Chest training, for many people, is just the pursuit of brute strength and size.
They think pressing is all about pushing as much weight as possible, and, eventually, you can build plenty of chest muscle. But, if you want some definition in your pecs, you will have to add other cable chest exercises into your routine.
That’s where exercises that engage your chest muscles by bringing your arms closer to the body’s midline come into play. The high to low cable fly is one such exercise if you have the best cable crossover machine at the gym.
In this article, we will share the right way to perform this exercise (and its variations) along with some helpful tips to clean up your form. So, read on!
High to Low Cable Fly Overview
The high to low cable fly exercise is a variation of the chest fly. This cable exercise strengthens the sternal heads of the pectoralis, major muscles in the bottom of your chest. It also helps activate other muscles like the back, shoulders, and triceps.
But this cable fly exercise can be a little tough to overload because it requires good core stability. Therefore, we recommend using it as an accessory movement to improve your upper chest muscle mass.
Alternatively, you can go for seated cable fly exercises. Using a bench with a back to perform cable flies provides you with additional stability.
You can then focus better on the muscle recruitment in your chest. If a bench isn’t available, you can utilize an offset stance to get somewhat similar support.
|Primary Target Muscle||Chest|
|Secondary Target Muscles||Shoulders, Triceps, Middle Back|
|Equipment Required||Cable, Dumbbells, Bands|
|Force Type||Push (Bilateral)|
High to Low Cable Fly Instructions
Let’s look at the instructions for this cable chest workout and its variations.
Standing High to Low Cable Fly
- Set both pulleys a little higher than your shoulder and choose your weight
- While standing, hold both handles with a natural (somewhat loose) grip
- Step forwards to split your stance
- Now press both the handles to lockout while extending your elbows and flexing your pecs.
- Keep a little bend in your elbows, move the entire shoulder joints and allow the arms to open as the pecs stretch.
- Keep a little bend in your knees so that the weight doesn’t pull you back
- Bring the handles together at your bellybutton height and return to the initial position
- Exhale as you perform each movement, and inhale as you return to the initial position
- Use the full range of motion, and don’t lean forward too far out
- Repeat these movement as many times as you want for the rep
Seated High To Low Cable Fly
- Position your exercise bench in the middle of the cable station
- Adjust the cables slightly higher than your shoulder height
- Grab the pulleys from both sides and bring them into the center
- Keep your back straight and elbows a little bent
- Now, extend your arms with a cable in each hand
- Bring your hands out and around to the front by squeezing your chest.
- Exhale as you perform the movement, and inhale as you return to the initial position
- Use the full range of motion, and don’t lean forward too far out
- Repeat it as many times as you want for the rep
High to Low Cable Fly Tips
Follow the instructions below to do the standing chest fly correctly.
- Set Up Right
The placement of the fly machine’s cables is crucial. While other fly variations require you to work with the cables in different spots, this one requires the handles to be slightly above your shoulders. Ideally, you should set them at the same height as your head. Remember, the pulleys shouldn’t be so high that you have to bend your torso forwards to hit the position.
- Hold the Right Way
The way you hold the handles of the cable is also important. So, think of your arms as a lever that helps you drive your chest shut and really flex it. You should loosen up a bit instead of taking a death grip (as you hold the handle in your palm’s middle). Get the cable a bit closer to the base of your palm. Don’t try to wrap your thumbs around the machine’s handles.
- Squeeze and focus your Shoulder Blades
Once you are ready to press, squeeze your shoulder blades. Imagine you have a pencil being squeezed between your shoulder blades and try to hold that feeling for as long as possible during every rep. Keeping the focus on your shoulder blades will prevent your shoulder complex from shifting forward. This is essential to keep the tension on the chest muscles.
- Don’t do crossover
You must have seen some people perform flys as a form of cable crossover. They pull their hands over each other to over-emphasize the final stage of arm movements. Don’t do that. You don’t need a crossover to correctly perform the high-to-low cable chest fly. In fact, when you do that, you are just bringing the shoulders forward and not getting enough flex for the chest. Therefore, you should stop when your hands are about to touch.
- Let your pinkies take the lead.
In order to emphasize chest engagement, you should be doing more with your hands rather than just keeping your palms out. So, let your pinkies take the lead. At the end of every push, rotate and scoop both hands into a final squeeze, leading with your pinkies. This movement with your pinkies will help you magnify the squeeze through your chest, which is exactly what you want to hit with cable exercises for chest.
- Don’t rush the movements.
Cable flys are not adrenaline-pumping explosive exercise. These are supposed to be gentle, controlled movements to help you create resistance throughout the entire range of motion, with a particular focus on your chest. Sure, you can push yourself and go heavy there. But, if you train your chest hard enough on compound movements, you should be able to get the ultimate pump with just moderate weight sitting of eight to ten reps.
Standing High to Low Cable fly vs. Seated High to Low Cable Fly
Both of these variations are excellent cable machine chest workouts. These exercises enable you to effectively align your elbow path with the costal part of the chest.
So, the choice between these two comes down to personal preferences.
Personally, I prefer the seated version over the standing cable fly. Here’s why:
The standing cable fly has one major limiting factor: lack of stability. After some time of performing this exercise, it eventually becomes your weight versus the stack.
The stack tries to lift you off the floor. Therefore, you have to create a lot of momentum to push the weight forwards as you are raised in the air. This causes you to punch your fist together instead of driving the biceps to the side of the chest. Which eventually leads you to lose a massive portion of contraction.
And that’s why I always prefer a seated fly over a standing fly. You are much more stable and ready to complete the movement. Plus, you are not lifted up into the air. So, you don’t have to worry about stability; just focus on how strong you can get with each rep.
High to Low Cable Fly Alternatives
Below are some alternatives of this exercise.
Incline or Decline Bench High to Low Cable Fly
These are two other advanced variations of the seated high to low cable fly. You can use an inclined or declined bench instead of a straight one in these variations. The rest of the arm movements remain the same to some extent.
High to Low Dumbbell Flys
Some enthusiasts like to add high to low dumbbell flyers as an alternative. This is because dumbbell flys offer the same movement as cable crossovers. This variation is ideal for home exercisers who don’t have the cable fly machine at home. Dumbbells provide very little tension at the top of each rep.
Pec Deck Machine
The Pec Deck machine AKA the chest fly machine, offers another great alternative. Because it guides the weight on rods, you can focus on pumping out as many reps as possible. There are two main types of this machine. One has handles you have to grip with your arms, while the others require you to place your bent arms against the pads. Both types are just as effective.
Note: If you are having trouble identifying various gym equipment, read our Identifying Various Gym Equipments Guide for help.
If you don’t have any equipment at home, the diamond pushups offer an excellent high to low cable crossover alternative. To perform a diamond pushup, you have to place your hands together on the floor, forming a diamond with your thumbs and fingers. Diamond pushups hit your inner chest and triceps hard and just as effectively.
The Standard low to high cable fly and its variations are an excellent tool to strengthen the pushing muscles of your body. The movement is exactly the same for all variations. If it’s your first time, familiarize yourself with the cable station first. The most important thing to remember is to start with low weights and work upwards once you gain enough confidence and strength. Whether you are performing a chest workout with cables or dumbbells, these exercises target the chest and, to a lesser extent, the middle back muscles, shoulder muscles, and forearms. You can include them in your push workouts, chest exercises, and upper or even full body workouts to gain muscle mass. Good luck!