There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good chest workout to make you look and feel those gains you’ve been working so hard on.
But if you thought some bench presses and free weights were doing the most for your chest muscles, you’d be wrong.
In this article we’re looking at the top five gym machines for the chest, to help you get the shape and strength you’ve always wanted.
So, drop the free weights, grab the pre-workout, and let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
- 1 The 5 Best Gym Machines for Chest
- 2 Anatomy of The Chest
- 3 FAQs About Chest Machines
- 4 Other Exercise Posts
- 4.1 Inverted Row Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.2 T-Bar Row Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.3 The Top 5 Leg Press Muscles Worked
- 4.4 The Top 9 Muscles Worked with Deadlifts
- 4.5 Romanian Deadlift Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.6 Arnold Press Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.7 The 8 Best Deadlift Benefits
- 4.8 How to Deadlift with Proper Form
- 4.9 Arnold Split Workout + Free Example Spreadsheet
- 4.10 The 7 Best Compound Chest Exercises
- 4.11 How to Bench Press with Perfect Form
- 4.12 The Top 10 Pull-up Muscles Worked
- 4.13 The 5 Best Benefits of Planks
- 4.14 How to Do a Lat Pulldown with Proper Form
- 4.15 Decline Bench Press Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.16 The 6 Best Gym Machines For Weight Loss
- 4.17 Incline Bench Press Muscles Worked and Benefits
- 4.18 Front Squat Benefits and Muscles Worked
The 5 Best Gym Machines for Chest
- Chest Press Machine
- Cable Machine
- Chest Fly Machine
- Iso Chest Press
- Smith Machine
Seated Chest Press Machine
The seated chest press machine is an excellent choice for safely developing the pectoral muscles. That’s why we chose it as one of the best upper body gym machines. It’s also a great alternative to the bench press.
Benefits of Chest Press
- Targeted Muscle Development
- Controlled movement
- Good for beginners
Targeted Muscle Development
The chest press targets the pectoral muscles, focussing on building the chest muscles. Rather than exerting the upper arms, you are targeting a very specific set of chest muscles. The chest press is a great way to grow a bigger upper chest because it works the pectoralis major.
The movements done with these chest workout machines are controlled, there is no jerking around. It’s all about smooth movements that won’t cause injury.
Good for beginners
The chest press is also super helpful for beginners that may not know how to properly control free weights. You can focus on form and technique, ensuring you’re working the right muscles for a better chest workout. This makes it a great bench press alternative for beginners.
Tips for Using the seated chest press machine
- Adjust the seat height
- Adjust the handles
- Set up your grip width
Adjust the seat height
There aren’t any hard or fast rules to the seat height on a seated chest press machine. The only thing to note is that you shouldn’t be pushing in a downward motion. So, hop on and see which seat height feels like more chest muscles are working, and stick with that.
Adjust the handles
If you’re able to adjust the seat, the chest press machine should have the ability to change the handle positions too. There’s no point in pulling the machine to your chest with no stretch. The chest press works best with a deep stretch pulled further behind the chest.
Set up your grip width
Again, no rules here, ultimately the grip width should allow you the largest range of motion. For some, a wider grip width helps to get a deep stretch, while others feel a tighter grip width helps to target specific chest muscles. Take note of where your joints feel comfortable – if it feels weird, it’s not the right grip width.
The following video is great for learning how to set up the machine and nail the movements to build your dream chest:
Steps to using the Chest Press Machine
- Set up the seat and bars to the correct height, the bars should fall at your mid-chest for comfortable movement. The bars should also be in front of the shoulders to prevent pushing from too far back.
- Select the correct weight without straining yourself.
- Place your feet at a 90-degree angle, ensuring your head and back remain on the back pad.
- Grip the handles, making sure your wrists are straight when gripping.
- Press the bars away from the body, exhaling. Then bring the bars back in towards the chest inhaling. Make sure you keep your form throughout the movement.
Benefits of a Cable Machine
- Constant tension
- Adjustable resistance
These chest workout machines provide constant tension throughout the motion, unlike weight training which only has tension on the active movement. Constant tension helps with engaging the pectoral muscles to promote growth from start to finish. It’s in our best ways to grow an underdeveloped lower chest article too!
The cable machine is all about guided movements that slowly engage the pectoral muscles as you work out. There are also options for height and weight adjustment, allowing you to personalize the exercise to what works for you. This means a reduced risk of injury.
Variety of exercises
Cable machines are one of the best gym machines because of the variety of chest exercises and movements you can achieve. The various exercises work different parts of the middle, upper, and lower chest muscles, so you can target the muscle groups you want to improve.
Tips for Using a Cable Machine
- Controlled movement
- Maintain your posture
- Remain stable
Any chest exercise with the cable machine should be totally controlled. When you pull there is tension, which can make you want to jerk the motion, but this can cause injury. It’s better to have a lower weight and do the movement in a controlled way.
