Why Do I Feel Dumbbell Chest Flys In My Shoulders? Find Out Here

L J Kudos
Why do I feel dumbbell chest flys in my shoulders?

Why Do I Feel Dumbbell Chest Flys In My Shoulders? Find Out Here

Do you ever find yourself struggling to figure out why your chest flys feel like they’re really working your shoulders? You’re not alone – this is a common issue people face when doing this exercise.

Is it possible to make sure you are isolating your chest with this specific workout? Or is it normal for it to be felt in other places too? The good news is that normally with a few tweaks here and there, you can fix the problem pretty quickly.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into why chest flys can end up feeling more like shoulder workouts than pectoral targeted training sessions, and provide advice on how to make sure your chest gets the attention it deserves! Read on for all the details.

Why do I feel dumbbell chest flys in my shoulders?

The most common reason why you feel chest flys in your shoulders is because of incorrect form or using a weight that’s too heavy. Common mistakes include lifting the dumbbells level with your shoulders rather than the lower section of your pecs, not pulling your shoulders back which encourages rounding of shoulders, and not engaging your scapula. Other factors like a reduced shoulder ROM, weaker shoulder joints, having a tight grip on the dumbbells, and a narrow bench can also contribute to the feeling of your chest flys being more of a shoulder workout. Additionally, not warming up properly or rushing through the exercise without focusing on control and mind-muscle connection can also lead to your shoulders taking over instead of your chest muscles. To maximise the efficiency of your chest flys, ensure you are using proper form and technique with lighter weights if necessary. Additionally, focus on connecting with your pecs when performing these exercises to make sure that they are being targeted effectively instead of allowing your shoulders to take over.

Let’s now look at reasons why dumbbell flys can often feel like a shoulder workout and what you can do to stop the issue from happening again.

Form and Technique

The way you hold and move the dumbbells is key to doing chest flys correctly. When lowering the weight, make sure there’s a slight bend in your elbows (around 160º if we’re going off a protractor) and keep the movement slow and controlled.

When the dumbbells reach their lowest point, make sure you do NOT lock your elbows (this would be 180º) as this can cause serious injury, make sure to keep a slight bend in them at all times and focus on using your chest to raise the weights, not just pushing with your delts.

Additionally, be sure that when performing the exercise, you are pulling your shoulder blades back and down, creating tension in the chest and not allowing them to round forward. This will ensure that your chest muscles, not your delts, are doing the work.

You should also focus on keeping your elbows slightly back, engaging your scapula and bringing the dumbbells down level with your chest rather than stopping at shoulder level.

As you’re bringing the weights up, focus on engaging your chest muscles and raising the dumbbells to their starting position, which should be around chest level. Make sure to keep your wrists straight and maintain a strong grip on the weights to help ensure you’re using the correct form.

People have suggested that this exercise is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, which is understandable as it can potentially cause serious injury.

However, if done correctly with good form, it can be a great exercise for targeting the chest muscles.

Lifting over shoulders

When you’re performing chest flys, make sure that you’re lifting the weights in line with your chest and not your shoulders. Lifting too high can put unnecessary strain on your shoulder joints, which should not be the case with this exercise.

As you may or may not know, whenever you lift anything above chest level, your front deltoids will naturally take over due to their stronger muscle fibres and the body’s mechanics. To prevent this from happening, make sure the dumbbells are always moving in line with your chest and not above it.

If the exercise is new to you, it may take a few attempts to find and feel where your arms should be in relation to your chest, so don’t be afraid to start light and slowly build up the weight once you feel more confident. Get someone to check your form or record your sets to see exactly where you’re at.

Also, ensure that you’re using a weight that’s light enough for you to manage correctly and that you’re keeping control of the weights throughout the movement.

Warming up

It is highly recommended that you warm up before performing chest flys as not doing so can lead to tightness and strain in the shoulders and chest.

Stretching your shoulders beforehand helps to open up the joint and reduce the risk of injury or strain, as well as allowing you to get into a better and deeper range of motion.

You should also use light weights for your warm-up sets, which will help activate your chest muscles and ensure that they’re ready for the heavier sets afterwards.

This will not only help reduce the chance of injury but also ensure that you’re using your chest muscles for the heavier sets and not your delts.

I also like to do a “dead hang” before I do any chest or shoulder exercises, as it helps to open up the shoulder joint, activate my muscles and get into a better range of motion. This simply means I hang for as long as possible from a bar or rack, focusing on engaging my shoulder blades and allowing gravity to stretch them out.

