Forgotten Exercises: ATrainer’s Fly Movement

People of a certain generation will remember the importance of Bodybuilding.com in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At a time when internet culture was still slowly influencing the fitness world, Bodybuilding.com was a one stop shop for training and nutrition advice.

Today’s post looks at an exercise I first came across in the early 2000s on the Exercise Forum of the website. Posted by Atrainer – whose identity I have yet to uncover – this movement promised to isolate the chest in a really simple, but effective way.

What are they? 

So put simply, Atrainer Flies are a chest exercise done using a cable crossover machine. Using a supinated grip, this little movement puts an incredible strain on the chest and isolates it far more efficiently than dumbbells ever could. In the poster’s own words

These exercises are performed on a cable crossover machine. Dumbbells are a waste of time for these exercises. You lay down between the pulleys. The pulleys must be positioned at shoulder height. If the pulley heights are adjustable, you may lay down on a flat bench. If they are not, you must lie on the floor and use the lower pulleys. Performing these exercises while standing will not work. You will waste too much energy on body stabilization, and open yourself up to cheating.

Next, you need to grasp the cables. A completely supinated grip is required. I used to use PVC and webbing handles, sliding the grip sideways, allowing me to grasp the handle in full supination. Recently, my training partner convinced me to simply grab the cables by the rubber stops. While not completely comfortable, especially without gloves, gripping the cable in this way has been adequate.

Essentially, you could describe the movement as a supinated cable fly. This description stops way short of the technical precision required to make these exercises work. All control of the movement must be focused on the elbows. While the hands connect your arm to the cable, they must remain completely uninvolved as if your arm didn’t exist below the elbow. All visual and mental concentration must be focused on performing these flyes with supinated elbows.

The video found at the beginning of the post gives a good visual descriptor of what this entails in reality.

What do I need to know?

Although it looks simple, this is a rather unnatural movement for the body and there is a tendency to let the hands led the movement which can take the pressure away from the chest. Again returning to our inventor

Let me emphasize that your body will naturally try to cheat. If your hands lead the movement, you will have rotated the anterior deltoid into full control of the movement. Also, at the top of the movement, many people will try to continue the movement by rotating their hands toward each other rather than the elbows. This will transfer all of the stress from the pecs to the anterior deltoids.

Done correctly, this is an exercise designed for lighter weights. Among friends, the strongest person I know used c. 35 lbs. on this movement and they were a rather accomplished powerlifter. Big weights are not advisable because nine times out of ten, those lifters using heavy weights in this movement are sacrificing form for their ego.

How to Incorporate it?

Again from personal experience I’d recommended using light weights (c. 15-20 lbs.) and higher reps. Typically I do this as a second exercise after bench pressing or doing dips with weights. This means that my chest is already tired, which I always finds helps me isolate the muscles.

As a brief aside, don’t do this exercise when the gym is busy as you’ll be using a bench plus the entirety of the crossover machine – this is admittedly a pet peeve of mine but be considerate!

Conclusion

Atrainer’s fly is not only effective, but instills in me a bit of nostalgia for the days when ‘dreamer bulks’ and Zyzz fascinated the online fitness world. And with that rosey-tinted view of the past out of the way, I’ll end by saying that this small variation can, if done correctly, elicit some great results.

As always … Happy Lifting!

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