5 Best Chest Workout Machines for Maximum Muscle Growth
5 Best Chest Workout Machines for Maximum Muscle Growth
Are you looking to take your chest workout to the next level and build a bigger, stronger chest? While free weights like barbells and dumbbells are essential for chest training, adding workout machines to your routine can help isolate muscles, improve mind-muscle connection, increase time under tension, and enable progressive overload for maximum muscle growth.
In this article, we’ll compare the 5 best chest workout machines to incorporate into your training for defined pecs and an iron chest master.
From staples like the chest press and pec deck to more unique yet effective equipment like the vertical chest press, these machines will bring variety, muscle activation, and intense pump to your chest day.
Pair these machines with multi-functional pushup boards, resistance bands, bench press, and other free weight moves to develop an impenetrable chest.
What Muscles Make Up Your Chest?
Before diving into the top chest workout machines, let's briefly overview the pectoral muscles that make up your chest:
- Pectoralis Major: The large, fan-shaped muscle that makes up the bulk of the chest. Hitting different angles trains different areas of the pec major.
- Pectoralis Minor: The smaller, deeper muscle located underneath the pec major. Harder to isolate but important for shoulder health and rounded shoulders.
- Serratus Anterior: Located along your ribcage and assists with shoulder blade movement. Works synergistically with chest.
This collection of muscles contributes to adduction, horizontal adduction, and internal rotation of the arms. Now let’s break down how each workout machine in this guide targets the pecs from multiple angles for complete chest development.
Why Use Chest Machines?
Before breaking down the top chest machines, why add machines in the first place? What benefits do they offer over just using free weights? Here are some of the biggest benefits of chest workout machines:
- Isolate pec muscles safely with resistance not limited by stability
- Emphasize time under tension for increased hypertrophy
- Enable progressive overload with small weight increments
- Reduce risk of injury from poor lifting form
- Provide constant tension and resistance throughout motion
- Complement free weight presses and flyes
Of course machines should never fully replace free weights which build functional, multi-plane strength. But combining barbells, dumbbells and machines is ideal for hitting muscles from more angles.
Now let’s get into the meat of the article and compare our picks for top chest workout machines for defined pecs and upper body push strength!
1. Chest Press Machine: Top Overall Chest Builder
Our top overall pick for building chest size and strength is the trusted chest press machine. As a staple in virtually every gym, the chest press simulates the incredibly effective barbell bench press while eliminating the balance and coordination requirements. This makes it easier to focus energy directly on your chest.
The seated chest press provides constant tension with little rest throughout the movement, enabling increased time under tension compared to free weight presses. Along with building raw pressing power, the chest press machine allows for precise adjustments of seat height, press arm position, and weight increments.
By adjusting the press arm angle and seat height, you can emphasize different regions of the pectorals. A higher incline position trains more upper chest while a flat or decline angle targets more of your lower and mid-chest. Adjustments also ensure optimal shoulder positioning.
We recommend incorporating the chest press machine in your routine with other multi-joint presses for well-rounded pec development. Shoot for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps on the chest press interspersed with your bench press sets.
Benefits of the Chest Press Machine:
- Safely overload chest with higher weight than barbell press
- Emphasize time under tension for chest hypertrophy
- Reduce injury risk by eliminating need for balance/stability
- Enable incremental weight increases for progressive overload
- Adjust seat and arm angle to target upper or lower chest
- Complement multi-joint presses like bench press
Overloading progressive strength on the chest press combined with precise isolation movements like the pec deck produce profound chest growth.
2. Pec Deck Machine: Isolate Inner Chest Fibers
Coming in at #2 is the pec deck machine – an isolation exercise perfect for emphasizing the inner chest muscles that pressing movements may miss. The pec deck provides constant tension on the pectorals through a comfortable, low-impact range of motion.
When performing presses, the triceps and front deltoids contribute heavily. But the pec deck’s converging press arm movement minimizes assistance from these muscles. This leaves the pecs to power the motion. The fixed plane of movement also eliminates poor form and strain on the shoulder joints from free weight fly variations.
