Dumbbell chest fly standards allow you to benchmark your performance against yourself and also against others. This is important for tracking your training progress.
For the average male, a good dumbbell chest fly is above 120 pounds for both dumbbells combined. This is for a single repetition. However, how much weight a person can dumbbell fly will also be affected by their training level and body weight.
Average benchmarks were important for me when I first started doing chest flyes, and I’m assuming it will also benefit you as well.
After all, how else will you know how strong your chest is?
My research will reveal the numbers YOU should be hitting for it to be deemed “respectable”.
You’ll also find out how to improve your dumbbell flyes if your numbers are sub-par.
- Factors Affecting Dumbbell Chest Fly Weight
- Beginner Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
- Intermediate Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
- Advanced Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
- Average Male Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
- How Good Is Your Dumbbell Chest Fly Vs Others?
- Reasons Your Dumbbell Fly May Be Below Average
- How To Improve Your Dumbbell Fly
- How These Standards Were Calculated
Factors Affecting Dumbbell Chest Fly Weight
3 factors affect how much weight you can dumbbell fly:
- Training Level. The longer you’ve been practicing the dumbbell fly, the more weight you can lift. As a general rule, beginners have been practicing for at least 1 month, intermediates at least 2 years, and advanced at least 5 years.
- Body weight. The heavier you are, the more weight you can fly. That’s because body weight has a positive correlation with muscle mass.
- Rep number. The less reps you do, the more weight you can fly. This post focuses on a 1-10 rep range which is generally accepted to be the best for building chest strength and size.
Next, you’ll find out how different training levels, body weights, and rep numbers affect dumbbell chest fly standards.
Beginner Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
If you’ve been practicing the dumbbell chest fly for at least 1 month, then you’re a beginner.
Here’s how much weight you should be dumbbell flying as a beginner:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Note: x-rep max is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for x-number of reps. Generally speaking, rep ranges closer to 1 are ideal for strength development, whilst rep ranges closer to 10 are ideal for size development (hypertrophy).
Here’s how much weight beginners should be lifting on the dumbbell fly as a percentage of body weight:
- 120lb body weight – 9 to 12%.
- 150lb body weight- 11 to 15%.
- 200lb body weight- 14 to 19%.
- 250lb body weight- 15 to 21%.
- 300lb body weight- 16 to 22%.
Note: the percentage range for each body weight reflects the weight differences for different rep numbers.
If you’ve been practicing the dumbbell fly for 1 month, and you’ve reached these averages, then you’re doing a good job!
If you’ve surpassed them, then you’re doing an excellent job.
Intermediate Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
If you’ve been practicing the dumbbell chest fly for 2 years, then you’re an intermediate.
Here’s how much weight you should be dumbbell flying as an intermediate:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Here’s how much weight intermediates should be lifting on the dumbbell fly as a percentage of body weight:
- 120lb body weight – 44 to 60%.
- 150lb body weight- 44 to 60%.
- 200lb body weight- 44 to 60%.
- 250lb body weight- 42 to 58%.
- 300lb body weight- 40 to 55%.
If you’ve been practicing the dumbbell chest fly for 2 years, and you’ve reached these standards, then you’re doing a good job.
These are very respectable standards for a beginner to aim for.
Advanced Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
An advanced lifter has been practicing the dumbbell chest fly for at least 5 years.
Here’s how much weight you should be dumbbell flying as an advanced lifter:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Here’s how much weight advanced lifters should be dumbbell flying as a percentage of body weight:
- 120lb body weight – 73 to 100%.
- 150lb body weight- 70 to 96%.
- 200lb body weight- 66 to 90%.
- 250lb body weight- 61 to 90%.
- 300lb body weight- 57 to 79%.
If you’ve been practicing the dumbbell chest fly for 5 years or more and you’ve reached these standards, then you’re doing a fantastic job.
These are also very respectable standards for an intermediate to aim for.
Average Male Dumbbell Chest Fly Standards
Based on this, here’s how much weight a 200lb male should dumbbell fly at different training levels:
|Training Level||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Therefore the average man should be able to dumbbell chest fly 9-100% of their body weight (the weight of both dumbbells combined).
The exact weight will depend on individual training experience and rep number (as seen in the aforementioned standards).
How Good Is Your Dumbbell Chest Fly Vs Others?
Calculating your current dumbbell chest fly as a fraction of your body weight is a reliable way to compare your performance with others.
To do this, simply divide the weight of both dumbbells combined, by your body weight.
Here are the percentages of males who can dumbbell fly their own body weight:
|Dumbbell Chest Fly 1RM Weight (As A Fraction Of Bodyweight)||% Of People Who Can Do It|
- 75% of men can dumbbell incline bench press 0.40x their bodyweight for 1 rep. This represents the lower percentile of males and is a respectable weight for absolute beginners. But you should aim for higher numbers with more training.
- 50% of men can dumbbell incline bench press 0.60x their bodyweight for 1 rep. This represents the median percentile of males and is a respectable weight for intermediates. It’s a good target for beginners to aim for.
