Dumbbell Shoulder Fly: Muscles Worked, Benefits, Tips

Dumbbell Shoulder flys, also popular as dumbbell flyes are weight-training exercises performed for increasing upper body strength.

While a dumbbell fly primarily engages your shoulder muscles, it works the muscles in your arms and back as well. Flys can be done using a cable machine, but the simplest equipment used is the dumbbell.

The dumbbell shoulder flys is a good exercise, but you have to do it right, and that usually means picking the right weight.

It is important not to attempt to lift too heavy with this exercise, as that can put you out of shape and put too much stress on the shoulder joint. Always start light, and remember that what felt fine on the first rep can feel very heavy by the fifth.

Know More About Shoulder Muscles

In fitness, “shoulder exercises” refers to resistance exercises that target the deltoid muscle.

The deltoid is the superficial muscle that forms the rounded contour of your shoulder. While the deltoid is technically a single muscle, anatomically speaking it has three distinct sets of muscles fibers and muscle bellies, which are referred to as deltoid “heads.

The deltoid muscle of the shoulder consists of three separate sections or heads.

Shoulder Anatomy

What is Shoulder Fly

The shoulder fly or shoulder raise is a fundamental weight training exercise that is great for people who want to build strength or create more definition in the shoulders.

Shoulder flys should be included in upper-body strength training routines, and they should be performed after compounds of exercises that involve the shoulder, such as incline dumbbell press, shoulder press, push-ups, or pull-ups.

There are many different ways to do a fly, such as a front fly, a lateral fly, or a reverse delt fly.

The front fly or front raise primarily strengthens the anterior deltoids, but also works the upper chest (pectorals). It is an isolation exercise for shoulder flexion and can help you build strength and definition in the front of your shoulders.

The side or lateral fly or raise is an effective shoulder-strengthening movement designed to isolate the lateral head of the deltoid muscle

The reverse flys hits the rear deltoid and back parts of your shoulders as effectively as any other exercise, which will contribute greatly to building broader shoulders.

Want to take your gains to the next level? Discover your daily calorie needs with our free TDEE calculator

Dumbbell Lateral fly

Dumbbell Shoulder lateral fly, also known as lateral raises, is an exercise that primarily targets the lateral deltoids, the muscles on the sides of your shoulders.

The exercise focuses on the side deltoids, helping to build strength and size in this area. This results in wider-looking shoulders.

To build the middle head of the deltoid muscle, make lateral raises a regular part of your shoulder workout. It’s a must-do exercise.

Lateral Raise

Muscles Worked

Primary: Lateral deltoid.

Secondary: Anterior deltoid, posterior deltoid, trapezius, supraspinatus.

How To Do

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bring the weights together in front of you. The palms should be facing each other.
  2. Keep a slight bend in your elbows and engage your core for stability.
  3. Lift the dumbbells out to the sides until your arms are parallel to the floor.
  4. Pause briefly at the top, feeling the contraction in your lateral deltoids.
  5. Now lower the dumbbells in a controlled manner back to the starting position.


  • Remember to exhale while you exert.
  • The form is a very important part of this exercise.
  • Don’t just swing your arms. Keep controlled motion throughout the exercise.
  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • Always use weights that you can handle comfortably.

Standing Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

The bent-over dumbbell reverse fly, also known as the bent-over rear delt fly, is a great exercise to assist you in building a complete set of shoulders.

Many lifters utilize the bent-over dumbbell reverse fly to target the rear delts, an often lagging muscle for many lifters alike.

Strengthening the rear delts by using the bent over rear delt fly can lead to improved posture and a greater level of strength on other lifts. You should add this exercise to your shoulder fly workout regime.

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Muscles Worked

Primary: Posterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus

How To Do

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips and knees until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  2. The back should be straight and your arms should be hanging in front of you, with your palms facing inwards (neutral grip).
  3. Keeping your elbows slightly bent, raise both arms out to the sides until the dumbbells are level with the height of your shoulders
  4. Hold for a count of two and then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


  • Do not swing the dumbbells upward. Keep your back straight and your body still.
  • Your arms should be parallel to your shoulders.
  • Keep strict form to isolate the rear delts.
Read More for How To Do Seated Rear shoulder Fly Properly

Side-Lying Rear Delt Fly

The side-lying rear shoulder fly is a shoulder exercise used to target the rear delts. It is a great unilateral exercise used to target a smaller and often lagging muscle group. Instead of lying on the floor, you can lie on a bench.

The side-lying reverse dumbbell fly is also known as the side-lying dumbbell rear delt raise.

Side-Lying Rear Delt Fly

Muscles Worked

Primary Movers: Posterior Deltoid

Secondary Muscles: Lateral Deltoid, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, Rhomboids, Middle and Lower Trapezius.

