Dumbbell Chest Fly Weight Standards (and how to improve)

Dumbbell chest fly weight standards.

Dumbbell chest flyes can be a great exercise to build bigger and more defined pecs. But it’s essential to lift the correct weight for the greatest benefits. This post reveals dumbbell chest fly weight standards for you to benchmark your own performance.

A respectable dumbbell chest fly for the average male beginner is around 15% of body weight for a single repetition (both dumbbells combined). Intermediates and advanced lifters should be able to lift around 55% and 90% (respectively) for 1 rep.

The weight standards in this post will help you determine what is a respectable weight to be lifting based on your gender, body weight, and training experience.

These dumbbell chest fly strength standards are based on my 5 years of weight training experience.

How To Use These Weight Standards

How to use these dumbbell chest fly weight standards.

1) Determining your training level:

  • Beginners have practiced the dumbbell chest fly for 1-12 months.
  • Intermediates have practiced the dumbbell chest fly for 12-36 months.
  • Advanced lifters have practiced the dumbbell chest fly for 4 years or more.

2) Choosing your rep range:

The weight standards are given for:

  • 1-rep max (1RM)- this is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a single repetition. It’s often used as a strength standard.
  • 6-10 working reps- this is generally considered to be the ideal rep range for building muscle.

3) Selecting your gender and body weight:

  • Average dumbbell chest fly weight standards are revealed for common body weights.
  • Male standards are given.
  • Females can use a 60% conversion (multiply the weight standard by 0.60).

4) Reading the charts:

  • Weight standards are given as lbs on the top and kg on the bottom.
  • If you’re doing the chest fly with dumbbells at or above the weight standard for your given training level, body weight, and gender, then you are lifting a respectable amount of weight.

Beginner Dumbbell Chest Fly Weight Standards

Here’s how much weight you should be lifting on the chest fly with dumbells as a beginner:

Bodyweight1-rep max6-rep max7-rep max8-rep max9-rep max10-rep max
120lb
54kg
14lb
6kg
12lb
5kg
11lb
5kg
11lb
5kg
11lb
6kg
10lb
5kg
150lb
68kg
22lb
10kg
18lb
8kg
18lb
8kg
18lb
8kg
17lb
8kg
16lb
7kg
200lb
91kg
38lb
17kg
32lb
14kg
31b
14kg
30lb
14kg
30lb
13kg
28lb
13kg
250lb
113kg
52lb
24kg
44lb
20kg
43lb
19kg
42lb
19kg
41lb
18kg
38lb
17kg
300lb
136kg
66lb
30kg
55lb
25kg
54lb
25kg
53lb
24kg
51lb
23kg
48lb
22kg

Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

Generally speaking, beginners should be able to chest fly with dumbbells that weigh 10 to 20% of their body weight (both dumbbells combined) for a single repetition (1-rep max).

Intermediate Dumbbell Chest Fly Weight Standards

Here’s how much weight you should be lifting on the dumbbell chest fly as an intermediate:

Bodyweight1-rep max6-rep max7-rep max8-rep max9-rep max10-rep max
120lb
54kg
72lb
33kg
60lb
27kg
59lb
27kg
58lb
26kg
56lb
25kg
53lb
24kg
150lb
68kg
90lb
41kg
76lb
34kg
74lb
33kg
72lb
33kg
70lb
32kg
66lb
30kg
200lb
91kg
120lb
54kg
101lb
46kg
98lb
45kg
96lb
44kg
94lb
42kg
88lb
40kg
250lb
113kg
144lb
65kg
121lb
55kg
118lb
54kg
115lb
52kg
112lb
51kg
105lb
48kg
300lb
136kg
166lb
75kg
139lb
63kg
136lb
62kg
133lb
60kg
129lb
59kg
121lb
55kg

Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

Generally speaking, intermediates should be able to chest fly with dumbbells that weigh 55 to 60% of their body weight (both dumbbells combined) for a single repetition.

