Every lifter wants big pecs and all the benefits of the dumbbell chest fly. However, sometimes you don't have the equipment necessary to perform the move. In recent years, there's a growing awareness that doing flys with dumbbells may not be the best or the healthiest way to activate and strengthen your pecs.  

Fortunately, there are dumbbell chest fly alternatives available that are even better and more effective. This guide will provide you with better options that will give you more growth with less risk.

If you can't do a dumbbell chest fly, don't worry, you have options. There are various DB chest fly alternatives, and some of them are better options because they eliminate some issues many people experience with chest flys. We'll go over them in a bit.

But first, here are 10 dumbbell chest fly modifications that will allow you to build more muscle without risking shoulder injury.

1. Barbell Bench Press 

Barbell Bench Press

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 also a very safe chest exercise, and you can go heavy on this, especially with a spotter.

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. 

2. Swiss Ball Push-Ups

Swiss Ball Push-Ups

A swiss ball push-up is a challenging exercise for your chest. You need outstanding balance and stability to do this move, so it may be challenging for beginners. 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.

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. 

3. Incline Bench Press 

Incline Bench Press

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 is not an isolation exercise because it 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.

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 

4. Archer Push-Ups 

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.

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.  

5. TRX Chest Fly 

TRX Chest Fly

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

Related Article - 5 Best TRX Alternatives

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. 

6. Dumbbell Floor Fly

Dumbbell Floor Fly

The floor fly is a bench dumbbell fly alternative that still uses dumbbells but uses the floor instead of a bench. The floor eliminates the problem of potential anterior shoulder capsule injury because it provides a safety net to prevent overstretching. 

Also Check Out - Floor Press Vs Bench Press

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. 

7. Cable Fly 

Cable Fly

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.

Use both sides of the cable machine so that each hand has a separate cable. Set the height of the cables at chest height to perform a traditional fly, or lower to the ground if you have shoulder issues. 

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. 

8. Single-Arm Chest Fly

Single-Arm Chest Fly

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.

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. 

9. Sliding Push-Up

Sliding Push-Up

A sliding push-up is another great alternative you can do at home without equipment. This movement activates your core muscles and has a similar movement pattern to a dumbbell fly.

If you need some exercise sliders, we recommend the Elite Sportz Core Sliders. They are perfect for bodyweight training at home.

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. 

10. Front Raises For Chest 

Front Raises For Chest

Front raises are a great way to isolate your upper chest. Front raises for your chest are different from front raises for your shoulders because they are specifically used to train your chest. This is a safer option than a dumbbell fly.

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. 

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.  

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.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can you do dumbbell chest flys without a bench? 

The dumbbell chest fly can be done in various ways without a bench, 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? 

The dumbbell fly is a compound exercise that targets your pectoralis major, anterior shoulder, and scapular stabilizers. To work all of these muscles, all you need are two dumbbells.

Can chest fly's help with your bench press? 

To improve your bench press, superset your bench press with a chest fly. The chest fly targets your pectoral muscles in a way the bench press can't. You can get a really great stretch at the bottom portion of the movement and squeeze the pecs hard at the top. You should notice gains in your bench press.

Are cable crossovers the same as chest flys? 

A crossover is a variation of a chest fly. You can do flys using cables, dumbbells, or machines. Dumbell chest flys can be done using either a flat, incline, or decline angle. Cable flys can be performed lying on a bench or in a standing position.  


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. Do these alternatives instead, or add them to your routine along with chest flys.

Paul J

Last Updated on March 30, 2023