Why MUST You Do Dumbbell Flyes?
The biggest problem faced by beginners and intermediate lifters alike, is actually feeling their chest muscles working. You often hear people say "my bench press is increasing, but I never feel sore in my chest the next day, only in the shoulders or triceps". The truth is, most people have a poor mind-muscle connection. In other words, they are unable to contract their chest muscles to their full potential, and are using the wrong muscles when performing various exercises.
Dumbbell flyes are an isolation exercise. This means only one muscle is working: the chest (unlike bench press where the shoulder and triceps are also assisting you). If you focus mainly on dumbbell flyes for a while, you will slowly improve that mind-muscle connection, and "teach" your chest to be more "involved" when you train it. Think of it as an investment. Below are some more reasons why the dumbbell fly is so incredibly beneficial:
- You can do them at home, with some dumbbells and a cheap bench, or even on the floor. No need for expensive gym memberships or fancy equipment, especially if you are a beginner.
- Dumbbell Flyes give you a better stretch than any other exercise. Your muscles are "trapped" in a layer of connective tissue which can restrict their growth potential. Stretching this tissue will give more "space" for your muscles to fill out.
- The other benefit of stretching with a weight, is it can actually grow the muscle itself even quicker. Studies have been done using birds with weights attached to their wings, where the bird's muscles grew by up to 318% in 28 days! We are not birds, but our muscles will behave in a similar way (more on stretching in one of the next articles).
How To Perform Dumbbell Flyes?
- Lay down on a bench or on the floor, with the dumbbells directly above you and your palms facing eachother
- With a slight bend in the elbow (very important), lower the weights outward and downward in an arching motion, very SLOWLY
- Go as low as you feel comfortable, and do NOT force the stretch if you feel any joint pain (as you get more experienced over time, you will be able to go lower)
- Pause at the bottom for about 2 seconds
- Bring the weights back up in the same motion as you had lowered them. Remember to try and squeeze your chest muscles the entire time (not just at the top), and visualise your chest contracting and moving the weight. Do not be lazy and rest at the top! Go straight back down again (slowly) so that there is constant tension in your muscles.
You entire chest should feel a great pump as it gets filled with blood. Don't worry, this is a good thing. I recommend using light weights to begin with, and focusing on actually feeling your chest doing the work, from a deep stretch to a full contraction.
Try doing pushups after you have done several sets of dumbbell flyes and notice a) how much harder the pushups are to do, because your chest has been effectively fatigued, and b) how much more you actually feel the pushups working your chest, because the flyes have "prepared" that muscle to be used.
As always remember to eat a diet which is high in protein, and allow enough days for your muscles to fully recover.