Perhaps you've heard of a reverse fly, perhaps you've heard of a dumbbell reverse fly or perhaps this is the first you've heard of it. However you've heard of the exercise, we're here to tell you why you should not only be talking about it but doing it too. From improved posture to being able to carry shopping or children for longer, there are myriad benefits to the humble exercise. So, get your dumbbells at the ready and read on for your full guide to the free weight exercise.
5 benefits of doing a reverse fly
Reduced risk of shoulder injuries
Builds lean muscle in back and shoulders
Increases strength for everyday activities
Helps to protect the healthy function of the spine
"The reverse fly helps to strengthen the postural muscles of your upper back and neck. Many of us are currently working from home or in sedentary jobs where we sit at a desk for long periods of time causing us to hunch over. Working these muscles can help to reduce pain and stiffness around your neck and upper back," says senior physiotherapist, Katie Ellard.
"Strengthening these muscles is also beneficial for supporting and improving performance in most sports and day to day activities, such as swimming, rowing, yoga, golf, lifting a child up for a hug and even hoovering around the house," explains PT and online coach Harriet Ducker.
What muscles does a reverse fly work?
"A reverse fly targets the posterior deltoid muscles (the muscle that sits on top of your shoulder – it also has an anterior and medial aspect) and your upper back muscles, including the trapezius and rhomboids. These are muscles used during lifting and reaching tasks but are also key for your posture," says Ellard.
How to do a reverse fly
a) Stand with your feet at a hip-width distance with a soft bend in your knees.
b) With a neutral spine, hinge at the waist so your chest is lowered to near parallel with the floor and your hips come slightly backwards.
c) Roll your shoulders back and away from your ears and engage all the muscles down your spine to keep a flat back, this is essential to stop injury.
d) With your arms coming straight down towards the floor, hold the dumbbells or weights comfortably in your hands with a neutral grip (palms facing in towards each other).
e) Have a soft bend in your elbows as you raise the weights up and out to the sides, to inline with your shoulders; at this point, your palms should be facing down to the floor. Squeeze your upper back and in between your shoulder blades to assist the movement.
f) Control the movement as you lower the weights back to the starting position.
Tip: Make sure you keep your feet flat on the floor. Think about engaging your core and sucking your belly button in, this will help to stabilise your body and stop you from swaying around.
How to pick the right weight
According to Lynsey McDonald, PT, Biomechanics coach and founder of The Sculpt Method, the right weight for a reverse fly will depend on your goal. She suggests using the following chart to make sure you're using the right resistance:
For toning, posture, mobility and reducing the risk of injury: Use a weight that you can perform 12-15 reps with good form. If you can do more than this, then go heavier.
If you are looking to build muscle: Find a weight that you can perform 8 - 12 reps with good form.
If strength gains are your aim, choose a weight that you can perform 4 - 6 reps with good form.
3 ways to make a reverse fly more challenging
Here are three ways to make the move harder, care of the founder of the Body Beautiful Method and strength and conditioning coach Aimee Victoria Long.
1. Slow it down
"Make the movement even slower: it's the time your muscles are under tension that's key. You can make a 3kg weight feel like 10kg by slowing the movement down and really working through the burn."
2. Increase the weight
This one is pretty simple, the heavier the weight the harder you're going to have to work to perform the exercise correctly.
3. Introduce a bench
"Finally, try this exercise seated on the end of a bench. Doing this takes out the temptation of using your legs at any point for momentum and helps target only the muscles you should be working."
4 signs you're doing a reverse fly wrong
Physiotherapist Ellard says there are four key areas to watch out for when performing a reverse fly. Keeping an eye on these will help to keep you safe and stable with good form.
1. Lack of control
"If you are unable to control the movement of your arms throughout the exercise, you're probably using the wrong weight."
2. Your back is rounding
"Again, if you are not managing to keep your back straight during the exercise you may be using a weight that is too heavy for you."
3. You get shoulder pain
"If you get shoulder pain whilst completing this exercise, modify your hand position – try turning your thumbs outwards so that the palms of your hands are facing slightly forwards."
4. Your lower back hurts
"If you feel this exercise is causing lower back pain, you can start by laying prone (face down) on a medicine ball to begin with."
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