At this point, you, a well-informed fitness enthusiast, are fully aware of how important the bench press — and its alternatives! — are for developing upper body strength. It seems less likely, though, that this same depth of chest physiology knowledge extends to the pec fly. Whether performed on a bench, a cable machine, or a pec deck, this exercise provides that deep stretch that the regular ol' bench press motion doesn't allow for, and as a bonus, squeezing your chest at the apex of the movement makes you feel a little like you're turning into the Incredible Hulk. Since you've probably been doing these things the same way for years, we asked a few friendly fitness professionals for their advice on how to keep things fresh and, uh, fly. (Sorry.)
Idalis Velazquez: Medicine ball press-outs
Assume a staggered stance with one foot slightly in front of theater for balance, holding the medicine ball close to your chest. Bracing your core, explosively press the ball away from your chest to a full extension. Hold for one second and return to start position. Complete three sets of 20 reps, and switch your front foot midway through each set. This is an especially great exercise for finishing out a long, hard chest workout.
Ben Booker: Band fly
Lay flat on your back and run a resistance band behind you (or even under the bench!) while holding on to both ends. Find the band resistance that allows you to, with effort, fully extend your arms straight above your chest and fully contract your pectorals. The variety of resistance levels that bands provide help you reach muscle fatigue faster, and the gradually increasing resistance at the top of the fly movement assists in building better separation between the pectoral muscles.
Jay Cardiello: Towel spread-outs
With your body in push-up position, place a towel under each hand, keeping your feet hip width apart. Slowly lower yourself to the ground while sliding your hands outward as far as possible — using the towels will help make this movement smoother. This is not a push-up, so don't bend your elbows. It's more like a fly using the ground. Reverse direction and repeat, performing as many as you can in 30 seconds.
Gideon Akande: Wide-stance push-up pulse
With your hands in an extra-wide push-up position, perform the bottom half of the exercise only—the “pulse.” The constant tension maintained throughout the motion helps to develop definition in the “show muscles”—the pectorals, shoulders, and triceps. Gideon kindly demonstrates for us here.
Alexia Clark: Plate squeeze
Pick up a plate and, with your hands on the flat sides—not the edges, as if you were holding a steering wheel — squeeze it between your hands. Keeping the plate at shoulder level, press it straight out, and at full extension, squeeze your pectoral muscles together to pull the plate back in toward your body, as shown here. While a traditional fly stretches your pectorals out during only the negative phase of the movement, the squeezing motion fully engages your chest throughout the range of motion.