How to Do the Machine Chest Press |

How to Do the Machine Chest Press

THE CORNERSTONE SUPPORTING every successful chest training workout is a heavy press. There’s a fairly extensive list of pressing exercises to add to your routine.

One of those options is the machine chest press, a versatile and underrated piece of equipment that can be a great fit for many lifters’ chest day checklist. The apparatus allows lifters to load up heavy and press with confidence, without the need for a spotter in case of failure. You can also end a workout with a high-rep finishing set that will absolutely torch your pecs.

But is the machine chest press make it a great exercise for everyone? Not exactly, says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. For weight room newbies whose early goals should include mastering technique as much or more than moving heavy loads, the most optimal press is to focus early and often on the bread and butter bench press basics with the barbell and dumbbells.

“If you’re a beginner I want you doing dumbbell presses and barbell presses and learning that because we’ve got to bring that over to the machine press,” Samuel says. “We’ve got to bring that good form over to the machine press to really take advantage of it.”

Who Should Use the Machine Chest Press

  • Bodybuilders
  • Athletes

The machine chest press is best suited for experienced lifters who already have barbell and dumbbell moves mastered, or at least a good working knowledge. Bodybuilders and athletes can obviously benefit from the machine press by being able to stack on heavier weight in order to pack on more size and strength.

Functional athletes can turn to the machine press as a challenging alternative to dumbbells and barbells. The machine press allows you more safely push to fatigue and failure each set if needed.

But again, beginners will be better served by getting acclimated to barbells and dumbbells. Improve your form on all the essentials—like the bench press, dumbbell press, even pushups—to get a better understanding of what your body mechanics should feel like. Nailing these mechanics early will help your carry your form over to the machine press.

Which Muscles Are for the Machine Chest Press

When you’re performing machine chest presses, you’re targeting the same muscles that you would hit with dumbbells or barbells. These include:

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  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders

Benefits of the Machine Chest Press

One of the unique benefits machine presses provide that you don’t normally get with other implements is the difference when it comes to force curve. Unlike dumbbells or barbells, with the machine chest press, you get more resistance at the top of the movement. This is a great way to get extra pressing work in.

Another benefit is that machine presses provide a greater arc movement, unlike the straight A to B movement free weights give you. This arc flows with the body’s chest fibers, providing greater muscle development for the user.

Common Machine Chest Press Setup Mistakes

Despite what you may think, performing the machine chest press isn’t as easy as just sitting down and moving weight. There’s a little more to it than that, and that starts with your positioning. Two common mistakes include:

Setting the Seat Too Low

You might find it easier to knock out a few extra reps or lift heavier weight with the seat lowered to the floor, but those minimal gains come at the expense of much needed range of motion within your chest and transferring some of the work to your shoulders, which is something you don’t want.

Moving Your Butt

Your glutes should be secure in one spot: firmly on the seat, with your lower back against the rear pad. Lifters often cheat and start sitting too far forward to find a spot that’s nice and comfortable to create a better angle or arch to push more weight. Range of motion becomes compromised, and once again your chest muscles lose out in the long run. Remember, there’s no one keeping track of your max chest press—this one is all about muscle growth.

Two Fixes

  1. Higher is better for the bench position. Your best move is to raise to about one notch higher than you probably want. From there, wedge yourself into the machine, keeping your butt tight toward the back pad.
  2. Grab the handles tightly. Your best position is to have your shoulders about an inch or two above the handles. Also think hard about keeping your butt against the pad.

How to Do the Machine Chest Press

  • Align your seat to the point where the handles are about two inches below your shoulders.
  • Keep your shoulder blades tightly squeezed against the back pad, and your glutes and lower back wedged into the pad as well.
  • Drive your elbows down and tight, while pushing into the floor with your legs.
  • Press forward, squeezing at the top. That’s one rep.

How to Incorporate the Machine Chest Press Into Your Workouts

Machine presses aren’t meant to be a primary chest day exercise. Stick to dumbbells and barbells for that. However, machines are a great option toward the end of your session when you still want to move more weight and go all out till fatigue. Three sets of 12 to 15 reps—maybe even push to failure every now and then—should be the finishing formula.

If you’re in the early stages of your training, hold off on the machine press momentarily. Place your focus on other moves like dumbbell presses, incline presses, and even pushups. Getting your form right early on—from squeezing glutes and shoulder blades properly—will be the springboard to better chest gains.

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