Easy methods to Use the Chest Press Machine: A Detailed Information to Construct Higher Physique Muscle

This will likely come as a shock, however you don’t need to barbell bench press. Now, earlier than you write indignant letters and launch a protest marketing campaign, take heed to the total story. Until you’re a powerlifter coaching particularly for competitors, there are many workout routines that construct higher physique muscle and power as successfully because the bench press.

For a lot of, machines supply the right combination of stability, accessibility, consolation, novelty, and coaching stimulus. Certain, some machines have design flaws and issues, however many are an absolute pleasure to make use of. Higher but, machine-based coaching has been proven to stimulate equal muscular diversifications to free weight coaching. (1)

Credit score: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

The chest press is a staple machine-based train. However there’s extra to the quintessential chest press machine than the data contained on its instruction placard. Study correct setup and approach, frequent pitfalls, distinctive advantages, programming methods, and extra.

Chest Press Machine

Chest Press Machine Video Information

See the educational chest press machine video from the article’s creator, Dr. Merrick Lincoln, then try the step-by-step breakdown with extra type ideas. 

Easy methods to Use the Chest Press Machine

To get essentially the most out of the chest press machine, observe these steps for proper setup and efficient execution.

Step 1 — Set Up Your Machine

Muscular person in gym setting up chest press machine
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

The primary, and arguably most vital, step is to correctly arrange the machine — it should be adjusted to suit the consumer. Though machine designs fluctuate significantly, most have two changes: Seat top and the fore-aft place of the backrest. 

Adjusting the peak of the seat determines the placement of the handles relative to the consumer. Decreasing the seat creates a better beginning place for the handles and elevating the seat ends in a decrease beginning place of the handles. The handles must be on the degree of your decrease chest, at roughly nipple-height to be anatomically particular.

On most machines, front-and-back adjustment of the backrest determines the “depth” of the beginning place. Transfer the seat ahead to create extra stretch on the backside place or transfer the seat backward to restrict the vary of movement within the backside place.

Your private choice, harm historical past, and particular person anatomy work together to tell your personal acceptable vary of movement. Usually, determine a seat place that maximizes a cushty vary of movement.

Type Tip: Take the time to really study the particular machine’s design, notably the motion arms — the metallic levers that you just push away out of your physique. Motion arms that pivot from above the seat have a tendency to advertise urgent at a barely upward angle relative to your physique, just like a slight incline press. Subsequently, to execute “flat bench” approach and elicit balanced chest improvement, the handles must be barely decrease than regular. On machines with motion arms that pivot from under the consumer, the urgent movement might observe a slight decline. On this type machine, it’s prudent to arrange with handles barely larger than standard.

Step 2 — Set a Steady Beginning Place

Muscular person in gym performing machine chest press
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

Get your physique right into a steady and powerful place by establishing factors of contact with a slight arch in your backbone. Factors of contact embrace: your head towards the headrest, each shoulder blades towards the backrest, your glutes on the seat, each ft on the ground, and each arms absolutely gripped across the handles. 

Arch your center and higher again as you squeeze your shoulder blades collectively with out shrugging upward. Keep this place all through the train. 

Type Tip: Though many who can not attain the ground when seated on the chest press machine intuitively cross their ankles for stability, this technique is just not optimum. In case you’re unable to achieve the ground, place your ft on a steady foothold — a step, a brief plyometric field, a weight plate, or the machine’s foot pegs if accessible.

Step 3 — Drive the Motion Arms Away

Muscular person in gym doing machine chest press
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

Maintain your forearms and wrists aligned with the pure path of the motion arm and push each handles away. Proceed to push till your elbows are straight or practically straight. 

Type Tip: Press to your eye-line” is a training cue utilized by Tyler Hobson, one of many nice designers and builders of fitness center gear. This cue is sensible, as a result of it exploits the advantages of an exterior focus of consideration. Basically, your focus shifts to no matter object or environmental landmark is in your line of gaze. This will likely lead to extra environment friendly, extra forceful motion, and probably larger strength gains. (2)

Step 4 — Decrease With Management

Muscular person in gym using chest press machine
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

Decrease the motion arms again towards the beginning place. Management is important. Decrease till you are feeling a profound stretch throughout your chest muscle mass or till the motion arms gently contact the machine. Don’t bounce off the machine’s stops on the backside.

