If you're looking for an exercise to build up the hard-to-hit angles of your pecs, or if you're trying to get better at hugging people, cable flyes fit the bill. But you'll forfeit those benefits if you do them wrong.

Here's what to avoid:

  • Shrugging and overuse of the upper traps: Instead of using the pecs to draw the arms in, lifters will often shrug at the shoulders and use the upper traps as the prime movers.
  • Overuse of the arms: This is a sign that the weight you selected is too heavy and your arms are having to do the brunt of the work.
  • Knuckle hitting: Trying to connect the knuckles together at the top portion of the flye is usually a result of overuse of the forearms and upper traps (causing shrugging).

How to Feel Your Pecs During Cable Flyes

Since cable and machine exercises are on a pre-determined path, even the smallest tweaks in your positioning can have a big impact on muscle recruitment. Dial back on the weight and focus on quality of movement to emphasize the muscles you're trying to target.

  • Use a false grip. Any time you hold something, you're using your forearms to some degree. The tighter your grip, the greater your forearm engagement. Your goal during the cable flye is to isolate the pecs, so it's ideal to have as little assistance from the forearms as possible.
  • Instead of squeezing the handles, loosen your grip and let your wrists extend back slightly. (If you have wrist issues, be smart about it.) A slightly loosened handle with a false grip allows you to emphasize the target muscles with little to no assistance from the forearms.
  • Draw the shoulders down. Put your shoulders into your back pocket and stay upright. Don't look like Quasimodo and become the hunchback of the cable flye machine.
  • Connect your WRISTS together, not your knuckles. Use a loosened grip with your wrists extended back slightly for optimal pec engagement.
  • "Crack a walnut" between your pecs. This will ramp up the mind-muscle connection.

Related: The Dirty 30 Chest Flye

Related: The 4 Best Ways to Reignite Chest Growth