Cable Chest Fly: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To

Cable Chest Fly: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To

Compound exercises are great for building strength, size, and definition. But consider taking it up a notch by adding an isolation exercise into your routine, like the cable chest fly.

But what is a cable chest fly and how do you do it? Don’t worry — we’ve got you. In this article, we discuss the benefits of this exercise, the muscles it works, and how to perform it safely and correctly for the best results.

What Is the Cable Chest Fly?

The cable chest fly — also called a standing cable fly — is a variation of the weighted dumbbell fly that’s been a staple chest exercise for decades.

In a standard weighted dumbbell fly, you lie down on a flat bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand with handles parallel to your body — arms extended up in line with your shoulders, and elbows bent slightly (like you’re trying to hug a barrel or large tree).

Once in that position, you’ll move the weights away from each other in a downward arc while keeping your elbows slightly bent at all times.

When the weights are at the lowest point in the arc, contract your chest muscles and move the weights up along the same arc until your arms are back in the starting position. That’s one dumbbell fly.

The cable chest fly incorporates the same group of movements, but with cable-based weight stacks instead of dumbbells. Rather than moving dumbbells toward and away from each other, you’re moving handles attached to cables.

Muscles Worked During a Cable Chest Fly

The cable chest fly works the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and front deltoid muscles on both sides of your body.

Performing the cable chest fly correctly also activates the lateral and rear deltoid as well as the triceps, biceps, and core to stabilize your shoulders, arms, and spine. And keep in mind that variations of this exercise will target the upper and lower parts of your chest differently.

Because flys engage your muscles when they’re in a stretched position (with your hands out wide), they work your chest slightly differently than bench pressing movements.

This stretched position engages more muscle fiber and requires the muscle to work a bit harder to move the weight from bottom to top. That targeted, stretched position helps your chest muscles get stronger faster (with the right routine, of course).

Benefits of the Cable Chest Fly

1) More muscle recruitment

As we mentioned above, doing the cable chest fly correctly and with good form uses more muscle fiber than other pressing movements. The more muscle fiber you can engage during your workout, the stronger you’ll get.

This makes cable flys a great exercise for men, women, and athletes of all ages because they don’t require a lot of weight to really feel the pump.

2) Less joint strain

The cable chest fly is an isolation exercise, which means only one joint is moving at a time. In this case, the shoulder joint takes the bulk of the load when you move your hands through the correct range of motion.

Add to that the fact that you can use less weight during the exercise (while still experiencing strength gains), and it’s easy to see how the cable chest fly can be easier on your joints than some other exercises when performed correctly.

3) Tension throughout the movement

When compared to other chest exercises, the cable chest fly provides more tension on your muscles throughout the entire range of motion.

When you get into the correct position to start a cable chest fly, your muscles are already engaged under tension. That means it’s all but impossible for you to rest until you complete every rep and release the handles. And increased time under tension helps your muscles grow.

4) Targeted muscle development

Compound movements, like the bench press, move two or more joints at the same time and are great at building strength in multiple muscles.

But to really target your chest without relying on other muscles to help get the job done, you’ll want to incorporate isolation movements, like the cable chest fly, that target specific muscles.

Targeting your chest muscles specifically can boost your strength gains and help you reach your goals.

5) Less chest muscle imbalance

A muscle imbalance can develop when one side of your chest is stronger than the other. These imbalances can lead to back pain and discomfort when performing certain exercises.

The cable chest fly helps prevent imbalances because, when done correctly, it’s impossible for your left arm to compensate for your right arm (and vice versa). Both sides have to do their own work.

How To do a Cable Chest Fly

To perform the cable chest fly correctly and safely:

  1. Set the cable pulleys at approximately shoulder height
  2. Attach a pair of stirrup handles (or “D” handles) to the end of each cable
  3. Stand between the cable machine uprights
  4. Position your feet for optimal balance (some prefer to have one leg slightly forward as if getting ready to perform a lunge)
  5. Grasp the handles with your arms extended out to the sides at shoulder height and your palms positioned so that they will be facing each other at the end of the rep (when they’re out in front of you)
  6. Bend your elbows slightly, keeping them that way throughout the movement
  7. Squeeze or contract your chest muscles to move your hands through an arc out in front of you until they are touching (or close to touching)
  8. After your hands reach the out-front position, slowly reverse the movement until your arms are once again out at your sides

That’s one cable chest fly. Follow the same process — starting with contracting your chest muscles — to perform as many reps as your workout calls for.

Cable Chest Fly Variations

1) High cable chest fly

For the high cable chest fly, set the pulleys higher than shoulder height (typically, at the top-most setting).

Grasp the handles so that your palms are facing down (or at a downward angle), maintain a small bend in your elbows, and move your hands down toward the ground following the angle of the cables.

This exercise targets the upper part of the chest.

2) Low cable chest fly

For the low cable chest fly, set the pulleys as low as possible.

Grasp the handles so that your arms are down by your sides with your palms facing up (like you’re getting ready to do a curl). Keep your elbows slightly bent, and move your arms from the shoulder so that the sides of your hands touch (or almost touch) at throat height.

This exercise targets the lower part of the chest.

3) Crossover cable chest fly

The crossover cable chest fly is similar to the high cable chest fly, but you’ll cross one wrist over the other at the bottom of the movement.

This exercise targets both the upper and lower part of the chest equally.

4) Decline cable chest fly

To perform the decline cable chest fly, position a decline bench between the cable uprights and set the pulleys to their lowest possible point. Then perform the movement as you would a weighted dumbbell fly.

This exercise targets the lower part of the chest.

5) Incline cable chest fly

To perform the incline cable chest fly, position an incline bench between the cable uprights and set the pulleys to their lowest possible point. Then perform the movement as you would a weighted dumbbell fly.

This exercise targets the upper part of the chest.

Home Gym Equipment for the Cable Chest Fly

If you’re ready to add the cable chest fly to your workout, consider adding a functional trainer or cable crossover machine to your home gym.

Titan Fitness has an option for every budget, including the:

Our functional trainers are built from high-grade steel and include a long bar, short bar, waist strap, dual stirrup handle, and ankle strap attachment to help you power through your workouts and smash your fitness goals.

Breathe new life into your chest workouts by adding the cable chest fly to your routine, and experience new levels of strength and fitness with a Titan Functional Trainer.

For tips on choosing equipment for your home gym setup and taking your workouts to the next level, visit Titan.Fitness today.