By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS
Beefy lower pecs are no problem for most lifters -- especially when excess fat starts to hang in the offseason. But upper pecs have been the bane of many a bodybuilder looking to develop a fuller chest. The incline cable flye is arguably the best movement for targeting this stubborn region, and here's how to make the most of this essential exercise.
Step 1: Set an incline bench equidistant between two low-pulley cables. You may need to adjust the bench upward or backward until the placement is perfect for the angle of pull you desire.
STEP 2: If you’re training alone and don’t have anyone to help you, grasp one handle and straddle the bench, then reach for the opposite handle.
STEP 3: Lie back on the bench with your back fully supported and your feet flat on the floor.
STEP 4: Flex your chest, shoulders and arms to put your arms in a slightly bent position for a safe start. Your arms should remain locked in this position for the duration of the set.
STEP 1: Contract your chest to pull the handles up and across your body until your hands come together in front of your face. Your arms should be angled as if you’re hugging a barrel.
STEP 2: The slight bend in your elbows should remain consistent throughout the range of motion. Don’t open and close at the elbows.
STEP 3: Squeeze your pecs for a count before slowly lowering the handles along the same path to the start position.
STEP 4: Stop the downward motion when your hands are in line with your shoulders, then repeat for reps.
In Your Routine
>> The incline cable flye is an isolation (single-joint) move that can either be done early in your chest routine to pre-exhaust your pecs with fairly heavy weight or at the end of your session for high reps to flush and pump your chest.
>> You can include barbell and dumbbell moves such as bench presses and pullovers to complete your routine.
>> The incline position helps you target the stubborn upper pec region, which is arguably a bodybuilder’s most underdeveloped section of the chest.
>> For mass, perform 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps. To pump up your pecs at the end of your workout, do 4–5 sets of 15–20 repetitions.
Biggest Training Errors
1. Pressing rather than doing flyes. A common mistake is pressing rather than using a flye motion. Keeping your triceps out of the move is important to get the full effect of the isolation. If, at the end of the move, you wish to do more of a hybrid press/flye, that’s fine but first exhaust the target move without the help of the triceps.
2. Opening the angle of the arm at the start. One way to keep tension on the pecs is to maintain the slight bend in the arm at the bottom of the move. However, straightening the arms at the start of each rep automatically removes the constant tension.
3. Bringing your arms too low. Because you’re using cables, the range of motion is vast. However, with the incline cable flye, you want to maintain the appropriate range of motion that best stimulates the upper pecs. By allowing your hands to travel below the plane of your shoulders at the start will cause you to lose tension and could produce undue stress on your shoulder joint.
Best Alternative: Incline Dumbbell Flye
To mimic the angle that best targets your upper pecs, the incline dumbbell flye is your best bet. The dumbbells force you to employ various balance stabilizers differently than when using cables. The dumbbells also provide a different angle of resistance than cables. Where the cables provide more tension at the top of the move, the dumbbells have the same effect in the start of the exercise. For that reason, among others, using both dumbbell and cable flye moves from week to week is your best approach for complete pec development.