Fly Decline

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Grasp two dumbbells with a closed grip.
  2. Sit up straight up at the top end of a decline bench (angled -15 degrees) and rest the dumbbells vertically on your upper thighs.
  3. In a controlled fashion, lean backward to lie on the bench.
  4. Position dumbbells upward, with arms extended above the shoulder joint.
  5. Palms should be facing each other (facing inward).
  6. Maintain a bend in your elbows at an angle of approximately 10 degrees. Elbows will remain in this slightly bent position throughout the entire exercise to keep arms rounded for the arc-shaped movement.
  7. Ensure that the back of your head, shoulder blades/upper back, and glute region/lower back are in contact with the bench throughout the entire exercise.
  8. (If a spotter is present, signal the spotter for assistance by providing support where the upper arm meets the elbow.)

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

  1. In a controlled fashion, open your arms to open to your side.
  2. Open your arms until your elbows are lowered to the level of your torso and upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  3. Maintain the bend in your elbows. Only the shoulder joint should be moving throughout the entire exercise.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

    1. Close arms, following the same arc as the lowering phase.
    2. Return the dumbbells to starting position with arms extended upward and dumbbells positioned over the shoulder joint.
    3. When your set is complete, sit up and return the dumbbells to a vertical position on your upper thighs and sit up.
    4. If a spotter is present, they should maintain their hands near the elbows as the dumbbells descend and ascend. The spotter must position himself or herself in a stable stance throughout the lifter’s set.
Do not arch your back throughout the lift and descent. Do not forcefully touch the dumbbells together at the end of the upward phase. Do not bounce at the bottom of the movement when proceeding to the next repetition/concentric phase. Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Pectoralis major
  • Synergists: Anterior deltoid, triceps brachii, middle deltoid, coracobrachialis
  • Stabilizers: Biceps brachii, wrist flexors, rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Horizontal shoulder adduction
  • Equipment: Two dumbbells and a decline bench
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Fly Decline

    What Is A Dumbbell Decline Chest Fly?

    A decline dumbbell chest fly is a resistance exercise, which involves the primary horizontal shoulder adductor, the pectoralis major. This exercise is performed with two dumbbells while lying face up on a decline bench.

    The concentric portion of the lift is horizontal shoulder adduction. The concentric portion involves the lifting of the weight. The eccentric portion is horizontal shoulder abduction, which involves the descent of the weight.

    The purpose of the decline dumbbell chest fly is to strengthen the pectoralis major while promoting hypertrophy (increases in size) of this muscle.

    Why Do A Dumbbell Decline Chest Fly?

    Decline dumbbell chest flyes increase the size and strength of the upper (clavicular) and lower (sternocostal) heads of the pectoralis major. Chest flyes entail a stretch of the pectoralis major as the arms are fully abducted, resulting in significant activation of the pectoralis major fibers as the arms adduct. Chest flyes particulary activate the outer fibers of the pectoralis major. This includes the fibers that form the axilla (the front of the “arm pit”). Like the bench press, chest flyes are a staple exercise to develop the chest.

    Performing this exercise at a decline provides a variation in chest flyes that targets different muscle fibers of the pectoralis major. Stressing muscle fibers from different angles optimizes strength and hypertrophy of the trained muscle group.

    The long head of the triceps, anterior deltoid and middle deltoid are also activated in this movement.

    Decline dumbbell chest flyes serve as a valuable exercise to improve aesthetics of the pectoral muscle.

    Anatomy Of A Dumbbell Decline Chest Fly

    The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle that spans across the chest, forming the front portion of the axillary fold (arm pit). It is divided into two parts: clavicular and sternal. Its origin is located at the sternal end of the clavicle, the sternum, rib cartilage (ribs 1-6 [or 7]), and the aponeurosis of the external oblique. The fibers of the pectoralis major converge at the point of insertion located at the greater tubercle of the humerus. The pectoralis major aids in pushing movements as the shoulder adducts the arm against resistance. The shoulder horizontally adducts as the dumbbells follow through the arc pattern upward.

