Every lifter wants big pecs and the dumbbell chest fly is an excellent exercise to achieve this goal. However, sometimes you don't have the equipment necessary to perform the move, or you might want to mix things up. 

So what alternatives are available?

This guide will provide you with the best options that will give the same results without needing to perform the chest fly.

If you can't do a dumbbell chest fly for what ever reason, don't worry, you have plenty of other chest fly variations to do instead. 

Here are 10 dumbbell chest fly variations that will allow you to build more muscle in your home gym.

1. Barbell Bench Press 

Man Doing Barbell Bench Press Exercise

The barbell bench press is an excellent alternative for a flat bench dumbbell fly. The barbell bench press is an old-school, effective way to build size and strength in your chest.

It's one of my favorite compound exercises for developing your upper body strength. 

However, the only downside to the bench press is that you'll need a spotter to help you out if you fail mid set. And trust me, it does happen a lot when you're overloading your chest with a large amount of weight.


  • Develops chest mass.
  • It's a compound movement.

How to perform: 

  1. Lay down on a flat bench with your feet on the floor under your knees. 
  2. Hold the barbell with both hands slightly wider than shoulder width. 
  3. Lift the barbell up and hold it at the top and bring the barbell down towards the middle part of your chest. Breathe in as you go down. 
  4. Pause at the bottom before the barbell touches your chest and push the weight up back to the starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Plant your feet firmly on the floor as they provide a solid platform for your bench press. If your feet aren't stable you won't lift as much weight. 

2. Swiss Ball Push-Ups

Man Doing Swiss Ball Push-Ups

A Swiss ball push-up is a challenging exercise for your chest. This chest fly substitute works your chest, triceps, shoulders, and forearms. 

But, you do need outstanding balance and stability to do this move, so it may be challenging for beginners. 

During the Swiss ball push-up, I always feel like my triceps are on fire. This is largely due to the amount of work they're doing to stabilize my body during each rep.


  • Excellent for stability.
  • Fires up your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

How to perform: 

  1. Put your hands on the stability ball, slowly bringing your feet back and keep it straight. 
  2. Keep your chest in line with your hands, not be away from the ball. 
  3. Keeping your core and hips tight, bring your body down until your chest almost touches the ball. 
  4. Push back to the starting position and repeat. 
  5. Start with a standard push-up if you aren't ready for this exercise. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you struggle to keep your balance, you can put your hands on the floor in a triangle shape to help stimulate the same muscle fibers as a chest fly.

Related Article - Diamond Push Up Benefits

3. Incline Bench Press 

Man Doing Incline Bench Press In The Gym

The incline bench is a great incline dumbbell fly alternative. It targets similar muscles despite being a different movement pattern.

The incline bench will target the upper fibers of the pecs more than the traditional dumbbell chest fly, but it is very similar to an incline chest fly.

The incline bench press is a compound exercise that requires more effort from the shoulders, triceps, and chest.

However, this is the best option for those who only have a barbell instead of dumbbells or a band. If you lack of equipment or space, you can try out incline bench press alternatives.

This chest fly substitute is popular with my clients as it provides an incredible chest pump.


  • Allows you to overload your upper pecs.
  • Works your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
  • Great for all ability levels.

How to perform: 

  1. Put your bench at approximately a 45-degree angle with the floor 
  2. Grab the bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width 
  3. In a controlled movement, lower the bar down to your chest, keeping your wrists and forearms stacked
  4. Pause when the bar touches your chest to avoid bouncing the bar off the chest. 
  5. Press the bar up off the chest to return to the start position 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Don't set the bench too high. If you do, you'll be working more shoulders than chest. You don't want that, do you? 

4. Archer Push-Ups (Chest Fly Alternative For At Home)

Man Doing Archer Push-Ups

The archer push-up is another advanced push-up exercise. With this movement, you can create constant tension on your muscles and individually focus on each side of the chest.

It's a safe movement that will improve the overall strength of your entire body.

I like the archer push-up as a chest fly substitute as it works your chest through a similar range of motion, stretching your chest muscle fibers to their max.

