Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
The bench dumbbell fly has never been one of my favorite exercises for my clients, especially for those with balky shoulders. I’ve seen many guys in the gym trying to move too much weight while pushing their range of motion too far. The move has always seemed too risky on the shoulders, especially for my older clients that value joint safety in the gym above all else. Thankfully, I can point my clients to a safer fly variation, the T-bench dumbbell fly, which also has the added bonus of working the core at the same time. This one is tailor made for anyone who wants a solid chest pump without putting their shoulders at risk.
To set up, grab a pair of dumbbells and find a sturdy weight bench. Have a seat on the middle of the bench, with the dumbbells resting on your thighs. Then slide down so your shoulder blades are resting on the bench. Drive your hips up, with your feet about shoulder’s width apart on the floor and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Press the dumbbells upward so they are directly above your shoulders with your palms facing each other. Drive your shoulders downward into the bench, then squeeze your glutes and abs. Get your body, from your knees to your shoulders, in a straight line.
From this starting position, slowly open up your elbows to lower your arms down. As you descend, the bench will eventually stop your upper arms from going down. Pause to come to a stop, then squeeze your pecs to fly the dumbbells back up to the starting position. That’s one rep.
There are two great safety advantages to the T-bench dumbbell fly. First, the bench stops your arms from descending too far during the eccentric (lowering) part of the movement. This will keep your shoulders within a safe range of motion. Second, that backstop effect from the bench forces you to move more deliberately. Because of these safeguards, you can confidently use heavier weights than you would in other fly-style exercises.
Another advantage is T-bench dumbbell fly becomes more than just a chest movement. Due to the positioning, your core must remain locked-in during the reps so that your waist doesn't dip. You’ll definitely get a good burn in in your glutes, hamstrings and abs as the reps pile up.
The best way to do dumbbell flys is to slowly lower the dumbbells using a three to five second count. Also, if you go a little heavier, at the bottom of the rep you can bend your elbows a little more and press back up the starting position, further reducing the amount of strain on your shoulders.
Start with lower weights so that you can get used to the position, then work up from there. Try 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps to begin, then drop down to sets of 4 to 6 reps when you go heavy.
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