Advanced Dumbbell Chest Fly Weight Standards

Here’s how much weight you should be lifting on the dumbbell chest fly as an advanced lifter:

Bodyweight1-rep max6-rep max7-rep max8-rep max9-rep max10-rep max
120lb
54kg
120lb
71kg
101lb
46kg
98lb
45kg
96lb
44kg
94lb
42kg
88lb
40kg
150lb
68kg
144lb
89kg
121lb
55kg
118lb
54kg
115lb
52kg
112lb
51kg
105lb
48kg
200lb
91kg
180lb
113kg
151lb
69kg
148lb
67kg
144lb
65kg
140lb
64kg
131lb
60kg
250lb
113kg
210lb
136kg
176lb
80kg
172lb
78kg
168lb
76kg
164lb
74kg
153lb
70kg
300lb
136kg
236lb
156kg
198lb
90kg
194lb
88kg
189lb
86kg
184lb
83kg
172lb
78kg

Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

Generally speaking, advanced lifters should be able to chest fly with dumbbells that weigh 80 to 100% (both dumbbells combined) of their body weight for a single repetition.

How Good Is Your Dumbbell Chest Fly Vs Others?

Here’s the average percentage of people who can do the dumbbell chest fly at a fraction of their own body weight:

Dumbbell Fly 1RM Weight (as a fraction of body weight)% Of People Who Can Do It
0.10x99%
0.20x94%
0.30x86%
0.40x75%
0.50x62%
0.60x50%
0.70x38%
0.80x28%
0.90x20%
1.00x14%
1.10x9%
1.20x6%
1.30x4%
1.40x2%
1.50x1%
1.60x0.9%
1.70x0.5%
1.80x0.3%
1.90x0.2%
2.00x0.1%

Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

This allows you to compare your standards with others and determine how respectable your strength standards are.

To calculate your chest fly as a fraction of your own body weight, simply divide the weight of your 1RM by your body weight.

For example: if you weigh 170lbs and your 1RM is 60lbs, then you’re lifting 0.35x your body weight (60lbs ÷ 170lbs).

The above chart indicates:

  • 75% of people can dumbbell chest fly 0.40x their body weight for 1 rep. This represents the lower quartile of lifters and is a respectable weight for beginners to achieve.
  • 50% of people can dumbbell chest fly 0.60x their body weight for 1 rep. This represents the median quartile of lifters and is a respectable weight for intermediates to achieve. It’s also a realistic target for beginners to aim towards with enough training.
  • 25% of people can dumbbell chest fly 0.85x their body weight for 1 rep. This represents the upper quartile of lifters and is a respectable weight for advanced lifters. It’s also a realistic target for intermediates to aim towards with enough training.

5 Reasons Why The Dumbbell Chest Fly Is Hard

The pectorals (primary target muscles in the chest fly) can be notoriously difficult muscles to build.

Here are 5 common reasons why you may find it difficult to do the chest fly using dumbbells, and why your strength standards are below average.

I’ve also shared solutions for each problem.

These solutions can help to improve your chest fly.

1) Weak pectoral muscles

Start with a light dumbbell and progressive overload to increase chest fly strength.
Beginners should start with a lighter dumbbell weight and progressive overload to build chest strength.

Dumbbell chest flyes are an isolation-type movement that primarily works the pectorals. Neighboring muscle groups see minimal activation, other than serving as stabilizers.

This can make the chest fly a difficult exercise because you don’t have other muscles facilitating the lift as you would in a compound exercise like the bench press.

Thus, you need a strong chest to perform well on the dumbbell fly.

Solution:

As a beginner, you need to use the correct dumbbell weight. Start with light dumbbells that you can lift with good form for your allotted reps.

Once you become comfortable lifting this weight, you can progressively overload by adding more weight to your dumbbells.

Generally speaking, you should always overload when you can. This will help you to increase your dumbbell chest fly strength to the weight standards given in this post.

2) Weak stabilizers

The primary muscles in the chest flky are the pectorals but the deltoids serve to stabilize the movement.
Include shoulder exercises to build stronger deltoids that stabilize the dumbbell chest fly.

The dumbbell chest fly doesn’t just involve the pecs. The exercise also requires stabilization from neighboring muscles including the posterior, lateral, and anterior deltoids.

The deltoids serve to counteract the force generated from pectoral contraction and stabilize the shoulder joint as you perform the fly.

The dumbbell chest fly can therefore be difficult if you have weak shoulders or if you are recovering from a shoulder injury.

Solution:

You shouldn’t just rely on chest exercises to build pectoral size and strength.

The ideal chest-building program should also include a variety of exercises that strengthen your shoulders too.