Type Tip: As a substitute of “reducing the burden,” take into consideration “rowing” or actively pulling the motion arms again towards your chest. This method reinforces a powerful place of your shoulder blades.

Chest Press Machine Errors to Keep away from

Sidestep these frequent errors to construct extra muscle with the chest press machine.

Wrist Extension

Many lifters hop on the chest press machine and grip the handles within the heart of their palms with out consideration to their particular hand place. This ends in an prolonged wrist place — bending arms again towards the highest of your forearms.

Person in gym using chest press machine
Credit score: Ajan Alen / Shutterstock

Finally, extreme wrist extension is a comparatively weaker place for urgent and will lead to an excessively “tucked” arm path in the course of the press. 

Keep away from it: Make sure the handles lie throughout the heels of your arms. When urgent, goal your knuckles alongside the trail motion. Seen from the facet, your forearm and hand ought to type a straight line all through the press.

Sloppy Transition Between Reps

“Ego lifters” and uninitiated trainees typically exploit Newton’s legislation of action-reaction on the backside of every repetition by bouncing the motion arms off the machine to make the next repetition simpler to carry out.

Person in outdoor gym using chest press machine
Credit score: Odua Photos / Shutterstock

Uncontrolled affect returns power into the subsequent repetition, robbing the goal muscle mass of all-important rigidity. Exerting management all through the complete repetition is more difficult, but in addition extra rewarding.

Keep away from it: Whereas lifters are typically intentional concerning the lockout place on the prime of the press, most could be higher served shifting their consideration to a clean and gradual transition between repetitions on the backside place. Decelerate as you strategy the underside place. Gently “kiss” the motion arms towards the machine. Pay attention to maintain your self sincere — mild contact with the machine ought to make little or no sound.

Extreme or Inadequate Vary of Movement

Whereas there’s no common “appropriate” vary of movement (ROM) for each lifter on the chest press machine, the ROM you utilize ought to verify a number of key containers: ROM must be well-tolerated by your shoulders; ROM ought to, if attainable, produce a profound stretch throughout your chest and entrance of your shoulders; ROM shouldn’t produce compensatory actions or actions not intrinsic to the train. Urgent with approach that fails to fulfill these standards is suboptimal, at finest.

Long-haired person in gym using chest press machine
Credit score: Floor Image / Shutterstock

The second standards (“massive stretch”) is simple. Mounting proof suggests the stretched place of the repetition is a very powerful for positive factors. (3) Don’t lower it quick through the use of inadequate ROM.

Lastly, if the ROM is pushed too far, the lifter will start to display undesirable compensations together with dropping your chest, permitting your shoulder blades to tilt ahead, and/or flaring your elbows. In case you’re unable to maintain your shoulder blades retracted and preserve a constant arm path by means of the underside place, there’s likelihood you’re attempting to make use of extreme ROM. In all circumstances, errors may be corrected by re-adjusting the machine.

Keep away from it: Lifters with shoulder accidents or instability won’t tolerate as a lot shoulder extension on the backside of the repetition, so really feel it out in your “work up” units and regulate the machine accordingly.

Easy methods to Progress the Chest Press Machine

When it’s time to ramp up your workload, conventional development methods reminiscent of including weight or growing repetitions and units can work effectively with the chest press machine. As well as, machine designs are conducive to superior coaching methods reminiscent of drop units and lengthened partials.

Improve Relative Effort

An easy development technique for resistance coaching includes growing the degree of effort — or proximity to failure — of every set. This technique might contain including weight and/or including repetitions.

For instance, contemplate a lifter who usually performs a set utilizing 220 kilos (100 kilograms) for 10 repetitions. This set brings the lifter considerably near failure — Subjectively, they might report having three extra reps left within the tank, or “repetitions in reserve.”

