Incline Dumbbell Fly

Technique Summary

Lay on a bench that is set at a 30 to 60 degree incline. Form a straight line with your arms through your shoulders, maintaining a slight bend in your arms with your palms facing up. Lift the weights up over your upper chest by squeezing your pecs, exhale, then bring the weights down and inhale.

Technique Details

As with other exercises, let’s first focus on what may injure you if dumbbell flys are performed incorrectly. One common way to get hurt is by bringing the weights too far down. You should lower the dumbbells until they are at the same level as your shoulders. You could bring the weights down slightly lower for a better stretch. Maintain a constant bend at your elbows. Fully extending your arms leads to injury. Introducing a greater bend into your elbow transforms the exercise into a dumbbell press. Don’t rush through the reps. Be very deliberate in the movement, controlling the weight in the positive and negative phase of the lift. The dumbbell fly is a great isolation exercise; it doesn’t require heavy weight to be effective. Avoid sacrificing form in favor of heavy weights. Only move up in weight when you are fully comfortable with what you are already doing. 


Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout the exercise. This will help you maintain balance. Generally, when you don't have good balance the rest of your body pitches in to help you perform the exercise. As this happens, pressure is taken away from your chest and potential for injury increases.

Also, it may appear that shoulders play an integral role in performing this exercise, but they do not and should not. Your upper back should be flat on the bench at all times. You should perform the dumbbell flys by only moving your arms and contracting your chest. Do not bring the shoulders forward. Make a conscious effort to keep your shoulders pinned back. Adhering to the aforementioned instructions should prevent muscle tears and stretch marks. 

It is important to note where you bring up the weights as this will determine the muscle fibers that are exercised. Lift the dumbbells over your chest, not your shoulders. There are two finishing positions in performing flys. You could either bring the weights together with palms facing each other, or bring your thumbs slightly out (bringing together the dumbbell ends that are further away from you). This applies more pressure to the middle of the chest.

As mentioned in the technique summary, the bench should be at a 30 to 60 degree angle on the incline. Most commonly, the incline is at 45 degrees. Going too far up shifts more of the burden on your shoulders, to low shifts the burden to middle of the chest.

Once you are lifting heavier weights, it is easiest to begin the exercise by placing both dumbbells on your quads when you sit down on the bench. Then push them up with your legs as you lay down.