Whilst many of the most popular dumbbell chest exercises will work the shoulders to a certain degree- and dedicated shoulder exercises are by no means essential- it’s also a good idea to include some deltoid movements that facilitate your dumbbell fly strength progression.

Examples include the shoulder press, front raise, lateral raise, and reverse fly.

3) Insufficient calorie and protein intake

High protein and calorie intake are essential for increasing your chest fly strength.

Include more calorie-dense and protein-rich ingredients in your diet in conjunction with chest workouts to build bigger and stronger pecs.

Poor nutrition is one of the most common reasons why your pecs won’t grow.

A good nutrition plan requires you to eat surplus calories and protein to fuel muscle repair, recovery, and growth.

This is commonly known as “going on a bulk“.

Without sufficient calorie and protein intake, you can be following the best chest workout in the world and still be unable to gain noticeable strength and size.

Solution:

Eat 5-15% more calories than your maintenance calories. Your maintenance calories are what your body needs to sustain its current weight.

Additionally, ensure you eat at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight.

Planning is essential for a successful bulk. I recommend making a list of calorie-dense and protein-rich foods and start including more of these ingredients in your daily meals.

For a complete guide, you can go to my home bulking plan for skinny guys.

4) Poor movement balance

Form cues to improve balance in the chest fly and increase weight lifted.

1) Arch your back, 2) plant your feet into the ground, and 3) ensure both arms travel at the same speed to improve chest fly balance.

Despite the dumbbell chest fly being a lay-down exercise, it still requires a tremendous amount of balance between the two sides of the chest as you bring the dumbbells up and down.

Furthermore, most people have a natural muscle imbalance. This means one side of the chest is stronger than the other (usually your dominant writing side).

These two factors combined can make the dumbbell chest fly difficult and may explain why your strength standards are below average.

Solution:

Practice your mind-muscle contractions. Do this by making a conscious effort to slow down the movement and perform the chest fly with both arms moving a the same speed.

Arching your back and planting your feet into the ground can also help with stabilizing your torso and improving balance.

It can also help to remove the bench altogether and practice the chest fly on the floor. This is particularly effective if you’re using a poor-quality weight bench with a narrow backrest.

5) Locked elbows

Unlocking your arms allows for more weight to be lifted in the dumbbell chest fly.

Unlocking your elbows can help you to lift more weight on the dumbbell chest fly.

Locking your elbows means your arm is completely straight from shoulder to wrist.

This is a common beginner-form mistake that can increase discomfort and severely limit the weight you lift in the dumbbell chest fly.

As a result of locking your elbows, the weight of the dumbbell falls onto the biceps and elbow joint instead of the shoulders and pectorals (the former is significantly weaker).

This will make the dumbbell fly much harder to perform and limit the amount of weight you can lift.

Solution:

Your arms should not be locked at 180°. It’s better to hold the arms at 160-140° instead.

In other words, introduce a slight bend at the elbows.

This simple form alteration puts your arm in a biomechanical advantage for your pecs to pull against. As a result, you should be able to lift more weight on the dumbbell chest fly.

And lifting heavy weights is the best way to improve your pectoral strength!

Other Weight Standards For Dumbbell Chest Fly Muscles

The dumbbell chest fly is an isolation-type movement that primarily works the pectorals in the chest. But the deltoids serve as stabilizers. Here are weight standards for other exercises that hit similar muscles:

  • Dumbbell bench press– a compound horizontal pressing movement that works the pecs, delts, and triceps.
  • Chest dip– body weight alternative to the bench press.
  • Lateral raise– an isolation-type movement that works the lateral (side) delts.
  • Reverse fly– an isolation-type movement that works the posterior (rear) delts.
  • Shoulder press– a vertical compound pressing movement that works all of the deltoids and triceps.

You may also be interested in my other post on the heaviest bench press records.

Conclusion

These dumbbell chest fly weight standards help you to determine whether or not you are lifting a respectable amount of weight for your capabilities.

Beginners should be able to do 1 rep using around 15% of their body weight (both dumbbells combined). Intermediates should be able to lift approximately 55% of their body weight, and advanced lifters around 90%.

If you’re currently at or exceeding these strength standards, then you’re doing a good and respectable job.

I’ve also shared common problems and solutions to a chest fly strength that is below average.

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printables) I used to go from skinny to ripped!

Kal

I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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