To extend relative effort, the lifter might merely add weight or carry out a number of extra repetitions. As a result of chest press machine has “built-in” security options, the lifter might really feel extra snug pushing their degree effort nearer to and even to failure in comparison with a barbell or dumbbell bench press.

Lengthened Partials

Whereas pristine repetitions by means of full vary of movement could also be thought of the head of lifting talent, it isn’t the one efficient solution to build muscle and power. Legendary bodybuilding coach John Meadows generally ended his high-intensity units with partial range of motion reps. And science is starting to acknowledge the potential worth of partials.

A latest systematic assessment evaluating full ROM coaching and partial ROM coaching reported trivial variations between power and hypertrophy. (3) Nevertheless, partial vary of movement coaching was discovered to have slight benefit for hypertrophy when emphasizing the lengthened (stretched) place. (3) Lengthened partials seem to reinforce rigidity and promote muscle hypoxia, that are mechanical- and chemical stimuli conducive to development. (4)(5

The chest press machine presents an amazing alternative to progress your coaching by including lengthened partials to the tip of your conventional full vary of movement set.

The goal muscle mass are lengthened within the backside place of the chest press, so carry out your partials within the backside one-third to two-thirds of the repetition. Partials are nice to tack onto the tip of conventional units. Shoot for 3 to 6 lengthened partial repetitions instantly after your full vary of movement repetitions. Be warned: you’re in for a painful burn. By avoiding lockout, you’ll maintain rigidity in your chest, bathing the muscle in metabolites and ravenous it of oxygen. (5)

Drop Units

On the subject of intense coaching in your chest, few workout routines can evaluate to the chest press machine carried out with drop units. Drop units entail taking an train to, or near, failure, decreasing the burden, then instantly performing a further set.

One to a few “drops” are generally carried out, reworking a difficult set right into a coaching bout that flirts with failure a number of occasions. Drop set protocols with one and three “drops” have been proven to be as efficient for bettering bench press power as 4 conventional units. (6) Furthermore, the three-drop drop set protocol was superior to conventional units for bettering repetitions to failure (i.e. muscle endurance). (6)

To carry out a three-drop drop set protocol, ideally use a cable stack (“selectorized”) chest press machine to attenuate the time wanted to alter the burden. Carry out the primary set to or near failure utilizing a reasonable weight (one which permits roughly 10 to 12 repetitions).

Cut back the burden 20 to 30% and instantly carry out one other set to or near failure. Repeat this strategy of reducing the burden by 20 to 30% for every drop till you’ve gotten carried out a complete of 4 units.

Advantages of the Chest Press Machine

Certain, you possibly can press with a barbell or dumbbells, however a well-designed chest press machine presents a number of benefits — enhanced security, a steady motion path, and a clean resistance curve.

Excessive Depth Chest Coaching

Whether or not you prepare with heavy hundreds and grind by means of only a handful of reps or use mild hundreds for marathon units, security is paramount. In case this declare isn’t self-evident, right here’s the rationale: an injured lifter can not prepare, and a lifter who can not prepare loses positive factors. 

All types of free-weight urgent, together with the barbell and dumbbell bench press, require a skilled spotter for secure execution. Nevertheless, the designs of machines have “self-spotting” mechanisms in-built. That means, should you fail on a repetition on a chest press machine, you’re unlikely to get choked out underneath a bar or displace your enamel with a dumbbell. Constructed-in security options ought to instill confidence, permitting you to push your units ever nearer to failure and maximize positive factors.

Consistency For Thoughts-Muscle Connection

The levers and pivot factors of typical chest machines constrain motion to a predictable path. Whereas no two lifters press utilizing the very same approach because of variations in motion technique, machine setup, and physique dimensions, the constrained motion path promotes consistency for every particular person consumer.

muscular person in gym performing machine chest press
Credit score: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

This consistency might help you develop a way characterised by intentional and intense contraction of the goal muscle mass. This acutely aware connection to the goal muscle is named the mind-muscle connection. Creating a powerful mind-muscle connection has been instructed as a superior technique for lifters who wish to improve recruitment of a goal muscle. (7

To develop a stronger mind-muscle connection, use lighter “work up units” to consciously discover refined variations in motion approach. For instance, attempt barely tucking or flaring your elbows, attempt holding your sternum a bit larger, or attempt making use of a refined rotational pressure to the handles. Machines present extra environment friendly and safer environments for cultivating a powerful mind-muscle connection.