And, as you're working each arm separately (kinda), you can iron out any muscle imbalances you might have developed.


  • Uses a large range of motion.
  • Works each side separately.
  • Brilliant for your chest development.

How to perform: 

  1. Start in a standard push-up position with a wider grip. 
  2. Lower your body toward one side with one hand. Place your other on the other side of the ground for balance. 
  3. Push with your arms to come back up and repeat the same movement with the other hand. 
  4. It's essential to keep your elbows in during the movement.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you're struggling to perform this chest fly substitute, place your knees on the floor to remove some of your body weight from your upper body.  

Related Article - Bench Press Vs Push Ups

5. TRX Chest Fly (Dumbbell Fly Alternative)

Man Doing TRX Chest Flys Outdoors

The TRX chest fly is an excellent decline dumbbell fly alternative. TRX is a great tool that you can do many exercises with at home or anywhere.

And when I say anywhere, I mean it. 

I often take my TRX on the road with me when I'm traveling. So long as I've got a solid anchor point I can use my TRX for a killer workout. You can attach it to door frames, trees, goal posts, and more.

In addition, the TRX chest fly is excellent for core stability. You can do this with TRX suspension or mix chest flys and presses.

However, if you don't have a TRX trainer, you can look up best TRX alternatives to continue your suspension training effectively without breaking the bank.


  • Uses your body weight. 
  • You can do them anywhere.
  • Minimal equipment required.

How to perform: 

  1. Attach a TRX suspension at the top where you can fix the strap.  
  2. Grab the ends of the bands and stand forward with your body leaning forward and keeping your arms straight forward.  
  3. Slowly bring your body forward, moving your arms sideways by pointing your elbows to the side.  
  4. Pause at the bottom when your wrist is slightly above your lower chest. 
  5. Slowly push back to the starting position. 
  6. Punch back your shoulders before performing the exercise, and keep your chest up as you go down. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Superset this brilliant chest fly alternative with push-ups. It'll give you one hell of a chest pump.  

6. Dumbbell Floor Fly

Man Doing Dumbbell Floor Flys In The Gym

The floor fly is a bench dumbbell fly alternative that still uses dumbbells but uses the floor instead of a bench.

Using the floor eliminates the problem of potential anterior shoulder capsule injury because it provides a safety net to preventing overstretching.[1

One thing I like about that dumbbell floor fly is that it's difficult to get wrong. I learnt this movement when I was 14 and used to perform the exercise several nights a week on my bedroom floor. 

If you lack equipment or floor space, this is one of the best chest fly alternatives around.


  • Suitable for all ability levels.
  • Doesn't require much equipment. 
  • Minimal space required.

How to perform: 

  1. Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor and position yourself behind the dumbbells, sitting on your butt.
  2. Grab hold of the dumbbells and carefully lay back on the floor with knees bent and the dumbbells at arm's length above your chest. 
  3. Bend your elbows slightly, keeping them locked in that position. 
  4. Pivot from the shoulder joint to bring your arms out and down until the upper arms touch the floor.  
  5. Reverse this motion to return to the starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Focus on slow and controlled reps rather than rushing through the set. Even though the range of motion is slightly reduced during this movement, you still want to feel your chest fibers stretching. 

Related Article - Floor Press Vs Bench Press

7. Cable Fly 

Man Doing Cable Flys In The Gym

The low cable fly is a great chest fly substitute with similar movement patterns and targets similar musculature.

The cable fly can be performed at different angles, which is excellent for people who experience shoulder discomfort with the dumbbell fly.

Set the height of the cables at chest height to perform a traditional fly, or lower to the ground if you have shoulder issues. 

My clients like this chest fly substitute as they can adjust the handles to a position of their choosing. Plus, it provides constant tension throughout your chest which is always a nice feeling.


  • Provides constant tension through your chest.
  • Less strain on the shoulders. 
  • Great for isolating your pecs.

