Is The Chest Press Machine Enough For Chest?

machine chest press
February 13, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “is the chest press machine enough for chest?”. Everyone knows that the most popular exercise in the gym is the bench press.

The bench press is a great exercise for building up upper body strength but it is not necessarily the best for chest development. Whilst it is true to some degree that there is a correlation between max bench and chest size, the chest press machine can offer a lot more isolated work on the pectorals. 

This article will explore whether just performing the chest press is sufficient for training your chest.

Is The Chest Press Machine Enough For Chest?

In term of hypertrophy work for the chest as the main goal, the chest press machine is enough. You can incorporate volume and intensity days as well using the chest press machine to work on both strength and hypertrophy.

However, in terms of hypertrophy the dumbbell bench press is also a great movement and works the stabiliser muscles a lot harder. It can be argued that the dumbbell bench press is superior to the chest press in terms of size and strength. 

The big advantage of the chest press machine is that there is significantly far less risk of injury than there is with a free weight dumbbell or barbell bench press. In addition, it is also really quick to program into your training.

Since the barbell bench is the most popular exercise in the gym, there is often a long wait for the bench press. In addition it takes more time working up to top sets with the barbell bench press. 

Chest Press Can Be More Effective For Hypertrophy

If we examine the machine chest press and the barbell bench press and their effectiveness on chest hypertrophy. It can be seen that the machine bench press hits the pectorals a lot harder.

You will typically find yourself a lot more sore in the chest after machine chest presses. The barbell bench press has a tendency to hit the triceps harder and the workload is spread more evenly across many pressing muscles.

This is also dependent on whether you bench press with a wide or narrow grip. The wide grip bench press will target the pectorals to a greater degree.

Therefore, if your goal is building up a bigger and more muscular chest, the machine chest press is a fantastic exercise to employ.
machine chest press

Is The Barbell Bench Press Necessary?

Very often it can seem like the barbell bench press is a non negotiable movement and you have to perform it. However, this is simply not the case.

The only time you really have to perform the barbell bench is if you compete as a powerlifter and have to do this exercise in competition. If you train to just build up your muscles and improve general strength, you don’t need to do the barbell bench press.

In addition, the risk reward profile of the barbell bench press is not great. More injuries to the shoulders and pecs have come about from the bench press than any other exercise.

It is true that you can reduce the risk of injuries by adopting a powerlifting style bench press. However, the heavier your bench press gets, the more risk there is for injuries. 

Therefore, for longevity the bench press is unnecessary. I bench pressed for many years, but after straining a pec setting up a heavy dumbbell bench press, I re-evaluated my goals.

Now I actually use the machine bench press as my main power exercise for the chest. I push the shoulder press a lot harder now as I feel that the shoulder press has a lot more utility than the bench press. I still train my triceps hard with pushdowns as my preferred exercise. Sometimes I throw in TRX skullcrushers as well for an additional challenge for the triceps. 

>> Is The Decline Bench A Waste Of Time?

Volume And Intensity Days For The Chest Press

The way I like to program the chest press at the moment is via using volume and intensity days. I now treat the machine chest press as my main power movement for the chest.

One day I will do an intensity workout where I will work up to heavy sets of 5-6 reps on the chest press. I will make the exercise harder by draping a heavy resistance band around the handles and back pad. This makes the press harder as you are pressing the weight. 

On my volume day I will use the machine with no bands and just straight machine weight. I will work up to a few sets of 10 reps. These reps are still very challenging and I will find it hard to complete all the reps. I find this has really helped to add more muscle to my pecs!

Time Saving Advantage

One of the huge advantages of using the machine chest press instead of the barbell bench press is the time saving advantages you will experience.

Since the bench press is so popular, the bench press station is constantly taken in commercial gyms. Often you have to wait to use the bench press and it can be very frustrating.

On the contrary, the machine bench press is often unused and you can get up to your working sets very quickly just by changing the pin on the stack. This time advantage is especially important for people who are very busy and don’t have endless time or patience.

I find I am less stressed as a result, I can use the machine bench and have the machine to myself for as long as I am using it for. With the bench press you often have to work in with others and this can be a big hassle. 

How Hard Is The Machine Bench Press?

One of the big misconceptions that people have is that the machine bench press is easy. This could not be further from the truth. As a reference, I can bench press 110kg for some reps close grip. But on the machine chest press in my gym, even 50kg for sets of 10 is pretty tough.

I have tried machine chest presses in other gyms and they are equally tough. Even if you are a strong bench presser, you will not find most machine chest press machines easy.

The angle is different and there is a lot more pec involvement in the movement. This is what makes the machine chest press such a great hypertrophy exercise for the chest. In bodybuilding gyms you will see a plethora of these machines at different angles as a result.

Very often, bodybuilders will use the machine chest press and will not perform the standard barbell bench press. Powerlifters are the opposite, they have to perform the bench press and will therefore make it a huge priority in their training.
cybex chest press

Final Thoughts

Is the chest press machine enough for chest? Overall it is enough and many bodybuilders use the chest press machine as their foundation chest exercise in their workouts.

If you are a powerlifter then the chest press machine wouldn’t be enough. You would need to prioritise the bench press and focus on accessory work that is very specific to train weak points in the bench press.

The chest press machine can be more effective for hypertrophy and more convenient in general. You will save some time in your training and you will still be able to get in a very tough workout for your chest.

If you have any comments on the chest press machine please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Can Push Ups Replace The Bench Press?

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