- 25% of men can dumbbell incline bench press 0.85x their bodyweight for 1 rep. This represents the upper percentile of males and is a respectable weight for advanced lifters. It’s a good target for intermediates to aim for.
If you’re trying and struggling to build muscle as a skinny guy, it may be because you’ve missed out on some essentials. If you’re interested, you can check out my other article for a 17-step complete guide to building 10 pounds of muscle.
Reasons Your Dumbbell Fly May Be Below Average
Here are 5 common reasons why your chest fly may be below the average strength standards:
1) Your pectorals and anterior deltoids lack strength.
This may sound obvious to some, but it’s one of the most common reasons for a sub-par fly.
The dumbbell fly works the following muscles:
- Pectorals (primary driver).
- Anterior/posterior/medial deltoids (stabilizer).
- Biceps (stabilizer).
- Triceps (stabilizer).
- Trapezius (stabilizer).
- Rhomboids (stabilizer).
- Latissimus dorsi (stabilizer).
If any of these muscles are weak, then your dumbbell fly performance will be negatively affected.
2) Your scapula stabilizers are underdeveloped.
Many of the stabilizer muscles mentioned in the previous point serve as scapula stabilizers.
These are the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint which stabilize the fly movement.
Although stabilizers don’t directly contribute to driving the dumbbell upwards during the fly, they serve an important function in bracing your upper body as your pecs do their job.
Therefore weak stabilizers will indirectly reduce your chest fly strength.
Common signs that you’re stabilizers are underdeveloped include wobbling and shaking as you perform the dumbbell fly.
If you have dumbbells but don’t have a bench, you can still train the chest. Check out my other article to learn how to do chest flyes without a bench!
3) You lock your elbows as you do the fly.
Locked elbows occur when your arms are completely straight from the upper arm to the forearm.
It’s a common form of mistake that many beginners make when doing the dumbbell fly.
But how do locked elbows affect your chest fly strength?
“You’re pecs can’t support the weight of the dumbbells if they are held too far out from your torso.”Jeff Cavaliere, C.S.C.S, Athlean-X
As a result of locked elbows, the weight of the dumbbell falls onto the shoulder and elbow joint instead of the pectorals.
Not only does this make the dumbbell fly unsafe due to joint stress, but it also means that pec strength cannot be channeled into the dumbbell.
4) You’re lifting dumbbells that are too heavy.
The dumbbell fly is considered to be a small isolation-type movement.
These exercises are best performed with lighter weights (60-75% 1RM) at higher reps (8-15).
If you’re trying to lift dumbbells that are too heavy for your current strength level, you increase the likelihood of sacrificing your form for weight.
A telltale sign of this is if your body needs to twist and writhe as you lift the dumbbells.
This is counterproductive to chest gains as it redirects emphasis from the pecs (the primary target muscle) to the neighboring muscles.
As a result, minimal pec development occurs despite all of your training efforts.
If you’re a skinny guy frustrated with slow gains, you can check out my other article for 25 hard gainer muscle-building tips.
5) You’re performing your flyes too quickly.
Generally speaking, slow and controlled lifting is good weight lifting practice.
But it’s especially important in the dumbbell chest fly.
50% of chest activation occurs during the downward phase of the fly.
So if you’re letting gravity do the work on the downward phase, you’re missing out on a lot of chest gains.
As a result, your strength progression will be impeded and this could be why your dumbbell fly is below average.
How To Improve Your Dumbbell Fly
Here are 5 tips you can try to improve your dumbbell fly strength:
1) Master your dumbell fly form.
From personal experience, I can say that perfecting the dumbbell fly form is the best way to increase your numbers.
Once you nail the correct form, it becomes much easier to progressively add more weight over time.
Here’s how to do the dumbbell chest fly safely with good form:
2) Focus 75% of your time on the compound chest exercises.
The dumbbell fly may be a good exercise, but the truth of the matter is that the compound lifts are superior for chest gains.
I’m talking about the bench press and chest dip.
These exercises work multiple muscles in a single movement, including many of the stabilizers involved in the dumbbell fly.
This means compound lifts give a higher return on training investment compared to isolation-type lifts like the flat and incline dumbbell fly.
Top tip: an adjustable weight bench and power tower are affordable ways to do compound chest exercises at home, build a stronger chest, and improve your dumbbell fly.
Both bits of gear are versatile and can be used to perform a variety of exercises.
Having researched over 10 different benches, I use and recommend the Flybird FB149 adjustable weight bench (link to check cheapest price). You can find my full review here.
The 7x angle settings allow you to hit all areas of your chest with flat and incline dumbbell flyes, as well as compound bench pressing.
It can also be folded and stowed away after use.
The Flybird’s 700-lb weight capacity is more than enough for beginners to gain 20+ pounds of muscle at home and build a stronger physique.
It’s ideal for people between 5’7″ to 6’0″. If you fall outside of these heights, then the Fitness Reality adjustable weight bench has a more comfortable seat and backrest dimensions.
