January 26


Alternative for the Pec Deck? How to do Chest Fly Without Machine

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The 'pec deck', or chest fly machine as it's more formally known, is great for strengthening and lengthening your pectoral muscles. What if your gym doesn't have the right machine though? Coming from a fly-in, fly-out background - I'm aware that space is often a premium at remote mine sites, FIFO camps and offshore facilities. For this reason, I've come up with a list of 6 alternative exercises you can do instead of the pec deck. These will allow you to still work your chest muscles, even without the fly machine.



Pec Deck Alternative Number 1 - The Machine Chest Press

Machine chest press works the same muscles as the pec deck so is a good alternative
  1. 1
    Sit firmly in the seat, with your back against the machine's rest.
  2. 2
    Adjust the positioning of the handles so that they're in line with the midpoint of your chest.
  3. 3
    Using an overhand grip, press the handles away from you. Ideally, you want to avoid locking your elbows out.
  4. 4
    Control the weights as you lower the handles back to their starting position to complete one rep.

Top Tip

Fix your gaze on a point in the distance and focus on the press coming from the chest, not the shoulders.


Working your pecs without a chest fly machine? Try the BENCH PRESS

If you don't have a chest fly machine, then the bench press is a good alternative exercise for the pec deck

This exercise is more commonly performed with a barbell. However some gyms have a machine variation, so I'll cover both.

If you're using a fixed weight bench press machine instead of the chest fly:

  1. 1
    Lie flat on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor. You want your head to rest back on the bench.
  2. 2
    Extend your arms upwards until they are nearly locked then lower the handles to the start position.

If you're using free weights as an alternative to the pec deck:

  1. 1
    Assume the same starting position then take the bar from the rack. Ideally, you'll have a spotter ready to assist you.
  2. 2
    Lower the barbell under control, before pressing it back up to the starting position.


Don't let the bar rest across your chest on the lowering phase. Worse still, avoid bouncing it off your sternum.


Want a pec deck alternative with dumbbells? How about the DUMBBELL FLY

Personal trainer spotting client performing a dumbbell chest fly
  1. 1
    Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward.
  2. 2
    Extend your arms above your chest. Then lower your arms to your sides in an opening movement.
  3. 3
    The dumbbells should be roughly in line with either side of your head. There should be a slight bend at the elbow by the halfway point.
  4. 4
    Bring the dumbbells back to their starting point by 'closing' the arms.


Using free weights, you'll give your pecs a great workout. Additionally, since you're using them with your body's extremities (i.e. your arms), you'll recruit more muscle fibre.


If your gym has a cable machine you can try this pec deck alternative - the CABLE CHEST FLY

The Life Fitness Dual Adjustable Pulley can be used as an alternative exercise to the pec deck or machine chest fly

Many gyms have a cable machine or 'dual pulley' system. These offer a huge range of exercise possibilities, but the one we're interested in here is the cable fly.

  1. 1
    Set the handles so they are roughly level with your chest.
  2. 2
    Stand between the uprights, facing away from the machine.
  3. 3
    Take a handle in each hand and step forward so your arms are outstretched to the sides, even behind you a little.
  4. 4
    With a slight bend in your elbows, squeeze your chest muscles to bring your hands towards each other.
  5. 5
    Slowly open your arms to bring the handles back to their starting position.


Start with a light weight on each stack until you get used to the movement and its requirements.


Pec deck alternative exercise number 5 - the INCLINE CHEST PRESS

This exercise targets the chest muscles. However, if the bench is angled too steeply or too shallowly, other parts of the upper body can receive more emphasis.

Many bodybuilders advocate a bench angle of around 30 degrees. This concentrates the emphasis of the move on to the chest, where you want it.

Incline bench press set up as an alternative exercise to the pec deck or machine chest fly

You can use either a barbell or dumbbells for this exercise.

Those new to this move will immediately find it different from most other weights exercises. Gravity can take over and cause the weight to drop forward towards your hips.

This is different from what you might be used to. For example, with a flat bench press the weight moves linearly up and down.

As the weight moves further from your body, you could find yourself struggling to perform the exercise if you don't press the weight 'up' and above your nipple line.

Failing to keep pushing upwards means you'll be unable to support the weight. A best, you'll target the wrong muscles. At the worst, you'll sustain an injury.


Working the same muscles as the chest fly without a machine, use a bodyweight Push Up

You can use the Push Up as an Alternative Exercise for the Pec Deck

Although a bodyweight move, the push up is also great for the chest muscles.

Why not perform a set of ten between your bench press or other chest moves to really get a burn going? This way, you'll involve more muscle fibre and continue to stimulate growth. Note: only intermediate and advanced trainers should try this type of training known as a 'super-set'.

  1. 1
    Lie face down on the floor.
  2. 2
    Place your hands around shoulder-width apart and support your weight on your toes and hands.
  3. 3
    Aim to keep bracing through your torso as you lower your chest to the floor.
  4. 4
    Push back up with your arms to complete one rep.


Keep your whole body straight. Your eyes should be looking on the floor in line with your fingertips. This will help keep your head and neck aligned.

About the author

Paul Stokes

Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs.

He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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