How To Do

  1. Lie on the floor on your right side, and grasp the dumbbell with your left hand using a neutral grip (palm facing downward).
  2. Keeping your elbow fixed and your body still, exhale as you raise the dumbbell from the floor until it is almost vertical. Hold for a count of two.
  3. Inhale as you reverse the movement and lower the dumbbell towards the starting position, stopping before the dumbbell touches the floor.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  5. Repeat the exercise on your opposite side with your right arm.


  • Do not allow the dumbbell to touch the floor.
  • Keep the abs braced, and don’t arch the back at the top of the movement.
  • Allow the arms to move freely, but don’t lock out the elbows.

Head-supported Rear dumbbell fly

The head-supported reverse dumbbell fly is also known as the head-supported bent-over dumbbell lateral raise.

To target your posterior deltoids during the head-supported reverse dumbbell fly, keep your torso horizontal. The more upright your torso is, the more emphasis you will place on your lateral deltoids instead of on your posterior deltoids.

Head-supported reverse dumbbell fly

Muscles Worked

Primary: Posterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, teres minor, teres major.

How To Do

  1. Raise a bench to hip height and, hold a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips and rest your forehead on the edge of the bench.
  2. The back should be straight and your arms should be hanging in front of you, with your palms facing inwards (neutral grip).
  3. Keep your elbows slightly bent and raise both arms to the sides until the dumbbells are at the same height as your shoulders.
  4. Hold for a count of two and then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


  • Do not swing the dumbbells upward. Keep your back straight and your body still.
  • Keep your body still. Only your arms should move.

Set, Reps And Frequency For Dumbbell Shoulder Fly

The number of reps you should do during an exercise depends on your specific goals, whether it’s to increase strength or build muscle.

  • For muscle growth, it is best to aim for around 6–15 reps per set.
  • For strength, around 3–8 reps per set are recommended.


If you’re new to shoulder fly, start with lighter weights and focus on mastering proper form and technique.

  • Sets: Start with 2-3 sets per workout.
  • Reps: Perform 8-12 reps per set.
  • Frequency: 1-2 times per week.


Once you’re comfortable with the exercise, gradually increase the weight and intensity.

  • Sets: Increase to 3-4 sets per workout
  • Reps: Aim for 8-12 reps per set with a slightly heavier weight compared to the beginner level.
  • Frequency: 2-3 times per week.


As an advanced fitness enthusiast, you can add more sets, higher weights, and advanced variations to your dumbbell shoulder fly workouts.

  • Sets: Perform 4-5 sets per workout
  • Reps: Aim for 8-15 reps.
  • Frequency: 2-3 times per week, allowing a day of rest between sessions.

Best Alternative of shoulder flys

1. Cable Shoulder Fly

The cable front shoulder fly or raise is a variation of the front raise and an exercise used to build the muscles of the shoulders.

Utilizing the cable pulley machine is useful in that it provides constant tension on the target muscle group as you move the weight through the range of motion.

You can also perform the cable front raise using a rope attachment or a single stirrup, one arm at a time.

Cable Front Raise..

2. Shoulder fly with plates

The plate front fly is classified as an upper body isolation exercise, with the anterior head of the deltoid muscle group being the main focus of this exercise.

You can do the plate front raise seated or standing, but it’s best to keep the weight moderate for most lifters to ensure the safety of the shoulder joints.

You could also try doing Plate Front Raises with rotation for targets to the fronts and sides of the shoulders.

3. Machine Fly

Machine Rear shoulder fly is an excellent exercise for the rear deltoid. The rear deltoid fly machine provides a uniform resistance throughout the range of motion.

This machine also offers several technical adjustments to the grip. Trajectory and range of motion to help isolate the posterior deltoid.

reverse pec deck fly


The shoulder flyes are an effective exercise for building size, strength, and functional competence of the shoulders.

There are many variations of this exercise, and it’s a variation in itself, so it’s also a good idea to mix things up and benefit from the advantages that each offers.

Frequently Asked Question

Are reverse flyes for the back or shoulders?

The reverse fly targets the muscles in the upper back, but it mainly focuses on the rear deltoid (backside of the shoulder).

Are shoulder flys effective?

Yes, shoulder flys can be very effective for targeting and developing the muscles in the shoulders, specifically the deltoids. Also, shoulder flys can help improve posture and make a well-rounded physique.

Should I do shoulder flys sitting or standing?

Both seated and standing shoulder flys have their own benefits, and the choice depends on your preferences and specific goals.

Seated shoulder flys

  • Give you more stability and support, so you can focus on strengthening the shoulder muscles.
  • Reduce the involvement of other muscles, such as the lower back and legs.
  • It can be helpful for people with lower back problems or who want controlled movement.

Standing shoulder flys

  • Engage more muscles for stabilization, including the core and lower body, to provide a more integrated workout.
  • May offer a greater range of motion and challenge.

10 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises To Build Mass

2 thoughts on “Dumbbell Shoulder Fly: Muscles Worked, Benefits, Tips”

Leave a Comment