Sit upright with arms straight out at shoulder height. Drive your elbows together, squeezing your chest muscles centrally until fully contracted. Slowly return to the start without locking out and repeat for 10-20 controlled reps. Perform after your heavy presses for a few high rep burnout sets.
Here are the benefits that make the pec deck a top chest isolation machine:
- Target inner chest fibers that presses may miss
- Minimal triceps/front delt contribution isolates pecs
- Low-impact, joint-friendly fixed plane of motion
- Achieve full chest contraction at peak
- High rep pump sets increase sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
- Pre-exhaust or burnout chest after presses
Combine the Pec Deck machine with multi-joint pressing for inside-outside pec development.
3. Vertical Chest Press: Build Upper Pec Power
If your upper chest is lagging behind your lower pec development, the vertical chest press machine is for you. This towering workout machine angles the press arms vertically to emphasize the difficult-to-target upper pectorals.
The vertical press motion mimics a combination of overhead press and incline chest press. By recruiting the upper chest through a longer range of motion, the vertical chest press enables greater pec activation and hypertrophy compared to just doing incline presses.
As you press the weight stacks upward, visualize flexing through the sternal and clavicular heads of your pecs. Focus on squeezing at the top. The machine’s bilateral movement also prompts full contraction vs a barbell.
With its stand-alone structure and vertical orientation, the vertical chest press machine is quite a presence in the gym. Using this imposing tower for supplemental upper chest training will build the protruding pecs you’re after:
- Targets upper chest development
- Longer range of motion than incline press
- Greater sternal/clavicular pec activation
- Standalone structure for upper body focus
- Press vertically for defined upper pecs
- Alternative between this and incline presses
The vertical press makes for a unique substitute on your next chest day.
4. Cable Chest Press: Seamless Resistance & Contraction
Cables are incredibly versatile strength training tools - and the cable chest press machine places cabled resistance directly upon our chest muscles. The cable chest press stands out for its constant tension through a dynamic pressing range of motion.
As you press the handles forward, the cable resistance intensifies in the contracted position rather than releasing tension like free weights or bodyweight. This enables peak contraction and time under tension for the chest muscles to respond with growth.
The cable also pulls unilaterally, prompting fuller contraction and symmetry in pressing strength. Adjust the seat height so your arms extend straight forward at the bottom position without compromise to your shoulders.
Here’s why cable chest presses deserve a spot in your routine mix:
- Unilateral cable resistance prompts full contraction
- Seamless chest press movement pattern
- Resistance increases through contracted position
- Standing structure engages core musculature
- Eliminates deceleration phase of free weights
- Fix form flaws that cause imbalance or injury
Cables provide versatility in pressing angles too. After hitting standard presses, move the pulleys upward to emphasize your upper chest. Downward pulleys will stretch your pecs through a longer range of motion.
Explore new pressing utility with the cable chest press!
5. Multi-Functional Pushup Board: Portable Pec Punisher
Last but not least on our list of top chest machines is the versatile, portable pushup board. Far from a machine, but this incredible chest training tool had to make the list! Pushup boards build extreme pressing strength in new angles through partial and complete range pushup motions.
The key benefit of a pushup board is the variety of hand positions available. Standard pushups lock your hands beneath your chest. But pushup boards enable grip widths outside shoulder width, inside shoulder width, neutral grips, stagger stances - you name it! Varying grip angle recruits more chest and triceps fibers.
Elevated handles let you increase press angle for added challenge and upper chest recruitment. Partial range pushups build tremendous overload strength out of the bottom pressing position. And combining standard pushups with partials boosts muscle power and shock.
Here’s why the pushup board earns a spot among machines:
- Portable and affordable pec punisher
- Train through full and partial press ranges
- Hit muscles from more angles
- Improve mind-muscle chest connection
- Add variety when plateauing
- Augment press, fly and machine strength
The pushup board provides a small machine-like tool to spike chest activation and bring versatility to your training arsenal.
Now get ready to build the ultimate chest with this lineup of strength machines! Remember to train through multiple angles, loads and intensities for the ultimate muscle building effect. Keep pushing your chest to new levels!
