The chest press machine can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to chest press machines with similar benefits?
A chest press machine is a gym machine where you push handles at chest height away from you. Most models require you to sit down and your hands go through a fixed motion.
This can make the chest press machine a good option for focusing on your chest and tricep muscles. In turn, this means that the chest press machine can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.
Whether you don’t enjoy chest press machines, you don’t have a chest press machine at home or in the gym, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to chest press machines can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like any exercise, there is always some risk of injury. Implement a good technique to keep your injury risk low. When in doubt talk to an expert.
1. Bench presses
The bench press is one of the most popular compound chest exercises. For this exercise, you will need a weight bench and a weight to press, for example a barbell with a barbell rack. To do a barbell bench press take the following steps:
- 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.
Similar to the chest press machine, bench presses focus a lot on chest and tricep muscles. Bench presses are different in that you lie down and have to use more balancing muscles.
This can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your training goals. If you like the fixed trajectory of the chest press machine you can also do bench presses with the smith machine.
A benefit of bench presses is that you can easily change your pressing angle with a good FID weight bench (flat, incline, decline) to focus on slightly different parts of your chest muscle.
2. Resistance band chest presses
For the next chest press machine alternative you will need resistance bands and a resistance band anchor at about shoulder height. Once you have that to do a resistance band chest press take the following steps:
- 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.
You can also sit down so you have to pay less attention to muscles besides your chest and triceps. Resistance band chest presses are a great at-home-friendly substitute for the chest press machine.
Similar to bench presses you can push more up or down to target different parts of your chest. Another option is holding your hands wider or narrower to focus more on chest or triceps.
Pushups are an extremely popular bodyweight exercise you can use as a chest press machine alternative at home or in the gym. To do a pushup take the following steps:
- Get into the position where your face is facing the floor with your hand palms on the ground. Your arms stretched, and your knees 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.
A potential downside or upside depending on your training goals is that pushups target a wide variety of muscles. Besides your chest and triceps, you will also train your shoulders and core muscles a good amount.
You can do pushup variations to focus on slightly different muscles.
One downside of pushups is that it can be a bit harder to make them very challenging. 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.
4. Cable crossovers
For this next exercise, you will need to attach single-grip handles to each side of a double-pulley cable machine at about shoulder level. Good resistance bands are another equipment option.
Once you have the right equipment, to do a cable crossover take the following steps:
- Grab 1 handle, walk towards the other handle and grab it with the other hand. Stand in the middle between the two cables.
- Put one foot a small distance backward and the other foot forward for balance. Slightly tilt your upper body forward while keeping your back straight. Keep your arms slightly less than extended throughout the exercise.
- Slowly bring your hands to the center and downward. Instead of stopping when right before your hands touch each other, you let one arm go above the other to go a little further.
- Slowly go back to starting position.
- When doing multiple repetitions switch between which arm goes above.
Cable crossovers can be a good chest press machine alternative if you want to isolate your chest muscles.
An added benefit of the cable crossover exercise is that your chest muscles can go through a bigger range of motion compared to the chest press machine. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth.
One potential downside is that you need a double pulley cable machine. These can be occupied in the gym or too expensive for a home gym.
5. Tricep kickbacks
For the next chest press machine alternative you need some type of external resistance. You can use a cable machine for a more constant tension but other chest workout equipment options like dumbbells work great too. To do a standing tricep kickback with dumbbells take the following steps:
- Grab 2 dumbbells of the same weight. Place your feet at about shoulder width.
- Slightly bend your legs and bend your upper body forward at about a 45-degree angle with a vertical line. Make sure your back stays straight throughout the exercise.
- Bring your upper arms slightly more back than in line with your upper body. Keep them close to your body. Let your lower arms hang. During your repetitions, your upper arms should stay more or less in the same position.
- Raise your lower arms in a controlled motion until they are extended.
- Slowly let gravity do its work on your lower arms until they are back into starting position.
As the name implies, tricep kickbacks are an exercise to isolate your tricep muscles. Instead of standing up, you can do the dumbbell tricep kickback on an incline weight bench to make it even more of a tricep isolation exercise.
If you are looking for a chest press machine substitute to train your chest muscles, tricep kickbacks are not the right choice.
6. Landmine presses
For this next exercise 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, so hand palm pointing 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 a regular chest press machine, landmine presses will focus slightly more on your shoulder muscles due to the somewhat upward movement.
One of the possible benefits of the landmine chest press compared to most chest press machine is that you work out one side at a time. This can help you avoid or resolve muscle imbalances.
One downside of landmine presses it becomes easier to use the rest of your body instead of the muscles you are trying to target.
7. Chest fly
You can do the chest fly with a variety of one-handed free weights, the cable machine, 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.
To do a chest fly with dumbbells on a weight bench take the following steps:
- 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 typical chest isolation exercise. Similar to many other chest press machine alternatives you can change up the angle of the movement 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.