Attempting this exercise cold is a recipe for disaster, so make sure to get your body and muscles ready by warming up before giving it a go.

Why do I feel dumbbell chest flys in my shoulders?

Elbow bend

Make sure to keep your elbows slightly back throughout the exercise. This will help engage the chest muscles more and put less strain on the shoulder and elbow joints.

You want to have a 160º bend in the elbows as you lower the dumbbells. This will help ensure that you’re moving the weights in line with your chest and not over it, as well as activating the chest muscles more effectively.

If the weight is realistically too heavy for you, then your elbows are going to either lock out – which will cause considerable pain and injury or you will find that you have too much bend in the elbows (between 90-150º).

This will make the exercise easier as the point of leverage is far less than when the elbows are slightly back, so make sure you choose a weight that is suitable for you and allows your arms to be bent at 160º.

I also understand that we all have different ranges of motion, so experiment with different elbow positions until you find what feels most comfortable and effective.

Rounding shoulders

It’s important to ensure that your shoulders stay back and down throughout the exercise, as this will engage the chest muscles more effectively and reduce the risk of injury.

If you find yourself rounding your shoulders during the exercise, then it may be because you’re gripping too tightly onto the dumbbells, you naturally have rounded shoulders due to your posture or trying to lift a weight that is too heavy for you.

Ensure that your grip on the weights is firm but relaxed and choose a suitable weight that allows you to keep your shoulders back and down throughout the exercise.

Rounding your shoulders is also a sign that you aren’t engaging your scapula or shoulder blades, so teach yourself to consciously pull your shoulder blades back and down before you start the exercise.

This will not only help you maintain an upright posture but also make sure that you’re engaging the correct muscles for the exercise.

Lack of scapula engagement 

It is vitally important that you engage your scapula during chest flys, as this will help support the shoulder joint and ensure that your chest muscles are being worked correctly.

The scapula should be engaged throughout both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phases of the exercise, with a particular focus on driving the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.

If you find that your scapula isn’t engaging correctly, then try to consciously squeeze it and hold it throughout the exercise. This will help ensure that you are using your chest muscles rather than relying on other muscle groups to do the work.

Related: Why are my biceps sore after chest flys?

Weaker deltoids

If your deltoids are significantly weaker than other muscles, then you might be more likely to feel chest flys in your shoulders.

This is because the delts are a key stabilising muscle for the shoulder joint and if they’re weak then other muscles will have to work harder in order to compensate for them.

Your deltoids could be fatiguing quickly when performing chest flys and causing you to feel it in your shoulders rather than your chest.

Either way, the best way to address this is by focusing on strengthening your deltoids with exercises such as lateral raise, front raise and rear delt flys.

Once you have strengthened them, then it should be easier to perform chest flys without feeling too much strain on the shoulders.

Reduced shoulder ROM

If you have a reduced range of motion in the shoulder area for any reason, then chest flys might be uncomfortable and even painful to perform due to the increased stress placed on the shoulder joint.

In this case, you should focus on increasing your shoulder mobility before attempting any chest flys. This can be done by undertaking exercises such as arm circles and pendulum swings that will help increase your range of motion in the shoulder area.

Once you have increased your shoulder mobility, then you can start to perform chest flys without worrying about potential injuries.

If you’ve recently recovered from an injury or have endured a past one but haven’t been doing any heavy lifting since chances are that your joint range of motion has decreased.

In this case, it is important to start with light weights and slowly build up from there as your shoulder muscles regain their strength.

As you know, the shoulder joint is a very delicate joint and needs to be treated with care. So, make sure you use a weight that does not cause any pain or discomfort.

Serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi activation

Make sure to engage your serratus anterior and lat muscles when performing chest flys. The serratus anterior is a muscle located near the shoulder blade and helps to stabilise the shoulder joint, whilst the lats are responsible for helping you achieve a full range of motion.

By engaging these two muscles, you will be able to ensure that your chest flys are not only more effective but also reduce the risk of injury.

To activate these two muscles when performing chest flys, as we just mentioned…remember to focus on keeping your shoulder blades down and back throughout the exercise and squeezing them together at the top of the movement.

This will help ensure that you’re using the correct muscles and gaining maximum benefit from the exercise.

Narrow bench

Using a narrower bench during chest flys can lead to you feeling it in your shoulders rather than your chest.

This is because when you use a wider bench, it helps to spread the weight evenly over both sides of your body and allows you to achieve a full range of motion without putting too much strain on one particular area.

So, if you do notice that you’re experiencing more shoulder discomfort when using a narrower bench, then switch to a wider one and make sure you focus on keeping your shoulder blades back and down throughout the exercise.

