Why Use A Cable Fly? What Muscles Does It Work? – All The Info And Some Great Cable Fly Variations

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Last Updated on December 10, 2022 by admin

We’ve all seen the cable fly while we are working, but we might be left confused as to what it actually does. You’ll want to make sure that you are using the equipment properly, otherwise, you might cause yourself serious injury.

The cable fly targets the pectoral muscles, which are the major chest muscles. However, you can also adapt the cable fly for the triceps and even the core if you want to. However, we’ll be sticking with the cable fly’s effect on the pectorals.

But what are the best exercises that you can do with this piece of equipment? Well, we’ve got some neat variations that will certainly help you get a bigger and more defined chest. So, keep reading for all the info.

What Is The Pectoralis Major?

This is the main muscle that you can find in your chest. By building up this muscle, you can be sure of having a big chest, which means that you’ll look great in a shirt.

This muscle is made up of two different heads, the clavicle head and the sternal head. The clavicle head is the upper portion of the muscle, while the sternal head is the lower, larger portion of the muscle.

The pectoralis minor is found under the pectoralis major. It is a triangle shape and helps to move the shoulder blades, keeping them down and forward.

If you are using a cable fly, then you can target all these different angles by adjusting the direction of the cable itself. You can also train the shoulders and your upper arms, which help to keep these muscles stable.

Remember that when you are engaging in these exercises, you’ll need to make sure that the weight isn’t too heavy. This will reduce the range of motion and slow down the development of your muscle growth.

You might also cause yourself an injury if you set your weight too high.

Having knowledge of your muscles and where they are located will help you to train them properly. This way you can target muscles that you feel are underdeveloped and make sure that you are not overtraining one portion of your chest.

Why Are Cable Flies Good For You?

When you are trying to build muscle by doing repeated exercises, then you’ll have to be more aware of the heightened pressure that you put on your joints.

If you are doing bench presses, then the weights that you are using will cause increased stress on your joints.

This is why the cable fly is in some ways more beneficial than a ground-based exercise. You can adapt it to various positions to target certain muscles in your body.

It is also less resistant, which will ease the tension on your joints and allow you a greater range of motion.

This will also keep your muscles under continuous resistance, which is great for building muscle. The fluidity of the movement will also allow you to perform a wider range of motion.

This prevents elbow locking, which might result in improper form and injury.

Adopting a high approach will exercise the lower portion of your chest, which is often a very hard place to target.

However, if you reverse the angle and pull from a lower position, then you will be able to target that clavicle head in the upper portion of the chest.

If you are using the cable fly, then you can be sure that the pectoralis major will be the muscle that you are targeting.

However, there are other muscles that are working during cable fly movements too, such as rhomboids, which are in your upper back, triceps and biceps in your upper arms and levator scapulae, which is another upper back muscle.

There are many other muscles in the chest, arms, and upper back that act as stabilizers during cable fly exercises. You’ll need to make sure that you are activating these muscles during your exercises so that you can maintain a good position.

Some Great Cable Fly Variations That You Can Try

1. Standing Cable Fly

This exercise is great for beginners and will help you to target the upper and lower portion of your chest, that is, the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.

This is an easy exercise to complete, although you must remember to perform the move properly, completing the whole range of motion.

This will give you consistent pressure right the way through the exercise, which is important for reaching that lower pec muscle. This also helps to engage your upper and lower back muscles.

Here is how you can perform this exercise properly:

  1. Get in a standing position, keeping your back straight and slightly locking your core. Grab the stirrups of your pulley in each hand.
  2. Bend forward slightly, moving your elbows towards you. You should feel a slight pull on your chest muscles.
  3. Now pull your arms forward until you feel a good flex in your chest. You should feel a contraction in your middle chest.
  4. You can even cross your hands in the center to extend beyond the full range of motion. When you are making the contraction, make sure that you breathe deeply.
  5. Squeeze the chest at the apex of the movement.
  6. Once you have gone as far as you can go, then release the pulley slowly and step backward.

Once you have completely done this exercise, then repeat, doing as many reps as you feel comfortable.

2. Low To High Cable Fly

Now we move on to something a little more developed. This is a great exercise for anyone who is looking to target specific portions of their chest.

The lower to high movement will help you to target your upper chest. It will also help you to build up strength and stability in your arms and shoulders. Building these muscles in tandem is very important for developing a rounded physique.

This cable will help you to provide more constant resistance throughout the entire movement, which is essential for getting tension in that muscle and ultimately growing more muscle tissue.

This will really target those central chest muscles, which can often be hard to target. It will also help you develop your triceps and biceps.

Here is how you complete this exercise:

  1. In a standing position with one leg partially forward for stability, set the pulleys at a lower angle so that you can pull them up easily.
  2. Tipping forward slightly, pull the cable up towards your abdomen. Keep your elbows as still as possible and make sure that your upper arms do not move.
  3. As you pull your arms closer to you, you should feel your muscles contracting in your chest.
  4. Pull your hands forward until they touch, breathing out slowly. This is the endpoint of the movement.
  5. Step back and relax the pressure on the stirrups until you are back in the starting position with your hands at your side.

You should then repeat these moves for however long that you want to. Make sure that you are keeping your feet apart, as this will improve your balance and cause you not to tip over.

3. High Cable Fly

This is an exercise that will isolate the lower part of your chest, the pectoralis major, which is a notoriously hard muscle to target.

This will also help you to target your triceps and shoulders. These are great muscles to build for stability and will increase the number of reps that you’ll be able to do in the future.

