Nothing attracts the eye quite like a well-defined and muscular chest, and the chest press and bench press are the tools of choice for developing such a chest. When it comes to beach season, the Chest is the muscle that guys should focus on developing the most. Similarly, women can strengthen their upper bodies by doing similar movements.
The hunt for larger pecs never ends, but fortunately, there are a number of workouts that might help you reach your goals. Two of these, the chest press and the bench press, will be discussed. Is there a clear winner though?
As many of you would agree, while the chest press is less complicated and more risk-free to try, more weightlifters have benefited from bench pressing while trying to build muscle and strength.
Both physical activities have their benefits and drawbacks, so I’ll do my best to shed some light on the subject so you can make an informed decision. Let’s begin by talking about the bench press.
The Bench Press: Muscles Worked, How To Perform, And Benefits
You strike up a conversation with a friend or acquaintance and eventually bring up the fact that you are a weightlifter. To begin, what do you anticipate being asked? More often than not, it’s “How much do you bench bro?”
The barbell bench press is often considered to be one of the most effective exercises available and is one of the best ways to build strength in the chest, triceps, and front deltoids.
In many sports, measuring upper body strength involves performing one of three primary compound exercises, and the barbell bench press is one of the most used of them. It’s an enormously popular exercise, a staple for many people who work out regularly, and a staple in any respectable iron shrine around the globe.
The bench press is such a massive move that it engages significant muscular groups all over the body, not just the chest and shoulders.
Naturally, the pecs are the most vital muscles in this movement, since they aid in the shoulder’s horizontal flexion, they are essential for any kind of practical pushing. The front deltoids, or anterior deltoids, also play a role in several chest exercises. The triceps brachii are the final and most crucial part of the movement. They are essential for pushing because they allow the elbow to fully extend.
With the correct bench press technique, you’ll be using not only these three major muscle groups but also the lats down the back, which help stabilize the shoulders and keep them pulled back. The rhomboids and trapezius muscle groups also are worked to keep the shoulder blades down and back. The rotator cuff also helps keep the joint itself stable.
The biceps, the serratus anterior, the lower body muscles, and the core muscles all play a role in maintaining stability as you lift. This is an important distinction between the bench press and chest press, so keep it in mind.
How To Perform Bench Press
The bench press is a versatile exercise that may be performed from a variety of angles and with a variety of weights (dumbbells or barbells). The barbell bench press is an excellent way to consistently stress your chest muscles, which is the key to gaining muscle mass.
Your body will use more muscle fibers to help you lift the weight off your chest the more stress you can apply to your pecs. The steps to perform bench press are:
- First, brace your core and keep your shoulders in place (back and down). Keep your feet firmly on the floor and arch your lower back as you press up into the barbell.
- Take the bar off the rack while keeping your shoulder blades together. Bring the bar down slowly to your lower chest over a couple of seconds. Keep your elbows just a little bit tucked in toward your body.
- Keep dropping the bar until it touches your chest. Wait for a brief moment, then quickly change the direction of the movement.
- When your elbows lock out, you’ve reached the top of the lift. But don’t go too far or too fast that your shoulder blades get out of place.
- Repeat for the prescribed number of reps.
Benefits Of Bench Press: Where the Bench Press Wins
When you do a proper bench press, you use your serratus anterior, your front deltoids, and your triceps all at once. When you press the weight off your chest, these muscles keep your shoulder still. But as you press the weight up, they also help you extend your elbow and bend your shoulder. This is why it’s smart to have a spotter when you do a heavy bench press.
Free and full range of motion: Unlike the chest press machine, the barbell is a free weight that can move in any way. This means you can change the path of the movement to fit your body, and almost anyone can find a technique that works for them. Because cables or machines don’t limit the bench press, you can move the weight farther with a barbell than with a machine. When you bench press with a barbell, you can contract and stretch your pecs to their fullest range of motion. This lets you use more muscle fibers.
Employs stabilizing muscles: When performing a barbell bench press, you have to keep the bar steady, which means that all the stabilizing muscles in your arms, shoulders, and core will have to work harder. As you push the weight off your chest, your body will use small muscles called stabilizers to keep the weight steady.
Tried and tested with a history of success: You can’t go wrong with the classics, and the bench press is as classic as it gets when it comes to building strength and muscle in the upper body. The bench press is a tried-and-true way to build muscle and strength, so you don’t have to wonder if it works. There are studies that reiterate the benefits of using variations in the bench press during training which may reduce stress on shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
Basic equipment required: In contrast to the chest press machine, the bench press is always done with a barbell, weight plates, and a bench. The rack and bench may look different, but a 100 kg/220 lb bench press is the same anywhere in the world. Because of this, you can keep up with your workout routine anywhere, as long as you have access to the standard equipment.