Get the Most Out of Chest Machines
If you want to maximize muscle growth using these workout machines, follow these training tips:
- Perform controlled eccentrics - Lower the weight slowly with tension
- Use full range of motion - Stretch and contract the pecs fully
- Try drop sets - Reduce the weight and pump out more reps
- Superset machines - Move quickly between two exercises
- Apply rest-pause - Pause mid-set then finish more reps
- Use post-fatigue - Isolate chest after pre-exhausting compounds
Proper form and technique is also critical on machines:
- Don't hyperextend joints - Avoid elbow or shoulder locking
- Keep neutral spine - Don't round lower back
- Control tempo - Avoid using momentum or bounce
- Prioritize pec tension - Focus on muscle contraction
- Breathe consistently - Don't hold breath for reps
Sample Chest Machine Workout
Here is a chest day routine incorporating these strength machines:
- Barbell Bench Press: 4 sets x 6-8 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
- Chest Press Machine: 3 sets x 12, 10, 8 reps
- Pec Deck Fly: 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Cable Chest Press: 3 sets x 12, 10, 8 reps
- Pushup Board: 3 sets to failure
This blends heavy compound lifts with higher rep isolation for optimal hypertrophy. Train chest 1-2 times per week for best results.
Level Up Your Chest Development
There you have the top 5 chest workout machines that deliver serious pec punishing power! After reading this guide, you have no excuses left for a lackluster chest. Employ these muscle-building machines into your into training routine and commit to progressive overload.
In 6-12 weeks, you will see noticeable gains in chest size and shapely pec muscle lines. Keep pressing play on your chest gains!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of using resistance bands for chest training?
Resistance bands provide continuous chest tension throughout the movement, enabling greater time under tension compared to free weights. They are extremely portable as well so you can train chest using just bands from anywhere. Press and fly motions with bands effectively work the pecs through multi-angles.
How can I use a push up board for better chest training?
Push up boards allow you to change hand placement width, elevation, rotation and more to recruit muscle fibers from new angles. Mix up standard pushups with close grip elevated pushups, wide grip decline pushups, staggered hand pushups and more for serious chest activation beyond just standard floor pushups.
Which incline angle is best for upper chest focus?
Use a 30-45 degree incline bench angle to better target the upper chest muscles. This creates greater stretch and contraction as you press upward, activating the difficult-to-train clavicular pec fibers. Incline barbell, dumbbell or machine presses are all effective.
What machine fly motion best isolates inner chest?
Crossover rear delt fly machines allow you to contract the pecs centrally and target inner chest fibers differently than presses. Focus on slow, controlled motions lifting through the chest rather than front delts through a comfortable range of motion. Higher reps in the 10-15 range maximizes sarcoplasmic muscle growth.
Why is full body fitness important alongside chest training?
While building chest muscle and strength are specific goals, overall general physical preparedness provides a foundation for major muscle groups to thrive atop. Cardio, mobility, resistance training and recovery techniques contribute to full body fitness necessary for life demands rather than just a big chest strictly.
What are some good home gym chest options without machines?
Great home gym chest training tools include:
- Resistance bands for portable, affordable pressing/fly resistance
- Pushup boards for versatility in hand angles/placements
- Adjustable dumbbells for bench & incline presses, flyes
- Weighted vest pushups or dip belts for added resistance
- Compound bodyweight moves like dips target chest and triceps
Can I build a defined chest with just dumbbells?
Yes, when combined with bodyweight moves in a progressive training program. Rotate movements like incline dumbbell press, flat bench press, chest flyes, pushups and dips targeting upper, middle and lower pecs from various angles.
How should I structure my chest workout for muscle growth?
Train chest 1-2 times weekly, prioritizing compound movements first then isolation exercises. Bench press, incline press, dips should come before flyes or pec deck. Push moderately heavy weights 6-10 reps for strength sets, then higher reps up to 15-20 for hypertrophy. Progressive overload is key.
What common technique mistakes hinder chest progress?
Poor mind-muscle connection, partial rep range, front delt dominance on presses, and poor scapular retraction. Maintain focus contracting the pecs through full range of motion. Don't flare elbows. Retract shoulder blades with each rep. Slow down reps.
How can I build chest without a workout bench?
Place a sturdy box or platform at an incline against a wall to perform elevated pushup variations. Do pushups with feet on a bed/couch to increase decline press range. Perform floor press using dumbbells with towel for padding.
