There's no doubt about it: the chest fly on a bench is a very popular strength training exercise when it comes to working your chest. The problem is that it can cause many injuries, more or less serious. So the question is: how to avoid chest fly injuries?
You can avoid chest fly injuries by replacing the classic chest fly on a bench with a chest fly variation on the floor. By reducing an excessive range of motion, you avoid the risk of trauma.
Let's look together at the advantages of the floor fly and how to perform it well.
What is the classic chest fly?
The "flys" exercises
Classical "press" exercises (like bench press) are called "polyarticular", which means that they involve several muscles and joints at the same time. "Flys" exercises (like chest fly) are called "monoarticular", which means that they mainly target a single joint and a single muscle group, in this case the pectorals.
Another detail differentiates them: the "press" exercises work mainly on the thickness of the muscle while the "flys" movements, which allow a better range of motion, focus on the width of the muscle.
How to execute the classic chest fly?
Normally, to perform the classic chest fly, you lie yourself on a horizontal bench with your feet on the ground. You lift the dumbbells to place them, arms almost straight, above the sternum. Your palms are facing each other and the weights are almost in contact.
Then you have to put the dumbbells down. To do this, open and lower your arms until they are parallel to the ground. The arms are slightly bent, at about 15°. Finally, you lift the weights again using your pectorals. Return to your starting position and repeat the movement.
Why avoid the classic chest fly on a bench?
Although chest fly is a fairly simple and popular exercise, it is still dangerous. Indeed, during the movement, the more you lower the weights, the more vulnerable your shoulders become. Since you don't have a support on which to stabilize your shoulders, the tension exerted on them can be problematic, and therefore, the risk of injury is not negligible.
Maybe you think by reducing the weight you'll avoid injury? Unfortunately, no. Regardless of the load being lifted, the position of your shoulders during this movement can be enough to injure you if it is performed repeatedly.
The instability of your shoulders and the range of motion exerted during this movement create too much risk at certain areas, such as :
- the anterior deltoid;
- the glenohumeral joint capsule;
- the acromioclavicular joint;
- the coracobrachialis;
- the pectoral muscle.
This kind of tension can cause all kinds of injuries on these areas : chronic pain, partial or complete tear, dislocation etc.
Indeed the shoulder joint remains complex and this kind of movement makes you take unnecessary additional risks, knowing already that : "shoulder pain affects 18-26% of adults at any point in time, making it one of the most common regional pain syndrome." Allander E Prevalence, incidence and remission rates of some commo rheumatic diseases and syndromes. Scand J Rheumathol 1974) (Walker Bone K Reading I Coggon D et al The anatomical pattern and determinants of pain in the neck and upper limbs: an epidemiologic study. Pain 2004.
The dumbell floor fly: the solution
How to execute the floor fly? : the advices
For an effective dumbell floor fly, you still need to know how to execute it. So start by positioning yourself correctly: lie down on the floor, knees bent and feet anchored on the ground. The gluteus remain in contact with the ground, the chest open and the back arched.
Remember to pulling back your shoulder blades and keep your shoulders down. The back of your shoulders should remain in contact with the floor.
You begin the movement by lifting the dumbells, arms almost straight, slightly bent above your chest. Open your arms until your elbows touch the ground. At this point, try to keep your arms slightly bent (about 20° to 25°). Keep your eyes straight. Lift your arms like in starting position above your chest and repeat the movement.
Pay attention to the grip of the dumbbells. In training, whether it's a dumbbell, barbell, or machine, it's always best to keep your thumb around the dumbell grip, away from your fingers .
This is just to avoid accidents or possible risks of pain and injury: nerve compression, tendonitis, inflammation etc. These traumas can affect the wrists, elbows and shoulders. Indeed, if you hold your grip with your thumb on the same side as the rest of your fingers repeatedly during your training, you create a conflict between the flexor finger muscles and those of the thumb.
You will have guessed it, the floor fly allows to reduce the range of motion. You thus prevent the destabilization and the weakeness of your shoulders.
Thanks to the floor fly, you have a better posture and a better support, so you can increase the loads on your fly with more safety and ease.
But that's not all, the floor fly is a good option to work in eccentric overload. What does that mean? It means that you concentrate on the eccentric phase of the movement, during the descent of the weights.
To work in eccentric overload, increase the loads and try to hold the weights until the end of the descent. This way, since the floor stops your movement, you limit your amplitude and the risk of injury. Once you reach the end of the descent, you raise the weights by doing a classic dumbbell chest press, keeping a 45° angle between your ribs and your elbows. Then you repeat.
Why should you keep the floor fly in your training?
Since the classic chest fly can cause so many injuries, why keep it during your training? It's quite simple, the floor fly variation avoids all the inconveniences of the chest fly, it remains an important exercise because it works the muscle in its width.
If it is essential to work the width of the muscle, it is to stretch the fibre. In this way, you increase your flexibility, improve muscle contraction and create muscle more easily, thus increasing your mass and strength.
The floor fly is also essential, because it is a free-weight exercise. You therefore work your stabilizer muscles, you improve your muscle coordination and you therefore limit tremors on similar movements.