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Incline cable fly is one of the best isolation exercises for targeting and working many push muscles, particularly the upper part of your pectoralis muscles, the shoulders, and the triceps.
The Incline cable fly is a variation of the traditional cable fly that involves pulling cables from a machine while seated on an incline bench.
Adjusting the angle of the bench and using cable resistance allow the incline cable fly to isolate the upper chest muscles more effectively compared to other variations of the fly exercise, making the movement one of the best for building upper chest strength, mass, and definition.
Incline cable flyes are also one of the best accessory movements that condition your muscles for heavy compound lifting exercises.
Steps to follow for the Incline Cable Fly exercises
You will need a cable machine and an adjustable weight bench for the movement.
- Attach handles to the cables on the cable machine and adjust the pulleys to the highest position.
- Set the weight bench to a 45-degree incline angle and position it in the middle of the cable machine, facing away from the equipment.
- Stand in front of the bench, facing away from the machine.
- Reach back, and with an overhand grip, grab the handles. Your palms must face forward.
- Take a step forward for stability.
- Slightly lean forward and bring your hands forward and up to extend your arms in front of you, ensuring they are parallel to the floor.
- Open your arms outward to the sides in a controlled manner as if hugging a tree, ensuring you keep your arms bent with a slight bend in your elbows.
- Then bring your arms together in front of you while focusing on squeezing your chest muscles.
- Pause for a moment when your hands meet in the center.
- Reverse the movement by allowing your arms to move back outward to the sides in a slow and controlled manner, ensuring tension in your chest muscles.
- Repeat 8-12 for a set and 3-4 sets in a session.
- Engage your core muscles and keep your back flat against the bench throughout the exercise.
- Maintain a slow and controlled tempo to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.
- Focus on using your chest muscles to perform the movement. Do not rely on momentum or excessive shoulder movement.
Incline cable fly – muscles worked.
Incline cable flyes can help build the upper chest or pectoralis major muscles and the front shoulders or anterior deltoids. It also engages the triceps and the serratus anterior to a lesser extent.
Incline cable flyes require you to activate and engage your stabilizer muscles, such as the core, upper back, and rotator cuff to help maintain stability during the exercise, helping to strengthen them in the process.
Incline cable fly – Common mistakes
Below are a few notable mistakes exercisers make while performing incline cable flyes and reduce the possible risk of injury.
Avoiding such missteps can help you maximize the benefits of the exercise.
- Loading the cable machine with too much weight
Loading the cable machine with too much weight can compromise your form and put unneeded strain on the joints.
Thus ensure you should start with a weight appropriate to your fitness level.
- Rounded shoulders
Allowing your shoulders to round forward during the movement can shift the focus away from the chest muscles and onto the shoulders. That can cause discomfort or injury.
Keep your shoulders back and down, and maintain proper posture throughout.
- Flaring elbows
Excessive outward flaring of your elbows can place undue stress on your shoulders. That can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
Instead, ensure you bend your elbows slightly and keep them stable throughout.
- Using momentum
You can reduce the tension on the target muscles by swinging or using momentum to complete the exercise. Doing so can reduce the benefits of the movement.
Ensure your movement is controlled and deliberate, and ensure you engage your chest muscles throughout.
- Reduced range of motion
Failing to achieve a full range of motion can limit the activation of the chest muscles.
Ensure to fully extend your arms forward at the starting position and allow your arms to open wide and stretch the chest muscles during the eccentric phase of the exercise.
Aim for a deep stretch and a controlled squeeze of the chest muscles when the hands come together.
- Ineffective core stabilization
Not engaging your core muscles and maintaining stability throughout the exercise can limit the effectiveness of the incline cable fly exercise.
Ensure you activate your core muscles and stay stable on the bench throughout.
Incline cable fly benefits
Including incline cable flyes in your training regimen can give you many benefits.
- Targeting and building the upper chest
Incline cable flyes target the upper portion of the pectoral muscles, which can be challenging to work with other exercises.
Targeting these muscles can give you a more balanced and defined chest appearance.
- Increased range of motion
Cable machines allow for a broader range of motion than dumbbells or barbells, allowing you to stretch and contract the chest muscles.
That can help activate and develop the muscles better.
- Promotes muscle growth through continuous tension
Cable exercises, including incline cable flies, provide non stop tension throughout the movement.
That can help stimulate and grow the muscles and boost your strength.
- Improved muscle isolation
Incline cable flyes allow exercisers to isolate the chest muscles much better than other compound exercises.
This isolation can benefit exercisers who prefer to focus specifically on developing the upper chest or want to place less stress on other muscle groups during their chest workout.
- Versatile and possible to customize
Cable machines offer adjustable resistance and the ability to change the height and angle of the pulleys, allowing you to customize the exercise to your specific needs and preferences.
That makes incline cable flyes suitable for different fitness levels and goals.
- Enhanced stability and control
Incline cable flyes require stability and control throughout the movement.
