The chest is one of everybody’s favorite muscles groups to work…and the bench press, dip, flye and cable cross-over are the four major movement patterns used to work the chest.
The exercise I’m going to show is a variation of the flye and the cable cross-over…it’s essentially a cable flye. This is not something earthshakingly different, nor is the different method I’m going to show you for doing it.
In fact, it’s very simple! Instead of doing the cable flye on a bench, I want you to do it lying on the floor.
That’s it. No tricks :).
And I’ll tell you right up front, if you don’t have a decent amount of muscle mass on the chest already, don’t bother doing this exercise. It’s NOT a mass-builder. It’s an exercise to use when you’ve already built some mass and you want that mass to LOOK better.
Also, if your focus is functional training or strength training and you’re not concerned about aesthetics, you can skip this one, too. It’s not about function or strength…this is an exercise to do ONLY if your want your chest to look like it’s carved out of a granite block (ok, couldn’t resist one cliché). In addition, this will only improve definition IF you’re already low enough bodyfat to see the difference – this isn’t a miracle exercise that burns fat directly from the chest.
So there are two reasons this exercise is so much better when done lying on the floor rather than on a bench:
1. The first reason is the floor…
The floor stops your range of motion before your arms can be pulled down and back too far, which can overstretch the shoulder joints, especially when under tension.
When you’re lying on a bench and using the two low-pulleys of the cable cross-over machine, your arms are always being pulled (or trying to be pulled) into that position.
The only problem is, the best of this exercise is the part where you come to the top and your pecs contract. The bottom is basically a throw-away. So why endanger your shoulders on a throw-away part of the exercise just because you want to use “full range of motion”…go with USEFUL range of motion.
2. The second reason is ALSO the floor…but for a different purpose than the first reason.
When you’re lying on the floor, you have the ability to put your elbows down on the floor and use them to push your upper back off the floor (imagine as though you’re trying to push your sternum up against the ceiling).
When you do this pushing off the floor, this allows you to squeeze your shoulder blades together underneath you MUCH better than if you’re lying on a bench and don’t have that leverage. And that is going to force the shoulders back and better isolate the pecs…which is the whole purpose of this exercise.
It’s for these two reasons that this floor version is so much better than the bench version (and also MUCH better than either the pec deck machine or the traditional cable cross-over exercise).
There is also a third reason, but it’s something you can do with a bench, so I won’t count it as a reason it’s better. By moving your body higher or lower on the floor, in relation to the pulleys, you can preferentially target the upper or lower chest, too.
How to Do Cable Floor Flyes
First, you’re going to need a cable cross-over machine (you can make-do with a single low-pulley if that’s all you’ve got – just do one arm at a time).
Use two single handles and set a fairly light to medium weight on the stacks – this is NOT a heavy exercise. It’s all about tight form and peak contraction – going too heavy will work against you.
Sit on the floor then grab the right handle.
Shift over and grab the left handle.
Now get into the middle and into position to lay down so your shoulders are in line with the pulleys. That position will hit the most chest mass.
Your elbows should be slightly bent, feet on the floor, knees bent.
NOW it’s time to push your elbows into the floor and force your shoulder blades behind your back. Squeeze them tight like you’re trying to kill a mosquito that landed in between them.
You’re ready to flye…
Using a smooth motion, bring the handles together over your chest and hold that position, SQUEEZING the pecs. Hold for at least 3 to 5 seconds, squeezing the whole time. This is what will bring out the definition and harness in the chest.
Just pumping out reps won’t do it for you…you need to get your mind in the muscle and really feel those pecs working. This is the “money” part of the exercise.
For this one, I recommend doing it after you’ve done your other “big” exercises like your dumbell or barbell bench press. It’s more effective as a finisher than one to start with.
This exercise is quick and easy to set up and won’t make big inroads into your overall recovery, so it’s a nice addition to just about any chest program, especially if you’d like better definition and hardness in your pecs.
I’ve got a video of the exercise in action here:
Nick Nilsson is known in the fitness industry as the “Mad Scientist of Muscle,” and for good reason! For more than 28 years, Nick has been creating unique, new exercises and training techniques and putting together some of the most innovative muscle-building and fat-loss programs available anywhere.