If you are a proponent of free weight and especially enjoy doing the benchpress like so many guys, you may have shown disdain for the flyes machine and given priority to dumbbell flyes instead. Dumbell flyes are great but there is a place and use for every exercise. So here is what you can gain from doing flyes at the machine, at least from time to time.
Sidenote: the flyes machine is not to be confused with the pec deck machine. The movements are similar but with the latter your arms are bent 90 degrees at the elbow and feel very unnatural. With the flyes machine, your arms are wide open, slightly bent at the elbow just like the free weight version. The movement feels very natural, satisfying and you will feel very strong in this position.
Machine versus man
The crucial difference for you between the free weight version and the machine version of flyes is that the resistance stays constant when you use the machine. The weight plates simply move up and down via a series of cables and pulleys. Compare this with the dumbbell version where the resistance is at its maximum when your arms are stretched wide open and nearly parallel to the floor. As the weight is provided by the pull of gravity straight down, when your arms are at the top nearly touching each other, the weight of the dumbbells is of course the same but the resistance is close to nil as the weight is acting vertically down along your arms. Your pecs are doing nearly no work.
The flyes machine develops your inner pecs. Make sure you squeeze your muscles hard at the top of the exercise to benefit the most from it.
Advantage of the flyes machine
What this means at the machine is that you are still able to recruit your pecs when your arms are close to each other. In fact, this is the great advantage of the flyes machine: to be able to provide resistance throughout the exercise and especially at the top. This is great news for your pectorals. With the flyes machine, by squeezing hard at the top of the exercise, you are able to develop your inner pec muscles and accentuate the line separating the two sides. This helps give the impression that your pecs are even bigger and definitely more cut.
Disadvantage of the flyes machine
The disadvantage is of course that the machine dictates your movement. One machine cannot fit to all individuals but only the average ones. If you are too short or too tall, you might be placing undue stress on your joints. Having said this, this particular machine is actually quite flexible to adapt to most people’s sizes as the handles can be move to suit your reach. Just ensure that your shoulders are aligned with the centre of rotation of each arm of the machine that you will push together. You are not able to do incline and decline versions although you can somehow move your torso to a very limited degree to achieve these positions. The primary emphasis with the flyes machine anyway should be to work your inner pecs as this is a region that cannot be targeted by the traditional dumbbell flyes.
When to do it?
You can of course do this exercise after the heavy compound movements but you can also use it as a pre-exhaustion exercise if your shoulders are too strong and are taking over all the work in the bench press. By killing your pecs first with an isolation exercise, whatever work they do later will be pushing them to their limits and forcing them to grow. It’s a good idea to do the flyes machine exercise first as a pre-exhaustion strategy if your inner pecs need some catching up too. That way the get all your attention as you are still fresh. You can do a second round at the end of your chest workout to ensure you squeeze every juice you have left.
Feel the pump and tightness in your chest afterwards as it gets congested with blood. Don’t forget to squeeze hard at the top of every rep.