Maintain your posture
Incorrectly holding your upper body can cause injury. You need to ensure that you are holding your posture correctly throughout your chest exercises. There is no point in going to town in the gym and then being sore because you didn’t hold your back upright. That’s where controlled movement comes in again, where you can focus on how you’re holding your posture.
Again, the movement is controlled, which means you need to be much more aware of your stability. You should focus on engaging your core and planting your feet firmly on the ground to keep yourself grounded throughout the exercise.
Cable Machine Exercises for Chest
- Iron cross
- High pulley chest fly
- Seated incline cable fly
- Close grip underarm raise
Reps wise you should do about eight to ten reps with four or five sets on one of these chest workout machines. Be sure to keep your knees bent and lean the upper body slightly forward to keep tension off the back.
Start the cross pulling slowly down in a controlled motion until your hands cross in front of the body. Then lift the arms to shoulder height slowly, feeling the stretch up in your shoulders, and repeat.
Top tip: Don’t grip the handles, it puts tension on the forearms and biceps. Rather latch on the handles with a flat hand and pull down.
Upward chest cable fly
You should do eight to ten reps with between three to five sets, depending on your fitness level. Remember you can set the weight to what is most comfortable for you.
This is similar to the iron cross, but rather than crossing the arms over on the pull you simply bring the arms together in front of the chest. You use the same position with your knees bent and leaning slightly forward.
Seated incline cable fly
This is the perfect exercise to get a great contraction and stretch simultaneously on the upper chest. Rather than standing you sit and pull the cables away from the ground from behind the seat and pull them until your arms are straight in front of your face.
You should do between twelve and fifteen reps with three to five sets.
Close grip underarm raise
For this chest exercise you raise the cables from your waist using your underarm. Starting at the waist, you place your hands facing up and pull the cables upward towards your face until your arms are nearly straight over your head.
Your hands should be close together on the handle of the cable machine. Your elbows should also remain in to stretch the shoulders and top of the pectoral muscles.
Aim for 12-15 reps and four to five sets. This is a great post-workout exercise to cool down!
Top tip: Don’t grip the bar too hard. You should be using your shoulder and pectoral muscles to bring the arms upward.
Here’s a video showing how the exercises are done correctly:
Chest Fly Machine
Benefits of the Chest Fly Machine
- Muscle control
- Great for form observation
The chest fly machine is all about being in control, your arms should never whip back. That’s why setting up the weights and position of the handles is so important. The machine helps you control every movement from start to finish, allowing you to focus on what is working.
Great for form observation
Most of the time free weights are just for people going mad for the gains. I love the dedication, but it leaves little space to focus on what your pectoral muscles are doing. The chest fly machine slows things down, allowing you to focus on how your upper chest muscles are contracting and what feels right.
Tips for Using Chest Fly Machine
- Watch the weights
- Don’t move too far back
- Keep your arms level
- Don’t grip too hard
Watch the weights
The chest fly machine is for shaping, this isn’t the time to go balls to the walls mad with weight. A lower weight with controlled movement will help to give you a defined chest. The exercise uses an outward movement which automatically puts more strain on the shoulders, so keep it low and slow.
Don’t move too far back
Many think that they’re not doing the chest fly machine exercise correctly because their arms don’t go too far back. The thing is, they’re not supposed to. This exercise isn’t about building muscle, it’s about shape. You can tear your pectoral muscles with too much weight and pulling too far back, keeping your arms in line with your shoulders.
Keep your arms level
Your wrist, elbow, and shoulder should remain level throughout the movement. Lifting the elbow over the shoulder could cause serious muscle strain. The arm placement should be like you’re hugging a barrel, with rounded level arms.
Don’t grip too hard
Gripping the handles too hard can make you use your wrist when puling the bars forward. This, in turn, pulls the entire upper body forward while trying to pull the weight. You should lighten your grip, this forces you to use your upper chest muscles to bring the bars forward.
The following video is a great way to learn how to position the body and how your body should move throughout the exercise:
Steps to using the Chest Fly Machine
- Set your desired weight.
- Using both arms, pull one of the bars to the opposite side, then grab the other bar using both hands, bringing both bars back to the center.
- Keeping your back straight against the back pad, pull both arms outwards, stopping just before the arms go further than the shoulders.
- Pull the arms towards the center, ensuring your body doesn’t move off the back pad. The pull needs to come from your upper pectoral muscles, not your body moving back and forth.
- Repeat between 12-15 reps with three to five sets.
- When done, use both arms to move the bars one at a time to the side of the machine. DON’T pull both arms back to lock the machine in place, the stretch is too far back.
Iso Incline Press
The iso incline press is another excellent gym machine for building the chest muscles. It’s also an effective incline bench press alternative.
Benefits of an Iso Incline Press
- Each handle uses its own weight, avoiding imbalances
- Body awareness
Avoid muscle imbalances
The great thing about the iso incline press is that each handle works on its own weight. This means you can adjust the weight according to which side of the chest needs more work (muscle imbalances). For example, if your right side can withstand more, you can focus on slowly building the left side up to avoid muscle imbalances that may affect your overall chest growth.
