High to Low Fly Muscles Worked

High to Low Fly Muscles Worked

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


High to low cable flys are a popular exercise for targeting the chest muscles. By understanding the muscles worked during this exercise, you can ensure proper muscle activation and maximize your workout results. 

This exercise involves bringing the hands together from underneath the chest and performing a slight scooping motion.

The shoulders should be retracted at the start of each rep. This will relieve the load on the chest. At the end of a rep, the shoulders should be rolled forwards.

What are high to low cable flys?

High to low cable flys are a type of exercise that targets the chest muscles.

They involve using a cable machine with adjustable pulleys to perform a fly motion, starting with the cables positioned high and bringing them down towards the body.

This exercise helps to strengthen and tone the chest muscles, including the pectoralis major and minor.

It is important to maintain proper form and muscle activation during high to low cable flys to avoid injury and achieve optimal results.

Muscles targeted during high to low cable flys

During high to low cable flys, several muscles are targeted, primarily the chest muscles.

The main muscles worked during this exercise include the pectoralis major and minor, which are responsible for the movement of the arms across the body.

Additionally, the deltoids, triceps, and biceps also assist in stabilizing and supporting the movement.

Proper muscle activation is crucial to ensure that the targeted muscles are effectively engaged and that other muscles do not compensate for the movement.

This can be achieved by maintaining proper form, focusing on the mind-muscle connection, and using an appropriate weight for your fitness level.

Pectoralis major

The cable fly exercise targets the pectoralis major and minor muscles. Unlike bench presses, which work only the upper chest, the cable fly uses the middle fibers of the pecs. 

The cable fly is an excellent chest exercise, targeting the pectoralis major and the anterior deltoids.

You can use two separate towers, or use a single tower for single-sided training. By holding the D-handles at shoulder height and keeping a slight bend in your elbow, the cable fly will work the muscles on either side of the chest.

Pectoralis Major is a large fan-shaped muscle located below the breast that is one of the primary muscles of the chest along with Serratus anterior, Teres minor, Diaphragm and Deltoid muscle.

Pectoralis major originates in the chest from collarbone, breast bone and ribs to eventually connect to a tendon that connects to humerus bone. It possesses two heads: clavicular head and sternocostal head.

The clavicular head forms at the junction between the anterior surface of the medial half of a clavicle, the sternal neck and first seven costal cartilages.

Meanwhile, its counterpart, the sternocostal head originates from its lower trunk where both are supplied with innervation by medial pectoral nerve which in turn innervates both areas through innervations by brachial plexus innervations for each.

The pectoralis major muscle is an indispensable multi-tasker that plays both pushing and pulling movements, while also performing other important functions such as adducting the arm at glenohumeral joint and depressing shoulder blade. 


The cable chest press is the most basic cable chest workout, but the one arm rotational press is the best one for advanced lifters.

This exercise targets the lower and middle pectoralis major, while incorporating your core and obliques into the workout. This exercise also turns a simple cable chest press into a massive compound movement.

Pectoralis minor

The pectoralis minor is a flat, thin muscle that lies underneath the pectoralis major. Many bodybuilders focus on the major muscle, but they often neglect to focus on the smaller muscle.

The pectoralis minor helps keep the scapula from shrugging up toward the ears, and it helps rotate the shoulder inward.

Pectoralis minor is a triangular muscle located below Pectoralis major. It originates from the middle ribs and inserts into (attaching to) the scapula (shoulder blade).

The primary action of this muscle is scapula protraction - moving laterally and forward along chest walls toward front of body as shoulder blade moves laterally and forward along chest wall; contracting this muscle also elevates ribs. 

The pectoralis major and minor are the two main muscles that affect how your shoulders move.

When these muscles are weak, you'll find it difficult to lower your shoulder. Traditional pec training involves doing push-ups and using heavy weights. 

One-arm cable fly exercises focus on shoulder flexion. The arm position is high or low, and the resistance is brought across the body from the shoulders.

This allows the exercises to work the front delts and upper chest. It is also possible to use a single-arm cable fly machine to focus on the middle and upper chest muscles.

Changing the angle of the cable fly is also important. Because cable work provides constant tension throughout the range of motion, it is harder to match the activation level that free weights produce.

However, in a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, researchers found that a bent forward cable crossover exercise provides nearly the same stimulation of the pectoralis major as the barbell bench press.

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Front deltoids

Your Front deltoids are one of three head muscles that comprise your shoulders.

As one of their primary roles, they serve to push vertically during exercises like presses and overhead dumbbell raises while helping stabilize the shoulder joint.

Furthermore, these deltoids play an integral part of horizontal pressing motions such as shoulder presses and side lateral raises.

Your front deltoids work closely with your pectoralis major muscle to perform shoulder flexion and internal rotation (bringing your arm inward, or flys).

In fact, these two muscles share a fascia. Training both at once may even be possible using exercises such as chest presses and seated overhead presses.

It is important to have a strong anterior deltoid for Olympic lifting, Crossfit, and traditional bodybuilding.

A well-built front delt also gives you shoulders that look rock-like.

The rear delts are also important, but they are not always worked in most upper body exercises.

In contrast, the anterior deltoid is involved in all chest and shoulder pressing exercises.

