Doing your chest fly routine on the specific machine can be useful but not always ideal. Find out what exercise alternatives offer similar benefits.
The machine chest fly is mainly done to isolate your chest muscles which in turn means that the machine chest fly can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.
Whether you don’t enjoy the machine chest fly, you don’t have the equipment available, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these machine chest fly substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Dumbbell chest fly
Having a chest fly machine available is great but even if you don’t, you can still do the chest fly exercise with other equipment. With something like a weight bench and a pair of dumbbells, you are good to go.
Take the following steps to do a chest fly with dumbbells on a weight bench:
- Lie down with your back on a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keep your arms with the dumbbells slightly less than stretched and pointing up. Your hand palms should face each other and your hands should be as close together as possible.
- While keeping your arms slightly less than stretched slowly lower the dumbbells down sideways until your arms are about horizontally to the ground.
- Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
Similar to the machine cable fly, the dumbbell chest fly is a chest isolation exercise. That means other muscles will not have to work to a very big extent.
That being said, the dumbbell chest fly will engage more balancing muscles compared to the machine version. This can be both a benefit or downside depending on your training goals.
You change what part of your chest muscles you mainly focus on by doing the chest fly at different angles if you have a FID weight bench (flat, incline, decline).
A dumbbell chest fly on an incline weight bench targets your upper chest muscles more. The same exercise on a decline bench focuses more on your lower chest muscles.
2. Cable crossovers
For the next machine chest fly alternative, you will need to attach single-grip handles to each side of a double-pulley cable machine at about shoulder level.
After that, take the following steps to do a cable crossover:
- Grab 1 handle, walk towards the other handle and grab it with the other hand. Stand in the middle between the two cables.
- Put one foot a small distance backward and the other foot forward for balance. Slightly tilt your upper body forward while keeping your back straight. Keep your arms slightly less than extended throughout the exercise.
- Slowly bring your hands to the center and downward. Instead of stopping when right before your hands touch each other, you let one arm go above the other to go a little further.
- Slowly go back to starting position.
- When doing multiple repetitions switch between which arm goes above.
You can change the motion of your hands to focus slightly more on upper chest muscles by moving upward, or lower chest muscles by moving downward.
An added benefit of the cable crossover exercise is that your chest muscles can go through a bigger range of motion compared to the machine and other chest fly’s. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth.
One potential downside or upside depending on your training goals is that your core muscles will have to work compared to the machine chest fly.
Additionally, the equipment requirements for cable crossovers are still relatively strict.
3. Bench presses
The bench press is a popular compound chest exercise. That means this next exercise will also work other muscles like your triceps and shoulders a good amount.
For this alternative, you will need a weight bench and a weight to press. For example a barbell (with barbell rack). Take the following steps to do a barbell bench press:
- Load up the barbell in the rack with the desired weight.
- Lie down with your back on the weight bench and place your hands with an overhanded grip on the barbell at about shoulder width.
- Unrack the barbell and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
- Slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Push the barbell back up in the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Similar to many of the other chest exercises you can change your pressing angle with an incline or decline weight bench to focus on slightly different parts of your chest muscles.
It is also possible to do bench presses with free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, etc., and machines like the cable machine, smith machine, and chest press machine.
Your choice of equipment influences how much you work balancing muscles.
4. Dumbbell pullovers
For the dumbbell pullover, you preferably want a dumbbell and a flat weight bench. Similar weights and a similar surface to lie on can work too.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a dumbbell pullover:
- Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench. Hold a dumbbell on your chest.
- Grab one end of the dumbbell with both of your hands with your hand palms pointing upward. Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
- Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. Keep your elbows close to the middle, not pointing outward. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Move your arms back to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
If you feel your latissimus dorsi (middle back muscle) working a lot harder than your lower chest muscles your technique may be off.
In that case, you want to focus on keeping your elbows closer to the center.
Dumbbell pullovers have an even narrower focus than the machine chest fly. This variation of the dumbbell pullover mainly targets the lower part of your chest muscles.
Due to the position of the dumbbell, you don’t want to be too optimistic about your strength level. Start with a light dumbbell and build up from there.
Pushups are an extremely popular bodyweight exercise you can use as a machine chest fly alternative at home or in the gym without any machines.
Take the following steps to do a pushup:
- Get into the position where your face is facing the floor with your hand palms on the ground. Your arms are stretched and your knees are on the ground.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line.
- Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
- Stretch your arms again until you are back in a straight arm plank position.
A potential downside or upside depending on your training goals is that pushups target a wide variety of muscles. Besides your chest, you will also train your triceps, shoulders, and core muscles a good amount.
You can also do pushup variations to focus on these muscles in slightly different ratios.
One downside of pushups compared to the other substitutes on this list is that it can be a bit harder to make them very challenging.
If you are more experienced with chest training you may not be able to build a lot of muscle with pushups, even weighted ones.
6. Chest dips
The dip exercise mainly helps you train your triceps if you keep your body straight, but also your lower chest if you tilt your upper body forward.
You don’t need a big machine but you will need dip bars or something similar for this exercise. Take the following steps to do a lower chest dip:
- Place your hands on the dip bars. Start with your arms in an extended but not locked position. You will likely need a step up to get into this position. Your upper body should slightly tilt forward.
- Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until these are at a 90-degree angle.
- Raise yourself back up again into starting position in a controlled motion.
By tilting your body you engage your chest muscles a bit more but you will still work your tricep muscles a lot. Additionally, you will engage a variety of balancing muscles.
These things can be an upside or downside depending on why you want a machine chest fly alternative.
For most people bodyweight dips are already more than challenging enough.
Doing weighted dips with dumbbells, a dip belt, a weighted vest, or ankle weights is possible but generally for individuals more experienced with resistance training.