How to perform: 

  1. Start by facing away from the cable machine, with a handle in each hand. 
  2. Then, take a step out from the cable machine into a staggered split stance. 
  3. Pull the cables until they are in line with the body, holding them in this position while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows. 
  4. When the cable is a chest height, your starting position will have the arms parallel with the floor. If the cable is set lower, your start position will have the arms mainly perpendicular to the floor. 
  5. To start, pull your arms together like you're giving someone a high with your chest out. 
  6. Once your hands meet, pause and squeeze your pecs. 
  7. Return your arms back to the start position, keeping the elbows slightly bent. 
  8. Don't let the cables go too far behind your body between reps because this will put unnecessary strain on the shoulders. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  Mix up the type of cable fly you're using. For example, do 3 sets of low to high cable flys followed by 3 sets of high to low. Play around with it and see what works for you.

8. Single-Arm Chest Fly

Man Doing Single-Arm Chest Flys

The single-arm chest fly is an excellent alternative if you have shoulder pain or are uncomfortable with dumbbell flys.

It's a safer option because your shoulders are not in an overly extended position, and you can limit the range of motion during the eccentric part.

As you're working one side at a time you can iron out any muscle imbalances that you might have. 

This chest fly substitute also works your core muscles as you'll need to stabilize your body during each rep, preventing it from twisting.

While it's not one of my go-to exercises for my own chest workouts, it is one of the best chest fly variations around.


  • Works each side in isolation.
  • Reduced shoulder strain.
  • Stretches your chest muscles.

How to perform: 

  1. Set a pulley at chest level and hold the handles. Stand looking straight ahead with bent elbows. 
  2. Start by moving your arms horizontally, bringing them across the midline of the chest.
  3. Squeeze your chest at the end and slowly bring your arms back to the starting position. 
  4. Turn to the other side and repeat the movement with your other hand. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  Stagger your stance slightly to help you create more stability during each rep. Doing so should help you remain stable during your set.

9. Sliding Push-Up

Man Doing Sliding Push-Ups

A sliding push-up is another great alternative you can do at home without need any specialist equipment or a ton of space.

This chest fly substitute has a similar movement pattern to a dumbbell fly and activates your core muscles for added stability.

I must warn you, this isn't an easy exercise and should only be attempted by intermediate or advanced gym goers. 


  • Increased muscle activation
  • Improved core strength 
  • Enhanced shoulder stability 

How to perform: 

  1. Grab two sliders or socks and place both hands on the floor. 
  2. Keep your hands close to each other and get into a push-up position. 
  3. Start by pushing your hands to the sides for a slide while keeping your back straight. 
  4. Pause at the bottom when your chest almost touches the floor and slide back to the starting position. 
  5. Breathe in on the way down and breathe out on the way up. Also, do this exercise slowly. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you need some assistance throughout this chest fly substitute, you can place your knees on the floor to make the exercise easier. Yet, it still provides you with a tough chest workout.  

10. Front Raises For Chest 

Man Doing Front Raises For Chest

"Front raises for chest...?" 

Yeah I hear you, but bear with me for a second.

Front raises are a great way to isolate your upper chest, provided that you use an underhand grip on the dumbbells. By doing so you'll target your pecs rather than your shoulders (unlike the regular front raises). 

During this chest fly substitute you can achieve quite the chest pump, and I think it feels pretty good at the end of a session (that's when I'd do it).


  • Isolates your upper pecs. 
  • Great for all ability levels.
  • No machines required.

How to perform: 

  1. Stand straight with your hands facing forward, holding your dumbbells. 
  2. Then, with a supinated grip, move a hand up toward the midline of your body. 
  3. Pause at the top when your hands are at about shoulder height, squeezing your upper chest. 
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with the other hand. 
  5. Concentrate on your chest and keep your palms up to keep the tension on the chest. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Try this exercise using a cable machine for added tension through your chest muscles. It's a brilliant way to isolate your pecs.

