Fly High Pulley

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Adjust the pulley height on each side to the highest level.
  2. Grasp the D-handles on each side with a closed grip.
  3. Locate yourself in the center of the cable crossover station with your shoulders in front of the pulleys.
  4. Assume a stable stance with one foot placed ahead of the other with slightly bent knees to optimize balance.
  5. Slightly lean torso forward.
  6. Pull the D-handles downward until your upper arms are in line with your shoulders.
  7. 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.

Downward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Push the D-handles downward, following an arc pattern that brings your fists together in front of your body at the bottom of the movement.
Do not forcefully touch the D-handles/fists together at the end of the concentric phase.

Upward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, open your arms while raising your arms in the same arc pattern followed in the concentric phase.
    2. Open your arms, returning to starting position, until your upper arms are in line with your torso.
    3. Maintain the bend in your elbows. Only the shoulder joint should be moving throughout the entire exercise.
    4. Maintain your feet flat on the floor in their stable stance throughout the entire exercise.
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: Latissimus dorsi, triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, teres major, anconeus, coracobrachialis
  • Stabilizers: Serratus anterior, rhomboids, biceps brachii, wrist flexors, rotator cuff muscles, abdominals
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Shoulder adduction, horizontal shoulder adduction
  • Equipment: Cable crossover station and two D-handles
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Fly High Pulley

    What Is A High Pulley Cable Fly?

    A high pulley cable fly is a resistance exercise, which involves the primary shoulder adductor, the pectoralis major. This exercise is performed standing in the center of a cable crossover station.

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

    The purpose of the high pulley cable fly is to strengthen the pectoralis major while promoting hypertrophy (increases in size) of this muscle.

    Why Do A High Pulley Cable Fly?

    High pulley cable flyes increase the size and strength of the upper (clavicular) and lower (sternocostal) heads of the pectoralis major with added emphasis on the lower region. This exercise also helps define the separation between the left and right pectoral muscles.

    High pulley cable 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. Cable flyes particularly 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.

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

    Performing this exercise with a cable provides constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion.

    High pulley cable flyes serve as a valuable exercise to improve aesthetics of the pectoral muscle.

    Anatomy Of A High Pulley Cable 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. In this exercise, the shoulder adducts with slight horizontal adduction as the D-handles follow through the arc pattern downward.

    This exercise targets both the sternocostal and clavicular heads of the pectoralis major with greater emphasis on the sternocostal head. Therefore, high pulley cable flyes are a staple exercise for developing the entire chest.

    The latissimus dorsi is a broad, flat, and triangular-shaped muscle of the lower back. When defined, the “lats” form a “v” shape of the torso as they angle toward the waist. The latissimus dorsi is a primary shoulder adductor. Its origin is located along the spines of the lower six thoracic vertebrae, lower 3 to 4 ribs, and iliac crest of the pelvis. Its insertion spirals around the teres major as it inserts into the intertubercular groove of the humerus.

    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 this movement.

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction. The anterior deltoid is a primary synergist of the pectoralis major. 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.

    A synergist of the latissimus dorsi, the teres major is a thick muscle located underneath the teres minor. Along with the latissimus dorsi, it also helps to form the posterior wall of the axilla. This muscle assists with shoulder adduction during this exercise. Its origin is located at the posterior surface of the scapula at the inferior angle. Its insertion is located at the crest of the lesser tubercle on the anterior humerus (its tendon fused with that of the latissimus dorsi).

    The anconeus is a short, triangular muscle located at the elbow joint. Its origin is located at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. Its insertion is located at the lateral aspect of the olecranon process of the ulna. The anconeus assists the triceps brachii during elbow extension.

    Like the anterior fibers of the deltoid, the coracobrachialis is a synergist for the 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 serratus anterior, rhomboids, biceps brachii and rotator cuff muscles are important stabilizers in this exercise for the shoulder and elbow joint. The abdominal muscles stabilize the torso in the inverted position while the wrist flexors stabilize the wrists.

    How To Improve Your High Pulley Cable Fly

    If your cable crossover station is adjustable at various heights, and not just with high and low pulleys, you can vary the pulley height with your cable flyes. Performing low pulley cable flyes will target the upper (sternoclavicular) region of the pectoralis major. Performing cable flyes at various levels in between high and low will further maximize fiber activation of the pectoralis major from all angles. This will promote optimal gains in strength and hypertrophy of the pectoralis major. The lower the pulley height, the greater the emphasis on the upper region of the pectoralis major. The higher the pulley height, the greater the emphasis on the lower region.

    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 shoulders to extend behind the torso.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as arms adduct and the D-handles are pushed downward.

    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 High Pulley Cable Fly

    Lowering the weight excessively by extending the shoulder past the torso (when opening your arms on the eccentric phase) should be avoided as it results in excessive horizontal shoulder 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 weight. 1

    Bouncing the D-handles/fists together at the bottom of the concentric phase is unnecessary. Ensure that both concentric and eccentric phases of this exercise are controlled and momentum is minimized.

    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.

    Variations Of A High Pulley Cable Fly

    Low pulley cable fly, chest height pulley cable fly, incline cable fly, [standing] cable crossover, dumbbell chest fly, machine chest fly.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding A High Pulley Cable Fly

    If proper technique is not adhered to (e.g. extending 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.