The controlled motion allows you to focus on what is going on with each side of your chest muscles. As you slowly lift, try to identify which parts of the pectoral muscles are working and how they feel. You can also focus on holding your posture correctly against the bench throughout the movements.
Tips for Using Iso Incline Press
- Correct the seat height
- Keep your form
- Watch your elbows
Correct the seat height
You should adjust the seat height so that when you sit, the handles of the machine are at the mid-chest (nipple).
Keep your form
The back of your head and back should remain on the back pad throughout the exercise. Leaning forward means you’re putting all the excess weight onto your arms and not working the chest.
Watch your elbows
The Iso incline chest press sits on an incline. Your elbows should remain down, coming straight to your side when you bring the bar back. Don’t lift your elbows, it again puts way too much strain on the shoulders.
This video is a great example of how to perfect the movements:
Steps to using the Iso Incline Press Machine
- Set up the weight, seat, and bar height.
- Sit with the back of your body firmly against the back pad, while keeping your feet firmly on the ground.
- Place both hands on the handle, gripping gently on the middle of the handle.
- Keeping your elbows down, push the iso incline press machine bars up and forward, exhaling through the movement.
- Slowly bring the bars back until your elbows are in line with your sides, and press up again.
Benefits of a Smith Machine
- Safer than the benchpress
- More power
- Don’t need a spotter
Safer than the benchpress
The Smith machine comes with built-in safety features. Unlike the benchpress, the Smith machine runs on tracks, leaving less chance of the bar falling on your chest. All the movements are controlled and smooth, if you feel overwhelmed, simply place the bar on the latch and take a break.
Smith machines generally allow you to exert more power from the pectoral muscles. For most, they can bench 5%-10% more weight compared to the standard free weights bench press.
Don’t need a spotter
There’s nothing worse than arriving for your chest pumping session and not having a spotter handy. Luckily, Smith machines don’t require a spotter, the machine acts as your workout buddy.
Tips for Using a Smith Machine
- Watch your bar height
- Keep track of your elbows
- Use a medium grip
Watch your bar height
When lowering the bar it should stop just above your sternum. Too high or too low can damage your shoulders.
Keep track of your elbows
When using the Smith machine it’s natural for you to want to pull the elbows quite far back; this isn’t the correct position. Rather, pull the elbows slightly downwards towards the sides of the body.
Use a medium grip
It’s better to use a medium grip that isn’t too wide. When gripping the bar your hands should be slightly more out than your shoulders.
Here are some great tips for the Smith machine:
Steps for Using the Smith Machine
- Set up the machine with the correct weight, bar height, and seat incline. The seat incline can vary depending on what you want to work. For the chest it’s generally best at a 60-degree angle, meaning the back pad makes an incline.
- Sit down with the back flat on the back pad with your legs firmly on the ground next to you. There should be minimal space between the lower back and the back pad, a big gap means you’re putting too much pressure on the lower back.
- Lift the bar off the safety latch and bring it down slowly until you’re comfortable. Generally, it’s about two inches off the sternum before you begin working the delts. Ensure your elbows are slightly downwards towards the sides of the body when the weight comes down.
- Push the bar up, exhaling, with a controlled motion, before bringing it back down.
Anatomy of The Chest
The pectoralis major (pectoral muscles) is the large muscular part that makes up the breast. It extends from the sternum (middle of the chest) to the upper arm.
There are two heads in the pectoralis major:
- Clavicular head: This muscle is slanted and runs from the clavicle to the upper humerus in the upper arm.
- Sterno costal head: This runs horizontally from the ribs (1-7) and the sternum to the upper section of the humerus.
The pectoralis major sits on the lip of the bicep groove, hence why so many chest exercises also involve the bicep. The insertion of the pectoralis major is covered by the deltoid which forms the roundness of the shoulder.
The main function of the pectoralis major is arm abduction and internal rotation where the arm can move towards the body’s center.
The pectoralis minor is the smaller of the chest muscles and connects to the ribs (3-5) via the scapula. It is located underneath the pectoralis major.
This small muscle helps with moving the arms forward, stabilizing the scapula, and scapula movements allowing you to push and pull away with the arms.
FAQs About Chest Machines
Gym machines for the chest are great for isolating specific pectoral muscles, making them the perfect choice if you want to focus solely on growing your chest muscles. Gym machines are also safer than free weights in terms of preventing injury which happens quite often with chest exercises.
The chest press is a good place to start. There are various pieces you can adjust to fit your body, which is important at the beginning to ensure you’re not hurting yourself. You can also lower the weights easily to find a lift that feels right. But remember, slow and steady wins the race.
You can incorporate chest machines about two to three times a week. However, it’s all down to your overall goal. You should have a balanced exercise routine, focusing on your overall well-being.