What Is Wrong With The Dumbbell Fly? (Disadvantages Explained)

  • Can't Go Heavy
    When your arm is extended out from your body for a dumbbell fly, you can't use as much weight as you could if the weights are directly over your chest. So with dumbbell chest flys, you can't lift as much through a full range of motion.
  • Not Good For Shoulder Joint
    A dumbbell chest fly on a bench provides no protection against the overextension of your shoulder joint. This can easily cause damage to your anterior shoulder capsule, especially if you use heavy weights.
  • No Tension At The Top
    In the top position of the DB chest fly, you don't have any pectoral activation. This means you can't apply continuous tension to the working muscle.
  • No Full Contraction Of Chest
    The stretch you feel in the bottom part of the dumbbell fly is not actually a pectoral muscle stretch. The stretch is instead felt in the anterior deltoid and the bicep.

Benefits Of Dumbbell Chest Fly & Substitute Exercises

Dumbbell chest flys that target your pectoralis major muscles provide benefits beyond building a big chest. This exercise offers many benefits to help you with everyday tasks and weight loss. They can even elevate your mental well-being.  

And the dumbbell chest fly requires minimal equipment, so it's convenient even in a home gym with minimal equipment. Chest flys target the sternal heads of your pectoralis major muscles and strengthen your deltoids, biceps, triceps, wrist flexors, and brachialis muscles.  

But, again, performing the exercise goes beyond strengthening your muscles. It also contributes to healthier bones, joints, and ligaments. Other benefits of this strength-training exercise are:  

  • Improved stamina and posture  
  • Fat loss by building a higher metabolism  
  • Helps avoid future health problems like arthritis 

What Muscles Do Dumbbell Chest Fly Exercises Work?

Pectoralis Major 

Your pectoralis major, or pecs, are twin, fan-shaped muscles on the front of your rib cage. They are the prime movers in the dumbbell chest fly. They draw your arms from the wide-open position toward the midline of your chest. 

The pec major has two heads. The sternal (lower) head works hardest when performing the movement on a flat or decline bench. The clavicular (upper) head is targeted when working from an inclined position.[2]  

Pec Minor 

Your pec minor is a triangular muscle responsible for the movement of your scapula. Your pec minor helps keep your shoulders from shrugging up toward your ears and rotates your shoulder inward. The dumbbell chest fly isolates the pec major but requires significant assistance from the pec minor. 


Your deltoid muscles begin at your shoulder blade and collarbone and attach your shoulder to your upper arm bone. You generally use your deltoids to help you lift things.

The dumbbell fly works the front and middle parts of your deltoid muscles, with a secondary strengthening of your posterior deltoids in the back of your shoulders. 


Your biceps run the length of the front of your upper arm, from your shoulders to the top of your lower forearm bone.

They’re responsible for bending your elbows. During the dumbbell fly exercise, your biceps brachii muscles isometrically contract to hold your elbows in the slightly bent position.[3]

Common Chest Fly Exercise Questions

Can you do dumbbell chest flys without a bench? 

Yes, you can do the dumbbell chest fly without a bench. There are various methods including on the floor or even a stability ball. Performing them on the floor will keep you from overextending your shoulders. Check out our list of the best dumbbell chest exercises without a bench here!

Is the chest fly a compound exercise? 

Yes, dumbbell chest fly is a compound exercise. While it might seem like an isolation movement it targets your pectoralis major, anterior shoulder, and scapular stabilizers. 

Can chest flys help with your bench press? 

Yes, chest flys do help with bench press. Doing chest flys works the small supporting muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms. This will have a beneficial effect on your bench press.

Are cable crossovers the same as chest flys? 

No, the cable crossover isn't the same as chest flys. Cable crossovers use a cable machine, while chest flys traditionally use dumbbells. While they're similar, they aren't the same.


If you can't perform dumbbell chest flys, these dumbbell chest fly alternatives can be even better and more effective.

So if you're looking for a big chest, don't think you have to limit yourself to DB chest flys. Choose a handful of these alternatives instead and add them to your chest routine. Your chest will love the new stimulus. 

Did somebody say barrel-like chest?





Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.