If you are a proponent of free weight and especially enjoy doing the benchpress like so many guys, you may have shown some 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.
Flyes or pec deck?
Don’t confuse the flyes machine with the pec deck machine. The movements are similar but with the latter the arms are bent 90 degrees at the elbow and feel very unnatural. With the flyes machine, the arms are wide open and 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 between the free weight version and the machine version of flyes is that the resistance stays constant when using 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 with the arms outstretched and nearly parallel to the floor. As the weight is provided by the pull of gravity straight down, when the arms are at the top nearly touching each other, the resistance is close to nil as the weight is acting vertically down. The pecs are doing nearly no work.
Advantage of the flyes machine
The flyes machine still engages the pectoral muscles when the arms are close to each other. In fact, this is the great advantage of the flyes machine: providing constant resistance throughout the movement and especially at the top. This is great news for the pectorals. With the flyes machine, by squeezing hard at the top of the exercise, you can recruit the inner pec muscles and accentuate the line separating the two sides. This helps give the impression that the pecs are even bigger and more cut.
Disadvantage of the flyes machine
The machine dictates the movement. One machine cannot fit all individuals; it has been designed to suit Mr. Average. 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 moved to suit their reach. Just ensure that the shoulders are aligned with the centre of rotation of each arm of the machine that you will push together. There is no incline and decline versions although the torso may be angled somewhat to a limited degree for an inclined version. The primary emphasis with the flyes machine anyway should be to target the inner pecs as this is a region that cannot be targeted by the traditional dumbbell flyes.
When to do it?
Doing it after the heavy compound movements is common but it can also be used as a pre-exhaustion exercise if the shoulders are too strong and are taking over all the work in the benchpress. By killing the pecs first with an isolation exercise, whatever work they do later will be pushing them to their limits and forcing them to grow. Also do it first if your inner pecs have some catching-up to do, that way you’ll be fresh. You can do a second round at the end of your chest workout to squeeze out every juice 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.