Chain Up for Chest Mass

Upgrade your flye with this simple but effective intensity-building variation.

Chain Up for Chest Mass

“Having a big chest is functional—a function of bad assery,” my colleague, Larry Brown, tweeted. And while a big chest is built primarily through big benches, the greatest physiques of all-time have touted flyes of all types as great shaping movements. But Arnold himself has commented on their effectiveness for building mass. And when the Oak talks, you should listen.

You may already be familiar with dumbbell flyes, cable flyes and pec deck flyes but in the last ten years, chains have popped up in performance training centers and commercial gyms like spandex and mullets in the 1980s. Fortunately, unlike the aforementioned fashion fails, chains can actually benefit your workouts.

For decades, powerifters have reaped the benefits of the linear variable resistance (LVR) of chains (and bands) by attaching them to barbells in addition to standard weights. Legions of studies have confirmed the effectiveness of chains in the acquisition of strength.

Every man with an iota of testosterone wants to get stronger. Many Muscle & Fitness readers with aesthetic and general fitness goals have opted opted out of dumbbell flyes simply because the stretched position at the bottom is considered a risk or, at the very least, an irritant to finicky shoulders. Instead, many lifters on often opt to only train this chest isolation movement with cables or machines.

Chain Flyes Change Everything

Chain flyes are performed by attaching the handles you use to perform cable crossovers to a set of clanking chains and getting into standard dumbbell flye position on a flat (or angled) bench. You are still able to get some of the stretch (lacking in cables) that you feel with dumbbells. However, as your arms abduct to the fully stretched position, the chains (read: the resistance) unload on the floor. This removes much of the strain from the shoulders. As you adduct, or squeeze your arms back together, the chains start to lift off the floor again, giving you the peak contraction advantage of the cables.

Even with 100 percent healthy shoulders, chain flyes require you to produce more force where you are strongest, providing a hellacious overload – a sure-fire prescription for growth and grainy detail.

Chains can be bought from dozens of online retailers, the local hardware store or you can even land some freebies if you strike a friendship with neighborhood longshoreman at the local ship yard.

Check out Chain Flyes in Action. 


Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at

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