Focusing on safe, effective technique through full ROM builds the most muscle regardless of equipment. Master pushup form before loading weight.
My Journey with Chest Press Machines
I've been training chest for years trying to build that superhero pec popping physique. As much as I love the mighty bench press and trusty old pushups, chest machines provide unique muscle punishing capabilities.
Chest Press Love/Hate Relationship
The chest press machine quickly became a staple in my routine after struggling under the bar for one too many failed bench sets. Being able to safely overload and focus purely on chest contraction was a godsend for muscle growth. Although I use lower weight than Smith machine bench, the chest press enables way higher reps with constant time under tension.
But the chest press definitely causes some pain issues if I overdo the weight without proper warmup. One session I was intent on setting a new 5 rep PR when I felt a wicked twinge in my left pec on the first rep! I foolishly powered through 4 more sloppy reps which left me sore for over a week. Lesson learned - progressive overload is great until you break yourself!
Pec Deck: Heavenly Isolation, Hellish Pump
While I love how the Pec Deck isolates my inner chest muscles, the deep burn and pump it produces can feel downright torturous some days! I'll be cranking out high rep sets feeling the gainz when suddenly my pecs turn to concrete and my willpower shrivels.
But that peeking inner chest striation starting to emerge makes me persevere! I just wish my gym's Pec Deck adjusted to fit shorter torsos so I didn't have to hang upside down like a bat to align the pads. Beggars can't be choosers for pec perfection I guess!
Best Chest Machine Betrayal
I was eagerly awaiting the new vertical chest press machine our gym ordered thinking it would finally build the upper pec shelf I've been craving. But after a few sessions of thoroughly working the movement, I was sorely disappointed in its awkward feel and lack of muscle activation compared to trusty old incline DB presses.
Sure the vertical press hits delts too, but I prefer isolation when chasing chest pump perfection. I'll be sticking to what works rather than fancy new contraptions.
Cables Whipping My Chest Into Shape
While I initially shrugged off cable machines as for tiny muscle groups, the cable chest press proved me dead wrong. The first time I pressed the handles and felt my pecs bulge under constant tension through an unlimited range I was hooked!
Now I incorporate cable chest presses in every other chest workout for insane pumps my free weight presses can’t achieve. I can already envision the perfect pec split developing with cabled resistance training in the mix. My new secret bodybuilding weapon!
Pushup Variety Reigniting Chest Growth
I'll be honest, after a decade of pushups I kinda wrote them off for "real" muscle building. But impulse buying a multifunction pushup board online opened an entirely new chest training world once forgotten! Just adjusting hand placement completely works my pecs in ways I haven't felt since bench pressing for the first time years ago.
The compound instability and tension of the staggered hand pushups creates newfound agony yet ecstasy for my flat bench neglected pecs. I can practically hear them screaming "Thank you for the fresh stimulus!" as I crank out partial range reps. Never underestimate basics!
So while I've had plenty of peaks and pitfalls using these popular chest machines, experimentation pays dividends. Find what builds your best chest!
Kinetic Analysis of Push-Up Exercises
- Study Details: This study reviewed the literature on the kinetics of various push-up variations to optimize training prescription and exercise-related load. It assessed kinetic data for 46 push-up variants, providing detailed information on the specific characteristics and intensities of these variations for training and rehabilitation.
- Reference: Padulo, J., Laffaye, G., Chaouachi, A., & Chamari, K. (2018). Kinetic analysis of push-up exercises: a systematic review with practical recommendations. Sports Biomechanics, 17(6), 673-690. doi:10.1080/14763141.2018.1512149.
- URL: Kinetic analysis of push-up exercises: a systematic review with practical recommendations - PubMed
Study Sponsored by the American Council on Exercise
- Description: This study, sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, evaluated the effectiveness of the pec deck machine. It concluded that the pec deck is nearly as effective as the bench press in activating the pectoralis major and superior to various push-up variations, weighted incline flyes, and dips in activating the primary action of the chest muscles.
- URL: The Muscles Used in a Pec Deck Machine - Livestrong.com
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PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Chest Training Guides: