion yourself.

Highly loadable, but less forgiving with incremental jumps.

Quite accessible — most gyms have dumbbells, but not all have machines.

Cable Flye

A good intermediate between machine and dumbbell chest flyes.

Semi-stable range of motion but still challenges your control.

Extremely customizable for each body type and size.

Requires a dual cable stack station and correct handles.

Pec Dec

A unique piece of equipment that hits the chest similar to a chest flye.

Uses a “short lever” flye technique. The load is placed at the elbow with a bent arm instead of in the hand in an extended position.

More loadable than the typical chest flye because of its stability and short lever.

Older-school and a bit less common.

For Strength

For building absolute strength there are going to be other chest exercises that I’ll program with higher priority, but the chest flye is still useful here.

The machine flye is great because of the stability it offers. It’s got a higher loading potential because the machine helps keep us safe.

Dumbbells are one of the best tools for strength because they force you to stabilize the load yourself and also get super heavy.

Cables allow some of the best precision for set-up and execution, so there is no wasted energy.

The pec deck is a great blending of all of these benefits — a highly stable and loadable machine.

[Read More: How to Do the Single-Arm Chest Flye for Proportional Pec Gains]

The Winner: Each option has its merit, but for pure strength, I’d have my clients go with the pec deck. The machine stability and load that we’re able to program make it hard to beat for absolute strength.

For Muscle Growth

Muscle growth is about a few key factors — getting the target tissue close to temporary failure and staying safe while doing it.

The machine flye stands out here because of the stability and range of motion it offers. The machine-based stability makes it a lot easier for you to get close to muscle failure and stimulate a ton of growth.

Dumbbells are a bit more challenging for pure muscle growth. Where they have a high ceiling for load, they are also one of the harder implements to control.

Cable machines provide a great mix of stability and customization. The semi-stable range of motion keeps you a bit safer in the hard reps but also allows each body size and shape more customizable options and exercise angles to generate massive gains.

The pec deck holds its own but also is a bit confining. It is a much more compact machine than even the chest flye version, making it a bit harder to recommend here.

The Winner: This one is a tie between machine and cable chest flyes. The machine version is excellent for driving pure stimulation to your pecs, but the cable version is undeniable in its ability to customize for every lifter.

For Customization

Individualizing exercise is one of the keys to my programming — both for myself and my clients. Each of the options for chest flye variations is an opportunity to choose the best tool for the job, but which offers the most customization? 

The machine flye is pretty good here. It allows you to tailor the seat height and even somewhat the arm path by bending the elbow more or less, but overall the machine flye is in a pretty fixed range of motion.

Dumbbells are extremely customizable because they are a unilateral exercise. One issue, however, is the stability demands and potentially unforgiving jumps in load.

Cables are a great go-to for customization. Where pure rigid machine versions of exercise allow you to just push to failure, cables tend to be a middle ground where you need to stabilize a bit, too. Still, a positive trade-off is extreme customization.

The pec deck is similar to the machine flye in that it is a highly stable but structured range of motion. Where it loses out a bit more here is that it is a more compact machine, making it potentially a bit more prohibitive in terms of range of motion and arm position.

[Read More: The 9 Best Reverse Flye Variations to Boost Your Back Training]

The Winner: Cable flyers are the gold standard for customization. With each handle, you can tailor the height, arm path, and width. So, we’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution.


Now that we know what the machine chest flye is and how to do it, here are some frequently asked questions.

Are chest flye machines good?

Machine chest flyes are legendary tools for pectoral development. They let you do highly stimulating sets that bring the pecs close to failure without a ton of risk. Since the machine itself is keeping our range of motion stable, we’re able to stay more focused on pure effort and gains.

How do you set up a chest flye machine?

The major keys to setting up the chest flye machine are to adjust the seat height so the handles rest about armpit level. From there, aim to keep your back against the pad and drive with your legs to hold the right position. 

Why when I do chest workouts do I feel it in my arms only and not in my chest?

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’ll want to be on alert here. Many of your big chest exercises are compound movements — meaning they use many muscle groups simultaneously. This means that the chest, the pecs, delts, and arms are all involved in certain exercises.

This is neither good nor bad, assuming you’ve set it up correctly. The chest should still be getting worked, but you might just feel the arms fatigue more because they’re smaller muscle groups.

However, if you’re feeling a chest workout much more in your arms than your chest, it might mean you need to adjust your form, improve your mind-muscle connection with your chest, and/or strengthen your arms more so they don’t become a huge limiting factor in your chest exercises. 

Before you start your cable chest workouts, try squeezing a dumbbell or yoga block at chest level with your hands, activating your chest as hard as you can. This can help you stay connected to the right muscle groups during your session.

To continue training your chest without as much interference from your smaller muscles, you may want to add in exercises like the machine chest flye to more specifically train the chest and minimize arm involvement.

The post How to Use a Chest Flye Machine to Build a Bigger Chest appeared first on BarBend.


您的电子邮箱地址不会被公开。 必填项已用 * 标注