Curl and Fly Tweaks: Advance Your Chest and Biceps Training

There are two reasons why people do the exercises they do (or most anything else really). Number one is that someone told them to. They picked it from some magazine’s list of chest exercises, copied it from some big guy or got told “Hey, bro, check this exercise out!”. Reason number two is that it feels right. The exercise gives a good pump, looks great in the mirror or makes you feel like a badass. This article is about reason number three, which is that the exercise provides the optimal stimulation of the target muscle(s).

Rather than rehashing my principles of exercise selection or how a muscle’s structure determines how it should be trained, I’m going to focus on the practice and application of this information. I’ve picked two exercises that should require no introduction and give you advice on how to improve them along with my preferred variation.

Read the full article on Human Engine.


  • shimin

    Great and a functional article, hope to see more. 

    • Menno Henselmans

      Thanks, you will!

  • Mike

    Great stuff as usual. I'm going to replace ez bar curls with cable curls. Sir, do you think hitting muscles twice a week is optimal for naturals? Right now I'm doing an upper/lower routine 4x a week and I can't do all the exercises I'd like to do unless I'm in the gym for 2+ hours. I feel like if I trained everything once a week, I could fit in more exercises like chest flies and multiple delt exercises.

    • Menno Henselmans

      Thanks, Mike. The optimal training frequency of a muscle group depends heavily on your overall program and your training history. I’ll elaborate on it lengthily at some point in an article.

  • Bobby

    Sweet stuff! I like doing flyes on rings :) Variations from legs up, hand width, etc. makek them challenging and stimulate pecs like no other…seems superior to cable flyes provided you're good with moving your body through space.

    • Menno Henselmans

      Ring flys are awesome, yes. They have the huge benefit of having a closed kinetic chain.


    This is great and it opens up completely new chances.

  • AwkwardBrah

    Is it fine to only do pronated cable flies for chest or would you incorporate a compound movement like the guillotine press? Thanks

    • Menno Henselmans

      You can get by with nothing but isolation exercises for the chest, yes, although I don’t generally recommend it if you can do presses.

  • James

    Terrific as usual.

  • Kenneth

    Great tips Menno.

    More articles like this please.

  • TravisRetriever

    I actually tried the Bayesian Flies at my Gym (it has an adjustable Cable Pulley Machine. :) ) However, it doesn’t really have a seat on it, so I have to stand while doing it. Not sure if that’s suboptimal, but it would be fun to try it seated as well as standing. I also do the bicep one as well. I like it. :) I’ll have to read this and see how in better detail how to do them.

    • Menno Henselmans


  • TravisRetriever

    So I have a question, since I can’t afford a personal trainer, limited income being annoying and all (the one I almost *did* hire…it’s a long story, said he wasn’t really doing short term stuff–1-3 sessions–like just showing how to do the exercises–e.g. bench press, squats, etc properly), any tips for a trainee on limited income on a good reliable source on how to do exercises properly?
    I’ve been Googling and practicing around, but I figured I’d ask if you had anything to add. :)

    • Menno Henselmans

      Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. Bret Contreras has several good posts on technique for certain exercises too.

      • TravisRetriever

        Thanks, Menno. :)

  • TravisRetriever

    So something annoying about reverse flies is that there is a ton of resistance in the top of the lift, but hardly any in the bottom (just like a standard dumbbell chest fly).
    So to remedy this, I actually tried using a reverse version of the Bayesian Fly to work my posterior deltoids. It took some fiddling with the machine to get the range and resistance curve good (to get it optimal, I had to have grab the opposite handed cables causing the ropes to cross), but overall I liked it better than the standard reverse fly.

    • Menno Henselmans

      Yep, I use that often with clients.

  • SH RH

    I’m trying to bring up the clavicle head of my chest, would the Bayesian Cable Fly help with that? Would an incline be better suited for that?

    Big Fan, Thanks!

    • Menno Henselmans

      Some tips:
      - don’t do front delt isolation work.
      - don’t do lower chest isolation work or exercises that target only the lower chest (like pull-overs for the chest).
      - perform Bayesian flies at a 15-30° incline.
      - focus on the mind-muscle connection.

      For most people though, it is important to get a bigger chest period and not specifically a bigger upper chest.

      Hope that helps.

      • SH RH

        That definitely helps! Thanks Menno! Glad I found your site!