Consequently, many lifters choose to train the anterior deltoid with dumbbells. The rear deltoid is a lesser-developed muscle compared to the other two. 

Cable machine shoulder presses also work the front deltoids. As the cable machine is used to hit all three deltoids, it is easy to target each one of them differently.

By changing the grip, weight load, and body positioning, you can isolate different muscle groups. Moreover, the constant tension placed on the muscles helps to grow them.

Scapular head

The scapula, or shoulder blade, features two surfaces, three borders, and three angles.

It articulates with the head of upper arm bone (humerus) at its glenoid fossa to form the shoulder joint.

Two prominent processes on this structure are its acromion that rises like an arch from its spine and coracoid process that extends anteriorly towards glenoid fossa respectively.

Between these lies a semicircular depression known as the scapular notch which was converted into foramen by superior transverse scapular ligament for passage of suprascapular nerve.

The shoulder has many muscles that help move its scapula when movements of the arm occur.

Extrinsic muscles include the biceps, triceps and deltoid, which attach to coracoid processes of scapula as well as infraglenoid tubercle and supraglenoid tubercle; intrinsic muscles include serratus anterior, levator scapulae and rhomboids which connect to medial borders of scapulae as well as posterior superior clavicle and inferior angles of scapula.

All articulating surfaces of bones are covered with an impenetrable, tough tissue known as articular cartilage that reduces friction between bony ends and allows smooth movement.

The scapular head and high to low cable fly exercise targets the muscles in the upper back.

This exercise requires the scapulae to retract inward on the down and extend outward on the up phase.

The scapulae should also rotate inward on the depressing phase as the arms are raised or lowered.

The scapular head and high to low cable fly works the muscles that stabilize and move the scapula, which is the key component of shoulder mobility.

These muscles are the focal point of supporting muscles during overhead lifting. It is important to perform this exercise on a consistent basis if you want to improve your lifting performance. 

Importance of proper muscle activation in this exercise

Proper muscle activation is essential during high to low cable flys to ensure that the targeted muscles are effectively engaged and that other muscles do not compensate for the movement.

When the correct muscles are activated, it allows for optimal muscle growth and development.

Additionally, proper muscle activation helps to prevent injuries and ensures that the exercise is being performed safely and effectively.

To achieve proper muscle activation, it is important to focus on maintaining proper form, engaging in the mind-muscle connection, and using an appropriate weight for your fitness level.

By doing so, you can maximize the benefits of the exercise and achieve your desired results.

Tips for achieving optimal muscle activation during high to low cable flys

To achieve optimal muscle activation during high to low cable flys, there are a few key tips to keep in mind.

First, focus on maintaining proper form throughout the exercise. This means keeping your back straight, shoulders down and back, and core engaged.

Avoid using momentum or swinging your body to complete the movement.

Second, engage in the mind-muscle connection.

This involves consciously focusing on the muscles you are targeting during the exercise.

Visualize the muscles working and contracting as you perform the movement. This can help ensure that the correct muscles are being activated and that other muscles are not compensating.

Lastly, choose an appropriate weight for your fitness level. Using a weight that is too heavy can lead to improper form and muscle compensation.

Start with a lighter weight and gradually increase as you become more comfortable and confident with the exercise.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you are achieving optimal muscle activation during high to low cable flys, leading to better results and reduced risk of injury.

Common mistakes to avoid during high to low cable flys

While performing high to low cable flys, it's important to avoid common mistakes that can hinder muscle activation and potentially lead to injury.

One common mistake is using too much weight, which can cause improper form and muscle compensation.

It's important to choose a weight that allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.

Another mistake to avoid is using momentum or swinging your body to complete the movement.

This takes the focus away from the targeted muscles and can lead to ineffective activation. Instead, focus on controlled and deliberate movements, ensuring that the muscles are doing the work.

Additionally, it's important to avoid rounding your back or hunching your shoulders during high to low cable flys.

This can put unnecessary strain on the spine and shoulders, increasing the risk of injury.

Keep your back straight, shoulders down and back, and engage your core to maintain proper alignment.

By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on proper form and muscle activation, you can maximize the effectiveness of high to low cable flys and minimize the risk of injury.


Also referred to as the standing costal cable fly and standing lower pec cable fly, the high-to-low cable fly is an isolation exercise that works chest muscles.

All cable fly variations provide chest activation; however, this specific progression places greater emphasis on activating clavicle head when handles are pulled downward towards shoulders (as opposed to up like regular chest flies) for an effective workout designed to sculpt and define upper and inner chest muscles.

When conducting the high to low cable fly, the primary muscle targeted during this movement is the pectoralis major; a large, fan-shaped muscle that covers most of your upper chest area.

Other key muscles targeted during this movement include your lower chest muscles as well as anterior deltoids located at the front of your shoulders.

This exercise works best as an accessory move after performing primary compound lifts, like barbell bench pressing or dumbbell triceps pressing.

Medium to high reps (8-12) at moderate weights are best utilized in order to build chest strength, endurance and hypertrophy.

To perform a high-to-low cable fly, attach two handles to the high pulleys of a cable crossover machine and step forward with one foot in front of the other in a staggered stance with each step staggering your steps in between them.

Slowly pull down on both handles until your palms face each other at chest height before slowly returning them back up to starting position - keep elbows slightly bent during this movement to prevent shoulder injury.

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