Superior Resistance Curve

Resistance coaching workout routines are restricted by the quantity of load our muscle mass can overcome in the course of the sticking level, or essentially the most difficult portion of the motion. The sticking level for the barbell bench press happens towards the start of the upward motion section when the bar is simply above the chest. (8) Throughout the the rest of the motion, your muscle mass aren’t maximally challenged.

Whereas the bands or chains could also be used to beat this potential limitation, these modifications require extra gear, could also be cumbersome to arrange, and can probably by no means obtain the texture of a well-designed chest press machine. 

A well-designed machine varies the resistance utilized to the lifter all through the vary of movement utilizing levers and/or cams. Whereas meta-analyses have proven no distinction in coaching diversifications between variable resistance and conventional resistance coaching, these analyses embrace band- and chain-based variable resistance. (9)(10)

Research particularly evaluating variable resistance machines to free weight variations of the workout routines have reported superior diversifications for the variable resistance teams together with elevated muscle torque and elevated resistance to fatigue. (11)(12) Whereas different evidence-based lifters look ahead to extra analysis, hedge your bets by incorporating machine-based chest urgent.

Muscle tissues Labored by the Chest Press Machine

Try the placards or instruction playing cards on the chest press machines at your native fitness center. On every anatomy diagram, the complete higher entrance of the torso will likely be highlighted as “goal muscle mass.” The chest press machine will undoubtedly mild up your chest, as anticipated, together with components of your shoulders and arms.

Pectoralis Main

Because the title suggests, the chest press machine primarily targets your chest. Your pectoralis main is the most important and most visually distinguished muscle of the chest by a longshot. Typical chest press machines resist an arm path that toes the road between flexion, or elevating your arms instantly in entrance of your physique, and horizontal adduction, or shifting your arms collectively in entrance of your physique.

Your pectoralis main contributes to each actions. (13)(14) Furthermore, the chest press machine seems to stimulate strong muscle exercise in all components of the broad, fanlike pectoralis main muscle. (15)

Triceps Brachii

Just like the bench press, the chest press machine additionally trains your triceps brachii. Triceps muscle excitation has been proven to be decrease in the course of the chest press machine in comparison with the bench press when each workout routines had been carried out at 80% of their respective 1-repetition most. (16) Alternatively, one other examine confirmed no distinction in triceps brachii muscle excitation when each workout routines had been carried out at 60% of 1-repetition most. (17)

Altogether, there’s ongoing debate about whether or not the extra steady situations of the chest press machine are kind of conducive to triceps excitation. (16)(17) The reply could also be depending on particular person variations of particular machine designs (e.g., which machine permits the lifter to deal with extra weight?). Both means, relaxation assured, your triceps are skilled in the course of the chest press.

Anterior Deltoid

The anterior deltoid, typically referred to as the “entrance delts,” contribute to shoulder flexion and horizontal abduction, the actions mixed in the course of the typical chest press machine. (13)

Utilizing a chest press machine with a impartial grip (palms dealing with one another) reasonably than an overhand (“pronated”) grip has been proven to advertise extra anterior deltoid activation, though the distinction fails to achieve statistical significance, and the sensible relevance of those findings are questionable. (15)(18)

Easy methods to Program the Chest Press Machine

The chest press machine may be programmed into many various kinds of training splits — as a most important train on “chest day,” on “push day” in a push/pull/legs cut up, as one in every of a number of compound lifts throughout a devoted higher physique exercise, or as part of a full-body routine.