That can help improve overall stability and strength in the shoulder and core muscles.
- Balanced development of the chest
Incline cable flyes can help correct muscle imbalances in the chest, leading to a more symmetrical and balanced chest appearance.
- Promotion of functional strength
Incline cable flyes can work the chest and stabilizer muscles, such as the core, upper back, and rotator cuffs. Strengthening these muscles can help improve functional strength and stability in various activities and sports.
Incline cable fly variations
There are a few variations of the incline cable fly exercise. Incorporating some of these into your workout regimen can add variety, spice up your training, and help you to target your chest muscles in different ways.
- Single-Arm Incline Cable Fly
The single-arm incline cable fly can help improve muscle symmetry and core stability.
It involves performing the exercise with one arm at a time instead of using both arms simultaneously.
- Cross-Body Incline Cable Fly
The cross-body incline cable fly emphasizes the inner portion of the chest muscles.
You will cross one hand over the other as you perform the exercise instead of bringing your hands together in front of your chest.
- Reverse Grip Incline Cable Fly
The reverse grip incline cable fly emphasizes the lower portion of the chest muscles. It also engages the biceps to a greater extent.
The exercise involves using an underhand instead of an overhand grip on the handles.
While the above variations can help target your upper chest and shoulder muscles, other techniques can help to improve your results and get the most out of the cable fly exercises.
- Pause and Squeeze
During the concentric phase of the incline cable fly exercise, where you bring your hands together, pause and squeeze the chest muscles briefly before slowly returning to your starting position. That increases the time chest muscles remain under tension, enhancing muscle activation.
- Drop Sets
You can perform a set of incline cable flyes with a challenging weight, then immediately decrease the load and continue.
This technique can help increase muscle fatigue and promote muscle growth.
- Superset with Push-Ups
You can pair the incline cable flyes with push-ups for a superset.
Immediately move to a set of push-ups after completing a set of cable flyes.
This combination targets the chest muscles from different angles for an effective workout.
Incline cable fly alternatives
You will need a cable machine for the incline cable flyers, which may not be possible for some exercisers.
Luckily several incline cable fly alternatives can help athletes without access to a cable machine to target and work their chest muscles.
These alternatives target the chest muscles in different ways.
Incline Dumbbell fly
The incline dumbbell fly is one of the best alternatives to the incline chest flyes.
But as the name implies, you will perform the incline bench using dumbbells instead of a cable machine for the exercise.
Dumbbells allow you to lower your arms further down, achieving a deeper stretch in your chest muscles. Thus the incline dumbbell fly offers a broader range of motion than the incline cable fly.
Dumbbells allow you to activate your stabilizer muscles much better because you need to control the movement and stabilize the weights independently. That can lead to improved muscle coordination and overall stability.
Many exercisers may opt for incline dumbbell chest flyes instead of the incline cable flyes due to the easy access to dumbbells in many home gyms.
But both exercises have their merits, and many athletes will benefit by including both in their training regimen if possible.
Aside from the incline dumbbell fly, other exercises can help target the same muscles.
Thus you can consider these as viable alternatives to help you target and build your upper chest muscles, triceps, and front shoulders.
The below incline cable fly alternatives are worth considering if you have no access to or can’t use a cable machine.
Incline Dumbbell Press
You perform the incline dumbbell press with a weight bench at an inclined angle and dumbbells.
Like the incline cable flyes, the incline dumbbell press targets the upper chest, triceps, and front shoulders.
The dumbbells allow for a broader range of motion and make it possible to work one side of your body at a time.
Incline Barbell Press
Like the incline dumbbell press, the incline barbell press targets the upper chest but involves the triceps and front shoulders.
Using a barbell for the exercise allows you to lift heavier weights to help build upper body strength.
Incline Push-Ups are bodyweight exercises performed with your hands on an incline, such as a bench or step. Incline push-ups target the upper chest while engaging the core and other stabilizer muscles.
Incline Resistance Band Flyes
The alternative involves attaching resistance bands to an anchor point at chest level.
Stand, facing away from the anchor point, holding the bands in each hand. Step forward to create tension in the resistance bands and perform flye movements, focusing on the upper chest.
Incline Chest Squeeze
- Sit on an incline weight bench and place your back flat on the back pads, holding a medicine ball or stability ball against your chest with both hands.
- Push the ball forward while squeezing your chest muscles.
- Bring the ball back to your chest and repeat the movement.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Incline cable flyes are some of the best upper chest exercises for building strength and muscle.
Including the exercises in your workout regimen offers many benefits and can help you to achieve your upper body strength and muscle-building goals.
While some athletes may not have the opportunity to incorporate the exercises into their fitness regimen because of not having access to a cable machine, alternatives are available to help them make up for that.
Such alternatives can help add variety to your routines and help target your chest and upper body muscles from different angles.
The incline chest fly is worth a place in your training schedule.
- Lauver J, Cayot T, Scheuermann B. Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;16(3):309-316. doi:10.1080/17461391.2015.1022605