May 15, 2009, Newsletter Issue #377: Cable Chest Fly

Tip of the Week

The Cable Chest Fly is the same thing as the Free-Weight Chest Fly done lying on a bench, in which you hold a weight in each hand and move them down to the sides of your body (don't worry, more details coming...) except done now standing with cables.  This is a wonderful exercise for your chest musculature when done properly; when done wrong promotes rounded shoulders, the inability for your body to straighten the arm at the elbow and thoroughly stresses the shoulder in a negative way promoting weakness in the rotator cuff - so do it right, alright?  Good.  Let's figure out the posture.

Stand about 3 feet in front of the cable machine with feet and knees hip-width apart.  You want the cables behind you to the sides of your body (you could also use Resistance tubing/bands).  Grab handles from behind you and try to keep the arms generally straight at the elbow at about chest height (not shoulder height), starting with the arms parallel.  Make sure that the shoulders are not elevated and instead down and back, and that the elbows are lower to the ground than the shoulders.  Try not to lean forward, for you will get a better core workout the better your standing posture is.  Begin to push the weight in front of you keeping arms generally straight, ending once your arms are in front of you with only a slight bend at the elbows.  Make sure that as you perform the movement your lower back does not excessively arch, your shoulders do not shove out forward, your head does not come forward and your knees stay at hip-width.  Slowly bring the weight back, stopping once your arms are again parallel to one another and repeat.

The hardest part about this exercise is regarding your scapula (the wings under your upper/middle back on either side of you).  Why is it the hardest part?  Well, because they shouldn't move during the motion.  You're probably thinking "Nick, duh!  I'm working out my chest, so my back's not moving, ya dummy..."  Though i'm a little offended you think i'm a 'dummy', I want to calm your gym-tastic pride down a bit.  When you try this movement, have someone put their fingers on your scapulae, preferably on the lower portion (scaplua are bones, so touch the hard parts).  If you can do the Cable Chest Fly movement without them moving much at all, Congratulations!  Most people can't do that.  What generally happens is the scapula will move outwards, away from each other and maybe even upwards.  If that occurs I guarantee your shoulders are also coming forward, meaning you are in the category of rounded shoulders/weakened rotator cuff/weak elbow extendors I spoke of earlier. No, indeed not good.

This exercise is very difficult, but so good for you when done properly.  Only maybe 5% of you that try this will not have your scapula and shoulders move, so do have someone put their fingers on your scapula when you do try the exerise for it will definitely help.  Also don't use massive amounts of weight and instead start light, mastering the motion and then moving up in weight.  Train your body to be in excellent shape and posture, rather than how tough you can try to make yourself look when you exercise :)

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Nicholas Frank