As a Heavy Main Train

When structuring exercises to construct muscle or improve power, it’s common to frontload the heaviest multi-joint actions towards the start of the exercise. This technique is smart, as excessive threshold motor models — the teams of muscle fibers with essentially the most power and best coaching potential — haven’t been fatigued by accumulating quantity.

Whereas a “power purist” would possibly program the barbell bench press as their main horizontal pushing motion, the chest press machine can work simply as effectively. To make use of the chest press machine as your main heavy pushing train, work as much as a difficult weight for two to 4 units of 5 to 10 repetitions. Take beneficiant three-to-four-minute relaxation intervals between units. This protocol will construct power and dimension.

As a Average-to-Gentle Secondary Train

Not prepared to completely embrace the machines? Maintain a free weight train as your main urgent motion and use the chest press machine as if it had been an adjunct train, or “pump work.” Use moderate-to-light weight and carry out for prime repetitions. The chest press machine can take the place of a triceps- or chest isolation train, reminiscent of pushdowns or pec flyes.

We all know a variety of hundreds are efficient for constructing dimension and power. (19)(20)(21) — So, don’t stress about percentages or 1-repetition most testing. Utilizing a weight that you just discover “mild to reasonably heavy,” carry out two or three units. Carry out sufficient repetitions to strategy failure. Take two to a few minute relaxation between units.

As A part of a Superset or Alternating Set Routine

In case your exercise cut up means that you can pair workout routines that hit opposing muscle teams in the identical exercise, it can save you a ton of time. Supersetting is when no relaxation is taken between the paired workout routines. If a conventional relaxation interval is taken between the opposing workout routines, the programming technique known as “alternating units.”

For a killer chest and back workout, attempt pairing the chest press with a again train like a barbell bent-over row or a neutral-grip lat pulldown. To resolve whether or not you’ll use supersets or alternating units, select whether or not you might be optimizing for effectivity or fatigue administration.

Supersets save extra time, however might lead to extra fatigue. Though supersets usually keep away from fatigue within the working muscle mass (“peripheral fatigue”), they might not present sufficient relaxation to keep away from accumulating systemic or central fatigue, which might intervene you’re your subsequent set.

Alternatively, alternating units present extra general relaxation. They might additionally nonetheless save time relative to conventional straight units, as a result of most lifters won’t require as a lot relaxation to recuperate between opposing workout routines.

Chest Press Machine Variations

In case you’re lucky to coach at a well-equipped fitness center, the usual chest press machine isn’t your solely choice. You might wish to discover the fitness center to see in case you have entry to those variations.

Converging Chest Press Machine

The arms converge, or come collectively, all through the upward motion section when utilizing a converging chest press machine. You’ll know a chest press is converging by inspecting the pivot factors of the machine’s motion arms. On converging machines, the motion arms are angled inwards whereas, on conventional or non-converging chest press machines, the motion arms are directed straight forward.

The converging chest press facilitates extra vary of movement towards peak contraction, or shortest muscle size of your pectoralis main. Whereas some discover the converging chest press machine feels extra “pure,” machine designs fluctuate. Primary approach pointers apply to the converging machine. Set an acceptable seat top and seatback place, preserve retracted shoulder blades, and press alongside the trail of the motion arms.

Incline Chest Press Machine

Simply because the incline bench press might present larger higher chest coaching compared to the flat bench press, the incline chest press machine might bias your higher chest greater than the normal chest press machine. (22)(23)(24)

The first distinction between the incline chest press machine and conventional chest press machine is the motion arm path. On the incline machine, the motion arms journey at an upward angle relative to your torso, whereas the normal chest press machine’s motion arms journey roughly horizontal relative to your torso.

Though train approach and setup is analogous between the 2 workout routines, the preliminary place of the handles must be larger for the incline chest press machine than the normal chest press. Alter the seat top so the handles are halfway between your mid-chest and collarbones. Push alongside the pure path of the motion arms together with your wrists straight. Decrease with management and transition into the subsequent repetition with out bouncing out of the underside place.

Smith Machine Chest Press

On the lookout for a hybrid train between chest press machine and barbell bench press? Contemplate the Smith machine chest press. Like the usual chest press machine, the Smith machine chest press constrains the motion path and sure has some built-in security options, reminiscent of adjustable vary of movement limiters.

