The incline dumbbell fly, also known as an incline chest fly or incline pec fly, is an upper body strength training exercise that targets your chest muscles. It is an isolation exercise primarily targeting the pectoralis major with minimal contribution for other muscle groups.
Performed using an bench inclined at a slight angle, this exercise is safer for your shoulders and is a great exercise to work your upper pecs.
What muscles does the incline dumbbell fly work?
The incline dumbbell fly targets the pectorals, deltoids and triceps. The primary muscles worked are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, which are both key muscles in pushing movements. Other muscles worked by the fly include the anterior deltoid, posterior deltoid and triceps.
This exercise is an isolation exercise, which means it targets one specific muscle or muscle group during the movements. In this case, it is the chest muscles that are targeted by the exercise.
The primary muscle worked by the incline dumbbell fly is the pectoralis major. It also works the pectoralis minor, to a lesser degree. The pectoralis minor is a small but important muscle, as it helps stabilize the shoulder and scapula (the bone connecting the humerus to the clavicle).
To get the best out of your workout routine, you should incorporate exercises that activate and develop both the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.
What are the pectoral muscles?
The pectoral muscles (commonly known as pecs), are the large, fan-shaped muscles in your chest. The muscles are responsible for the movement (adduction) of your shoulders and arms. The pecs are also important for maintaining good posture of your torso.
The pecs have two “heads”.
The clavicular head originates from the clavicle (collarbone) and connects to the humerus. As part of the pecs, this head helps move and medially rotate the arms, but can also independently flex the shoulder.
The sternal head originates from the sternum, fanning out to also connect to the humerus. This head also acts to create movement and rotation of the arms.
The incline dumbbell fly is particularly effective in working the clavicular head of the pectoralis major. This is because the incline causes more tension of the clavicular head, resulting in greater stimulus of the muscle. This ultimately results in greater strength and hypertrophy in this part of the chest.
Does the incline dumbbell fly target the deltoids?
The deltoid muscle is divided into 3 heads. The anterior head originates from the clavicle and is involved in shoulder flexion, along with the pectoralis major. The lateral head connects to the top of your shoulder blade and is involved in moving your arms out to the side. The posterior deltoid is attached to the back part of your shoulder and helps you move your arms backwards.
Although not the primary targeted muscles, the incline dumbbell fly does work the anterior deltoids. This is a great exercise to build strength and work the anterior deltoids in a controlled manner. Compared to flat bench dumbbell flys, the anterior deltoids get more tension when using an incline bench.
What are the benefits of the incline dumbbell fly?
The incline dumbbell fly is good for building muscle mass, since it works both the chest and shoulders. Compared to flat bench flys or bench press, this fly helps you work the chest from different angles. To get the maximum gains from your workout, it’s a good idea to target the chest from multiple angles.
This exercise can also improve chest flexibility. By stretching and engaging the chest muscles, shoulders and arms through a wide range of motion, the incline dumbbell fly can improve flexibility.
The incline dumbbell fly is also a great way to strengthen the muscles responsible for scapular retraction. Scapular retractions are the movements that pull the shoulder blades together towards the spine. This exercise can improve the strength and stability in these muscles.
Doing incline dumbbell flys can also help develop good posture. Good posture is important for avoiding pain and tightness in the upper body.
Although the incline dumbbell fly is a great exercise for working the chest and shoulders, it is not a good exercise if your goal is to maximize strength. The motions require a lighter weight in slow, controlled motions. These movements apply less force compared to heavy pressing or rowing. Despite this, incline dumbbell flys are effective at increasing size and strength, when part of a well-rounded workout routine.
Incline vs flat bench dumbbell flys
Both incline and flat bench dumbbell flys are effective for developing muscle in the chest. Each exercise has different benefits, and the suitability of each will depend on your fitness goals.
The flat bench dumbbell fly targets the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle in the chest. It also works the pectoralis minor and triceps. This makes it a great exercise for increasing overall chest size.
The incline fly is a similar exercise, working on a bench angled at 15-30 degrees. It primarily targets the upper pecs, but also works the middle chest and shoulders. This makes it a great exercise if achieving a good aesthetic outcome is your goal.
For best results, it is recommend you combine both flat and incline dumbbell flys into your routine. This ensures your workouts target all areas of chest muscles. Combining these exercises in your workout program will give you the best results in achieving muscle size and shape.
If you are a beginner, we recommend starting with flat bench and using less weight until you get used to the exercise. You can also start with a small incline to ensure you have the proper form and technique before moving onto a larger incline.
What equipment do I need for incline dumbbell flys?
To perform incline dumbbell flys, you will need free weights and a incline-adjustable bench. It’s important to have the correct angle for the best effectiveness in working the chest muscles.
How to do incline dumbbell flys
- Adjust the bench to an angle to 30 degrees, although you may wish to adjust this to a safe range depending on your preferences.
- Raise both arms, holding the dumbbells above your chest. Keep your palms facing each other.
- Rest your head on the bench and look upwards.
- Keeping your feet flat on the floor, bend your elbows slightly.
- Take a deep breath, and lower the dumbbells laterally to chest height.
- Squeeze at the end of the motion, then using your pecs, reverse the movement.
Reps and weight
When performing the incline dumbbell fly, aim to complete 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. Keep strict form and use the full range of motion for the best results. Rest for 30 seconds between each set.
The incline dumbbell fly targets chest muscles without heavy weight. Choose an appropriate weight for your fitness level. You will need less weight than a standard bench press.
As you become stronger, you can challenge yourself by gradually increasing the weight.
A common mistake when doing incline dumbbell flys is lifting too much weight. Too much weight increases the chance of you having poor form when performing the movements. This can increase the risk of injury. Too much weight can also cause your elbows to flare out, which reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.
Not using the full range of motion is another common mistake. Make sure you lower the dumbbells down to chest height and return in an arch-like motion.
It’s also important not to overstretch the chest. It is possible to extend too far down when lowering the dumbbells, which can cause strain on the shoulder and elbow joints. It can also reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.