If you want to do chest dips at home, then the Sports Royal Power Tower (link for cheapest price) is sturdy, easy to assemble, and offers great value for money. You can also use it for back-building pull-ups.
3) Fuel chest growth the the right nutrition.
You can perform as many chest flyes as you want, but if you aren’t eating right, then your numbers won’t improve.
Ideally, you should aim for at least 1g protein per pound of body weight and a 5-15% caloric surplus every day.
Protein serves as the building block for muscle, whilst calories serve to fuel the muscle-growth process.
When a good nutrition plan is combined with progressive overload (see next), you will maximize chest development.
Top tip: in terms of cost per gram, protein powders are some of the cheapest sources of protein you can get. They are also an easy way for people who struggle to eat enough food, to hit their nutrition requirements.
As a skinny beginner, I used the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass (you can find the cheapest price here). It contains 50g protein and 1250 cal per serving, making it perfect for skinny guys with <12% body fat to quickly build strength and mass.
For everyone else, I’d recommend the MyProtein Impact Whey. It contains 20g protein and 100 cal per serving. It’s ideal to build lean muscle with minimal fat storage. The MyVegan Pea Protein is a good vegan alternative (doesn’t taste as nice as the Impact Whey in my opinion).
I also like to mix a scoop of MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate into my shakes.
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that improves muscle energy utilization. It’ll help you lift heavier weights and do more reps.
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4) Practice TUT chest flyes with progressive overload.
Time under tension training involves slowing down your lifting tempo (for example- 4 seconds up and 4 seconds down).
Progressive overload involves increasing weight slowly but gradually every week.
Combined, these two principles are a surefire method to increase your dumbbell fly numbers.
“To persuade a stubborn pair of pecs to grow, try increasing TUT—the duration your pecs are contracting during a given rep.”Greg Miele, PT, Men’s Journal
Top tip: progressive overloading on chest flyes (and other isolation-type lifts) is best done with small weight increments of ~2.5lbs per dumbbell.
So if you’re trying to improve your flyes at home, you’ll need dumbbells that allow you to do this.
I use to use cheap plastic spinlock dumbbells but now use and recommend the Powerblock Elite series (link to check cheapest price).
They aren’t the cheapest dumbbell, but definitely one of the best for chest flyes as well as bench pressing.
Each dumbbell has 2.5lb increments and can also be upgraded up to 90lbs per dumbbell (perfect for heavy bench pressing) with the addon kits.
This makes them very versatile for chest workouts.
If you don’t have ~300 bucks to spend, then the Yes4All spinlock dumbbells make a great budget alternative.
Just be aware that the weight increments are larger on cheap dumbbells.
If you’re interested, you can go to my other post to find my personal dumbbell recommendations for chest workouts.
5) Supplement chest fly strength with resistance band flyes.
Muscles require a variety of stimuli to promote the fastest growth.
And resistance bands offer a completely different kind of stimulus for your pecs.
So if you’re chest fly numbers are stagnating, you could try training with resistance band flyes instead.
These are different from dumbbells because the resistance profile increases towards the top of the movement as the band stretches.
This means your pecs work much harder towards the top of the band fly, compared to dumbbell flyes which get easier towards the top.
“Banded chest exercises have a different strength curve compared to free weights, and this produces different amounts of muscle growth. If we only stuck with the dumbbell fly, we could miss out on chest gains.”Jeremy Ethier, NASM, Built With Science
Top tip: resistance bands are cheap, convenient, and make a great addition for beginner and advanced home gyms alike.
I use and recommend the Undersun Fitness bands (link for cheapest price).
They can be used for band flyes, presses, and many other exercises to target different muscle groups.
They’re a bit more expensive than their budget competitors, but they will last you forever with their lifetime warranty.
In comparison, the budget bands tend to tear or snap within a year (I’ve gone through 2 sets in the past).
Also, don’t forget to use gloves to prevent the bands from shredding your hands.
In my opinion, the Undersun gloves are overpriced.
Cheaper options like the Ihuan ventilated neoprene gym gloves do the job perfectly well.
How These Standards Were Calculated
The numbers for my research were sourced from Strength Level’s database of 22,000 user-generated dumbbell chest flyes.
Average dumbbell chest fly standards.
Dumbbell chest fly 1RMs were taken from the Strength Level database.
These were then multiplied by the following fractions to get the 6-10RM weights:
- x0.84 for 6RM.
- x0.82 for 7RM.
- x0.80 for 8RM.
- x0.78 for 9RM.
- x0.73 for 10RM.
% of people who can dumbbell chest fly their body weight
The Strength Level database also allows for different dumbbell chest fly weights to be sampled against a total population.
I sampled a variety of dumbbell fly weights for a 200-lb male beginner aged 24-39.
I’ve shared dumbbell chest fly standards for different training levels and body weights.
If you’re above these averages, then you’re lifting a very respectable weight and you should be proud of yourself.
But if you’re below average, then you can try some of the tips I shared to improve your dumbbell flyes.
How much weight do you currently lift for dumbbell flyes?
Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)