The barbell bench press and Smith machine chest press are each carried out from a mendacity place, each use a pronated (overhand) grip on a straight bar, and neither incorporate the variable resistance patterns of lever- or cam-based chest press machines.

Counterbalanced Smith machines negate the burden of the bar, that means the unloaded bar feels just about weightless. Clearly, you’ll want so as to add barely extra weight to counterbalanced Smith machines than non-counterbalanced.

Smith machines use a hook-like mechanism to securely un-rack and re-rack the barbell on its tracks. Turn out to be aware of the wrist-motion required to function this mechanism and, in anticipation of this motion, pre-position your wrists barely within the different path earlier than your set.

Lastly, place your self appropriately on the bench. In distinction to bench press, which is about up with the bar above your neck, you’ll need to begin with the bar above your mid-chest on the Smith machine because it tracks vertically all through the train.


Can I simply do lengthened partials on the bench press as a substitute of the chest press machine?

Possibly, however the fixed exterior resistance of the barbell won’t be very forgiving should you try to carry out repeated partial repetitions by means of the sticking level. You’ll probably want to cut back the burden to efficiently carry out lengthened partials with the normal bench press. 
Utilizing a machine with a well-designed resistance curve avoids this challenge, because the machine applies much less exterior resistance by means of the everyday sticking level of the press. This permits for the usage of lengthened partials on the finish of a excessive effort set (as demonstrated within the Easy methods to Progress part). The machine additionally has built-in security options to guard you within the occasion you are taking your lengthened partials previous the purpose of failure.

Which is best: plate-loaded or cable-stack loaded chest press machines?

Espresso or pour-over? Single barrel whiskey or aged tequila? Trip to the seashore or to the mountains? These are questions that finally come down to non-public choice. Whereas every choice has its strengths and disadvantages, it’s best to attempt each choices and use the one which feels finest. 
Stack-loaded machines are fast and straightforward to make use of and so they’re nice for superior coaching methods, reminiscent of drop units. They are often exquisitely engineered with clean and wise resistance curves. Nevertheless, sturdy lifters could also be restricted by the utmost resistance supplied by the burden stack.
Plate-loaded machines might require hauling plates throughout the fitness center and won’t permit the exact manipulation of the resistance curve supplied by cable machines with variable resistance cams. Nevertheless, plate-loaded machines with high-quality bearings nearly at all times have a greater really feel than cable- or belt-driven stack-loaded machines as a result of they’ve much less friction or resistance to motion.
Friction resistance is not factor in machines. It makes the concentric section more durable and makes the eccentric section simpler, a sample misaligned together with your muscle mass’ capacities. 

What’s the take care of the ‘iso-lateral’ chest press machines?

Iso-lateral chest machines permit separate operation of the motion arms, permitting you to coach your left and proper sides independently nearly like a “machine-version of dumbbells.”
When equally loaded, the iso-lateral design theoretically prevents a lifter’s “sturdy facet” from taking the lion’s share of the press. Iso-lateral machines additionally permit the lifter to load a special quantity of weight on the left and proper facet. This function could also be helpful in particular circumstances associated to harm and rehabilitation. 
A latest, notably bothersome, pattern is the usage of alternating repetitions on iso-lateral chest machines. The lifter locks out one arm whereas performing a repetition with the opposite arm and see-saws backwards and forwards all through the set.
Whereas this alternating technique could also be helpful if a lengthened isometric had been held within the backside place whereas the opposite arm performs a repetition, it’s a waste of time to relaxation one arm within the locked out place. Usually, iso-lateral machines are finest used utilizing the identical approach as a machine chest press with a non-independent motion arm.

Chest Terminator — Rise of the Machine Press

A well-designed chest press machine might really feel prefer it has been despatched from the longer term to enhance your positive factors and defend you from hurt. In case you settle for the assistance of the machine and apply the programming suggestions above, it is going to quickly be Judgement Day in your lagging chest. 


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