How to Do Butterfly Exercises on a Chair

Start with dumbbells of a lower weight and work up as you get stronger.

Start with dumbbells of a lower weight and work up as you get stronger.

When you want fly-looking shoulders and tight chest muscles, the butterfly is one exercise to add to your routine. You can do this exercise, also known as the "fly," with a stationary weight machine or by using a set of dumbbells and a flat weight bench. If you want to do the exercises at home, though, you can improvise with a set of dumbbells and a chair. A flat, hard-backed chair without arms is best for these exercises.


Sit on the edge of the chair with your feet resting on the floor and your legs bent at approximately a 90-degree angle. Position your feet about shoulder-width apart. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand.

Place your arms in the "goal post" or bent "fly" position, in which your upper and lower arms form a 90-degree angle. Your upper arms should extend straight out from your shoulders, and your palms should face forward. Tightly grip the dumbbells.

Move both arms in toward each other, maintaining the 90-degree angle until they nearly touch in front of your face.

Open your arms back to the starting "goal post" or bent "fly" position for one repetition.

Lying Down

Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and rest your lower and middle back on the chair as you plant your feet firmly on the floor, so that your body is facing upward and your arms are able to move without the obstruction of the chair back. Engage your abdominal muscles to keep your torso straight. A flat bench, coffee table or an exercise ball also work for this exercise as long as they're sturdy so you won't have to worry about the chair back getting in the way.

Straighten your arms and press the dumbbells upward so that palms are facing each other directly above your head.

Lower your arms in a wide arc until each arm is straight out at a 90-degree angle from the torso. Slightly bend the elbows as you lower the arms. Stop when your hands are roughly parallel to your torso.

Push your arms back to the starting position above your head to complete one repetition.


  • Do one set of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise, take a 30-second break, and then complete a second set. As with any weight-bearing exercise, take at least 24 hours off before doing the exercise again. As you get stronger, you can add a third set or increase the weight slowly over time.

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About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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