The bench press alone is not sufficient for complete breast development. The range of motion (ROM) is essentially too limited for that, considering the perhaps most important function of the pectoral muscles, namely: moving the upper arms towards and across the chest in the transverse (horizontal) plane. That movement is best approached by doing cable flyes, also called cable crossovers, to the device on which you are performing the exercise.
CABLES OR DUMBBELLS?
An often called advantage of cable flyes over dumbbell flyes is the constant resistance across the entire ROM. Still, the question is whether constant tension is really better for muscle growth.
In addition, cable flyes are considered by some coaches to be safer than the traditional version with dumbbells, especially for the shoulder joint.
CABLE FLY VARIANTS
There are various cable fly variants, often intended to focus on a specific part of the chest. In practice, however, the differences between these variants, from a muscle growth point of view, are only very subtle or even nil. The variant that one chooses is therefore often a matter of preference or depending on the available training material.
Lying cable flyes, performed on a flat weight bench, target your entire chest just like flat bench presses. To do this, place the pulleys in the lowest position and make sure your chest is level with the pulleys. With your palms facing each other and your elbows fixed, slightly bent, bring the handles together above your chest.
With decline cable flyes, performed on a reclined bench, such as an abdominal bench, it is important to bring your hands together at the height of your bottom sternum, not at the height of your top chest. In this way you appeal a bit more to the lower and largest part of your chest. Otherwise you are in fact doing ‘normal’ lying flyes from a different perspective.
Incline cable flyes, performed on a bench with an inclined backrest (approx. 30 degrees), target your upper chest, just like incline presses. It is also important to bring your hands together above your upper chest.
Dual cable UCV raise
The UCV raise comes from bodybuilding coach Jeff Cavaliere. The move is specifically designed to work the top of the pectoralis major.
You can do the exercise unilaterally with a dumbbell, but if you place a bench in a cable station, you can also train both sides of the chest at the same time: the dual cable UCV raise. In addition to optimally addressing the muscle fibers of the top of the chest (“following the fibers”), you can also train beyond the middle of the chest by crossing the cables above your head. This ensures optimal contraction of the muscle.
Standing fly also has different variants, depending on the part of your chest you want to emphasize (above, below or the entire chest). The variation is in the height at which you attach the pulleys and the height at which you let your hands come together at the end of the movement. Remember, the lower you finish the move, the less your shoulders are involved.
For all variations, don’t use too much weight (aim for 10-15 reps), keep your shoulders back, your chest out and your head straight ahead in line with your torso (leaning slightly forward) throughout the exercise.
With this standard version, you basically cover the entire chest. Place the pulleys at the height of your shoulders and move your hands towards the bottom of your chest.
By flying a lot lower, almost to your waist, you grab more of the bottom of your chest and reduce the roll of your shoulders.
Moving the hands upwards, ie to shoulder height, means that you are targeting the top of the chest more.
With this variant you train the entire pectoral muscle. The high position of the pulleys has the advantage that it is easier to stabilize your upper body.
Standing high-to-low flyes
This one targerts the bottom of the chest.
For upper chest low-to-high cable flyes are often recommended. You perform this exercise with the pulleys in the lowest position. You move your arms from bottom to top and outside in, so that you draw an imaginary arrowhead in the air.
However, this variant is not optimal for the upper chest, because the muscle fibers you want to train are located more horizontally. When you’re flying from low to high, the move is very similar to a front raise, an exercise designed to work the front of the shoulders. The best direction for the top of the chest is a very slightly diagonal line from low to high – almost horizontal. You can achieve this by placing the pulleys higher. Better yet, perform the exercise sitting down – see next exercise.
With this variant you sit on a bench with a backrest. The advantage is that you can perform the exercise from a more stable position. In addition, it is easier to make a more flat diagonal line. In the gif below, the upper chest is trained. As you can see, it’s no longer a glorified front raise like standing low-to-highflyes.
You can also perform flyes, lying or standing, with one arm, which has the advantage that you can increase the range of motion even further, by moving well past the middle of your chest. This ensures a good contraction on the inside of your chest.
In principle, you can also achieve this with two arms by crossing your arms (this is how some interpret cable crossovers), but this creates the undesirable situation that you do not perform the exercise completely symmetrically.
Whatever flyes you do, don’t make it a pressure exercise. To relieve your elbow joint, it is wise to perform flyes with slightly bent elbows, but fix your elbows in this bent position. Or as one Arnold Schwarzenegger once put it: “Imagine you are hugging a big tree.” You can think of the characteristic accent yourself.