Incline Bench Press vs. Dumbbell Flyes: Which One Will Skyrocket Your Chest Gains?

When it comes to building an impressive chest, two popular exercises are the incline bench press and dumbbell flyes. 

Both exercises offer unique benefits, but which one will deliver the greatest chest gains? 

In this article, we'll explore the differences between these two exercises, their techniques, and benefits, and how to choose the right one for your goals.

Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press is a compound exercise that targets the upper chest (pectoralis major), as well as the front shoulder muscles (anterior deltoids) and triceps. Incline Bench Press vs. Dumbbell Flyes

By performing the bench press at an incline, you place more emphasis on the upper chest, providing a more balanced chest development.

Technique and execution

To execute the incline bench press:

  • Set the bench to an angle of 30-45 degrees.
  • Lie down on the bench with your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower the barbell to your upper chest, keeping your elbows tucked at a 45-degree angle.
  • Press the barbell up until your arms are fully extended.

Common mistakes to avoid include arching your lower back excessively, flaring your elbows, and bouncing the barbell off your chest.


The incline bench press offers several benefits, including:

  • Improved chest development, particularly in the upper region
  • Increased overall strength due to the compound nature of the exercise
  • Greater potential for progressive overload, which leads to muscle growth

Dumbbell Flyes

Dumbbell flyes are an isolation exercise that targets the chest muscles, specifically the pectoralis major.

This exercise emphasises the stretching and contracting of the chest muscles, allowing for a greater range of motion compared to the incline bench press.

Technique and execution

To perform dumbbell flyes:

  • Set the bench to a flat or slight incline position.
  • Lie down on the bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip.
  • Start with the dumbbells directly above your chest, arms slightly bent.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to your sides, maintaining the slight bend in your elbows.
  • Squeeze your chest muscles and bring the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Common mistakes to avoid include using excessive weight, which can lead to improper form, and bending your elbows too much, turning the exercise into a press rather than a fly.


Dumbbell flyes offer several benefits, including:

  • Effective muscle isolation, allowing for better targeting of the chest muscles
  • Increased range of motion, resulting in greater muscle activation
  • The ability to address muscle imbalances, as each side works independently

Comparing Incline Bench Press and Dumbbell Flyes

Muscle activation

While both exercises target the chest muscles, the incline bench press activates more secondary muscles, such as the anterior deltoids and triceps. 

This makes it a more comprehensive exercise for overall upper body strength. Dumbbell flyes, on the other hand, focus more on isolating the chest muscles, leading to better muscle activation in the target area.


The incline bench press offers more versatility, as it can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or even a Smith machine. 

Dumbbell flyes, however, are limited to the use of dumbbells or cables. The incline bench press also allows for more variation in grip width, enabling you to target different areas of the chest more effectively.


Dumbbell flyes, when performed with proper form and appropriate weight, pose a lower risk of injury compared to the incline bench press.

This is because the exercise places less stress on the shoulder joints, and the risk of dropping the weight is reduced due to the independent nature of the dumbbells.

Choosing the Right Exercise for You


If your primary goal is to build overall strength and upper body mass, the incline bench press may be the better choice due to its compound nature. 

However, if you're looking to isolate and specifically target the chest muscles for hypertrophy, dumbbell flyes might be more suitable.

Experience level

The incline bench press is generally more beginner-friendly, as it involves fewer technique cues and less coordination. 

Dumbbell flyes, while not overly complex, do require more attention to form and a greater understanding of muscle activation to be performed effectively.

Equipment and space

Consider the equipment and space available to you when choosing between these exercises. The incline bench press requires a bench, barbell, and weight plates, while dumbbell flyes only require a bench and dumbbells. If you have limited space or equipment, dumbbell flyes may be more accessible.

Wrapping Up

Both the incline bench press and dumbbell flyes are effective exercises for building chest muscle.

The best choice for you depends on your goals, experience level, and available equipment.

For a well-rounded chest workout, consider incorporating both exercises into your routine.


Can I combine incline bench press and dumbbell flyes in the same workout?

Yes, you can combine both exercises in the same workout to target your chest muscles from different angles and ensure comprehensive development. One approach is to perform the incline bench press first to build overall strength, followed by dumbbell flyes for muscle isolation and improved range of motion.

How can I ensure proper form while performing these exercises?

To ensure proper form, focus on using a controlled tempo, maintaining proper body alignment, and avoiding common mistakes like arching your back or flaring your elbows. If you're unsure about your form, consider working with a personal trainer or watching instructional videos to help you master the techniques.

How many sets and reps should I perform for each exercise?

The optimal number of sets and reps depends on your goals, experience level, and individual response to exercise. Generally, for strength gains, aim for 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps with heavier weights. For hypertrophy, aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with moderate weights. To ensure proper form, choose a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of reps without compromising technique.

How often should I incorporate these exercises into my routine?

The frequency of incorporating these exercises depends on your overall training program and recovery capabilities. Typically, training each muscle group 2-3 times per week is a good starting point. Adjust the frequency based on your progress, recovery, and individual needs.

Are there any alternatives if I don't have access to an incline bench or dumbbells?

If you don't have access to an incline bench, you can perform the incline bench press using a stability ball or by placing a folded towel under one end of a flat bench. For dumbbell flyes, you can use resistance bands or cables as an alternative. Keep in mind that these alternatives may require adjustments in technique, so be sure to research proper form for each variation.

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