    The inverted position of this exercise targets both the sternocostal and clavicular heads of the pectoralis major. Therefore, decline dumbbell chest flyes are an effective exercise for developing the entire chest.

    The triceps brachii is located on the back of the upper arm, originating at the shoulder and inserting in the elbow joint. It consists of three heads, the long, medial and lateral head. The medial head lies beneath the long and lateral head. The long head origin is located at the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (shoulder blade). The original of the lateral head is located at the posterior shaft of the humerus. The medial head origin is located at the radial groove of the posterior humeral shaft.

    The long and lateral heads make up the “horseshoe” portion of the triceps. All three heads merge, sharing insertion into the olecranon process of the ulna, located at the elbow joint.
    The triceps brachii extend the elbow joint. The long head assists in arm adduction when executing the chest fly.

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction and the anterior fibers are a primary shoulder flexor. The anterior deltoid is a primary synergist of the pectoralis. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    Like the anterior fibers of the deltoid, the coracobrachialis is a synergist pectoralis major with horizontal shoulder adduction. It is a small muscle originating at the coracoid process of the scapula and inserting half way down the shaft of the humerus.

    The wrist flexors stabilize the wrists and the rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder girdle.

    Variations Of A Dumbbell Decline Chest Fly

    Dumbbell chest fly [flat bench], incline dumbbell chest fly, cable chest fly, machine chest fly.

    How To Improve Your Dumbbell Decline Chest Fly

    When lowering the weight during the eccentric phase, extending the elbow (opening the arms) slightly will allow for a greater stretch on the pectoralis major before proceeding to lift the weight. This will increase pectoralis major fiber activation. Experienced lifters should only do this as it may increase the risk of injury to the shoulder joint.

    To minimize negative stress on your shoulder joint, do not allow the elbows to drop below the level of the torso.

    Utilizing a spotter can ensure the safety of dumbbell chest fly execution. They can also monitor your technique.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as arms adduct and dumbbells are lifted upward.

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It is important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between chest and triceps training to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing A Dumbbell Decline Chest Fly

    Lowering the dumbbells too low should be avoided as it results in excessive shoulder extension and horizontal abduction, which can place great stress on the shoulder joint. Ensure that the upper arms do not pass the level of the torso when lowering the dumbbells. 1

    Bouncing the dumbbells together at the top of the upward phase is unnecessary. Although the dumbbells will move closer one another as the elbows fully extend, it is not necessary for them to touch.

    When initiating the lift to assume the starting position, swinging the dumbbells upward may compromise the biceps tendon if the dumbbells are heavier. When the set is complete, extending the shoulders from the lying position to lower the dumbbells to the floor can compromise the shoulder joint. Dropping the dumbbells is also inadvisable as it is frowned upon and can damage the dumbbells and the facility. Sitting upward on the decline bench and extending elbows to place weights on each side of the bench is a better alternative for the safety (and reputation) of the lifter.

    It is very common to observe an individual arching their back in efforts of lifting the weight with more ease. This technique should only be performed by weightlifting professionals and can compromise the safety of lifters.

    Lifting heavier weight without a trained spotter. With moderate to heavy weight loads, a trained spotter should monitor the lifter throughout their set for optimal safety.

    1. Reinold MM, Gill TJ, Wilk KE et al. (2010). Current concepts in the evaluation and treatment of the shoulder in overhead throwing athletes, Part 2. Sports Health. 2(2):101-115.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding A Dumbbell Decline Chest Fly

    If proper technique is not adhered to (e.g. arching of the back, lowering the upper arms past the level of the torso, dropping the weight quickly instead of controlling the descent on the eccentric portion of the lift), the likelihood of injury increases.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, biceps tendonitis/biceps tendinosis, pectoralis major tears and/or glenoid labrum tears may result. It is best to avoid chest fly exercises when addressing impingement syndrome/rotator cuff injury unless advised by a physical therapist.