Can be used as a benchmark: The bench press is the most popular strength-training exercise in the world, according to data from our workout tracker. This means that the bench press is a great way to see how strong you are compared to other people. There are also many bench press competitions, from local meets to the world championships.
The Chest Press: Muscles Worked, How To Perform, And Benefits
The chest press is an exercise that is usually done with lighter weights and a fixed path of movement. It is done on a machine.
Some people don’t like machines because they think they aren’t as good as free weights. That depends, of course, on what your goals are.
Even though the movement is very similar to the bench press, the chest press is different in a number of ways. One difference has to do with how easy and safe the movement is.
When you use a machine, you can only move in one straight line. The machine only works one way, and whether you like it or not, you have to go with it. This makes it easier to learn how to do it right, so you can spend more time learning how to use the right muscles. This also makes the chest press a safe exercise.
Many of the same muscle groups are used in both the bench press and the machine press. Muscles like the pecs, front delts, and triceps are all part of this. There is also significant involvement from the biceps, traps, rhomboids, rotator cuff, and lats. The primary distinction lies in the fact that machine work will almost always call for the use of fewer of your supporting/stabilization muscles.
When lifting free weights, you are responsible for keeping the weight under your control at all times. By engaging the core, you can guarantee that the path you’re taking with the bar (or dumbbell) is the most effective and “right” one possible in virtually every heavy exercise.
This isn’t a problem for a machine, as there is always a predetermined set of steps to follow. Using additional stabilizing muscle groups may aid, but it’s not required. This will allow you to put most of your effort into moving the weight with your chest, deltoids, and tris.
While the machine press isn’t technically an isolation exercise, it does force the muscles to work independently of one another.
How To Perform Chest Press
- Put your back against the chest press machine’s backrest.
- Grab the handles of the chest press machine and put your feet flat on the floor or on the footstool.
- Press the handles forward and upward until your arms are straight. Pause for one second, then bend your elbows and slowly move back to the starting position.
- The machine chest press is generally done with a lower weight and a higher number of reps, so keeping that in mind you should decide on the reps.
Benefits Of Chest Press: Where The Chest Press Wins
Conveniently simple to pick up: The chest press machine requires no instruction beyond learning to adjust the seat and weight. Since there is little to no learning curve, you can get right in and get good exercise on your very first try. Those who are just starting out in strength training can benefit from this.
Instead of focusing on stabilization, you can focus on muscles being worked: Since the chest press takes care of the technique and stabilization, you are free to focus on your worked muscles. This is beneficial for muscle growth, as you can push yourself harder when the balance isn’t an issue.
Safer in comparison: Aside from starting with too high of a training volume, there aren’t many potential pitfalls when performing a chest press.
Can perform without any spotter: To prevent injury during bench pressing, it is important to have a spotter and/or safety racks in place. The chest press machine is an excellent substitute for safety racks or a spotter if your gym does not have either.
Very beginner friendly: In many gyms, the lightest barbell weighs 20 kg / 45 lb, and far from everyone is able to begin their bench press training with that kind of weight on day one. Chest press machines, on the other hand, often allow you to increase the weight in smaller increments, commonly going all the way down to only a few kilos or pounds at the lightest setting.
Can help in rehabilitation: Some situations call for extra movement control. For example when you are rehabilitating an injury in your pectoral muscles or shoulder joint. In this case, the stability of the chest press can help you stay in the desired movement path and avoid getting into risky or sensitive positions.
When To Perform Chest Press Or Bench Press? Which One Is Better In What Situation?
We have thoroughly discussed everything that goes into making both the bench press and chest press such phenomenal exercises. Now, let’s make an attempt to summarize the aforementioned benefits and drawbacks by providing hypothetical scenarios in which you might find each exercise useful.
The chest press is helpful when:
- If you are just starting out with exercise, the chest press doesn’t require a lot of explanation.
- Target certain muscle groups and concentrate on isolating them.
- Are recovering from an injury or looking to stay healthy and injury-free
- Want a quick workout that requires less preparation
- Do not have a workout partner or spotter
The bench press is excellent for the following:
- For Working out across one’s complete and natural range of motion
- A complete upper-body workout with minimal equipment
- When you want to get stronger with progressive overloading
- To compete against others (and self) as a test of strength
- A combination of physical ability and coordination since it employs as many stabilizing muscles as well
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.