Cable chest presses are a powerful exercise but you may want other options. Discover a few alternatives to this movement with similar effects.
To do cable chest presses you stand in front of two cable pulleys and push the one-handed cable attachments forward. By doing this you work muscles like your chest, triceps, shoulders, and core.
In turn, this means that cable chest presses can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.
Whether you don’t enjoy cable chest presses, you don’t have a cable machine available at home or in the gym, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these cable chest press substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Landmine chest presses
For the first cable chest press alternative you need a landmine setup. This is an attachment that secures a barbell at the ground level.
The landmine setup opens the door to exercises like the landmine chest press. To do a landmine chest press take the following steps:
- Set up the landmine with the desired number of plates. Stand upright in front of the landmine with your feet at about shoulder width and your face toward the landmine. Make sure you are far enough from the anchor so the barbell is at a tilted angle.
- Grab the end of the barbell with one hand with a neutral grip. That means your hand palm point to the center/upward. The upper arm of the hand with the barbell is next to your body. The arm is about fully folded and the hand with the barbell is close to your chest.
- Slowly move the barbell forward and up until your arm is slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the barbell back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Compared to cable chest presses, landmine presses will focus slightly more on your shoulder and upper chest muscles due to the somewhat upward movement. Besides that, the muscle engagement is relatively similar.
One of the main reasons landmine chest presses are a great cable chest press substitute is that you also need to work your core muscles a good amount to keep your body straight up.
A downside of landmine chest presses is that the equipment requirements are still relatively strict.
2. Resistance band chest presses
Cable machines are relatively unique in all of the different angles of resistance they allow but they are not completely unique.
Resistance bands are a budget-friendly cable machine alternative that you can use to do similar exercises at home or in the gym.
To do chest presses with this equipment you will also need a resistance band anchor at about shoulder height. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a resistance band chest press:
- Put the resistance band through the anchor at about shoulder height. Stand with your back toward the anchor and grab one end of the resistance band in each hand with your arms to your sides.
- Move your upper arms to an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides. Point your forearms straight forward.
- Move forward until you reach the desired tension.
- Slowly stretch your arms until they are slightly less than fully stretched and point forward horizontally. Make sure you use your arms and not your body for this movement.
- Alternate between the positions in steps 3 and 4.
As you can expect, resistance band chest presses are extremely similar to the cable machine version. However, there are still a few small differences that can be relevant to your workouts.
First of all, the tension of resistance bands is not constant. As you stretch them out further, the resistance increases.
Secondly, the cable machine is easier when it comes to adjusting the resistance precisely. This can be more helpful for slowly but surely progressing to higher weights.
3. Chest fly
You can do the chest fly with a variety of one-handed free weights, the cable machine, resistance bands, and even in machine form. One benefit of the cable machine is that you have constant tension throughout the exercise.
Free weights do not offer a lot of tension at the top of the movement. Take the following steps to do a chest fly with dumbbells on a weight bench:
- Lie down with your back on a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keep your arms with the dumbbells slightly less than stretched and pointing up. Your hand palms should face each other and your hands should be as close together as possible.
- While keeping your arms slightly less than stretched slowly lower the dumbbells down sideways until your arms are about horizontally to the ground.
- Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
The chest fly is a great alternative to cable machine chest presses if you want to isolate your chest muscles. You can change the upward angle of your arms to focus on different parts of your chest muscles.
To make the chest fly even more of an isolation exercise you can use chest gym machines like the pec deck or machine chest fly.
Pushups are an extremely popular bodyweight exercise you can use as a cable chest press alternative at home or in the gym. Take the following steps to do a pushup:
- Get into the position where your face is facing the floor with your hand palms on the ground. Your arms are stretched and your knees are on the ground.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line.
- Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
- Stretch your arms again until you are back in a straight arm plank position.
Similar to cable chest presses, pushups work core muscles like your abs a nice amount while still mainly focusing on the chest, tricep, and shoulder muscles.
There are also plenty of pushup variations to focus on slightly different muscles.
One downside of pushups is that it is not as easy as the cable machine chest press to adjust the resistance.
If you are more experienced with chest and tricep training, you may not be able to build a lot of muscle with pushups, even weighted ones.
5. Seated overhead tricep extensions
For seated overhead tricep extensions you need something sturdy to sit on and some type of resistance. In the example below a dumbbell is used but other free weights, resistance bands, and a cable machine can work too.
Take the following steps to do a seated overhead tricep extension with a dumbbell:
- Sit on the sturdy object with your body upright. Hold a dumbbell above your head with your hands at the highest of the two weights of the dumbbell. Keep your wrists straight throughout the exercise.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head by folding your arm at the elbow until your lower arms are at a horizontal line. Keep your upper arms pointing up and close to your body throughout the exercise.
- Raise the dumbbell again in a controlled motion into the starting position.
When first doing overhead tricep extensions you don’t want to be too optimistic about your capabilities due to the position of the weight. Start with a light weight and build up from there.
Seated overhead tricep extensions can be a great alternative to cable chest presses if you want to isolate your tricep muscles at home or in the gym. To work your chest, shoulder, and core muscles this option is not helpful.
6. Bench presses
The bench press is one of the most popular compound chest exercises and for a good reason.
For this exercise, you will need a weight bench and resistance to press. For example, a barbell with a barbell rack to keep it in position.
Take the following steps to do a barbell bench press:
- Load up the barbell in the rack with the desired weight.
- Lie down with your back on the weight bench and place your hands with an overhanded grip on the barbell at about shoulder width.
- Unrack the barbell and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
- Slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Push the barbell back up in the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
You can describe bench presses as cable chest presses done while lying on a weight bench. By doing this you have to engage your core muscles a lot less.
This allows you to focus more on training your chest, tricep, and shoulder muscles and can in turn lead to more and faster muscle growth and strengthening.
Similar to the chest fly, you can change the angle of the exercise if you have a FID bench to focus on slightly different parts of your chest muscles.