The chest press is one of the most functional strength-building exercises you can be doing in your training. As a compound exercise, it recruits a huge range of different muscles that have to work together to perform each rep effectively. On top of that, it will strengthen them all in unison. What more could you ask for? Well, probably the best way to do it, and that usually comes down to the bench press vs machine chest press.

Performing the chest press is a great way to build your muscle mass and your strength because of the variation that it offers. The many different ways you can perform the exercise to suit your specific needs or abilities means you can reach new heights in your training without much plateau. The most common variations though tends to be the barbell bench press and the machine chest press. We’re here to walk you through the key advantages of each.

Barbell Bench Press:

person performing a bench press

Starting off with the more popular and generally iconic exercise, the barbell bench-press, it generally comes across as a more effective exercise. You have the option to utilise different angles with it being one of the best weight bench exercises, but it’s often more convenient to do it flat. This is for comfort as well as safety, so that’s what we will base on.

Stabilisation

As we touched on above, the barbell bench press as a compound exercise needs support from almost your entire upper body at some stage or another. That makes it great for building muscles other than just the chest, as long as you use the right weight.

Your triceps are getting involved from a standard position on your barbell, as well as your shoulders, back and even biceps. that's from making sure you’re stable on both the upward and downward motion of the repetition. You’re only as strong as your weakest muscle and you’re getting the most effective results training them all together, so it's not a bad thing. That's something that doesn't always transfer when looking at the bench press vs the machine chest press.

Functional

Because of what we’ve just said, this makes the barbell bench press much more of a true reflection of your upper body strength. Your stabilisation muscles need to be on form too, rather than just building up your chest in appearance, as many people want.

As a result of that, the strength you build from the exercise is transferable and it can be utilised outside of the gym too. That's never a bad thing and its always more useful than just being able to show off in the gym. The control you need to keep balanced means that your chest is even more under pressure, and that's a key advantage to building strength and size in the long run. Food for thought at least.

Risk

It looks like the bench press vs machine chest press is already over, but there are downsides too. Balancing does also have bad points. The need to rely on stabilising yourself can pose risks, such as failing unexpectedly and not being able to support yourself. Worse still, you may end up putting your body into an incorrect position and utilising other muscles without you knowing.

Doing this is always a concern and often leads to serious injury. It can be worked around with a spotter, but that can’t always be convenient. With that being said though, the exercise is a more natural movement and safer for your joints than a machine, so there are pros and cons to both. Just make sure you work on your form!

Machine Chest Press:

person performing a machine chest press

It may look like the machine chest press doesn’t have much of a chance in this bench press vs. machine chest press 'scenario', but don’t write it off just yet.

Overload

Because of the less intensive use of the stabilisation muscles to balance as we talked about above, this machine can really let you focus on your chest. Despite what we have just said, muscle build-up is still based around the overloading of the muscles, and it can often feel like your chest is not getting hit hard enough because of the limitations your arms pose.

This is where we begin to see the advantages of the machine. The incline of the machine and the variation of the grip positions mean that you can hit whichever part of your chest that you need to, and maximise the results you want to see. That's pretty valuable too.

Easier & Safer

The mechanics of the machine mean that it is often a great way to get started as a beginner. The motion range is fixed which means your pecs are supported and isolated, removing the risk of mistakes.

Even to use after your original chest workout, the machine press is great to finish the workout with a bang. One last big push on your chest is great for the overload you need to really build serious muscle, and often with a bench press, failure comes before you can do that.

Results:

The barbell bench press is a better overall upper body workout and chest exercise, but it does pose its risks. It trains the chest group as a whole as well as supporting muscles and gives you true strength improvements, rather than performance improvements for the one exercise. As with any exercise routine, variation is crucial to maximising your results, so why not use the two together and find out what works best for you. Just make sure you are performing the exercises carefully and correctly, and you should see improvements to your strength in a matter of weeks.

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If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.