How to Do Dumbbell Shoulder Fly Properly

The dumbbell shoulder fly is a great exercise to build your chest and shoulders.

This exercise is done while lying flat on a bench with dumbbells. Think of the action as hugging something large without bending your elbows.

To do this exercise:

  • Lie flat on your back on a bench. Place your feet firmly on the floor on each side of the bench.
  • Gently pick a dumbbell off the floor with each hand.
  • Lift the arms above the head. Extend them but don’t lock them. Keep your palms facing each other.
  • Inhale and slowly lower dumbbells in an arc motion until they’re in line with your shoulders.
  • Exhale and slowly press the dumbbells up in the same arc motion.
  • Do up to 15 reps in sets of three. Ensure you rest between each set.


The dumbbell shoulder fly targets the upper body. Primarily it targets the chest. Muscles in the shoulders and arms are activated as well.

1.      PECS

The pectoralis major is the large muscle in the upper chest. It spreads from the shoulder to the breast bone.

This muscle creates the bulk of the chest.

This muscle is used to control the movement of the arm. Contractions of the pecs pull on the humerus to create sideways, vertical and rotational motion.

Pecs also help pull your ribcage to create room for your lungs to expand.

The dumbbell shoulder fly engages the pecs during the lifting and lowering motions.

2.      DELTOIDS

The deltoids are located on the shoulder. They are triangular muscles found directly on the shoulders.

Deltoids have three main fibers: anterior, middle and posterior.

The middle (lateral) delts are found on the sides of your shoulders. They help raise your arms to the side.

The posterior (rear) delts are found on the back of your shoulders, opposite the anterior deltoids. The rear delts help swing your arm backwards and rotating your shoulders.

The anterior (front) delts are found on the front of your shoulders. They are the muscle most activated by the dumbbell shoulder fly and help move your arm forward.

They are connected to your clavicle. When you are lifting your arm or reaching for something ahead of you, you engage the front delts.

3.      ARMS

The dumbbell shoulder fly activates various muscles in your arms.

The main muscles engaged for strength and support are the triceps, biceps and rotator cuff.

Triceps are the muscles in the back of the upper arm. They are located opposite the biceps.

The triceps are primarily involved in the extension of the elbow and horizontal abduction of the arm. When you’re doing the dumbbell fly, the triceps work antagonistically against the biceps, preventing elbow flexion.

The biceps are the muscles in the front of the upper arm. Their main functions are elbow flexion and forearm supination—turning your arm to face your body.

As you perform the shoulder fly, the biceps stabilize the movement. An isolated tension is placed on the biceps.



The dumbbell chest fly helps open up your chest.

Chest opener exercises help reduce upper back pain, increase the range of motion for your shoulders and back and reduce tightness in the upper body.

When doing chest flies to open up your chest, use lighter weights or body weight.

As you build muscle in the upper body and shoulders, this will help keep your back in good form when performing other activities.

Having a strong upper body helps keep your back straight when working at your desk.

Strengthening your arm muscles also helps reduce the risk of injury when doing other strength training exercises such as deadlifts.

Such exercises often lead to torn tendons in the arm muscles. Strengthening them helps minimize the risk of injury.


The dumbbell shoulder fly helps build the pecs. For men, the definition of the pectorals can help with aesthetics.


As mentioned earlier, this exercise helps build your chest and shoulder muscles.

This helps improve shoulder movements. Athletes such as swimmers, tennis players, golfers and rugby players add this exercise to their routine to help them use their upper body muscles faster.



This exercise is done on an incline bench.

To do this exercise:

  • Lie with your back flat on an incline bench. Plant your feet firmly on either side of the bench.
  • Gently pick the dumbbells off the floor with each hand.
  • Lift your arms, extending further but not locked out. Bend your elbows slightly. Your palms and dumbbells should be facing each other.
  • Inhale and lower the dumbbells in an arc until they’re in line with your chest.
  • Exhale and raise the dumbbells in the same arc motion.
  • Perform up to three sets of 15 reps while resting between each set.


You can do this exercise while supporting your head against a bench or while free.

To do this exercise:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and bend forward at the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the ground.
  • Set your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Let the dumbbells hang straight down from your shoulders. Keep your palms facing each other and your arms slightly bent.
  • Keep your back straight and your core engaged then raise your arms straight to your sides until they are in line with your body.
  • Ensure you keep your arms in the same position. Do not lengthen your elbows. Hold then slowly return to starting position.
  • Repeat up to 15 times and perform three sets.


Avoid squeezing the dumbbells too hard. This is because you can reduce the tension in the shoulders and chest and direct it to the biceps.

When lowering the arms avoid moving the dumbbells lower than shoulder level. This increases the risk of injury in the shoulder. When lowering, if you feel any pain in your shoulder, stop immediately.

Keep your arms bent at 10-15 degrees. If you bend your elbows too much, you’ll end up building your biceps instead of your chest and shoulders.

Your back and the back of your head should remain on the bench the entire time. You don’t need to arch your back. A way to ensure that your back remains flat is to engage your core.

Avoid using weights that are too heavy. Selecting the right weight helps you maintain good form while performing the exercise.


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