There’s always more than one way to do something, and reverse fly workouts are no exception. You can do them standing or sitting, with or without weights, using one or two arms, a bench or any bench––there is just so much beauty in such versatility!
If you’re unfamiliar, the reverse fly is a resistance exercise that strengthens the upper body, specifically the posterior shoulder and upper back muscles—particularly the posterior deltoid and rotator cuff muscles.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: why exercise the barely visible muscles, what benefits does this type of workout provide, how to do a reverse fly, and even what a back fly workout is. If so, read on as we explore the answers to all these questions – and more.
How to Fly a Perfect Reverse
Your time and effort are valuable, so anything worth doing is worth doing right—especially when it comes to work. Proper form will increase physical performance, reduce the risk of injury and allow you to reap the maximum benefits.
To that end, check out these steps on how to do a proper dumbbell reverse fly exercise:
- Stand on a flat surface with your feet hip- or shoulder-width apart. Keep a slight bend in the knees and rest your arms by your sides.
- Hinge your hips back and bring your chest almost parallel to the ground. Let your arms hang freely and maintain a straight back.
- Keep a slight bend in the elbows and lift your arms away from each other, toward your shoulders. It should look like you have wings and are making flying motions.
- Slowly bring your arms down and repeat the exercise. Recurrence will vary from person to person.
At first, this exercise may seem like someone trying to fly with their feet glued to the ground. If, hypothetically, liftoff was Possibly, this could be the result of a pushing motion rather than a pulling motion. But in this case, it’s the latter. Hence the name, opposite fly
Common Mistakes When Doing a Reverse Fly
When using dumbbells during this exercise, people often swing them using the momentum of the weight rather than the muscle to complete a rep.1 But doing so will not increase muscle strength. Remember, the tortoise, not the hare, wins the race, so use a steady and controlled motion to strengthen the core muscle groups.
If you’re straining to complete a full range of motion with dumbbells, you may be using too much weight. Not only does this result in poor form, it can also lead to injury. Better form and less weight will trump poor form and more weight over time.
Another common mistake people often make when doing a reverse fly is arching or rounding their back. Doing so will add unwanted stress to your lower spine.1 To avoid this, be aware of your form: keep your back straight, core tight, and don’t forget to tuck your chin.
Reverse fly variation
One of the beautiful things about this practice is its adaptability. You can do it at home or at the gym and without bands and weights and never get bored. Whether standing, seated or prone, this is an exercise that anyone can use at any point in their exercise journey.
Below are a few of our favorite ways to incorporate reverse flyes into your workout.
Seated reverse fly
This is an excellent choice for someone who uses dumbbells who may find the standing position uncomfortable. Here, you’re following the same steps we listed above, except you’re sitting down.
There are a few different ways to do this seated dumbbell reverse fly:
- regular bench – Sit on a bench with your arms at your sides. You’ll still hinge your hips and keep your back straight, but instead of keeping your chest nearly parallel to the floor, you’ll keep it at about a 45-degree angle to your thighs and knees.
- Incline bench – You can sit forward or backward on the tilting bench. Front seating is a good option for someone who may have problems with hip hinges, while rear seating is for someone looking for more of a physical challenge.
Cable One Arm Reverse Fly
The cable one arm reverse fly is an excellent option to isolate the rear deltoids, establish more core strength, and focus on full range of motion. This variation can be done in the gym using a cable pulley machine:
- Start in a similar position as indicated above and place the pulley at the same height as your neck.
- Stand sideways in front of the machine, and stretch your arms across your body using your outside hand to grab the pulley. Tip: Place your other hand on the machine or on your hip for balance during the exercise.
- As you pull your arms to your sides, exhale slowly. When you feel the contraction of the rear deltoid muscle, hold it briefly and then inhale as you bring it back to the starting point.
Upright reverse fly with band
An advantage of using resistance bands is that they create more tension as they stretch, resulting in greater muscle activity in and around the targeted muscle groups.2 This is a great option for people with lower back pain or difficulty bending.
This variation can be done at the gym or at home, either sitting or standing in an upright position:
- First, find somewhere to attach the resistance band—ideally, a stationary object. You can anchor it to a door, a fixed beam, or, perhaps, even a tree (if the weather agrees).
- Make sure the bands are about chest height and hold them with your arms in front of you with the elbows slightly bent. The band should not have any slack. Instead, they should pull and just start stretching.
- Keep your palms facing inward and arms parallel to the floor. Then, bring your arms back until your elbows are in line with or slightly past your shoulders to maximize range of motion.
Prone reverse fly
This variation can be done in three different positions (depending on a person’s skill level) – on the floor, on a bench or on an exercise ball with or without weights. Doing this variation without weights on a bench or an exercise ball is best for lower back discomfort or previous shoulder injuries.
If you do this exercise on the floor:
- Lie face down on your stomach with your arms at your sides, angled slightly outward, and palms on the ground.
- Pull your shoulder blades together and down toward your hips as you slowly lift your arms off the floor.
- Hold each rep for 2 to 12 seconds and repeat.
If you perform this exercise on a bench:
- Lower your face with your arms at your sides. Bend your elbows, and place your hands at or slightly above your head.
- Pull your shoulder blades together and down toward your hips as you lift your arms up.
- Hold each rep for 2 to 12 seconds and repeat.
If you perform this exercise on an exercise ball:
- Lie face down on your stomach with your arms out to the sides (think you’re a bird with its wings fully extended).
- Pull your shoulder blades together as you raise your arms.
- Hold each rep for 2 to 12 seconds and repeat.
Please note, the more advanced the pose, the harder it will be to hold each rep.
Precautions and safety measures
The reverse fly is a safe exercise for people without shoulder or back injuries. Its versatility makes it a great option for different ages and energy levels.
However, to make sure you’re performing this step with proper form, constantly monitor yourself using these questions as a guide:
- Are my knees slightly bent?
- Am I bent at the hips?
- Do I have a straight back?
- Tucked into my chin?
- Am I keeping my core tight?
If you have a recent shoulder or back injury, experience any aches or pains while doing it, or have recently had surgery, it is best to refrain from doing this exercise.
Why You Should Do Inverted Fly Workouts
Although we don’t use our back shoulders and upper back muscles Literally Fly (contrary or otherwise), these muscles are crucial for good posture and daily movement.
In fact, here are some of the benefits that the dumbbell reverse fly can offer:
- Improved posture and balance
- Reduced neck pain
- Supported shoulder straps
- Expanded chest muscles
- Strengthening the back shoulder and upper back muscles
Choose Right, Choose Wise, Choose Fitness
Whether you’re looking to incorporate a reverse fly workout or turf workout into your routine, learn about push vs. pull day, or start barre, Choose is your new workout spot. Chuz is not just a gym; We are a community of welcoming, friendly, and supportive people. Whether you’re new to exercise or have worked out your whole life, our fitness centers are designed to create healthy human connections. And healthy body You can even expand your zone Fitness class And know your community.
And the best part is, even if there isn’t one Choose Fitness Center near you, it is still possible to connect to it en-chuze-iastic Community with iChuze subscription, which allows you to participate in virtual workout programs from the comfort of your own home.
To know more, check out Ichuz Fitness today.
Ani is Vice President of Fitness at Chuz Fitness and oversees the Group Fitness and Team Training departments. He had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Annie lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and son and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Mayo Clinic. Healthy lifestyle fitness. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/reverse-fly/vid-20084679
- National Library of Medicine. Muscle activity in upper-body single-joint resistance exercise with elastic resistance bands versus free weights. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5873332/
- Harvard Health Publishing. Strength training relieves chronic neck pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/strength-training-relieves-chronic-neck-pain