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Chest Flys: Big Chest Growth The Arnold Way

One of the most famous pectoral-building exercise is the chest fly. This is a true high-effective classic that has given the gift of rampant chest growth to hundreds of bodybuilders, professional athletes and regular gym goers who’ve used it on a regular basis as a part of their workout routines. Also, it’s not unusual to see both fitness personal trainers and weight-lifting coaches recommending it to their clients.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is the legendary owner of one of the biggest chests ever, stated that the flat-bench dumbbell fly is the single most effective exercise he ever did for his chest. It’s him we have to thank for the popularity of this great movement, as he was a deeply convinced advocate of the chest fly for building massive pecs. Still, The Austrian Oak made his personal tweaks that increased the effectiveness of the exercise even further and allowed him to make extraordinary gains. Read the rest of this article to learn how to build a Golden-Era chest like the legends of the previous generation!

Why Arnie Loved the Chest Fly

A more detailed research of all existing training footage from Arnold’s golden days (together with the material that didn’t make the cut during the production of Pumping Iron) makes it obvious that that that the dumbbell fly, when performed properly, can be an extremely effective and even transforming exercise, especially when done on the flat bench. And according to his experience, if you make the flat-bench dumbbell fly the central movement in your chest workout program, you could unlock a before-invisible path of growth potential, and sculpt your pecs to look maximally powerful and aesthetically muscular. Shortly put, Arnold claims that the flat-bench dumbbell fly might just be the best exercise for re-shaping the pecs and significantly increasing their amount of quality muscle mass. And we should definitely take his advice, as he was one of the best bodybuilders of all time, who trained brutally and often make ingenious improvements to standard movements (hint: the Arnold press).

Which is exactly why it’s really sad to see people relying too much on machines – no great body was ever built without tons and tons of free weight work. Which is why we’re so eager to share a few chest-chiseling tips from the Pumping Iron’s star with you!

Keep these rules in mind while hammering your chest with dumbbell flies to ensure that your pec fibers have received the stimulus they need for full development:

1. Do Flies First

Arnold explains that one of the keys to getting the most benefits of this exercise is to bring the dumbbell fly up from the back end of the chest workout to the very front. If you treat this exercise as your primary movement for chest development instead of just as an afterthought in your chest workout, you can favorably re-shape your pecs and significantly increase the amount of quality muscle mass there.

2. Go Deep

As deep as you can, more accurately. Everyone in Arnold’s era were obsessed doing really deep, heavy chest flies with, of course, Arnold leading the pack. If you stick to doing half-assed reps, you will actually shift the focus from your chest to your shoulders. In addition to maintaining proper form, try to increase the depth just a bit more on each consecutive rep – this will allow you to maximally stretch your chest fibers.

3. Drop Your Elbows

If you’re going to do flies with improvised form and using the wrong angle, better don’t even bother doing them.  Not dropping the elbows is another very common mistake beginners make which prevents them from achieving a quality stretch of the muscle and can cause shoulder problems. You should descend your elbow like an arrow, instead of making a “T” at the bottom.

4. Start Light and With 3 X 10 Reps, Then Build Up

To really bring up your chest, perform flat-bench dumbbell flies three times per week, starting light and doing 3 sets of 10 reps, then work your way up, focusing on achieving maximum depth as often as possible.

Final Words of Wisdom

If you care about building a monster chest, remember that form and technique are of critical importance when performing this exercise. Most importantly of all, if you try to get that super deep stretch at every rep, you can make some huge progress in very short time.

Arnold often described the motion of the fly as “hugging a tree.” As his training footage shows, he would lye back on a flat bench with slightly bent arms, then take a huge breath and lower the dumbbells out and away from his torso in a very slow and controlled way. He would then raise them back through the exact same arc with an explosive exhalation, contracting his pecs all the way through. At the top of the movement, as the tension on his pecs would begin to decrease, he would stop his motion, leaving the dumbbells remaining a dozen of inches apart, and continue descending from there. Pure magic, driven by the desire to cause maximum muscle damage with every movement and by all means.


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