Incline Cable Flye vs. Incline Dumbbell Flye

Both exercises work the chest, but which is better at targeting the inner/upper pecs?

April 9, 2013

By Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS

Incline Cable Flye

From inside the cable apparatus the incline cable flye appears very similar to its dumbbell cousin. When doing it, you may have to adjust the bench upward or back to make sure the line of pull is ideal for you. If you’re new to it, start with no weight at all and practice a few reps to be certain both the bench and the line of the cable are perfect for you, especially in your shoulder joints. Keep your elbows slightly bent, and pay special attention to the start of each rep because you don’t want to go down too far, causing loss of tension in your pecs. One great benefit of the cable flye is that you don’t have to worry about balance when you’re on the bench. The focus is completely upon the chest and not your stability muscles.

Incline Dumbbell Flye

Ten out of 10 bodybuilders will tell you the incline dumbbell flye is on their list of go-to chest exercises — and for good reason! The dumbbells allow each side of the body to work independently — important for symmetry and balance as the dumbbells force each arm and each side of the chest to perform the work without the assistance from the opposite side. Muscular imbalances will soon be apparent if the difference isn’t already clearly evident in the mirror. The movement also calls upon synergistic muscles to balance the dumbbells throughout the plane of work, so that assistance adds to the effort required. Furthermore, dumbbells also lend themselves nicely to drop sets and forced reps, intensity techniques that are integral in pushing the pecs beyond initial failure to spark growth.

Advantage: Incline Cable Flye

First and foremost, the upper/inner pecs are probably the weakest section of every bodybuilder’s chest. The upper pecs start on the collarbone and they meet the middle and lower pec fibers on the common tendon that attaches to the humerus (upper arm). Why the anatomy lesson? Well, it’s important because the upper/inner pec muscle fibers work with the rest of the chest muscles to perform horizontal adduction, but they also require arm flexion (raising your arm/deltoid in front of you) to be maximally stimulated. Although both exercises this month accomplish that goal, the peak contraction at the top of the move is what sets the two exercises apart. When you reach the point where your hands are in front of your face, the cables are asking those specific muscles to work harder than the dumbbells do at the same point. (During the dumbbell flye gravity is pulling the dumbbells downward, whereas the cables are pulling horizontally.) So this month’s winner-by-a-nose is the incline cable flye. The key to your best chest, however, is to utilize both techniques in your routine, either to pre-exhaust your chest before multijoint movements or as finishing exercises to flush and pump the muscle full of fluid until your reach exhaustion.