The two largest muscles that make up the pectorals, also know as the chest muscles, are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is responsible for the adduction and anteversion of the shoulder joint whilst the pectoralis minor is responsible for the abduction of the scapula.
These large muscles are typically some of the most difficult when it comes to muscle building. Even though the bench press is key for growing chest muscles, supplementing your chest workout with other chest machines will soon see you on the way to seeing the muscle gains you desire.
Chest machines offer a fixed range of motion allowing you to isolate the pectoral muscles without the need for going too heavy. The pivot points on each type of chest press mean you will be targeting different chest muscles. The different types of chest machines include the following:
Seated Incline Chest Press
There are two types of seated incline chest press; the plate loaded version and the selectorised version.
The plate loaded seated chest press, typically has a pivot point located above the user. This means the weight is pressed in an outwards and upwards plane of motion, so the exercise becomes heavier as you press whilst working the upper chest muscles.
The selectorised seated chest press has a weight stack located to the side of the user. They usually have less adjustments when compared to the plate loaded version so tend to be a little less versatile. The arms will move in outwards motion which will activate the mid to upper chest muscles.
A selectorised chest press machine will almost always be more expensive than its plate loaded counterpart due to the weight load being incorporated within the machine with no need for weight plates.
Standing Chest Press Machine
A standing chest press is typically a plate loaded machine where the pivot point is located near to the users feet. This means during use the handles will move in an out and downwards plane, targeting the mid to lower chest.
The major downside to a standing chest press machine is that as you press, the weight load drops off, so it becomes easier. This of course takes away tension from the muscles.
Lying Chest Press Machine
A lying chest press machine, sometimes referred to as a supine bench, helps the user to replicate a bench press exercise. It activates the mid to upper chest muscles but due to its fixed plane of motion, would be considered an isolation exercise as opposed to compound.
It’s a great choice for those looking to improve their bench press form and offers a number of features such as safety bars.
Decline Chest Press Machine
The decline chest press machine allows the user to sit in a decline position whilst pushing the arms out and down, opposite to the incline chest press machine. This activates the lower chest muscles.
These machines tend to be less common and there has been some debate as to the effectiveness of them.
Selectorised Pec Fly Machine
The pec fly machine, sometimes called a pec rear delt machine, is dual purpose and isolates the mid to upper back muscles when you are seated facing away from the machine or the shoulder muscles if facing towards the machine.
It works by allowing you to undertake a fly movement in a seated upright position where your arms move through an arc plane of motion. This is a good alternative to free weight pec flys as it will encourage you to maintain form due to the fixed movement pattern of the arms.
Plate Loaded Pec Fly
A plate loaded pec fly is a bench whereby the user would lie back in a decline position and perform a fly movement. It allows the user to replicate a dumbbell pec fly but with a fixed plane of motion making it ideal if you find it difficult to maintain form when bench pressing.
IS THE CHEST PRESS MACHINE AS GOOD AS THE BENCH PRESS
The bench press exercise is fundamental to building muscle mass and increasing strength to the chest muscles. For an effective pectoral workout, you should make use of chest machines in conjunction with the bench press exercise.
Essentially, we wouldn’t consider either one to be better than the other rather that they are different, with both allowing you to reach your training goals, whether that’s increasing muscle mass or improving strength and fitness.
The bench press exercise will work more muscle groups such as shoulders, triceps and biceps as it’s a compound movement whereas the use of well-constructed machines will isolate smaller muscle groups for better targeting of those muscles.
CHEST PRESS MACHINE BENEFITS
The key benefit of using any chest press machine is that they can allow you to focus on the weaker pectoral muscles. This can have the added advantage of helping you to break through any bench press plateaus. Other benefits include the following:
- It’s easier to learn how to use a chest press machine.
- Chest press machines are usually safer when set up correctly.
- Better isolation of weaker muscles.
- The fixed plane of motion makes for less chance of injury.
- They are ideal for beginners or those with very weak pectoral muscles.
CHEST PRESS MACHINE VS BENCH PRESS
The main difference between the flat bench press exercise compared to using a chest press machine is its type of movement, with the flat bench press being a compound exercise and resistance chest press machines being isolation.
The bench press has a solid reputation for helping to build significant amounts of muscle, but advancement of chest press machines means you can add just as much mass by using a chest press machine.
Selectorised machines have a limited amount of weight on them. For example, the weight stack incorporated may go to 100kg. If you bench press more than this, then you’re unlikely to get much benefit from using the machine. That being said, a plate loaded version could be the better alternative. With no weight stacks, as long as the machine has enough plate storage capacity, you can add just as many plates as you would on your barbell.
Another reason you may prefer to make use of the chest press machine as opposed to bench pressing could simply be down to technique. A properly executed bench press require good technique. This is to ensure the correct muscles are activated and reduces the likelihood for injury. If you struggle with form then making use of the machines would be your best option.
Things to consider when using or looking to invest in a chest machine include the adjustments. Many chest press machines may have fixed arms and seats, this means it may not be suitable for you depending on your build and stature.
As chest press machines isolate specific muscles it’s also worth taking into consideration what part of your chest you want to work. A machine with handles that move in an upwards direction will be better for the upper chest, handles moving in a forward direction will be more of the mid chest and handles pushing in a downwards plane will better isolate the lower chest.
There are of course other ways of targeting the chest muscles. If you’d like to know more about the different kinds of bench press benches, take a read of our article.