L

Low to High Cable Fly Exercise Overview: Muscles Worked and More

low cable chest fly exercise overview

The low to high cable fly is a variation of cable chest fly where the pulleys are set close to the ground, requiring the lifter to draw them diagonally upwards.

Performing cable chest flys in this manner places a particular emphasis on the clavicular or upper head of the pectoralis major muscle.

What is a Low to High Cable Fly?

The low to high cable fly is classified as a machine-based isolation exercise primarily involving arm adduction and humeral rotation at the shoulder joint.

low to high cable fly exercise

The movement is traditionally performed in a standing position between a pair of cable towers – the lifter beginning with their arms parallel or behind the torso before they are rotated towards the front of the chest.

Owing to their nature as a machine-based isolation exercise, the low cable fly is usually programmed as an accessory movement near the end of a chest workout. In this role, the exercise’s main purpose is to help drive muscular hypertrophy through high volume but lower resistance sets.

How to Do a Low to High Cable Fly

To perform a repetition of the low to high cable fly, the lifter will begin by first adjusting the cable pulleys close to the ground, affixing a D handle to each cable.

Low to High Cable Fly
  1. Standing in the center of the machine (or several steps forwards from the center) with a handle held in each hand, the lifter will retract their scapula and push their chest out, leaning several degrees forwards at the hips. 
  2. The upper arms should be positioned either parallel to the sides of the body or slightly behind, depending on how far forwards the trunk is.
  3. Now in the correct position, the lifter squeezes their chest and draws their arms both around and upwards towards the front of their chest, as if attempting to touch their palms together.
  4. Stopping just short of the hands actually touching, the lifter then pauses for a moment before allowing the resistance of the cables to slowly pull their hands back out to the sides – keeping tension in the pectoral muscles until their arms are back in the starting position. 
  5. With the arms once again parallel to or somewhat behind the trunk, the repetition is considered to be complete.

Sets and Reps Recommendation:

The low to high cable fly is most effective when performed within the higher ranges of repetition volume, especially when done with a full range of motion and a controlled eccentric.

2-4 sets of 10-16 repetitions at a low to moderate level of resistance is ideal for pectoral development.

What Muscles are Worked by Low to High Cable Flys?

Low to high cable flys are classified as an isolation exercise, meaning that they are only meant to target a single muscle group throughout the entire movement pattern.

low cable chest fly muscles

This muscle group is the chest – specifically the pectoralis major and minor muscles. 

pectoralis major muscle

As the main biomechanical action of these two muscles is adduction of the arms (moving towards the center line), cable chest flys often work them to their fullest range.

pectoralis minor muscle

Because the angle of resistance originates from a point beneath the upper body, the low to high cable fly will target the clavicular head of the pectoralis major to a greater degree than other cable fly variations. 

Of course, the sternal pectoralis major head and the underlying pectoralis minor are nonetheless also targeted, only to a lesser degree.

Common Low to High Cable Fly Mistakes to Avoid

In order to get the most out of the low to high cable fly, check your technique for the following highly common mistakes.

Contracting the Biceps

It is important to remember that the low to high cable fly is primarily a chest isolation exercise, and that no significant contraction of other muscle groups should be present. 

Because of the position of the arms and the angle of resistance involved, lifters may occasionally turn the exercise into a curl – causing their biceps to contract and draw emphasis away from the pectoral muscles.

In order to avoid making this particular mistake, lifters should seek to keep their elbows as straight as possible without completely locking them out. The actual movement of the arms should be mainly driven by pectoral contraction, rather than flexion at the elbows.

Performing a Chest Press

Much like accidentally turning the movement into a curl, lifters extending the arms forwards rather than adducting them will shift emphasis away from the chest. 

Instead, the triceps and anterior deltoids will bear the majority of the resistance, defeating the purpose of the exercise.

Although somewhat difficult to ascertain without prior training experience, the actual movement of the arms should be a rotational one starting and ending with the humerus at least parallel to the shoulders. 

The elbows should not bend to any significant degree, and the arms will move in a hugging motion, rather than extending forwards in a straight line.

Poor Range of Motion

As is the case with practically all exercises, each repetition of the low cable fly should be performed with a full range of motion – starting and ending with the upper arms parallel to the sides of the trunk.

Apart from ensuring that the repetition begins and ends with the pecs sufficiently lengthened, lifters should also ensure that they are achieving proper concentric contraction by drawing the arms as close to each other as possible at the front of the trunk, just shy of the hands actually touching.

Failing to complete a full range of motion can lead to poor muscular development, sticking points and greater strain on the shoulder joint.

Trunk is Too Vertical

The low to high cable fly is most effective when the trunk is oriented somewhat more forwards, especially when done with the legs staggered. 

Not only will a more angled trunk allow for greater stability, but a larger range of motion and subsequently greater lower chest contraction will be achieved as well.

Performing the exercise with an entirely vertical and upright torso can cause the anterior deltoids and biceps to contract, leaving the pectoral muscles under-stimulated.

Hunching the Shoulders or Curving the Upper Back Forwards

Though the low cable fly is most effective with the trunk tilted somewhat forwards, the entire back should remain relatively flat as this tilt is held. 

Curving the upper back forwards or otherwise hunching the shoulders internally can lead to greater strain on the various joints of the upper body – if not also shift emphasis from the pecs as well.

Throughout the entire set, the scapula should remain either neutral or slightly retracted while the entire spine remains in a neutral curvature. A good cue to follow is to push the chest out while squaring the shoulders back, ensuring proper pectoral contraction and greater upper trunk stability.

References

1. López-Vivancos, Abraham, Noelia González-Gálvez, Francisco Javier Orquín-Castrillón, Rodrigo Gomes de Souza Vale, and Pablo Jorge Marcos-Pardo. 2023. “Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major Muscle during Traditional Bench Press and Other Variants of Pectoral Exercises: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” Applied Sciences 13, no. 8: 5203. https://doi.org/10.3390/app13085203

2. DE Camargo JBB, Brigatto FA, Germano MD, DA Conceição RM, Teixeira I, Duarte RG, Fellet L, Braz TV, Prestes J, Marchetti PH, Willardson JM, Lopes CR. Acute Effects of Inter-set Stretching on Performance and Metabolic Parameters of Resistance-trained Men. Int J Exerc Sci. 202