Movements You LOVE to HATE: the Prone Fly

Topical GIFs are the very best kind.

Topical GIFs are the very best kind.

Everybody has “those” movements—the ones you love to hate. When they pop up in your training program, your mind fights that brief tug-of-war between “OK, I can do this!” and “Forget this, I’m out of here!”

For some, an intimidating explosive movement will be the one that gets your goat, like a nasty Clean/Jerk complex. But for most of us, I’d wager to say the movements we love to hate are often the simplest ones. Maybe it’s because they look so easy…

Perhaps the very best/worst part about these exercises is that, deep down, we know they’ll make us better. And the more we practice them, the easier they’ll become. There is no shortcut, no magic pill—just some good ol’ pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps hard work. On the top of my Movements I Love to Hate list for this very reason is the Prone Fly. When you’re lying face-down on the floor, you can’t cheat your way through a set of Prone Flys (especially with a belly full of oatmeal, oh God).

In this new blog series, we want to call out some of your most loved/hated movements—in order to explain what they can do for you, why they are in your program, and how to execute them with perfect form. Today, it’s my turn: the Prone Fly it is.

WHAT is a Prone Fly?

A Prone Fly is a core and shoulder isolation exercise performed on the floor. It asks you to contract the muscles of your posterior chain (along the back of the body) isometrically to hold your limbs up and off the ground during the movement, while the shoulders and arms rotate dynamically and with control through the scapula’s full range of motion.

WHY is the Prone Fly in my training program?

The 4 muscles that make up the rotator cuff: S.I.T.S. (Subscapularis, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Supraspinatus)

The 4 muscles that make up the rotator cuff: S.I.T.S. (Subscapularis, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Supraspinatus)

Scapulo-humeral rhythm: how the scapula and humerus move together

Scapulo-humeral rhythm: how the scapula and humerus move together

NEVER underestimate the power of a healthy, mobile rotator cuff! The Prone Fly strengthens the muscles that move the scapula and humerus through their full “rhythm,” or range of motion. When you think about how much time we spend with our arms in front of our body—typing, texting, reading, driving, sports, etc.—strengthening the muscles that pull the shoulder blades into a good position is absolutely essential. When the muscles of the chest become too tight from overuse, and the muscles of the upper back too stretched out from lack of use, rotator cuff problems abound. Sure, they may not hit you until you turn fifty, but they’ll be lurking around your stiff and underdeveloped scapular muscles if you do nothing. The Prone Fly helps promote rotator cuff health and is a great movement for athletes whose predominant sport movements are overhead (volleyball) or in front of the body (baseball). We use the Prone Fly in nearly all of our sport-specific training programs because of its implications for rotator cuff injury prevention, better postural awareness, and general shoulder mobility.

HOW can I perform a perfect Prone Fly?

First, don’t inhale a huge bowl of oatmeal before your training session.

Can you see the misery in my face?

Can you see the misery in my face?

Next, lie face-down on the floor in a prone position with your legs straight and arms outstretched overhead. Engage the muscles of your core (including the back) to lift the arms, chest, and legs up and off the ground into a superman position. Keep the neck and head in line with the rest of the spine.

Begin the movement with both arms straight and above your head, palms facing down, thumbs touching.

Keeping your arms as straight as possible, sweep both arms down to your sides, turning your palms up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and try to touch your thumbs together behind the small of your back. (THIS is why I love/hate this movement!)

Sweep the arms back up to their starting position above your head, flipping the palms once more to face the floor again.

Keep your arms in constant motion—try not to rest before the entire set is complete. Keep the legs up and off the floor during the movement. Do not forget to breathe!


To modify the prone fly, forget about keeping your arms straight and touching the thumbs behind your back. Simply work to achieve a greater range of motion with each set of flys. 

I'll be honest: I know I've got 3 sets of 30 Prone Flys on my program for tomorrow, and I'm already dreading it. So when I'm sweating profusely on the dirty gym floor, I'll think of you guys, an injury-free future, and developing that sexy scapulo-humeral rhythm that makes all the physical therapists swoon.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK! What are some your most favorite, most hate-able movements? Tell us in the comments section below and yours might make the next post!

Join over 100,000 coaches and athletes using Volt's intelligent training app. For more information, click here.


Christye Estes, CSCS is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. She is an NSCA-certified strength coach and a Sport Performance Specialist at Volt.
Learn more about Christye and read her other posts | @CoachChristye