Here’s how to complete this exercise:

  1. Set the pulley to the highest level possible, so that you can pull the weights downward.
  2. Lunge forward with one stirrup in each hand. Pull your arms forward so they are pressing together. You should feel a contraction in your chest.
  3. Pull your arms towards you in wide arcs, breathing out each time you pull forward, exhaling as you do so.
  4. When your hands touch, hold the position for a few seconds. This will help you to keep the tension going throughout the movement.
  5. Recline the cable back into the starting position, taking care not to let the weight yank you backward.

You should then complete this movement however many reps you want. We would recommend starting on a medium weight and doing around 8-12 reps.

Why Use A Cable Fly? What Muscles Does It Work? – All The Info And Some Great Cable Fly Variations

4. Incline Cable Fly

Now we have an exercise that will help you develop your upper chest. This also helps you to achieve a constant range of motion, applying pressure throughout the chest in a way that will not be possible with dumbbells.

This will engage your triceps, biceps as well as shoulders. All of these exercises are great for stabilizing the top half of your body.

Here is how you perform this exercise. You’ll need an incline bench for this one:

  1. Set your incline bench to a 30-to-45-degree angle, lying down on it with your feet planted firmly on the floor.
  2. Hold your arms out to the side, gripping the stirrups in each one.
  3. Pull the stirrups forward so that your arms come over your head and your hands meet in the center of your chest. As you feel this contraction, make sure you breathe out in a controlled manner.
  4. Try and hold this position for a few seconds. This will increase the tension in your chest and overall help you to grow the muscles.
  5. Now gradually lower your arms, making sure that your arms are slightly tense so that the weight does not slacken.

You can change the incline on this bench to isolate different parts of your chest with this exercise. If you have the bench lower, then you will target the upper chest muscles and vice versa.

Make sure that you breathe in a controlled way and that you focus on your chest muscles as you are working them out. One method of doing this is by verbalizing your reps as you complete them. Studies have proven that you can do more complete reps this way.

5. Decline Cable Fly

This is a great exercise for developing the lower chest muscle, with an incline that leaves you hanging slightly backward, giving you a greater purchase on your stirrups. This consistent tension cannot be achieved with dumbbells.

Here is how you achieve that movement in full:

  1. Set the decline of your bench to around 30 degrees. Lie flat on the surface with your feet hooked around the leg holds to keep you in position.
  2. Hold your stirrups in each hand in a neutral position. You’ll need to make sure that your arms are straight, with a slight bend in your shoulders as you lift the cables upwards.
  3. Pull the cable close together above your chest, focusing on your pectoral muscles as you do so. Make sure that you exhale as you pull this towards you.
  4. Once you have pulled these cables to your endpoint, then you can relax them until your arms are out at your side again.

You can repeat this exercise for the number of reps that you feel is right. Make sure that the weight is not too heavy, otherwise, this might cause you to tear one of your muscles.

Placing the bench at different angles will help you target different muscles.

6. Single Arm Chest Fly

This exercise is great if you are looking to develop certain weaknesses in your physique, usually after an injury. This will also help you to develop the muscles in your abdomen and in your chest too.

If you set this to a medium weight, you can expect very intense pressure on your pectoral muscle. You can perform this exercise sitting or standing.

Here is the proper routine for performing this exercise:

  1. Set the weight to a higher position than normal to get a decent contraction. Take the stirrup in the hand on the side that you wish to exercise.
  2. Keep your arm straight with a slight bend in your elbow. This will allow you to pull the weight in a fluid motion without straining your pectoral or your arm.
  3. Pull the weight to the midline of your chest, and make sure to breathe out and contract your chest muscle as you do so. Focus on your movements as you do this.
  4. Squeeze the muscle as you get to this endpoint. Make sure that you exhale in a controlled way when you pull the weight inward.
  5. Once you have held this for a few seconds, then relax the muscle and allow your arm to extend outward.

Repeat this exercise for as many reps as you feel you are capable of. If you are using a heavier weight, then we would recommend that you do fewer reps and sets to maintain good form.

Make sure that the arc of your movement is fluid and that you do not do any jerking motions. It is best to do fewer movements and maintain a proper form rather than more reps with poor form.

What If You Don’t Want To Attempt Flies?

Luckily, there are plenty of exercises that you can do at the gym using a whole range of different equipment and motions. Here are just a few of them that we have found online from sports and fitness experts:

1. Seated Fly

For this one, you’ll need a machine fly (otherwise known as a ‘pec deck’), which will allow you to target all the muscles in your chest. This exercise will also help you target your triceps and biceps, as well as some muscles in your upper back.

To complete this routine, follow the procedure below:

  1. Sit on the machine fly bench, making sure that your back is flush with the pad and that your feet are firmly planted on the floor. This way you can be sure that you have enough stability for this movement.
  2. Take the vertical handles in each hand, hooking your hands around the handles. Keep your elbows bent and have your chest thrust out.
  3. Push these handles together until they are in the middle of your chest. You should feel a nice, tight contraction from this movement.
  4. Release the handles so that you have returned to your starting position.

When you are performing this exercise, you’ll need to make sure that you are staring straight ahead. Do not bend or strain your head.

2. Dumbbell Fly

This is a great exercise that mimics a lot of the weighted movements that we have listed above. It is mainly used by bodybuilders and is ideal for beginner and intermediate weightlifters.

This is how you complete this movement:

  1. Lie flat on an incline bench, making sure your feet are touching the floor. This will give you stability.
  2. Hold out your dumbbells straight on either side of you. Then pull up these weights, keeping your arm straight with a slight bend in the elbows.
  3. Hold the dumbbells above the midline of your chest and squeeze your pectoral muscles as you do so. Breathe out as you complete this contraction.
  4. Lower your dumbbells down at your side again so that you are at the starting point.

Complete this action for as many reps as you feel comfortable.


Chest muscles are the hardest to develop, especially the lower portion. This is why having the right knowledge and figuring out the correct form and posture will help you finally achieve the gains you’ve been searching for.