Mastering the Incline Dumbbell Fly

Mastering the Incline Dumbbell Fly

If your goal is to build a well-defined and strong chest, incline dumbbell flys are a great way to help you get there. 

They isolate your upper chest muscles, and can help increase strength quite a bit. The strength you gain in the incline dumbbell fly can help you lift more weight in other exercises too!

At least, it will for sure help you get there.

Plus, too many people focus on flat bench exercises, and never throw in the incline versions.  This can leave their upper chest under-developed, and if you skip it enough, it can lead to imbalances you don’t want.

The incline dumbbell fly is not a difficult exercise, but it can pose some risks if you aren’t careful. 

Holding dumbbells far out to your sides requires a lot of strength and stability. If you aren’t engaging the proper muscles, or use too heavy of a weight, you could end up with an injury.

So pay attention, and make sure not to go too heavy too quickly. I'll make sure you do them correctly to see the best results in a safe and effective way. Let's get right into it!

How to Do an Incline Dumbbell Fly

To do an incline dumbbell fly, you’re going to need dumbbells and an incline bench. Although, that part may have been obvious!

You also need to adjust the bench so that it sits at a 30-45 degree incline.

This angle is going to help you really target your upper chest. The higher the angle (closer to 90 degrees) the more emphasis goes to your upper chest and shoulders. 

Make sure you start with dumbbells that are a moderate weight to start. Not so heavy you can’t control them, but not so light that you feel no challenge at all.

Here are the basic steps to follow to perform an incline dumbbell fly effectively...

1. Starting position: Sit on the incline bench and carefully lie back. Position yourself with your feet firmly pressed against the floor beneath your hips. Keep a slight arch in your back to puff your chest out.

2. Position the dumbbells: Grab a pair of dumbbells that are a moderate weight for this exercise. Extend your arms straight above your chest with your palms facing each other. Keep a slight bend in your elbows throughout the exercise.

3. Lower the dumbbells: Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells out to your sides in a wide arc. Your hands should keep the same orientation throughout the movement. Lower the dumbbells until you feel a little stretch in your chest muscles. Your hands will likely be about as low as your chest when this happens.

4. Engage your chest muscles: Exhale as you begin the concentric phase. In a controlled motion, squeeze your chest to bring the dumbbells back over your chest. Focus on feeling the contraction and letting your chest do the work.

5. Repeat the exercise: Repeat this for reps. If you want to build muscle and strength, go within 1 rep of muscular failure.

Incline Dumbbell Flys: Common Mistakes

Just like with any exercise, you have to get the form and technique down so you don’t hurt yourself! But that's not the only reason why it's important to have good form. Good form can also help you get the most out of your workouts.

We're trying to activate the muscle in the most effective way possible. In an incline dumbbell fly, there are a lot of common mistakes that can work against you. Here are some mistakes that could be keeping you from getting the full benefits...

Using Weight That's Too Heavy

One common mistake on the incline dumbbell fly is using weights that are too heavy. Now, I would argue this is also a mistake in many exercises. Using excessive weight can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury.

It's important to use a weight that you can control throughout the entire range of motion. Also, never compromise proper form just to lift heavier weight! You may not target your chest muscles as effectively as you could on the incline dumbbell fly.

Overstretching Your Chest

While it's essential to achieve a full range of motion during the incline dumbbell fly, don't overdo it! Taking your range of motion too far can put a lot of strain on your shoulders and could lead to injury.

Aim to bring the dumbbells down to about your chest height at the bottom. Feeling a stretch in your chest without any pain is a good stopping point on the way down.

Squeezing The Dumbbells

Some people tend to squeeze the dumbbells hard throughout the entire exercise. This is okay to do this, but it can shift the focus away from your chest muscles if you aren’t careful.

Squeezing with your hands will activate your forearms and biceps more. So, if you don't focus on the contraction in your chest, you may not get as much out of your incline dumbbell flys.

Slamming The Dumbbells Together

Another common mistake is allowing the dumbbells to slam into each other at the top of the movement. This is risky because over time it can cause some of the weights to become loose or fall off.

Even more important, it takes emphasis off the chest squeeze at the top. Keep the movement slow and controlled at all times! You may just see better results with your incline dumbbell flys.

Too Much Bend In The Elbows

Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows is essential for joint stability and safety. It reduces the excessive torque on your shoulders and elbows when they're not locked out.

However, allowing too much bend can turn it into an incline dumbbell bench press. That’s not a bad exercise, but it’s not working your muscles in the same way. It certainly won't work your chest muscles like an incline dumbbell fly either.

Incline Fly Variations and Alternatives

If the incline dumbbell fly isn’t what you’re looking for, you could look into alternatives. Some people just don't get the same feeling or activation from certain exercises. That's okay!

Just in case that's you, here are some alternative exercises to look into! You can always use these to switch things up from time to time as well.

Incline Cable Fly

This variation of the incline dumbbell fly replaces the dumbbells with cable pulleys. By using cables, it provides constant tension throughout the movement. This actually targets the chest muscles in a different way.

It also allows for constant muscle tension and more control throughout the movement. This can be very advantageous and worth trying out.

Decline Dumbbell Fly

While the incline dumbbell fly emphasizes the upper chest, the decline fly targets the lower chest. Instead of the bench angled upward, the decline bench angles toward the floor. This makes your lower chest do most of the work pulling the dumbbells up.

So, if you want more development for your entire chest, throw this exercise in too. Even if that means you do both exercises on your chest day!

Standing Incline Cable Fly

Don’t have (or want to use) an incline bench? Good news. Unlike the dumbbell incline fly, the standing incline cable fly doesn’t require a bench!

It targets the same muscles, but gives you a different feel standing vs seated. It could also be more accessible in certain situations or at different gyms.

Incline Barbell Bench Press

The incline barbell bench press is more of a compound movement than the incline dumbbell fly. It’s a press instead of a fly, so the movement pattern is a little different too.

By using a barbell instead of dumbbells, you can lift heavier weights. This is because both arms push the same weight, but it also brings your triceps into the movement quite a bit. If doing both exercises, do this one first because it will use more energy.

Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

This is essentially the same movement as the incline barbell bench press. The main difference is the use of dumbbells instead of a barbell. However, this also changes the exercise quite a bit.

Having a dumbbell in each hand means more stability is necessary for each shoulder. So the difficulty of this exercise is a little greater than that of the barbell version.

More Tips For Your Incline Dumbbell Flys

If you throw the incline dumbbell fly into your chest day routine, you won’t regret it! It’s a great exercise that can help you build a big and strong chest if you do it right.

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