In addition, solidify your stance by widening your legs to a width that is suitable yet allows you to conduct the exercise properly with robust support, as having a narrow stance can compromise your balance while doing the exercise.

Weights and Resistance

If you’re using a weight that is too heavy for you, it can be difficult to maintain proper form while doing chest flys. This can lead to your shoulders taking on more of the load than they should and thus causing discomfort.

Therefore, it is important to choose a weight that you’re comfortable with and make sure you focus on maintaining core stability and good form while performing the exercise.

If you’re unsure what weight is suitable for you, then start with a lighter weight and gradually increase it as your strength improves.

Make sure you can do the desired number of reps with good form and don’t increase the weight until you can perform the exercise with perfect form. This will help ensure that you don’t place too much strain on your shoulders while doing chest flys.

This is often the case when people first start doing chest flys, as it takes time to get used to the technique and ensure that you’re using a weight that doesn’t place too much strain on your shoulders.

Lack control

A lack of control over the dumbbells can also contribute to feeling chest flys in your shoulders.

This is because when you’re not in control of the weight, then it’s more likely that the motion will be incorrect and cause strain on your shoulders rather than your pecs.

Therefore, it is important to make sure that you grip the dumbbells firmly, keep your elbows tucked in and maintain control over them throughout the exercise.

There’s nothing wrong with lifting weights from time to time with explosion when it’s justified but there’s a difference between explosion and rushing. Rushing through the exercise can lead to incorrect form which can then cause strain on your shoulders and lead to discomfort.

Therefore, always focus on maintaining control throughout the exercise while taking care to move at a moderate speed that is comfortable for you.

You are lifting the weight by contracting your muscles and actively thinking about the movement and form rather than using momentum to do all the work.

Related: Are dips and push ups enough for chest development? 

Mind muscle connection 

Having a strong mind muscle connection is essential for ensuring that you’re targeting the correct muscles when performing chest flys.

If your mind muscle connection is weak then it’s easy to lose focus and start feeling the exercise in your shoulders rather than your pecs. This can easily lead to incorrect form and increase strain on the shoulders.

Therefore, it is important to focus on contracting the correct muscles and visualise the contraction as you perform each repetition. This will help ensure that you’re targeting your chest rather than your shoulders which should lead to more effective results.

When you think more about how the exercise should be performed and focus on contracting your muscles, it will be easier to keep your form correct and reduce the risk of strain on the shoulders.

Pinky to pinky

One way to really help you feel your pecs more than your shoulders during this exercise is to slightly rotate your forearms when the dumbbells are above you so that your pinky fingers are closer to each other, rather than having a neutral grip (palms facing).

Think of your hands and dumbbells as creating a “V” shape, while also really squeezing your pecs together.

Keep your hands and arms at this angle as you lower the dumbbells back down for the next rep.

This will help ensure that your chest muscles are more engaged during the exercise and reduce the amount of strain placed on your shoulders.

Try different variations 

If you feel that your chest flys are still more of a shoulder exercise than a chest exercise, then it might be worth trying different variations.

For example, using cables instead of dumbbells can help to reduce strain on the shoulders as the cable will move in a linear path, which will also help to ensure you’re targeting the correct muscles.

You can also try variations such as incline chest flys, decline chest flys or even floor chest flys to help target your chest more effectively.

Related: Why does my collarbone hurt after chest workout?

Final thoughts…

If you’re feeling chest flys in your shoulders then it is important to identify the cause and make sure that it is not due to incorrect form or using a weight that is too heavy.

By being aware of common mistakes, such as not pulling your shoulders back, gripping the dumbbells too tightly and not engaging your scapula, you can take steps to ensure that your chest flys are more effective.

Additionally, making sure you have a strong mind muscle connection and focus on contracting the correct muscles is essential for targeting the right muscles when performing the exercise.

Do dumbbell chest flys hurt your shoulders and have these tips helped? Let me know in the comments below.

If you enjoy sport and use CBD to help with your recovery in between gruelling workouts, then you are in the right place. Here at Sport CBDs, we train hard and recover the best way possible…

We have regular workouts (check out the YouTube channel), CBD news and CBD products to help you gain that edge! 

If you wanted to check out the reputable CBD we have on offer here at the site, then please head to the Sport CBDs Store (CLICK HERE). We also do fitness clothing and yoga accessories too. 

Until next time, all the best…

Beginners Upper Body Kettlebell Workout

Lee

Founder – Sport CBDs

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